Like so many people, I really love Thanksgiving leftovers! Maybe it has something to do with the fact that all of the work is done and I can finally just sit back, relax and enjoy the food. When I'm hosting Thanksgiving, I usually have a ton of leftovers. I love repurposing those leftovers into other tasty dishes over the next few days. These Turkey and Cranberry Panini are one of my favorite post-holiday dishes. They're the perfect vehicle to use up some of those yummy Thanksgiving leftovers. And if you don't have leftover turkey, no worries! You can make this tasty sandwich with deli turkey or rotisserie chicken too.
What are Panini?
Panini are toasted Italian sandwiches. They're like the Italian version of grilled cheese but with the addition of other delicious ingredients besides just bread and cheese. "Panini" is plural, while "panino" refers to a single sandwich. Panini are typically made by layering meat, vegetables, and cheese between two pieces of Italian bread. The sandwiches are then toasted on a panini press, which has two heated plates. This gives them their characteristic grill marks. Panini are nice and toasty on the outside and warm and melty on the inside. They're utterly irresistible!
Turkey and Cranberry Panini
My Turkey and Cranberry Panini are so easy to make and are perfect for using up your Thanksgiving leftovers. They have a mixture of savory and sweet flavors from the turkey and cranberry sauce. I like to use Muenster cheese in these panini because it has a mild flavor and melts well. But you can substitute any good melting cheese. Fontina, Brie or Provolone would all work well here. I also spread some honey mustard on the bread, which adds a bright pop of flavor. A handful of baby spinach adds color and a boost of nutrients to the panini. As the sandwich heats up, the cheese melts and the ingredients all meld together. It's ooey, gooey deliciousness!
Turkey and Cranberry Panini Ingredients
- Bread- Ciabatta is classic but you can use other types of thick-sliced bread. You just want to make sure that it's a sturdy bread (like focaccia or a baguette) that will stand up to grilling.
- Turkey breast- Thanksgiving leftovers are perfect for this! If you don't have leftover turkey, you can buy turkey breast from the deli counter of your grocery store. Just ask for "dinner cut" slices, which are ¼-inch thick. You want nice thick slices for these panini. You can also use rotisserie chicken breast if you prefer.
- Cheese- I use Muenster cheese but any good melting cheese would work here. Fontina, Provolone, and Brie are all good options.
- Cranberry sauce- I just use the good old fashioned canned stuff. I prefer the whole cranberry sauce rather than cranberry jelly.
- Baby spinach- a handful of spinach adds a pop of color and nutrients!
- Honey mustard- a bit of acid from the honey mustard complements the sweet and savory flavors in these panini
- Olive oil- you just need a little bit to brush on the sandwiches before you toast them
Tips for Making Perfect Panini
- Get the grill nice and hot before adding your panini. This will help ensure beautiful grill marks.
- Brush the outside of the bread with olive oil before toasting so the bread get nice and crispy.
- Keep wet ingredients in the center of the sandwich. If you're using wet ingredients like tomatoes, sandwich them in between layers of cheese and meat. This will keep them away from the bread and prevent it from getting soggy.
- If you don't have a panini press, no worries! You can toast the sandwiches on a grill pan or in a skillet instead. Simply place the panini in the pan and then place a heavy skillet (or a skillet weighed down with a couple of cans) on top to press it down. This will create the same effect as a panini press. If you have a waffle maker, you can make the panini on that.
More Tasty Sandwiches:
Turkey and Cranberry Panini
- 2 slices ciabatta or other sturdy bread like focaccia or a baguette
- 2 slices Muenster, Fontina, Provolone or other good melting cheese
- 2.5 ounces leftover sliced turkey or chicken breast
- 2 tablespoons whole cranberry sauce
- ¼ cup baby spinach leaves
- 2 teaspoons honey mustard
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- Place one slice of bread on a cutting board and top with one slice of cheese. Arrange the turkey slices on top of the cheese and then top with the cranberry sauce and spinach. Put another slice of cheese on top. Spread the honey mustard on the second slice of bread and close the sandwich.
- Heat a Panini press or a grill pan or skillet over medium heat. Brush the outside of the panino with olive oil on both sides and place it on the Panini press. Close the press and cook for 3-5 minutes until the bread is toasted and the cheese melts. If you don’t have a Panini press, place the panino on a grill pan or skillet and place another skillet weighted with a couple of cans on top. After 1-2 minutes, remove the skillet, flip the panino over and repeat the process on the second side.
- Cut in half and serve hot.