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This turkey panini recipe is the perfect way to use leftover turkey from Thanksgiving and Christmas. Easy to make, these grilled Italian sandwiches are a real treat! Made with cranberry sauce and thyme.
It’s the day after Thanksgiving! My belly is full, my heart is full and our fridge is full of so many leftovers! And like many of you, I’m wondering what to do with leftover turkey. My favorite and easiest thing to do with leftover turkey is sandwiches. This turkey panini is an easy way to use up the leftover turkey. I’ll share more ideas below too.
What is a panini?
Ideally, you will want to use a panini press for this grilled sandwich. Panini’s are Italian toasted sandwiches, that are made in a panini press. Each side of the press is heated, and you push it down to get all of those ingredients melted together – it’s weighted so you get beautifully flat sandwiches!
Ingredients to make a turkey panini
To start, set out the ingredients to include in your turkey panini. There’s obviously going to be turkey and cheese and bread. Try a rustic bread like thick sourdough, focaccia, ciabatta or a whole grain baguette. You want to avoid light and airy breads because they don’t grill as easily and sometimes get flat or soggy.
I like to keep it simple with those ingredients and add some leftover cranberry sauce and fresh thyme. For the sandwich, I recommend using spray olive oil or mayonnaise to coat both sides of the sandwich. I used mayonnaise here because I like the taste of it with the turkey.
How to make a turkey panini
Start by laying the bread down on a flat surface and spread mayonnaise on both pieces of bread. Then, it’s time to layer the sandwich. Try to do a mix of white meat and dark meat in the turkey panini. The white meat is leaner but the dark meat is juicer. Be sure to load it with fresh thyme because it just screams thanksgiving, and brings out all the flavors of the ingredients.
Continue assembling the sandwich and add any other ingredients you’d like. You can throw in some stuffing, some vegetables like brussels sprouts, or even some mashed potatoes. I don’t bother adding any gravy, sauce or dressing. There’s usually some leftover gravy right on the turkey breast from the way I store it. And the mayo and cheese give the panini plenty of sauciness! If you are going to add anything, I would recommend just a little extra gravy. Stay away from mustard which can really overpower the taste of the turkey panini.
Once everything is layered on, place the cheese last, carefully close the sandwich and place it on the panini maker. If you don’t have a panini grill, you can heat a skillet large enough to fit the sliced bread. No need to spray the skillet since we already have mayonnaise (or olive oil) right on the outside of the sandwich. You’ll want to cook the turkey sandwich for 2 minutes per side, gently pressing down on top of the sandwich with a spatula as you cook. This will ensure even cooking.
Perfectly melty turkey panini
You’ll know it’s cooked when it’s golden brown and the cheese is melted. This turkey panini will satisfy your cravings for leftover turkey, solve any problems for what to do with leftover turkey and make your belly so happy. It has a perfectly golden crispy crust, juicy tender turkey on the inside and a mix of salty provolone cheese with sweet and tart cranberry sauce that makes for a tasty easy meal after a big holiday feast.
Tips to make the best turkey panini
- Sourdough bread makes the best sandwiches in my opinion!
- Spread mayo on both sides of the bread so it doesn’t stick to the panini maker.
- The panini make must be hot before you put the sandwich in it.
- If you don’t have a panini press, you can also make this in a skillet on the stovetop.
Frequently asked questions
Personally, I really like to use thick sourdough to make panini, but any thick bread will work well. Ciabatta, baguette and focaccia are all excellent choices!
I prefer eating panini sandwiches straight off of the press while the cheese is hot and melted. You can of course eat them cold as well if you like.
f you do have leftovers, they will keep in air tight container in the fridge for about a day. To reheat them, you can put them in a toaster oven or oven for a couple of minutes until the cheese has melted.
What to do with leftover turkey
If you ended up with lots of leftover turkey, here are some other great recipes of what to do with it. Try a couple of the recipes below from my favorite bloggers. And if it’s still too much turkey, you can certainly freeze the turkey and store it for up to 3 months. Be sure to remove all the bones so the turkey meat is ready to go and be used in any of the recipes below. This will be a lifesaver when you’re looking for last minute meal ideas!
- Turkey Pot Pie ~ Foodie Crush
- Leftover Turkey Cranberry Melts ~ Two Peas & Their Pod
- Turkey Chili ~ Simply Recipes
- Leftover Turkey Empanadas ~ Skinny Taste
- Turkey Tetrazzini ~ Lil Luna
- Turkey Soup ~ Spend with Pennies
- Leftover Turkey in Creamy Mushroom Sauce ~ Natasha’s Kitchen
- Turkey Spaghetti Bake ~ What’s Gaby Cooking
- Turkey Pho ~ Pinch of Yum
- Turkey Enchiladas ~ Gimme Some Oven
For more sandwich recipes:
- Grilled Mozzarella Sandwich
- Roasted Vegetable Grilled Cheese Sandwich
- Pesto Chicken Avocado Panini
- Cheesy Chicken & Broccoli Wraps
I hope you try the turkey panini and I hope you try those other amazing recipe ideas and not be left worrying what to do with leftover turkey. But hey, in the end, that’s a good problem to have, so gobble gobble gobble!
If you make this healthy-ish feelgood Turkey Panini recipe, please be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!
- 3 ounces sourdough bread 2 slices sliced about ½ inch thick
- 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
- 3 ounces turkey breast
- 2 tablespoons cranberry sauce
- 1 slice provolone cheese
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
- Heat a panini press or skillet to medium high heat.
- Spread the mayonnaise on both sides of the bread. Lay the slices down on a clean work surface. Place the sliced turkey breast on top of one slice of bread. Add the fresh thyme leaves, then the cranberry sauce and finally the provolone cheese.
- Cover the sandwich with the other slice of bread.
- Transfer the sandwich to a panini press or hot skillet. Press together gently to help the whole sandwich stick together. Cook it until the bread is crisp and golden and the cheese is melted, about 3-4 minutes.
- Slice the sandwich in half and serve immediately.