Make a Panini

Make a delicious panini with a number of creative and innovative recipe ideas. This healthy and quick meal is sure to fill you up and satisfy your family and friends for lunch or dinner. You can also make a dessert panini to enjoy at the end of the night! Many cookware stores sell panini presses, but you actually don't need one. Try the methods below to make a delicious panini in just a few minutes.


  • Bread
  • Sliced Meat
  • Cheese
  • Olive oil


Making your Panini

  1. Choose your bread. A panini can be made with Italian bread, ciabatta, focaccia, sourdough, or any kind of bread you like.
    • If you are using a roll of bread, slice your bread into 3/4 inch thick slices. You can also cut your bread length-wise.[1]
    • Keep round tops turned in. If you try to grill round-topped bread, like baguettes, you’ll find it can be a real challenge to keep them from rolling over and spilling out the contents of your panini. To solve this problem, turn round-topped bread inside out so that the flat surfaces make contact with the grill.
  2. Spread olive oil on the inside of your bread. Use a brush or butter knife to distribute a small around of olive oil over the inside surface of your bread. You want to achieve a thin coating here, so make sure not to glob a lot of olive oil onto the bread.
    • If you use too much oil, your bread will get soggy!
  3. Add your cheese. Put one slice of cheese on each piece of bread, against the olive oil. Adding a piece of cheese to each side of the sandwich helps it stick together better while cooking.
    • You can use grated cheese too.
    • If you prefer, you can put cheese just on one side.
  4. Add your filling. You can get as creative as you want with your panini and use a combination of sliced meats or shredded meat, or make a vegetarian panini with sliced zucchini. Add two slices of meat or zucchini to one piece of bread.
    • You can increase the amount of filling if you prefer a thicker panini.
  5. Add some extra flavor. Try some diced onions or fresh cilantro. You can also sprinkle in some salt and pepper, garlic, or add a dash of your favorite hot sauce.
    • If you are interested in adding vegetables like lettuce, spinach, or tomatoes to your panini, wait until you have cooked it. This will ensure that the vegetables stay crisp and don't get soggy.
  6. Close your sandwich and butter the outsides of the bread. Make sure you don't overfill your panini by too much or the inside of the sandwich won't warm properly when cooking.
    • You can also use margarine.

Cooking your Panini

  1. Preheat a panini press (optional). Cooking your panini in a panini press is simple and easy. Just place your sandwich inside and close the lid. Cook for about 3-5 minutes.
    • Cook according to the manufacturer's instructions until golden and crisp.
  2. Preheat your skillet. Add butter or oil to your skillet and heat it over medium to low heat until the oil starts to shimmer or until the butter melts. Don't let the butter brown. Without a panini press, your best option is to use a grill pan, but you can use a regular frying pan if that's all you have. Place your sandwich into the heated grill pan.
  3. Heat a separate cast iron pan on another burner until hot. Since you aren't using a panini press, you will still need something to press your sandwich down. This is where the cast iron pan comes in. You can use a metal pan or skillet, but a cast iron pan works best.
    • Be careful when handling your pan. Cast iron pans can get very hot so you may need to use an oven mitt to grab it once it's heated.
  4. Press your panini. Place you heated cast iron or metal pan directly onto your sandwich. The weight of the pan on top of your sandwich will create the same effect you'd get from a panini press. Keep in mind, there are additional alternatives to a cast iron pan. Here are some other things you can try:
    • Use a pan lid for a press. This works best if you cook your panini for a few minutes on each side while pressing down on the lid.[2]
    • Use a pot. If you have a large spaghetti or soup pot, you can put some rocks inside and press your panini with it.
    • Try out the ultimate makeshift panini press by wrapping a brick in aluminum foil and using it to press down your sandwich.[3]
  5. Cook your panini. Let your panini cook like this for about 3-5 minutes or until the bottom piece of bread gets golden brown and the cheese melts.
  6. Flip. Lift the cast iron pan away and use a spatula to flip your panini over. Place the cast iron pan back into your panini. Cook your panini until the cheese is melted and the underside is golden brown.
  7. Add the vegetables. Remove your panini from the pan and carefully peel it open. Drop in your lettuce, spinach, or any other vegetable you desire. Adding greens last will help they stay crisp.
  8. Cut your panini with a straight-edged knife. A sharp, straight-edged knife, rather than a serrated one, will ensure a smooth separation for your finished panini. Serve with a side of chips, a cup of soup, or a delicious salad and enjoy!

Getting Creative with your Panini

  1. Experiment with a variety of bread. You can use virtually any type of bread you desire. You can even use a bagel. Visit a fresh bakery and try a pretzel roll, pita bread, or even plain white bread. The options are endless!
  2. Get creative with the cheese. Try sharp cheddar or a spicy pepper jack. Grate your own cheese or layer on the slices. Mix different cheeses for a more interesting flavor. Try any cheese you like.
    • Try adding some shaved parmesan, manchego cheese, or soft goat cheese.
  3. Make it crunchy. Add a few minutes to the cooking time to get a rich golden brown. Letting the bread crisp up will create a crunchy panini that is gooey and soft on the inside.
  4. Add some vegetables. Try sliced tomatoes, cucumber, onions, or mushrooms. Add these ingredients raw or grill them first. You can even add a few basil leaves or some sliced bell pepper.
    • Be careful when adding "wet" ingredients. They might make your sandwich soggy. If you are adding tomatoes, cucumbers, or anything with a high water content, scoop out the seeds first.
  5. Add some fruit. That's right, fruit! Slice some apple or pear for a sweet and refreshing twist on a meat or vegetarian panini.
  6. Go crazy with the fillings. You can use any leftover meat you have. Shred chicken or steak or add some crispy bacon. Try adding chopped anchovies for an interesting flavor. Try roast beef, pastrami, or any meat you prefer.[4]
    • Make sure all the meat you add to your panini is fully cooked.
  7. Top it with some sauce. Spread some pesto sauce inside your sandwich or try your favorite spicy mustard. You can even add some fig jam for an added sweetness. Try BBQ sauce or hot sauce too!
  8. Sprinkle on the seasonings. You can't go wrong with a pinch of salt and pepper. But, you don't have to stop there either. Try a dash of garlic or onion salt. Try dusting a bit of garlic salt on the outside of your bread over the butter.
    • Use seasonings sparingly, you can easily overpower your panini with too much salt or garlic.
  9. Make a dessert panini. Use white bread or cinnamon raisin bread and coat the inside with hazelnut spread. Fill your sandwich up with sliced banana and marshmallows and drizzle some chocolate syrup on the inside. Cook until the outsides are golden brown and the marshmallows are melted. [5]
  10. Have a panini party! Invite a group of family and friends to try out your most creative panini. Buy a selection of bread and fillings and challenge your friends to make the most creative and delicious panini.


  • A George Foreman Grill will make great panini, but make sure the grill is heated prior to using.
  • Use any combination, from cheeses, to steaks and onions, or fish depending on your taste.


  • Carefully remove the panini from any type of grill, as it will be hot and you can easily be burned by touching it.

Things You'll Need

  • Panini grill
  • Spatula
  • Frying pan
  • Cast iron pan
  • Oven mitts

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Sources and Citations