Coconut Panna Cotta with Blood Orange Granita

You're sure to impress with this ambrosia-inspired desert.

Coconut Panna Cotta with Blood Orange Granita
Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Giulietta Pinna; Food Styling: Ali Ramee
Active Time:
30 mins
Chill Time:
8 hrs
Total Time:
8 hrs 30 mins

Ambrosia belongs to the South. Most Southerners have distinct holiday memories attached to this special, quirky dish—when it is mentioned, many think of the holiday table and a serving dish filled to the brim with a fluffy, fruit-studded concoction. Recipes for the original version of ambrosia—which featured layers of fresh citrus, sugar, and coconut—began appearing in cookbooks in the late 19th century, but this holiday season, our Test Kitchen is bringing you eclectic, modern twists on ambrosia that deserve a spot on your sideboard.

If you're looking for a really special make-ahead holiday dessert that doesn't require any baking, this Coconut Panna Cotta with Blood Orange Granita is the answer to your prayers. In this ambrosia-inspired dessert, which comes together entirely on the stovetop and in the freezer, a tangy, icy citrus granita is perfectly balanced by the rich and creamy coconut custard.

Pro tip: When shopping, look for canned unsweetened coconut cream, not cream of coconut or coconut milk, which are not as thick.


  • 1 (¼-oz.) pkg. unflavored gelatin

  • cup plus 3 Tbsp. cold water, divided

  • 1 ¾ cups heavy whipping cream

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

  • ¼ teaspoon coconut extract

  • 1 ¼ cups granulated sugar, divided

  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • 1 (13½-oz.) can unsweetened coconut cream

  • 2 ¼ cups fresh blood orange juice (from 8 blood oranges)

  • Peeled blood orange rounds


  1. Stir together gelatin and 3 tablespoons of the cold water in a small bowl; let stand 5 minutes.

  2. Meanwhile, whisk together whipping cream, vanilla, coconut extract, ½ cup of the sugar, and ½ teaspoon of the salt in a small saucepan. Cook over medium, whisking often, until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot, 4 to 5 minutes (do not boil). Remove from heat.

  3. Add gelatin mixture to whipping cream mixture; whisk until fully dissolved. Whisk in coconut cream. Pour mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a large measuring cup with a spout; discard solids. Pour strained mixture evenly into 6 (6-ounce) ramekins or straight-sided glasses (about ⅔ cup each). Chill, uncovered, until set, at least 8 hours or up to 2 days.

  4. Meanwhile, stir together remaining ⅔ cup water, ¾ cup sugar, and ¼ teaspoon salt in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-high, stirring often, until sugar is dissolved, about 4 minutes. Pour into a 9-inch square baking pan. Stir in blood orange juice. Freeze, uncovered, until just set but not completely frozen, about 2 hours. Rake through granita using a fork, breaking up any large chunks. Return to freezer, and freeze 1 hour. Repeat raking process. If granita is still slightly slushy, repeat freezing and raking process once more. Transfer to an airtight container, and store in freezer up to 2 weeks. Rake using a fork just before serving.

  5. To serve, carefully run an offset spatula around edges of 1 panna cotta. Dip bottom half of ramekin into hot water for 10 seconds. Invert panna cotta onto a serving plate. Repeat process with remaining panna cottas. Top each with about ⅓ cup granita. (Reserve remaining granita for another use.) Garnish with blood orange rounds. Serve immediately.

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