My chicken pesto panini features chicken, fresh mozzarella, Roma tomato, fresh basil pesto, and a drizzle of balsamic glaze. All wrapped in golden panini bread. Bite into this crispy golden masterpiece and you would never guess it was made using a cast iron skillet on the stove.
The secret to the perfect sear is in the olive oil brushed on the panini bread. It gives you a crispy golden, toasted finish like a grilled cheese, only better and crunchier. If you really want to take this recipe a step further, I’d suggest using a grill pan. This will give you the signature grooves without a panini press.
Tips for the Perfect Panini
- Sear your chicken first in the cast iron skillet and then assemble the panini right in the same skillet. Grilled chicken, grilled sandwich.
- Use plenty of olive oil to get the perfect golden crust. Aside from flavor, it does wonders for the bread in terms of toasting.
- Layer the mozzarella on top of the chicken when assembling so the heat will warm and melt the cheese better.
- Use a large spatula to firmly press down on either side of the panini as it heats up so it flattens and all melts together. This acts as your panini press. I provide a lot of force to really compress the sandwich.
- The secret to the perfect chicken panini is using thinly sliced chicken and further flattening it out with a rolling pin—a process similar to preparing chicken Parmesan. This makes biting into the panini much easier and also tenderizes the chicken. You can use regular chicken breast but it’s easier to start with thinly cut chicken breast.
- Paninis are also great on the grill. Follow the same process and use the grill grates to get a nice sear. Press down firmly with a spatula to compress the sandwich on the grilling surface.
More Pesto Recipes You’ll Love
- Creamy pesto gnocchi with shrimp
- Chicken pesto pasta
- Pesto pasta salad
- Pesto shrimp pasta
- Pesto shrimp skewers
The chicken pesto panini with mozzarella is made in a cast iron skillet with basil pesto roma tomato, balsamic glaze, and fresh mozzarella. No panini press required.
- 2 thinly sliced chicken breasts, flattened to 1/4 inch thick
- 4 slices white panini bread
- 4 slices fresh mozzarella cheese
- 4 slices Roma tomato (thinly sliced)
- 2–3 tablespoons basil pesto sauce
- 4 teaspoons olive oil, for bread
- Balsamic glaze for drizzling
- Thinly slice the tomato and fresh mozzarella into 1/4 inch thick slices. Set aside.
- Flatten each chicken breast using a rolling pin to 1/4 inch thick slices. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Heat cast iron skillet or grill pan to medium heat, add a splash of olive oil and fully cook the chicken through, about 2-3 minutes per side. Set aside. Take a paper towel and carefully wipe up excess juices (if any).
- Reduce heat to medium-low. Drizzle 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil on one side of each slice of panini bread (oiled sides facing the skillet when searing). Use a basting brush or the back of a spoon to spread the oil evenly. Assemble each panini right on the skillet starting with one slice of bread, chicken breast, mozzarella slices, pesto, tomato slices, and balsamic glaze. Top with the other slice of panini bread.
- Sear for 2-3 minutes per side, periodically pressing down firmly with a large spatula on both sides so the panini sticks together and the cheese starts to melt. The panini is done when the bread is golden brown and crunchy. I may flip 2-3 times to ensure even cooking.
Cook on medium/medium-low heat to avoid burning the panini. It will cook quickly so carefully monitor.
If you really want to take this recipe a step further, I’d suggest using a grill pan. This will give you the signature grooves without a panini press.
- Serving Size: 1 panini
- Calories: 565
- Sugar: 4g
- Sodium: 691mg
- Fat: 20.1g
- Saturated Fat: 6.9g
- Carbohydrates: 36.2g
- Fiber: 2.1g
- Protein: 42.3g
- Cholesterol: 121mg
Keywords: chicken panini, how to make panini without press, chicken pesto panini