Pesto Chicken and Spinach Panini

Last updated: June 5th, 2024

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You can easily make this pesto chicken and spinach panini without a panini press to shake up your everyday lunch routine!

A pesto chicken and spinach panini stacked on a plate

If you love to eat sandwiches for lunch but get tired of having the same old thing every day, try shaking things up with a homemade panini! Our pesto chicken and spinach panini is a fresh and flavorful sandwich you can easily make with just a few ingredients, even without a panini press. Make a single panini for your midday meal, or whip up a few of these toasted sandwiches for a fun DIY dinner (since this recipe is totally customizable!).

I like to think of paninis as a sophisticated version of sandwiches. They’re still simply made with two slices of bread and some kind of protein, produce, and cheese. But what makes them special is when they’re toasted to golden-brown crispy goodness on the outside with ooey, gooey cheese spilling out from the inside. Just that one extra step of toasting your carefully crafted sandwich takes it up a notch, from pretty good to SUPER comforting and delicious.

So how do you make the perfect panini at home, especially without a panini press? It’s easy – we’ve tested a few methods for cooking these toasty sandwiches without a press and have loads of tips and tricks for you to try at home. Keep reading for our unique take on a pesto chicken panini with spinach and mozzarella!

A crispy pesto chicken panini on sourdough bread

Pesto Chicken Panini Ingredients

The ingredients for this recipe are pretty self explanatory: you’ll definitely need pesto, chicken, and spinach! But you’ll also want to grab a loaf of high-quality, fresh bakery bread (like sourdough) and some mozzarella cheese while you’re at the store. Here’s the full list of ingredients for making a pesto chicken spinach panini at home:

  • Chicken breast
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Pesto
  • Sourdough bread
  • Butter
  • Fresh mozzarella cheese
  • Shredded mozzarella cheese
  • Baby spinach

We use both fresh and shredded mozzarella to have two different textures of gooey cheese in this sandwich, but you can easily use just one type of mozzarella if you prefer. If using fresh mozzarella only, skip the extra shredded mozz on top of the chicken. But if you’re using only shredded mozzarella, give this panini a solid layer of cheese on the bottom and the top!

A cheesy pesto chicken and spinach panini

How To Make A Pesto Chicken Panini

For this delicious sandwich recipe, you’ll combine chicken, olive oil, and pesto to cook up a small batch of juicy pesto chicken. Then, you’ll assemble your panini on fresh sourdough bread with more pesto, baby spinach, and mozzarella cheese before toasting. Here’s a complete breakdown of how to make a pesto chicken panini:

  1. Make the pesto chicken: Toss chicken with olive oil and pesto, then sauté in a frying pan over medium-high heat until cooked through.
  2. Assemble the sandwich: First, butter one side of one slice of bread, then place it butter side down on a pan. Spread pesto on the top surface of the bread, then layer with slices of fresh mozzarella and spinach leaves. Then, top with pesto chicken and sprinkle with shredded mozzarella. Lastly, close the sandwich and butter the top surface of the bread.
  3. Cook the panini: There are a few different methods you can try, depending on what tools you have available. Keep reading for more details!

How To Make A Panini At Home

Obviously, one of the best methods for toasting paninis is with a panini press. If you happen to have one, that’s great! Simply toast your pesto chicken and spinach panini until the cheese is melty and the bread is a crispy golden-brown.

However, it’s totally possible to make delicious panini sandwiches at home without a panini press. Here are a few tried and true ways we recommend for making crispy, gooey, cheesy paninis without a press:

  • In a frying pan: You can easily make a panini in a frying pan, just like how you would make a grilled cheese sandwich. Cook over low heat until the bottom is golden-brown, then carefully flip and cook until the bottom is toasted and the cheese is gooey. You can also do this on a griddle or cast iron pan.
  • With a cast iron grill press: These nifty tools make it easy to cook paninis in a frying pan or on a griddle without having to flip them. Just preheat the sandwich press ahead of time (get it nice and hot!) and set it on top of your panini while it cooks.
  • Between two cast iron pans: Similar to using a cast iron grill press, you can set a hot cast iron pan on top of your panini as it cooks. This method works great if you’re toasting multiple paninis at once! We like to use this 2-in-1 cast iron pan.

To help ensure success when making homemade paninis, remember these two important tips:

  • If you’re using cast iron – Cast iron gets hot very quickly and holds heat well, so keep an eye on your paninis to make sure they don’t burn. They may cook faster than you’d expect.
  • No matter what – Cooking paninis over low heat ensures your cheese will melt at the proper rate so you don’t end up over-toasting the bread. As a general rule of thumb, since the heat on different stoves varies, start cooking paninis over low heat and increase to medium-low if necessary.
Two halves of a cheesy pesto chicken panini with spinach stacked

Recipe Shortcuts & Variations

With just a few simple ingredients and two slices of bread, paninis are one of the easiest and most versatile meals you can make at home. You can easily customize this recipe to suit your tastes or use whatever ingredients you have on hand, and there are a few shortcuts you can try to make this recipe even easier. Here are some suggestions:

  • Use pre-cooked grilled chicken breast or shredded rotisserie chicken. Simply toss to coat the chicken in pesto before adding it to the panini!
  • Make (or order) pesto chicken for dinner and use the leftovers in this panini for lunch the next day.
  • Try making our nut-free basil pesto at home for an easy and budget-friendly alternative to store-bought pesto.
  • Spread olive oil on the outside of the bread (instead of butter) for a healthier alternative and unique flavor.
  • Try making paninis with different types of bread and see what you like best.

The possibilities are endless when it comes to homemade paninis. Try our pesto chicken and spinach panini recipe and don’t forget to rate, comment, and share if you love it!

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A pesto chicken and spinach panini stacked on a plate

Pesto Chicken and Spinach Panini

You can easily make this pesto chicken and spinach panini without a panini press to shake up your everyday lunch routine!
No ratings yet
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Lunch, Main, Main Course
Cuisine American, Italian
Servings 1 panini
Calories 641 kcal


  • 2 ounces raw chicken breast sliced thin into 1.5-inch long pieces
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon pesto divided
  • 2 slices sourdough bread about 5 inches long by 3 inches wide
  • 2 teaspoon butter
  • 2 slices fresh mozzarella cheese quarter-inch thick
  • ½ ounce baby spinach
  • ¼ cup shredded mozzarella cheese


  • First, prepare the pesto chicken. In a small bowl, toss thinly sliced chicken with extra virgin olive oil and 1 tbsp of the pesto until well-coated. Sauté in a skillet over medium-high heat for about 6 to 8 minutes, or until cooked through.
  • Meanwhile, preheat a cast iron griddle over medium heat.
  • Next, assemble the panini. Spread about 1 tsp butter on the outside of each slice of sourdough bread, then carefully place one slice of bread butter side down on a plate. Spread the remaining pesto onto the bread, then top with mozzarella cheese slices. Layer with spinach leaves, then the cooked pesto chicken, then top with shredded mozzarella cheese. Close the sandwich with the remaining slice of bread (butter side up).
  • Carefully transfer the panini to the hot cast iron griddle and cook until bottom is crisped and golden-brown, about 3 to 4 minutes. Carefully flip and cook until the bottom is crisped and golden-brown again, another 3 to 4 minutes. (Alternatively, you can use a preheated grill press on top of the sandwich to crisp both sides at once and avoid flipping your panini.)
  • Transfer panini to a cutting board and slice diagonally in half. Serve immediately.


Pesto: Use your favorite store-bought pesto or try our nut-free basil pesto recipe here for a delicious homemade alternative.
Fresh mozzarella: Thinly sliced fresh mozzarella works best for paninis. The thinner the slice, the quicker it melts – meaning an extra gooey and delicious panini!
Cooking methods: If you have a panini press, you can easily toast this sandwich on it in about the same amount of time as it takes on the stove. Alternatively, cook the sandwiches on a cast iron griddle and optionally use a cast iron grill press to toast both sides at once.


Calories: 641kcalCarbohydrates: 33gProtein: 38gFat: 39gSaturated Fat: 18gPolyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0.3gCholesterol: 126mgSodium: 1154mgPotassium: 422mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 2471IUVitamin C: 5mgCalcium: 501mgIron: 3mg
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Keyword cast iron, chicken, fresh mozzarella, panini, panini press, sandwich, sourdough bread, spinach
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