A chipotle chicken panini is a toasted sandwich made with Foccacia bread, avocado, cheese, cherry peppers, and chipotle sauce! It is the chipotle chicken panini, Panera Bread makes and I’m sharing all the tips for making this panini sandwich at home!
You don’t need a panini press or grill for making paninis at home! Here are some of our favorite panini recipes like the Reuben Sandwich Recipe (Restaurant Copycat) that requires no panini maker! Other panini sandwiches we all love are Frontega Chicken Panini Sandwich Recipe and Chipotle Chicken Panini Sandwich (Panera Bread Copycat).
What is a Panini?
Chicken panini is a toasted sandwich made with a Focaccia bread roll, pulled chicken, and smoked cheese. This simple combination is the base of a chicken panini however, it’s complete with fresh avocado, cherry peppers, and Chipotle Sauce, just like the cafe makes it.
Best Bread for Panini?
Italian Bread is the choice of bread when it comes to sandwich making! Most variations are typically made with yeast, olive oil, and salt and are well-hydrated, making the crumb moist and absorbable for sauces. Ciabatta and Focaccia are popular bread choices, especially in a cafe. Another favorite is Sourdough Bread which is extremely moist and fluffy making it perfect for a toasted sandwich!
What Kind of Cheese for a Chicken Panini?
Gouda cheese is one of the most popular cheeses worldwide! It is a sweet, creamy, cow’s milk with a yellow color and is very mild after aging. Today this flat round cheese can be bought in slices for sandwiches and is the same exact cheese for the Panera bread chipotle chicken panini recipe! Another popular panini cheese is Havarti cheese or baby swiss, which are both semi-soft and perfect for melting! Provolone or sharp cheddar can be pungent, so choose less “aged” cheeses.
Pro-Tips for Cooking Chicken:
The key to a quick and easy panini sandwich is to use pre-cooked chicken or cook it in bulk using a 6-Quart Instant Pot. Leftover grilled meat works great in sandwiches and since paninis get toasted it reheats fast! I love my pressure cooker for this because the meat can cook on its own while I work on the other ingredients and there’s less mess.
Time-saving Tip: use leftover rotisserie, smoked, or grilled chicken, or buy grilled and ready-to-use chicken strips from the store. I like to mix in a splash of liquid smoke to the cooked meat for a smoky flavor.
Ingredients for Chipotle Chicken Panini:
The ingredients for the Panera Bread chipotle chicken panini are few but very tasty! Here’s what’s in this panini;
- Cherry Peppers- are red mild chili peppers (also called Pimiento) and are much more flavorful than a red bell pepper. Panera bread calls them Peppadew peppers and I simply use this zesty sweet cherry pepper spread which makes a great substitute!
- Chipotle sauce- this is the copycat chipotle mayo Panera uses for their Frontega Chicken panini and this chipotle chicken avocado melt!
- Gouda cheese- is a mild semi-soft cow’s milk cheese perfect for melting in toasted sandwiches.
- Cilantro- has citrus undertones that can add a zesty flavor. If you don’t have any of this fresh herb on hand you can simply omit it and it will still be tasty.
- Pulled Chicken- I simply marinade chicken breasts in a baking soda solution for maximum tenderness and then cook them in the pressure cooker.
- Avocado- you’ll need ripe and semi-soft avocados, sliced right before assembling.
- Black Pepper Focaccia- is Panera Bread’s choice of bread for this Panini, however, any Homemade Focaccia roll will work.
How To Make a Panini:
What is the best panini press? Cuisinart or Breville panini makers are popular choices, however, I prefer a commercial heavy-duty panini press with consistent heat. If you don’t wish to purchase this kitchen gadget, you can toast the sandwiches in a skillet on both sides instead.
- Preheat the panini grill or skillet.
- Assemble the sandwiches; slice, the whole focaccia roll in half crosswise.
- Spread the chipotle sauce over the Italian bread and place the pulled chicken on the bottom half. Top with cherry peppers, sliced avocado, and Gouda cheese.
- Cover with the other focaccia slice and toast on both sides until the cheese melts.
What To Serve With a Chicken Panini Sandwich:
A Chicken Panini Sandwich makes a fantastic side to a bowl of hot soup! It goes with a fresh salad, dessert, and a refreshing drink. Here are some creative ways to use up this sandwich.
- Serve with a bowl of Clam Chowder or Broccoli Cheddar Soup
- Dip into homemade chipotle sauce
- Pair it with a fresh Greek salad or a hot Broccoli and Cheese side
- Serve with Iced Tea or Homemade Juice
Into more Chipotle Copycat recipes? Check out our Chipotle Chicken panini with bacon which was a discontinued favorite from Panera Bread! We also have some Chipotle Mexican grill copycat recipes coming soon to the blog too.
Panera chicken chipotle panini is made fresh and toasted before serving. When making a chicken panini sandwich at home it’s best to make them all in bulk to avoid running the panini press multiple times. Then reheating is easy. I generally run all my sandwiches through the panini grill and whatever leftovers I end up I simply wrap up and refrigerate for lunch the next day.
To reheat: microwave each wedge over high for 30 seconds. You can also wrap the sandwiches up in aluminum foil and bake them in the oven at 350°F for 8-10 minutes. An air fryer will work for reheating too.
What Does Chipotle Sauce Taste Like?
Creamy chipotle sauce is a mildly sweet and smoky sauce great in sandwiches or tacos. Due to the sour cream and mayonnaise-based ingredients, this is very rich and similar to aioli. It is not a very hot chipotle sauce and actually quite mild in taste.
Any Substitution for Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce?
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are one of the most important ingredients for this sauce. The smoky tomato sauce canned with peppers is what will give this sauce its southwest flavors. To substitute chipotle in adobo sauce, it is best to make the canned version by cooking together water, Chipotle Peppers, onions, vinegar, tomato paste, salt, sugar, dried peppers, oil, and spices. Use liquid smoke if not smoking your peppers.
Chicken Panini Tips:
- Need a healthy chipotle sauce alternative? Use honey or maple syrup as the sweetener.
- Cook your chicken breasts in a dutch oven over the stove if you don’t have a pressure cooker. Just use the lid for poaching the meat.
- Use any Italian Bread that is available to you! A ciabatta roll or Rustic Pane Italian bread will be great substitutes for a focaccia loaf.
- My focaccia bread recipe makes 3 9-inch loaves or one large sheet pan size.
- The chipotle sauce can store for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
- To toast the sandwich in the oven cut and place the bread slices facing up and broil until toasted. Place 4 slices of cheese over one half and toast until melted. Place the warm chicken and other toppings onto the bread and cut into 4 wedges. Serve warm.
How To Make Chipotle Chicken Panini:
Chipotle Chicken Panini
- 1 Panini press (or skillet to toast the sandwich)
- 1 pressure cooker (Instant Pot)
- 2 chicken breasts
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 Tbsp seasoned salt
- 2 Tbsp white distilled vinegar
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup ranch dressing
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 tsp dried garlic
- 1/2 tsp dried onion
- 1 tsp sugar
- 5 tsp adobo sauce (from a can of chipotle peppers)
- 1 tsp ground mustard
- 2 tsp prepared yellow mustard
- Marinade the chicken in the baking soda solution for 20 minutes. Add everything to a pressure cooker and cook over high pressure for 20 minutes (with the marinade.) Shred the chicken once cooked.
- Whisk together the chipotle sauce ingredients and set aside.
- Preheat a griddle or Panini press over medium-high heat. Assemble the sandwiches; slice one focaccia roll in half crosswise and spread 2 tbsp of chipotle sauce onto each half. Top the bottom half with pulled chicken, 2 tbsp of cherry pepper spread, 1/2 of sliced avocado, and 4 slices of cheese.
- Press down and toast until the cheese melts. Cut each loaf into 4 wedges.