Italian Chicken Panini

This Italian Chicken Panini recipe is packed full of flavor! Whether you are making yourself a snack or making them for the family, everyone is bound to love this chicken panini sandwich!

straight on shot of Italian chicken panini halves on plate topped with basil


 

I love a good panini. Crusty bread that scrapes the roof of my mouth, gooey melted cheese and fresh vegetables. I like to make myself one on nights hubby isn’t home. He isn’t such a fan of “only” a sandwich as a meal- he likes bigger dinner ideas.

I look at has the perfect meal: well rounded in one compact sandwich. One of my favorites is the Italian Chicken Panini. Mozzarella cheese, roasted red peppers, red onion and garlicky pesto. It is pure heaven!

Why You’ll Love This Italian Chicken Panini

Soft bread, melty cheese and an herby pesto- what’s not to love!

  • Make easy swaps – Don’t like the toppings I used in my recipe? Mix them up and use your own combination of ingredients!
  • Fast dinner idea – These sandwiches are perfect for lunch because you can have them ready in minutes from start to finish!
  • Kid friendly – Similar to a grilled cheese, these sandwiches are loved by both kids and adults alike.
straight on close up shot of panini on plate

Italian Chicken Panini Ingredients

The best part of paninis are how versatile they are. Top with whatever you’d like! 

  • Chicken breast – This recipe is a great way to use up leftover chicken. If you don’t have the time to cook up chicken, you could use a rotisserie chicken or even a pre-cooked Tyson chicken breast. You could also use chicken cutlets. Whatever you use, make sure the chicken temp is right! And if you have leftovers, use it in Buffalo Chicken Stuffed Peppers!
  • Pesto – I like using my homemade pesto recipe, but you could very easily buy a jar of it at the grocery store. Basil pesto is my favorite.
  • Italian bread – Make sure the bread slices are decently thick. They will be pressed, after all, so you don’t want them to be completely flat after coming out of the press.
  • Red onion – I love the flavor that red onion adds to the sandwiches. You can use sweet onions if you’d like to though.
  • Roasted red peppers – Make sure these are thinly sliced and drained. If they’re still wet, they might make your sandwich soggy.
  • Mozzarella – I prefer to use fresh slices of mozzarella rather than the pre-shredded bagged version.
overhead shot of italian chicken panini ingredients on cutting board

Variations

We like this Italian sandwich to be made exactly as the recipe is written, but there are plenty of ways you can make them your own.

  • Type of bread – I like to use a crusty Italian bread, but you can certainly use regular white bread, focaccia, slices sourdough bread or your favorite bakery bread instead.
  • Spreads – If you’re not a fan of pesto, you could substitute it with a tomato sauce like marinara sauce, even oven roasted tomatoes.
  • Cheese – Instead of using a slice of mozzarella cheese, try using slices provolone cheese, parmesan cheese, fontina cheese or even a spread of creamy ricotta cheese instead.
  • Vegetables – Feel free to mix up the veggies as you see fit. Tomato slices, red bell peppers, banana peppers or fresh baby spinach.
  • Meat – Instead of using chicken strips, you could use deli meats instead. I would stick to some that have Italian flavors like genoa salami or pepperoni.
  • Butter – Take the flavor up a notch by brushing melted butter on the side of bread that touches the grill pan. Even better if it’s garlic butter!

How to Make Italian Chicken Panini

You will be pleasantly surprised at how easy this italian panini recipe is to make.

  1. Spread pesto. Slather both slices of bread with pesto, lots of pesto.
  2. Add toppings. Top with chicken, onion, red peppers, slice of cheese, then second slice of bread.
  3. Coat grill press with cooking spray. Heat panini press and coat with cooking spray.
  4. Press sandwiches. Place sandwiches inside until golden brown. I do one at a time since my panini maker isn’t that large.
  5. Remove and serve. When sandwich is heated though and the cheese is melted, remove and serve immediately.

Do I need a panini press?

Having a panini press will make this so much easier, but if you do not have a press you can use 2 hot skillets, one to put the panini sandwich in and the other to press down on the top.

Make it a Meal!

If this mouthwatering sandwich is not enough for you, I usually like to pair mine with a green salad with my homemade creamy Italian dressing.

Sandwiches also naturally pair with soups like our homemade tomato soup, 15 bean soup or copycat panera broccoli cheddar soup. Or an easy pasta side like our famous pastina recipe or easy parmesan linguine recipe.

Storage and Freezing

How to Store Leftover Paninis

As you can make these sandwiches one at a time, there are rarely any leftovers. If there are, you can store each layer in an airtight container in the fridge.

Can I Freeze Italian Chicken Paninis?

I do not recommend freezing these chicken pesto panini sandwiches.

Frequently Asked Questions

My sandwich was a little runny, why?

Make sure you drain your roasted red peppers and also pat them dry.
Also, try to strain out some of the olive oil from your pesto. Lastly, use a low moisture mozzarella cheese.

How do I make a panini without a panini press?

Simply make it like you would a grilled sandwich. They are, in fact, basically the Italian version of a grilled cheese.

What is the best bread for a panini?

In Italy, Italian bread is used, but these are my other favorites. Make sure it is a hearty bread.
Ciabatta Bread
Focaccia Bread
Sourdough Bread
Hearty Whole Wheat Bread

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straight on shot of stack of italian chicken panini with text overlay
straight on shot of Italian chicken panini halves on plate topped with basil

Italian Chicken Panini Recipe

4.21 from 29 votes
Italian Chicken Panini Recipe – Crusty bread filled with gooey mozzarella cheese, roasted red pepper, shredded chicken and lots and lots of garlicky pesto.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 2

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Slather two of your chosen sandwich bread evenly with pesto, lots of pesto.
  • Top each with one half of the chicken breast and then evenly divide the red onion, red peppers and mozzarella cheese. Top each with another piece of chosen bread.
  • Heat the panini press and coat with the cooking spray.
  • Place the sandwiches inside to press and grill for 3-4 minutes on each side. Time will vary on the thickness of your bread and the press.
  • When sandwich is heated though and the cheese is melted, remove and with a swift hack, chop in half. Serve while hot.
  • If you've tried this recipe, come back and let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.

Video

Notes

If you don’t want to use a whole chicken breast, you can use precooked chicken, a chicken cutlet or even homemade shredded chicken or a store bought rotisserie chicken. 

Nutrition

Calories: 586 kcal, Carbohydrates: 24 g, Protein: 40 g, Fat: 35 g, Saturated Fat: 16 g, Cholesterol: 118 mg, Sodium: 1254 mg, Potassium: 599 mg, Fiber: 2 g, Sugar: 13 g, Vitamin A: 900 IU, Vitamin C: 17.7 mg, Calcium: 331 mg, Iron: 1.8 mg
Author: Jessica Formicola
Calories: 586
Course: Main Course, Main Dish
Cuisine: American, Italian
Keyword: chicken panini, italian panini
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
collage of italian chicken panini
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal and more!

Read More About Jessica

4.21 from 29 votes (24 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating




Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    Delicious and easy recipe! Perfect for a quick lunch or dinner. 10 minute start to finish is the best!

  2. 5 stars
    I love this recipe so much. It’s super simple to make and full of great flavor. It’s a perfect panini

  3. What a delicious looking panini! I would love to have this in front of me right now. Pinning your recipe for later.

  4. 4 stars
    My Husband loved it! He thinks it is better than Panera’s Frontega Chicken. I think it is just 2nd after that which is my favorite.