While there are some vegans out there who don’t care to eat even fake meats and cheeses, I am not one of them. I appreciate the flavors and textures fake meats and cheeses bring to the table. I also appreciate how these things can make transforming a non-vegan recipe to a vegan one an even easier task. Now, every vegan I know who enjoys these cruelty-free substitutes has their own opinion on which ones are the best -and there are so many options to choose from now! I too have some favorites and for these sandwiches I will be using one of my favorite chicken substitutes and one of my favorite cheese substitutes. (I’ll also be using another favorite vegan cheese o’ mine in the pesto needed for these sandwiches!)
Say hello to one of my favorite chicken substitutes, Tofurky’s Slow Roasted Chick’n, and one of my favorite cheese substitutes, Field Roast’s Chao slices in creamy original flavor -which to me tastes similar to like provolone cheese blended perhaps with white American cheese. (But of course this cheese is 100% vegan which means it’s automatically 100% better than either one of those other cheeses I just mentioned!)
Those are only 2 of the 5 components that make up these delicious, and insanely easy to make, sandwiches though. The other components are a pesto that is made from scratch, tomatoes, and, of course, the bread -I used ciabatta rolls.
I find that the ciabatta rolls squish down nicely in your panini pan or panini maker without falling apart, and they get good and crisp on the outside (without the need for oil) which is how the perfect panino (sing. form of panini) should be. #IfItAintCrispyItAintRight
So I mentioned that this recipe is insanely easy but one might prefer to call it shamefully easy. Seriously, I feel silly even calling it a recipe because the only real recipe part is making the pesto -which sounds a whole lot more difficult than it is.
To make the pesto all you have to do is put all of the pesto ingredients (except the olive oil) into a small (mine is called a “mini”) food processor and start processing them. As they are being broken down and combined you are simply going to drizzle in some extra virgin olive oil to help the pesto come together and get to the right consistency.
The right consistency being kind of liquidy but not runny, and not smoothed out into nothing but rather it should have a little texture still -sort of like grainy mustard.
Next, you’re going to get the fixin’s ready (laid out) so that you can easily assemble the sandwiches. Here all you’re really doing is taking the “chicken” and the cheese out of their respective packages and then slicing up 2 tomatoes.
To assemble, first load up one side of the bread (the bottom half preferably) with the “chicken,” a couple slices of cheese, and a couple slices of tomatoes. Smear the opposite side of the bread with a generous bit of pesto and then put the two sides together. Huzzah! We have a sandwich! Repeat this process with the remaining rolls (3 more to go for a total of 4 sandwiches) and then it’s time to cook ’em up.
To cook my sandwiches I used a cast iron panini pan but if you have a panini maker you can use that if you wish.
I was able to fit 2 sandwiches in my pan at once. You’ll want to preheat your pan or panini maker before you put the sandwiches in and when cooking them you’ll want to do it low (as in low or low-med. heat) and slow -don’t rush these beauties or the cheese wont have time to get soft. And I know you want soft cheese.
While they’re cooking I do keep the lid on them and I also press firmly straight down on the lid every now and then to help them squish down.
After 3-5 minutes they should be ready to flip. In the photo below, I have flipped one over and am about to flip the next one over. When flipping them I use flat tongs so that I can get a good grip on the sandwiches and hold them together tightly as I flip them. After they’ve been flipped I then put the lid back on them, press it down firmly, and cook for 3-5 more minutes. When done, remove the sandwiches from the pan (or panini maker) and let them rest for 5-7 minutes before you cut them in half and serve them.
Vegan Italian 'Chicken' Panini
Credit: Compassion is the Secret Ingredient, http://www.citsiblog.com
- For the pesto:
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed
- 1/3 cup pine nuts
- 1/3 cup vegan shredded Parmesan cheese (I used Follow Your Heart brand)
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled but left whole
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- Extra virgin olive oil For the panini:
- 4 ciabatta rolls
- 1 (8-ounce) box of Tofurky Slow Roasted Chick’n
- 1 package of Field Roast Chao slices in creamy original flavor
- 2 tomatoes, washed and cut into slices
- For the pesto:
- Combine everything but the olive oil in a small (aka mini) food processor and slowly start to combine them. (You may need to scrape the sides down a couple times throughout this process.) As they combine, slowly drizzle in olive oil until you have reached the desired consistency which is wet but not runny. Set aside when done. For the panini:
- Get your panini pan (or panini maker) preheated to low or low-med. heat and lay out the panini ingredients so that assembly is quick and easy.
- Cut a ciabatta roll in half and on the bottom half load on a layer of “chicken,” a couple slices of cheese, and a couple slices of tomato. On the top half, smear on a generous amount of pesto. Flip the top half over onto the bottom half then set aside. Repeat this step until you have all 4 sandwiches made and ready to be grilled.
- Place as many sandwiches as you can fit, without crowding them in, into your preheated panini pan (or panini maker). Cover and press down firmly on the cover to squish sandwiches down. Cook for 3-5 minutes then flip each sandwich over and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes. Continue to press down every so often on the lid to flatten the sandwiches as much as possible. If sandwiches are browning too fast, as in before the cheese has had time to get soft, be sure to turn the heat down a little lower. When sandwiches are done let them rest 5-7 minutes before cutting in half and serving. Best enjoyed right away but can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days.