Chicken Caprese Pesto Panini

5 from 15 votes

This grilled chicken Caprese pesto panini hot sandwich is what sandwich dreams are made of! Fresh ingredients piled into crusty sourdough bread - yum!

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This Grilled Chicken Caprese Pesto Panini Sandwich is an easy, yet gourmet hot sandwich recipe! Made with smoky grilled chicken, herby and bright homemade pesto, fresh mozzarella, fragrant basil, and juicy tomatoes – pressed between two pieces of sourdough bread – making it the perfect meal for any time of day. Panini press optional!

Pesto Chicken Panini cut in half on large white plate.

If you love pesto and all things Caprese, you’ve got to try this grilled chicken Caprese pesto panini sandwich! It’s simple to make and tastes delicious. The best part is that you can customize it however you like. Don’t like tomatoes? Leave them out! Prefer brie over mozzarella? No problem! This hot sandwich recipe is very versatile. So let’s get started!

why you’ll love this chicken caprese panini

  • You don’t need a panini press to make it. You can just cook it on a skillet, in the toaster oven, regular oven, or grill pan (if you want those pretty gill lines).
  • It’s a great way to use up leftover chicken. If you have some grilled chicken from dinner the night before, this is the perfect recipe to use it in.
  • The flavors are classic and always taste good together. Pesto, tomatoes, mozzarella, and chicken are a match made in heaven. They are bright, herby, cheesy, and slightly smoky from the chicken.
  • It’s an easy recipe that can be made in under 20 minutes. Perfect for a quick lunch or dinner!

Ingredients to make chicken pesto panini

  • Chicken: Chicken breast works great for this recipe. You can use boneless, skinless chicken thighs if you prefer. If using raw chicken, season it with salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning before cooking.
  • Pesto: I like to use my homemade basil pesto for this recipe, but you can use store-bought pesto as well.
  • Tomatoes: I like to use fresh Roma or beefsteak tomatoes, but you could also use sun-dried tomatoes.
  • Mozzarella: Fresh mozzarella works best for this panini recipe, but you could also use shredded mozzarella.
  • Bread: Sourdough has a nice chewy texture and holds up well to being pressed. You could also use ciabatta, baguette, or any other type of bread you like.
  • Basil: Fresh basil leaves are a must for this recipe! They add a bright, herby flavor that takes it over the top.
  • Olive oil: Used for brushing on the panini press or grill pan. This helps it get nice and crispy when pressed.
  • Salt & Pepper: To taste
Ingredients for recipe: oil, pesto, mozzarella, salt, pepper, chicken breast, fresh basil, whole tomatoes, and sliced bread.

How to make a chicken caprese pesto panini

If you have leftover chicken breast and plan on using it for your panini sandwich, you can skip these first couple of steps. If your cooked chicken breasts are thick, you may want to cut them in half.

cook Chicken

  1. Place the pounded chicken breast in a preheated pan, grill pan, or on the grill.
  2. Cook until golden brown on the bottom.
2 image collage of chicken cutlets in pan before being cooked and then after being cooked.

assemble chicken Panini

  1. Spread the pesto on the bread.
  2. Layer 2 slices of tomato on one half of the bread.
  3. Top the tomatoes with 1 chicken cutlet.
  4. On the other slice of bread, layer 2 slices of mozzarella, and a few fresh basil leaves.
4 image collage on how to assemble panini before pressing.

Press Panini

Yes, it’s easier with a panini press, but if you don’t have one, here’s my hack – a grill pan, a heavy-bottomed pan, and a couple of cans.

  1. Brush the preheated grill pan with olive oil and place the prepared sandwich on the pan.
  2. Use a second heavy skillet weighed down with a few cans to simulate the top of the panini press, and flip the panini halfway through the cooking time.
  3. The panini is done when the exterior is golden brown and crispy.
3 image collage of 2 sandwiches on grill pan then being pressed with another pan and two cans of food sitting on top to press the sandwiches, and then the sandwich after being flipped.

Tips for making a chicken panini sandwich

  1. Pound your chicken. Pounding your chicken cutlet ensures that the chicken will cook evenly and be tender and juicy. The best way to do this is to lay the chicken cutlet on one side of a large piece of plastic wrap and fold the other side of the plastic wrap on top of it (as though you were closing a book). Use the blunt side of a meat mallet or the flat bottom of a drinking glass to pound out the chicken, starting at the thickest part of the cutlet and moving outward, until it is an even ¼-inch thick. Unfold the chicken from the plastic wrap and repeat with the remaining cutlets (you should be able to reuse the same piece of plastic wrap for all your cutlets!)
  2. Salt your tomatoes. Just a pinch of salt sprinkled across the tomato slices as you layer them in the sandwich will really bring out their natural sweetness and elevate the flavor of your sandwich.  
  3. Cook it in a pan instead of a panini press. If you’re cooking in a pan instead of a panini press, use a second heavy skillet weighed down with a few cans to simulate the top of the panini press, and flip the panini halfway through the cooking time.
Two chicken pesto panini sandwiches cut in half with three halves stacked on top of each other and the other slice off to the side.

popular substitutions & additions

  • Add avocados. In the original version of this sandwich, I included slices of avocado in the recipe. You can also mash the avocados on the inside of the bread, which makes it more creamy and delicious.
  • Make it vegan. Replace the chicken with portabella mushrooms or grilled eggplant.
  • Try different cheeses. If you don’t like mozzarella or can’t find fresh mozzarella, try using provolone, brie, or even goat cheese.
  • Make it a wrap. Instead of making a sandwich, you could make this recipe into a wrap by using large tortillas.

how to store & reheat your grilled chicken panini

This hot sandwich is best served immediately. If you have leftovers, you can store them in an airtight container in the fridge. When you’re ready to eat, reheat your sandwich in a panini press or on a grill pan over medium heat until hot and slightly crisp on the outside. You can also reheat it in the microwave, but it won’t be as crispy.

how long will a chicken panini sandwich last in the fridge?

If pre-assembled, it will last for up to two days in the fridge. If you have all the ingredients but haven’t assembled them, it will last for four days in the fridge.

Frequently asked questions

Can I make this sandwich ahead of time?

I do not recommend making the sandwiches ahead of time because the bread will get soggy. However, you can prepare all the ingredients and assemble the sandwiches when you’re ready to eat.

I don’t like basil. What else can I use instead?

If you don’t like basil, you can use spinach or arugula in the pesto as well as on the sandwich. The arugula is going to give it more of a peppery bite in comparison to the milder flavor of spinach.

My chicken is dry. What can I do?

If your chicken is dry, you most likely overcooked it. Keep in mind that the chicken will continue to cook even after you take it off the grill or pan, so you don’t want to cook it for too long. Another tip is to make sure you pound your chicken so that it cooks evenly.

Panini sandwich sliced on a bias and stacked over each other, served on a large white plate with another sandwich.

This Grilled Chicken Caprese Pesto Panini Sandwich is the perfect way to use up grilled chicken. The sandwich is easy to make, and you can customize it with your favorite ingredients. It’s best served immediately, but leftovers can be stored in the fridge. If you’re looking for a delicious and easy lunch or dinner recipe, look no further than this Grilled Chicken Caprese Pesto Panini Sandwich!

What are your thoughts on this recipe? Have you made it before? Let me know in the comments below!

More sandwich recipes:

If you try this feel good Chicken Pesto Panini recipe or any other recipe on Feel Good Foodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! It helps others who are thinking of making the recipe. We would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots, share it on Instagram so we can repost on Stories!

This Chicken Pesto Panini recipe was originally published on August 22, 2017. The recipe has not been modified to remove the avocados and the post now includes new step-by-step photos for how to make the panini sandwich.

Chicken Pesto Panini

This grilled chicken Caprese pesto panini hot sandwich is what sandwich dreams are made of! Fresh ingredients piled into crusty sourdough bread – yum!
5 from 15 votes
Servings 4 servings
Course Sandwich
Calories 682
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 4 4-ounce chicken breast cutlets, pounded to ¼-inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup pesto
  • 8 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 ripe tomatoes cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 12-16 fresh basil leaves optional

Instructions

  • Heat olive oil in a large heavy pan over medium heat. Season the chicken cutlets on both sides with salt and pepper. Add the cutlets to the preheated pan and cook until golden brown on the bottom, 3-4 minutes. Flip the cutlets and cook until browned on the other side and a thermometer inserted in the center reads 165° F, 2-3 minutes longer. Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm.
  • Spread 1 tablespoon of pesto on 1 side of each bread slice. Layer 4 of the bread slices with 2 slices of tomato, 1 chicken cutlet, 2 slices of mozzarella, and 3-4 fresh basil leaves (if desired) each, then top with the remaining 4 slices of bread, pesto-side down.
  • Heat a panini press or a large heavy pan (or grill pan) over medium heat and brush with olive oil. If you’re cooking in a pan instead of a panini press, use a second heavy skillet weighed down with a few cans to simulate the top of the panini press, and flip the panini halfway through the cooking time.
  • Add two of the sandwiches to the panini press and cook for 5 minutes, or until warmed through and crispy on both sides.
  • Repeat with the remaining sandwiches. Serve hot.

Notes

Tip: Pound your chicken breast to get an even cook and bread-to-meat ratio. About ¼ of an inch is perfect for paninis! 

Nutrition

Calories: 682kcal, Carbohydrates: 73g, Protein: 29g, Fat: 31g, Saturated Fat: 11g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 7g, Cholesterol: 48mg, Sodium: 1420mg, Potassium: 346mg, Fiber: 4g, Sugar: 9g, Vitamin A: 1584IU, Vitamin C: 9mg, Calcium: 411mg, Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

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Pesto Chicken Panini cut in half on large white plate.

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