Developing low carb desserts without using sugar substitutes is challenging. The best route to go if you are on a low carb diet is to opt for a dessert that is high in fat instead of carbs. This rich and creamy panna cotta with a strawberry balsamic sauce is a perfect low carb dessert.
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Do Berries work with Low Carb Diets?
Berries are considered the main type of fruit allowed on a low carb or slow carb diet due to their high fiber to fructose ratio (meaning they don’t spike blood sugar as much as most fruit). Berries are also high in nutritional value (antioxidants) with a relatively high amount of fiber.
Fiber tends to mitigate the carb impact on low carb diets. Often you will see net carbs and total carbs listed on nutritional analyses, which is basically the subtraction of fiber from the total carbs,
When it comes to tracking macronutrients on a keto or low carb diet however, total carbs is the metric used.
I’ve included a chart at the end of this post which lists the relative amounts of sugar (carbs) in a wide range of common fruits for a quick comparison.
Why is Low Fat Dairy not Compliant with Low Carb Diets?
Acknowledging berries as the go-to fruit to use in a low carb dessert, the next challenge is to make the dessert rich in flavor without adding a lot of sugar. This is where high fat ingredients come in.
Heavy cream and full fat yogurt have very little lactose, and lactose is the main problem with low fat dairy. Also referred to as milk sugar, lactose will spike blood sugar in a similar way to that of table sugar.
Full fat dairy does not include the lactose (or has very little) which is why butter and heavy cream are allowed on a low carb diet.
More details on low fat and low carb dairy can be found at this guide for dairy on a 4-Hour Body diet.
How to Modify Panna Cotta for Low Carb Lifestyles
This low carb dessert has a ton of creamy rich flavor and it is actually quite easy to make. It does have 1/3 cup of sugar in a recipe that serves 4-6 so use a sugar substitute if you want to be 100% compliant with a low carb diet.
Alternatively, make this dessert with the 1/3 cup of sugar and enjoy it occasionally.
The only tricky thing about the recipe is getting the panna cotta out of whatever you are using for a mold, but the strawberry sauce can cover up any cosmetic breaks. And who cares about cosmetics anyway when it tastes this good!!
It’s a perfect dessert for low carb lifestyles….rich and creamy without being really high in carbs.
Another one of my favorite low carb desserts that is similar to a panna cotta is this Mexican Orange Flan
Relative Sugar Content of Various Fruits
Fruits Lowest in Sugar:
- Lemon or lime
Fruits Low to Medium in Sugar
- Casaba Melon
- Honeydew melons
Fruits Fairly High in Sugar
Fruits Very High in Sugar:
- Dried Fruit
Frequently Asked Questions
Red wine is a great substitute for the balsamic vinegar in this recipe. It adds a bit of acid with the pungency of vinegar.
Buttermilk is a nice substitute for greek yogurt. It still carries the tang but is not as thick.
Recipe for Strawberry Balsamic Panna Cotta with Greek Yogurt
Strawberry Balsamic Panna Cotta with Greek Yogurt
- different sized bowls
- 6-ounce bowls or molds
- thin sharp knife
- 2 Tbsp water
- 1 ¼ tsp unflavored gelatin
- 1 ¼ cups heavy cream divided
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ⅓ cup sugar + 2 Tbsp
- 3 cups strawberries frozen is OK
- 2 tsp fresh lemon juice
- 2-3 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar
- ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- In a small bowl add the water and then sprinkle the gelatin over the top and let it sit undisturbed for 5 to 10 minutes.2 Tbsp water, 1 1/4 tsp unflavored gelatin
- In a medium sized bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup of the cream, 1 cup yogurt, the vanilla and the salt. Let the yogurt mixture sit while you heat the remaining 3/4 cup cream and 1/3 cup sugar in a small pot over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is just starting to bubble gently (not boiling).1 1/4 cups heavy cream, 1 cup plain Greek yogurt, 1 tsp pure vanilla extract, 1/4 tsp sea salt, 1/3 cup sugar + 2 Tbsp
- Remove the pot from the heat and scrape in all of the gelatin mixture, stirring until completely dissolved (no granular texture, it should be smooth). Then add this gelatin-cream mixture to the yogurt mixture and whisk together thoroughly.
- Ladle mixture into 6-ounce molds (anything works; small bowls or ramekins). Refrigerate until set (4 hours or up to 3 days). Only cover with plastic wrap after they are cold to avoid condensation.
- About an hour before serving, make the strawberry sauce by first slicing up 2 1/2 cup strawberries (I used frozen berries that were sliced while frozen and then thawed) and placing them in a medium bowl. In a food processor ( or blender) puree the remaining 1/2 cup berries with 2 Tbsp sugar and 2 tsp lemon juice. Add the puree to the sliced berries and stir in 2-3 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1/4 tsp pepper and a pinch of salt. Let sit for 30 to 60 minutes.3 cups strawberries, 2 tsp fresh lemon juice, 2-3 Tbsp good balsamic vinegar, 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- When ready to serve, dip ramekins or molds into hot water for a few seconds, Run a thin, sharp knife around inside of mold and then invert panna cottas onto individual dessert plates. Shake to loosen, or tap bottoms of mold and then lift off ramekins or molds. Spoon strawberry sauce over each panna cotta. Serve immediately.