Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta

It should come as a surprise to no one that I love dessert. I’ve always had a sweet tooth. I'm a woman who asked for an ice cream maker for her birthday. In high school, I used to eat only cake for lunch (a practice that I have swapped out for eating cake WITH my lunch, because #balance). As much as I love the sweet stuff, I find that many of the packaged goodies taste of sugar and not much else, and score low on the nutrition scale.

Way back before I started my career in nutrition, I watched Michael Pollan on an episode of Oprah that changed the way I eat, and how I think about healthy eating. On the Oprah episode, which was aired way back when Oprah still had a daytime talk show, Michael Pollan outlines his “food rules” for healthy eating (he has also published a book on the topic, and you can watch a video on the food rules here). While I am usually not a big fan of food rules, this one was so simple that it really stuck with me:

Eat anything you want, just cook it yourself.

Pollan explained that the introduction of quick, easy, and premade foods into our food supply has decreased not only the quality of nutrients in the food, but also the taste!  And when our food doesn’t taste as good, it leaves us feeling unsatisfied and hankering for more. Therefore, when we cook things from scratch, using care and attention and simple ingredients, we prepare foods with more nutrition, better taste, and ones that can provide us with more joy and satisfaction than their packaged counterparts.  Like Pollan, I also believe that cooking connects us with our food, thus improving our relationship with our food and our body.

When the craving for French fries hits, you’ll find me chopping whole potatoes. When I want chocolate cake, I’ll be hauling out the flour and cocoa powder. And when I’m in the mood for a cool, creamy, and simple dessert that is livened up with a zing of lemon, I’ll be making this Greek yogurt panna cotta. The ingredients come together in about 15 minutes, and after a few hours in the refrigerator they are transformed into a light, smooth,  and not-too-sweet delight that is perfect for summer.

Greek Yogurt Panna Cotta

Serves 4-6


1 1/2 tsp unflavoured gelatin

4 tbsp warm water

3/4 cup milk

1/3 cup sugar

2 cups Greek yogurt (3% milk fat or higher, I used 11%)

Zest of 1 lemon

2 tbsp lemon juice


In a small bowl, mix gelatin and water. Let the gelatin and water mixture stand for about 15 minutes to allow the gelatin to soften.

In a medium saucepan, heat the milk and sugar over medium-low heat until just about to come to a boil. Stir in the gelatin-water mixture until dissolved (this should happen really quickly). Remove from heat and whisk in the Greek yogurt until combined. Add lemon zest and lemon juice and stir well.

Immediately pour into four to six small bowls, cups, or jars (feel free to get fancy on the presentation here) and allow the panna cotta to chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours to overnight to set.

Top generously with fruit immediately before serving. Get creative with the toppings! The simplicity of this dessert begs to be dressed up with a sprinkle of graham cracker crumbs, a drizzle of good balsamic vinegar, or fresh herbs.