On the weekends we sometimes make a big deal about lunch with some fabulous sandwich creation. This vegan pesto panini sandwich combines the flavors of ripe tomato and the classic bold taste of pesto with the creaminess of a spreadable vegan cheese. Pressing it in the panini style marries the flavors and colors, contrasting the creamy center with the warm and crusty bread (watch how we did it in the video at the bottom).
Vegan Pesto Panini – Your Choice of Bread
We take a loaf of ciabatta bread, sliced in half lengthwise and then sliced into wedges or strips after the sandwich is toasted. Ciabatta rolls work well, also, if you want to make individual servings. The bold flavors of the sandwich certainly can stand up to a sourdough loaf if you prefer, or have a loaf on hand (no need for unnecessary trips to the store!).
Tip: Sourdough is often more digestible for those with a gluten sensitivity.
Ripe tomatoes are our first choice, but, if you are fond of them and ripe is unavailable, sun dried tomatoes would be a nice alternative.
Fresh basil from the farm just down the street!
Basil pesto is not an exact science. If you have a favorite recipe that uses parmesan cheese, just substitute nutritional yeast for a vegan alternative. I love pine nuts, but because they are often expensive, I don’t always have them on hand. I have used walnuts, almonds, cashews and sunflower seeds and have never been disappointed. We have a very quick, easy to make, vegan pesto recipe. We make it often and it is perfect for this sandwich.
For vegan cheese, a soft spreadable cheese, like Moxarella, would work very well. I made mozzarella from Skye Michael Conroy’s cookbook, The Non-Dairy Formulary (Amazon affiliate link). I found that if I shortened the cooking time (okay, I was impatient) I ended up with a very tasty spreadable mozzarella style cheese. There are also many new commercially available vegan cheeses worth a try.
Assembly and Cooking
- Spread the cheese on one side (top) and a thick layer of pesto on the other. Lay the tomatoes on the pesto and grind some fresh pepper on them if you like.
- Heat your grill or pan to medium hot. Too hot and the bread will burn before the center starts to get hot. Too cool and the inside won’t be warm.
- Place the top on and transfer to the grill or panini pan.
- We use a little bit of spray oil either on the loaf or the grill to help with the “crunch”.
- Press the sandwich onto the pan with a flat heavy pot or pan. We use a large cast iron frying pan.
- Once the side is browning up, and you have some nice grill lines, flip the sandwich (careful – it’s going to be getting melty!) and replace the pan on top. Keep your eye on the cooking so you don’t burn it.
- Cook for a few more minutes until everything is warm through and the bread is crispy on both sides.
vegan pesto panini on cutting board, ready to serve
Transfer to a cutting board, slice and serve!
Delicious, warm, creamy, crunchy panini with vegan pesto, cheese, and tomato
Watch us make this party size vegan pesto panini on this video from our YouTube channel: