A panini is a stuffed sandwich. It was originally an Italian delicacy, but it has grown in popularity across the globe. The panini sandwich is unique because it is grilled. While there are plenty of great ingredients in all varieties of panini, the one constant is bread. That makes the question of what is the best bread for panini absolutely crucial.
It is made by stuffing a loaf of bread or slices of bread with meat, vegetables, cheese, and anything else you like. You may also use other ingredients, such as balsamic vinegar, fresh basil, olives, and garlic. If you are vegan or vegetarian, swap the meat with eggplant or zucchini.
The sandwich is grilled to achieve a crispy crust. Apply extra virgin oil on the outer side of the bread to make it even crispier. You can use a panini maker or panini press to make the sandwich.
For best results, a panini requires dense bread to hold up the ingredients and withstand the grilling heat. Most Italian and French breads are suitable for making panini. If you are using strongly flavored ingredients, it is best to use white bread. However, you can also use herbed bread and rye bread.
Below is a look at the best bread for panini sandwiches.
Best Types of Bread for Panini
Ciabatta bread is flat and has a wide surface area, which offers ample space to lay and stack your ingredients. Its crust is quite thick, offering a sturdy base and top to hold the ingredients. Another great thing is that it can withstand high temperatures when grilling.
Focaccia is an Italian bread excellent for making panini. It is flavored with olive oil, thyme, and rosemary for an enhanced flavor. Focaccia bread is strong enough to hold your fillings without becoming soggy or breaking.
Note that focaccia bread has a tangy taste. Therefore, do not use it with extremely savory filling as the panini’s taste may be overwhelming.
Baguette is a type of French bread. It is long and strong. It is suitable for use with both wet and dry ingredients. It is neutral-flavored, giving you leeway to work with different types of ingredients. It is much easier to find in local bakeries and grocery stores than focaccia and ciabatta.
One of the challenges of using baguette bread to make your panini is that the rounded top can cause the ingredients to spill over when pressed down during grilling. The best approach to resolve this issue is to turn the rounded top inside out so that the flat side is in contact with the panini grill.
If you are keen on using thin bread to make your panini, go for flatbread. However, you may have to use fewer fillings to prevent it from collapsing.
Sourdough Bread: Is It the True Best Bread for Panini?
Sourdough bread can be used for many recipes, including making panini. Its thick, chewy crust adds crunch to your panini. It has a slightly tangy flavor and a soft texture. It holds the ingredients well and can be used with wet and dry ingredients. Furthermore, sourdough bread is cheap and readily available in most locations. It is also suitable if you are on a low-carb diet.
Pita is a flat, round, leavened bread. Although it is thinner than most other breads recommended in this article, it holds up to heat quite well. The middle offers a nice pocket for your fillings.
Rye bread is not a common option for making panini, but it works well for the sandwich. It is dense, sturdy, and not prone to getting soggy when used with wet ingredients. It pairs well with savory and acidic ingredients.
Brioche tastes a lot like challah bread. However, it is lighter and buttery. If you like dairy, you will like the taste of a brioche panini, and you can add all your other favorite ingredients.
Challah is a braided bread that is common among the Jews. Typically, the traditional bread is eaten during major Jewish holidays except for the Passover. It is quite similar to brioche but enriched with eggs. Unlike brioche, it is made with oil instead of butter.
When making challah panini, cut the bread diagonally. This way, the bread slice is bigger and more uniform, offering you a larger surface area for laying your homemade panini ingredients. Although it has a firm crust, it is best used under minimal pressure to prevent it from crumbling.
Tips for Making the Perfect Panini: Start with the Best Bread for Panini
- Experiment with different types of bread. As discussed above, there is a wide variety of types of bread you can use. Try out different ones to identify which ones you prefer. Also, experiment with different ingredients for the different types of bread to identify which ones complement each other best.
- You do not have to use freshly-baked bread for your panini to come out perfectly. You can use one to two day old bread. It will still grill well and taste good. However, do not use stale bread.
- Oil the outer side of the bread to make it crusty. If you love crunchy panini and sandwiches, apply olive oil, butter, or mayo before grilling it for that extra crispiness.
- Use a sharp knife to cut the bread. A straight knife is preferable compared to a serrated one. It makes a smooth cut without crumbling the bread.
- If your fillings include greens, they go last. Add them just before serving the panini. You do not want to put them on the grill early as they will wilt.
While any bread can be used for making a toasted sandwich, when making your favorite panini recipe, you want to use dense, thick, compact bread that can hold the ingredients without the toasted sandwich becoming soggy or crumbling. It should also withstand high grilling temperatures.
Most Italian, French, and artisan bread types are great options. Conversely, breads that are too soft such as regular white bread or those with an extremely tough crust, are not a great option for homemade panini.
You can use single-grain or multigrain bread. Our top recommendations for the best breads for panini include ciabatta, focaccia, baguettes, and sourdough.
Try out your favorite panini recipes with different breads to identify the ones you like best. Also, try out different fillings. A panini maker or presser is best suited for making panini. But if you do not have one, you can use the regular grill pan or skillet.
Can you use any type of bread for a panini?
You can use any bread to make a panini. However, not every type is an ideal option for panini bread. If it is too light and fluffy, it won’t be able to hold the ingredients or withstand grilling.
You want a dense, compact bread with a wide surface area for your ingredients. It should be sturdy enough to withstand the pressure exerted when placed in a panini maker or panini press.
Also, the bread should have a low moisture content to ensure it gets crispy easily. Another thing to consider is that the bread should not be so flavourful that it overwhelms the taste of your ingredients.
Which types of bread are not suitable for making panini?
White bread is not a suitable option for making panini. It is too airy and fluffy and does not withstand high heat well— it tends to burn. Also, if used with wet ingredients, it gets soggy easily.
How to make a panini without a panini press
Although using a panini presser or maker is the best method for making panini, there are other alternatives if you do not have one. You can use a grill pan or skillet. Or, use the grill on your stovetop.
If using a double-sided grill pan or skillet, oil both sides generously. Place the sandwich on the bottom side of the skillet and use the heavy top part to press down and cover it. Cook for 2-3 minutes in medium to high heat. Then flip the pan to cook the other side. If you use a single-sided skillet or grill pan, place heavy cookware on top of the panini to press it down while it cooks.
When using your oven or stove to grill the panini, wrap it with foil to prevent the ingredients from falling off. Cook on medium heat for 3-5 minutes on each side, and occasionally press down the sandwich using a spatula for even cooking. Don’t worry. Even with the foil wrapping, your panini will still become crispy and have those nice, even grill marks.