The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Vegan Panini Recipes!

Posted on January 28, 2011 by Nina Casalena, The VRG Blog Editor

Have a Panini Party
By Nanette Blanchard

This article originally appeared in Vegetarian Journal Issue 4 2010.

Panini are becoming ubiquitous, and it's no wonder why! One bite of that flaky loaf and some piping-hot fillings, and most people are hooked!

Panini are delicious grilled sandwiches that are Italian in origin and typically made from a bread like ciabatta. In fact, this primary ingredient is the basis for the sandwich's name. 'Panino' is Italian for 'small bread roll,' and 'panini' is the word's plural form.

It's time to get in on the panini craze (if you haven't already)! Panini have emerged as a popular option for lunch, but you don't have to limit their consumption to your midday meal. Try a panini for breakfast or a late-night snack-they're quick to make and can be low in fat if you simply use vegetable cooking spray to coat the grill. They are also a great way to add some fruits and veggies to children's meals.

Panini grills are inexpensive and versatile, and even health-conscious vegans can use them to make wonderful and festive creations. There are two basic types of panini grills:

  • A non-stick grill allows you to lower the top of the grill to compress the sandwich. George Foreman Grills are a familiar example. These grills can vary greatly in price.
  • The other kind includes the cast-iron stovetop panini grills. You can even buy just a panini press top in cast iron; simply put the sandwich in a castiron pan and use the preheated panini top to compress and grill the sandwich.

You'll have the greatest success with your panini if you use thin slices of bread and remember to serve them immediately.

A panini party is a fun and casual way to entertain. Purchase several different types of breads and a variety of condiments and vegetables to add to customize your panini. Start your party by making the Eggplant, Roasted Red Pepper, and Spinach Panini with Chipotle Mayonnaise (below) and/or the Crimini Mushroom and Mustard Panini (opposite) because they are the lightest. Then, serve either the Tempeh Reuben Panini (opposite) or the Southwestern Tofu Panini (page 8) for the main event. Finish up the party with some sweet Dark Chocolate, Peanut Butter, and Banana Panini (page 8) or Creamy Carrot and Pineapple Panini (page 8) on raisin bread. Add a large salad of dark leafy greens and some sparkling cider, and you will have a memorable party.

EGGPLANT, ROASTED RED PEPPER, AND SPINACH PANINI WITH CHIPOTLE MAYONNAISE

(Makes 3 sandwiches)

This colorful sandwich uses a spicy, non-dairy mayonnaise for extra flavor. Use chipotle powder if you can't find chile pepper in adobo sauce in your grocer's international aisle.

CHIPOTLE MAYONNAISE

  • 1 Tablespoon chipotle chile pepper
    in adobo sauce, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice

In a small bowl, mix the ingredients
together.

PANINI

  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 small eggplant, peeled and sliced into
    1/2-inch slices
  • 6 thin slices ciabatta
  • 3 large slices roasted red peppers
    (approximately 3 ounces)
  • 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, washed and
    dried

Preheat the panini grill and spray with vegetable cooking spray. Grill the eggplant slices for 4-5 minutes or until soft. Spread each slice of bread with 1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle mayonnaise. Top 3 bread slices with roasted red peppers,
spinach, and grilled eggplant. Then, top each sandwich with another slice of bread.

Spray the panini grill with additional vegetable cooking spray. Grill each panini for 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Cut each panini in half and serve hot.

Total calories per serving: 186 Fat: 3 grams
Carbohydrates: 34 grams Protein: 6 grams
Sodium: 551 milligrams Fiber: 7 grams

PICADO DE RÁBANO (CHOPPED RADISH SALAD)

(Serves 5)

This is a refreshing 'side' salad to serve as an appetizer with breadsticks or as an accompaniment to spicy menu items. Or create an entirely new salad by combining this recipe with some tossed greens, cooled cooked pasta, quinoa, brown rice, or barley.

  • 2 cups trimmed and thinly sliced red
    radishes (not daikon)
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh mint
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 Tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a nonreactive bowl. Refrigerate or chill on ice for at least 30 minutes before serving. This salad can be made the night before.

Total calories per serving: 21 Fat: < 1 gram
Carbohydrates: 5 grams Protein: 1 gram
Sodium: 19 milligrams Fiber: 1 gram


CRIMINI MUSHROOM AND MUSTARD PANINI

(Makes 3 sandwiches)

You can use any type of mushrooms for these savory panini, but I like the crimini variety for its nutty flavor.

  • 8 ounces crimini mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 Tablespoons grainy mustard (whole grain
    or coarse type mustard, such as Trader
    Joe’s Whole Grain Dijon Mustard)
  • 6 slices whole wheat bread
  • 3 slices vegan American soy cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  • Vegetable cooking spray

In a sauté pan, cook mushrooms and shallots in olive oil over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms are golden brown, approximately 7-8 minutes.

Preheat the panini grill. Spread 1 1/2 teaspoons mustard on each
slice of bread. Top 3 bread slices with the mushroom mixture, soy cheese, and parsley. Then, top each sandwich with another slice of bread.

Spray the panini grill with additional vegetable cooking spray. Grill each panini for 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Cut each panini in half diagonally and serve immediately.

Total calories per serving: 224 Fat: 9 grams
Carbohydrates: 36 grams Protein: 9 grams
Sodium: 497 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

TEMPEH REUBEN PANINI

(Makes 3 sandwiches)

The Reuben is a natural choice for a panini since it is, by definition, a grilled sandwich. The original version tops layers of deli staples with sauerkraut and flavorful dressings.

Tempeh, which fills in for the traditional corned beef, is available in the refrigerated section at natural foods stores and some supermarkets. If you can't find pumpernickel, get the darkest rye bread that you can. I use a sauerkraut from the refrigerated section of my health foods store that has much less sodium than canned sauerkraut. You can also add sliced tomatoes or caramelized onions to these hearty sandwiches before grilling.

TEMPEH

  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 Tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1/4 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar
  • 8 ounces tempeh, thinly sliced

In a small saucepan, mix water, soy sauce, garlic, mustard, liquid smoke, paprika if using, and agave nectar. Add tempeh and simmer over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, adding more water if necessary, until all liquid is absorbed.

THOUSAND ISLAND DRESSING

  • 2 Tablespoons vegan mayonnaise
  • 1 Tablespoon ketchup
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pickle relish
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder

In a small bowl, combine dressing ingredients.

PANINI

  • 6 slices pumpernickel bread
  • 6 Tablespoons sauerkraut
  • Vegetable cooking spray

Preheat the panini grill. Spread each slice of bread with dressing. Top 3 bread slices with the tempeh and then sauerkraut. Then, top each sandwich with another slice of bread.

Spray the panini grill with vegetable cooking spray. Grill each panini for 5 minutes.

Cut each panini in half and serve immediately.

Total calories per serving: 325 Fat: 12 grams
Carbohydrates: 38 grams Protein: 20 gram
Sodium: 854 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams


SOUTHWESTERN TOFU PANINI

(Makes 4 sandwiches)

These filling sandwiches include tofu that has been brushed with
a bit of salsa and grilled on the panini grill before the sandwiches are assembled.

  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • One 14-ounce package firm organic tofu,
    cut into 8 slices
  • 3 Tablespoons store-bought salsa,
    preferably a smooth variety
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 8 slices whole wheat bread
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, sliced
  • 8 green olives, halved
  • 8 pickled jalapeño rings
  • Extra salsa for serving, if desired

Preheat the panini grill and spray with vegetable cooking spray.

Brush each tofu slice with a heaping teaspoon of salsa and sprinkle with sea salt. Grill tofu for 5-6 minutes or until browned. Remove from grill.

To make panini, top 4 bread slices with avocado, tomatoes, olives, and jalapeños. Top each sandwich with 2 pieces of tofu. Then, top each sandwich with another slice of bread.

Spray the panini grill with additional vegetable cooking spray.

Grill each panini for 5 minutes or until golden brown.

Cut each panini in half. Serve with additional salsa, if desired.

Total calories per serving: 322 Fat: 15 grams
Carbohydrates: 37 grams Protein: 16 grams
Sodium: 596 milligrams Fiber: 10 grams


DARK CHOCOLATE, PEANUT BUTTER, AND BANANA PANINI

(Makes 2 sandwiches)

  • 2 Tablespoons unsalted creamy peanut
    butter
  • 4 slices soft whole wheat bread
  • 1 large banana, sliced
  • 1 ounce (approximately 6 squares) dark
    vegan chocolate, chopped
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the panini grill. Spread peanut butter thinly on all 4 slices of bread. Top 2 bread slices with the chopped chocolate and banana slices. Then, top each sandwich with another slice of bread.

Spray the panini grill with vegetable cooking spray. Grill each panini for 3-4 minutes or until it is golden brown and the chocolate has melted.

Remove panini from the grill and cut each sandwich into 3 slices. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve hot.

Total calories per serving: 373 Fat: 15 grams
Carbohydrates: 53 grams Protein: 11 grams
Sodium: 304 milligrams Fiber: 7 grams

DARK CHOCOLATE, PEANUT BUTTER, AND BANANA PANINI

(Makes 3 sandwiches)

These dessert sandwiches are a terrific way to get kids to eat more carrots. Be sure to watch these sandwiches closely as they are cooking because raisin bread has a tendency to brown more quickly in the panini grill than other breads do.

  • 1/4 cup vegan cream cheese
  • 1 carrot, peeled and grated (approximately
    7/8 cup)
  • 6 slices whole wheat raisin bread
  • 6 thin canned pineapple rings (approximately
    8 ounces)
  • Vegetable cooking spray

Preheat the panini grill.

In a small bowl, combine the cream cheese and carrots. Spread the mixture on the raisin bread slices. Top 3 bread slices with pineapple rings. Then, top each sandwich with another slice of bread.

Spray the panini grill with vegetable cooking spray. Grill each panini for 4 minutes or until golden brown.

Slice each sandwich in half and serve immediately.

Total calories per serving: 254 Fat: 6 grams
Carbohydrates: 47 grams Protein: 5 grams
Sodium: 327 milligrams Fiber: 4 grams

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