Chipotle Chicken Panini, the ever loved fan-favorite with melty sharp cheddar, smoky bacon, and savory chipotle mayonnaise, may not be served at Panera Bread anymore but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the beloved sandwich at home!
Who was mad when Panera discontinued the chipotle chicken panini?
I know who was mad: the internet (and me)! There was an uproar, there was a petition, there's a website about how they need to bring it back, and frankly, I ain't mad at it at all! I'm a creature of habit, so when my favorite sandwich that I always got was suddenly gone and replaced with the chipotle chicken avocado melt, I was so upset.
But then...I just made it myself. 'Cause it isn't coming back, y'all. No matter the petitions.
I really think the homemade version hits it right on the nose; the smoky chipotle aioli gives the sandwich depth and tons of flavor. It has not only ground chipotle to give it a spicy, subtly smoky flavor, but also smoked paprika (for more smokiness), a little lime juice for tang, and just a smidge of dijon mustard.
If you missed out on the amazingness that is the chipotle chicken panini, it was a sandwich with chicken breast, tomato slices, bacon, cheddar cheese and smoky chipotle mayo on French bread. And it was darn good. I mean, any sandwich is good, but this sandwich from scratch is darn good.
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What is a Panini?
Traditionally, the word panini comes from the Italian word panino, meaning little bread, and refer to sandwiches made with Italian breads like ciabatta.
In the U.S., a panini is any sandwich that is pressed and grilled, then served warm. They can be made on grill pans or in a panini press, which is an appliance with hot grill plates that press the sandwich on both sides at the same time.
Bread. The classic Panera Bread recipe uses French bread, but I really love slices of sourdough and Italian bread on my sandwich.
Slices of sharp cheddar cheese.
Beefsteak Tomato. My favorite full size tomatoes outside of heirloom tomato season, they're really juicy and flavorful!
Chipotle Mayo Sauce
I really love making aioli from scratch because i'll use it to dip fries in, put into Bang Bang Sauce
Chipotle pepper in adobo sauce. This is easy to find in small cans in the grocery stores. If you can't find it, ground chipotle powder works as well.
2 egg yolks.
A squeeze of lime juice.
Neutral-flavored oil. Avocado oil, grapeseed, and vegetable oil are good candidates here. We want that chipotle flavor to really shine, so we aren't using a fruity olive oil.
A tiny bit of dijon mustard.
A squeeze of honey. This gives it a hint of floral sweetness!
Kosher Salt and Pepper.
How to Make a Chipotle Chicken Panini
First cook your bacon in a cast iron skillet. I like slow rendering my bacon so I can use the fat to spread on my slices of bread.
Then chicken breast in a cast iron skillet or grill pan for some nice grill marks.
While it's cooking whip up some homemade chipotle sauce in a small bowl. For a shortcut, you can use mayo you have in the fridge instead of making the aioli, but I promise that aioli's flavor is so worth it! I use my immersion blender to make the whipping fast and easy.
Once the chicken is done cooking, let it rest for a couple of minutes before slicing. So preheat your panini press while you wait. If you don't have one, a heavy cast iron pan or a fish weight will do.
Slice the chicken so it's easy to bite into and eat, nothing's worse than trying to fight a big piece of chicken that won't give in.
Build your panini by buttering one side of each slice of bread (or use the rendered bacon fat if you're on #teamExtra!), then layer the chicken slices, bacon, tomatoes, and then smooth on a little bit of that chipotle mayo.
Smoosh it in the panini press until the bread has some gorgeous grill marks and the cheese is perfectly melty.
Boom, a damn tasty chipotle chicken panini sandwich recipe that makes my nostalgic heart so happy.
What to Serve with it
If you're feeling the chill in the air and want to get cozy, serve your chipotle chicken panini with some soup! My personal faves: my husband's tomato soup (which is so rich and creamy!), broccoli cheddar soup, or classic French onion soup.
This sandwich with some amazing copycat Panera white cheddar mac and cheese will keep your discontinued Panera cravings in check, back when a You Pick Two was $6.89 and a sandwich was not $13!
If you have some leftover chicken (or grab a rotisserie chicken!) use it to cut the cook time down and have your panini done in record time.
Add some vegetables like fresh spinach, creamy avocados, red onions, red peppers, fresh basil, or whatever is in season!
Frequently Asked Questions
You can use a regular ole blender to help make the sauce but if you have neither, forego the chipotle pepper and use chipotle powder. I have a full recipe on how to make aioli by hand with a whisk if you need it.
You can also just use your favorite mayonnaise as a base and blend it with the chipotle peppers, dijon mustard, honey, lime juice, and a little salt and pepper.
You can make a panini without a panini maker by using two cast iron skillets (or something heavy and heat-safe, like a foil-covered brick). Just press the sandwich while it's cooking and flip to get equal heating.
Traditionally paninis are make with Italian breads: focaccia bread, ciabatta bread, etc. But in the States we use any bread for a panini, my favorite being sourdough bread.
More Delicious Sandwich Recipes
- Chicken Caprese Sandwich
- TikTok Viral Grinder Sandwich
- Warm Butter Lobster Rolls
- Crispy Chicken Sandwiches
- Turkey Avocado Sandwiches
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Chipotle Mayo Sauce
- 1 egg yolk
- ¼ cup neutral-flavored oil, vegetable oil, etc.
- 2 teaspoon lime juice
- 1 chipotle in adobo sauce
- ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
Chipotle Chicken Panini
- 4 slices thick cut bacon
- 4 slices sharp cheddar cheese
- 1 beefsteak tomato, sliced in ¼ inch slices
- 4 slices french bread, ½ inch thick
- Softened butter
Chipotle Mayo Sauce
- In a small bowl, add all the ingredients to the chipotle mayo. Use an immersion blender to blend all the ingredients together until the mayo is thickened and smooth.
Make the Chipotle Chicken Panini
- In a cast iron skillet or frying pan, cook bacon to desired crispness. Reserve the fat, if desired. Set the bacon on a wire rack or paper lined plate to drain.
- Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper on both sides. In the cast iron skillet or frying pan, heat a tablespoon of high-heat oil over medium high heat. Cook chicken breasts, 3 minutes on both sides, or until chicken is cooked through. Set aside on a plate to rest for 3-5 minutes. Slice the cooked chicken breasts width-wise to prep for the sandwiches.
- Preheat your panini press to medium high heat. Spread softened butter or residual bacon fat over one side of each piece of bread, then spread a spoonful of chipotle aioli over the other side of the slices of bread. Stack bacon, chicken, tomato, cheese, and on the aioli side of 4 slices of bread, then top with the other slice.
- Press in panini press for 5 minutes, until cheese is melted and bread is well toasted.
- Cut the sandwiches in half and serve immediately.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 605Total Fat: 36gSaturated Fat: 10gTrans Fat: 1gUnsaturated Fat: 23gCholesterol: 88mgSodium: 1270mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 3gSugar: 6gProtein: 20g
All nutrition facts are estimations. Please see a physician for any health-related inquiries.
Eden Westbrook is the recipe developer, writer, and photographer behind Sweet Tea and Thyme. A classically trained chef, Eden has inspired home cooks into the kitchen with cultural comfort foods, easy family-friendly eats and sweets, and glorious spreads for date night and entertaining since 2015.