When you own a panini press, everything becomes a panini. Regular sandwiches are a thing of the past, and everything in your fridge becomes a topping: veggies, leftovers, those caramelized onions that have been sitting there for…who knows how long. But what makes the best bread for panini?
Is it traditional bread, or is there something better out there? And what about sweet dessert paninis? And to confuse things even more, what kind of soup or dip should you serve with them?
The best bread type for panini will hold up well to grilling, so choose a hearty bread like sourdough, ciabatta, or even baguettes to make a panini. Ciabatta is great because of its low moisture content. You’ll be able to leave it in the press longer, ensuring a strong, even heating of toppings.
Let’s break it all down in our discussion of the best bread for panini. But first, a little nitpicking.
Is it panini or paninis?
You’ve heard it both ways, right? A single panini is, of course, a panini, but if you’re ordering for a group? “Let’s go get some paninis from Panera!” Is panini already plural, though? Which is it?
The Italian word “panini” is already plural, and the singular would technically be “panino”. In English, we say “panini” when we mean a single sandwich and “paninis” when we mean more than one sandwich. Panini is a case where language evolves to accommodate a grammatical error on a cultural level.
If you’re a grammar purist, then you have Webster’s to thank for perpetrating this crime, but for the rest of us, we’ll just go ahead and keep saying singular panini and plural paninis.
Best types of bread for panini
The best bread for panini will obviously be the one you like the best. But, there are so many different types of bread to choose from, how could you pick?
Ciabatta is the traditional bread to put in your panini maker, but that doesn’t mean you need to limit yourself if you don’t have any on hand in your kitchen. Here are some other common types of bread and how to make a panini with them.
White bread is going to be the riskiest choice. High in sugar, moisture, and the thinnest bread you might find, your panini will cook very quickly. Also, the sugar in the bread will burn easily. We don’t totally recommend using white bread, but if you do, press it and take it out quickly!
A panini grilled cheese sandwich would be perfect if you’re using white bread.
Sourdough is an awesome choice for a panini. But, it can be difficult to slice thin enough for a panini sandwich. Also, the crust is very thick, so you may have trouble flattening it. If the sourdough you have on hand has extra-thick crust, consider removing it prior to making your panini.
Although, melty cheese and grilled crust can be an amazing thing if you do it just right.
Whole wheat bread
Whole wheat bread is a pretty good choice for panini. Especially a hearty artisan-style bread that may have nuts and seeds.
This would be a great tasting bread to use for a veggie panini.
Rye is another great choice for panini bread, although it isn’t the most obvious. Rye has a very unique flavor. But, you can pair it well with meats and acidic ingredients.
Consider making a panini version of the classic Reuben sandwich.
Naan and pita
Flatbreads like naan and pita are perfect for making paninis because they’re already pretty flat. Also, they’re meant to stand up to ingredients with a lot of moisture.
If you have leftovers from Indian takeout, why not give them a new life in your panini press?
These flat rolls are not always one of the denser types of bread that you’ll come across. But, we’re all about reducing food waste, and you never know what to do with all those leftover dinner rolls.
Squash them into a panini! It won’t be the world’s best panini, but it’s better than throwing them away, isn’t it?
Butter vs olive oil for panini
Now that you’ve picked out your bread and your ingredients, it’s time to get grilling. But don’t forget your oil! You won’t get nice grill marks without a good oil helping you out. Plus, it makes the panini bread crunchy, brown, and delicious.
It doesn’t really matter if you use butter or oil for your panini bread. The choice is yours. Just remember that there is a flavor difference, and butter will burn faster than olive oil.
Brush a coating of either butter or oil onto the outside of the sandwich before grilling. Consider the toppings when you choose an oil. A savory panini would be complemented well by olive oil, while a sweet or creamy panini might prefer butter.
Let us know in the comments which oil you prefer and why, or if you make your own panini oil by infusing oil with herbs.
Best ingredients for panini
Let’s take a second to talk toppings and ingredients. Real sandwich connoisseurs know there are a few critical components to consider when making a panini. You can’t just think about bread, cheese, and meat.
There’s a reason we use the expression “to marry your flavors”. A combination of meat and cheese can’t be slapped together any old way. At least, not if you’re a true panini gourmet.
One of the best panini ingredient combinations is ham and brie with raisins on a ciabatta bun. Ham provides the savory, cheese brings a rich creaminess, and raisins cut through all that with a little sweetness. It’s a delicious panini, slightly sweet, and made all the better with an airy bread like ciabatta or baguette.
Texture is important to a sandwich, too, especially if you’re making vegan paninis. Vegans know texture is critical. If you’re lucky to pick up some vegan mozzarella, add fresh basil and some juicy tomatoes for one of our favorite panini recipes, the Caprese panini.
Pair it with a crunchy, crusty French bread to compliment the creamy mozzarella.
Any simple recipe can be taken up a step with spices. It’s a good idea to have a few staples in your cabinet like Italian seasoning, red pepper, and seeds like poppy, sesame, and even black sesame. Dressings like flavored oils or even balsamic vinegar are good to have on hand, as well.
If you’re making your own bread like sourdough, the best way to kick your panini up a notch is to add spices and seeds right in.
Every lunch is a special occasion with homemade bread.
Best cheeses for panini
We can only talk paninis for so long before it’s time to talk cheese. Almost as important as the bread (almost) is the cheese.
Since a panini is grilled, the best cheese will be melty and full of big flavors. Light cheese can work, of course, but swiss cheese, brie, pepper jack, goat cheese, or other bold flavors will be best for a grilled panini. Thick panini bread will be able to absorb the moisture of mozzarella or goat cheese well.
The type of cheese depends on the type of sandwich, as well. Sandwich bread goes well with light cheese, while fresh bread like homemade sourdough can hold up a more moist cheese like goat or mozzarella.
Now that you’ve had your main course, it’s time for a dessert panini, of course! Paninis lend themselves well to being converted to dessert because the grilling lets the delicious ingredients get warm and gooey.
Some ideas for an awesome dessert panini:
- Nutella panini
- S’mores panini
- Peanut butter banana panini
- Caramel apple panini
- Chocolate-covered strawberry panini
Don’t forget to serve these with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream! Let us know in the comments which you’d love to try.
Best bread for panini – Final thoughts
From panini expert to beginner alike, we’re all sandwich lovers, and hopefully, this guide has given you a little more to chew on when it comes to the best bread for paninis.
Definitely check out our great guide to the best bread for soup if you’re looking for some panini side dish inspiration.