This Turkey Pesto Panini features zesty pesto and savory melted cheese for a delicious sandwich. You can make this panini with leftover turkey, or sliced turkey from the deli.
I gravitate toward sandwiches with pesto when ordering lunch out somewhere. And yes, I have ordered that turkey pesto panini at Starbucks many times!
I make plenty of fresh pesto at home, but that tends to be used for pasta, or perhaps to top some fish or chicken. See for instance this popular Orzo, Salmon and Pesto recipe. But after making this tasty Turkey Pesto Panini, pesto is not just for supper anymore!
What makes this recipe work
Turkey is a fairly neutral canvass that lets the flavorful pesto shine. The bite of the pesto is contrasted by savory melted cheese, and you get some just warmed tomato and wilted spinach in the mix for some extra flavor and nutrition.
Cooked up in some bread that gets a bit crispy with nice griddle marks, and you know you’ve got a winner with this turkey pesto panini! Just make sure you leave some pesto for dinner!
What you need for this panini
OK, there’s not a lot you need to make this turkey pesto panini! Here’s a quick overview.
Pesto: If you already have pesto on hand, making this panini is a breeze!
But if you want to whip up a batch of pesto specifically for this turkey panini, we’ve got you covered!
The recipe card starts out with my recipe for a small batch of basil pesto. We have also enjoy this turkey sandwich with kale pesto.
Turkey: I first made this panini with sliced deli turkey. But for the most recent remake of this pesto panini, I had leftover turkey after making some herb roasted turkey breast.
After making our Leftover Turkey Stew with Butternut Squash, we had just some small pieces of turkey left, but it was enough to serve as the basis for our turkey panini.
Sandwich press: It certain helps to have a sandwich press to get the nice griddle marks going on the panini. I definitely like the Cuisinart Griddler Panini and Sandwich Press (Amazon affiliate link) that I have–a well-used Christmas gift from a few years ago! I’m sure there are other good options available.
If you don’t have a sandwich press and want to make this turkey pesto panini on the skillet, do so in similar fashion to a basic grilled cheese. Use a spatula to press down on the sandwich as it cooks to facilitate the melting.
Recipe tips and overview
Here are some tips with some visuals to make this turkey pesto panini. Head on down to the recipe card for the full instructions.
Pesto panini with deli turkey: start by spreading the butter on one side of each piece of bread, then put the butter side down on a plate to continue making the sandwich.
The photo below shows how we made this panini the first time we cooked it up.
Spread the pesto to cover one piece of the bread. Then layer the turkey, cheese, and tomato, followed by the spinich.
Carefully close up the sandwich and transfer it to the sandwich press. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes until the cheese is nice and melted and you get some good griddle marks going.
Using leftover turkey: As I mentioned, I had fairly small pieces of leftover turkey on hand the last time I made this panini.
I spread the pieces over the bread, then topped it with some chopped cherry tomatoes — I find those are a tastier option when it isn’t peak tomato season.
Then add the spinach and cheese over the turkey and tomatoes. Spread the pesto on the other piece of bread, then you are ready to move it to the sandwich press.
After cooking for 3 to 5 minutes, you are ready to enjoy the panini!
I tend to eat a panini for lunch, so I’ve tested pairings for this less than some other recipes here on Cooking Chat!
That said, when I made the leftover turkey panini recently, I opened a Samuel Adams Wicked Easy Lager. That was a pretty nice beer pairing for the sandwich.
I enjoyed this Kale Pesto Panini with the Cass Oasis Paso Robles Rosé, a blend of Grenache / Syrah / Mourvedre. I would suspect that bottle or a similar full bodied rosé could work here, or maybe a white Rhone blend.
I will have to test this turkey panini with some wine pairings! Meanwhile, if you try a good glass to go with it, please let me know in the comments!Print
Turkey Pesto Panini
Turkey, fresh pesto, cheese and tomatoes pressed together for a tasty Turkey Pesto Panini. You can make this with leftover turkey or sliced deli turkey — both work great!
- Prep Time: 5 mins
- Cook Time: 5 mins
- Total Time: 10 mins
- Yield: 1 serving 1x
- Category: Sandwich
- Method: sandwich press
- Cuisine: Italian
For the pesto (skip if you already have some)
- 1 cup basil
- 2 cloves garlic
- ⅓ cup Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoon toasted pine nuts or pumpkin seeds
For the sandwich
- 2 slices of bread
- 1 slices cheddar cheese
- 2 slices turkey breast – leftover turkey or deli turkey
- 2 tbsp basil pesto
- handful of spinach
- 1 thin slice of fresh tomato
- 1 tbsp softened butter
- Make the pesto (if you don’t have on hand): Add the garlic to a food processor, and pulse to mince. Add the remaining ingredients, and process on high until everything is well combined. Set the pesto aside.
- Preheat a sandwich press. See notes below for approach without a sandwich press. Spread half the butter on one side of a piece of bread. Spread the remaining butter on one side of the second piece of bread. Place both buttered sides down on a plate.
- Spread the pesto on one of the unbuttered sides of bread, and set aside.
- Add cheese & turkey: On the other unbuttered side of bread, add slice of cheese, followed by the turkey. Place the tomato on top of the turkey, then top with the spinach.
- Close the sandwich up by taking the bread with the pesto and placing it pesto side down on the cheese.
- Heat the panini: Carefully move the sandwich and set it in the heated press. Gently press down on the sandwich maker. The sandwich takes about 3 to 5 minutes to get the cheese melted and develop those nice griddle marks. Keep an eye on the cheese as the sandwich heats, you don’t need to cook it much past the point where the cheese has started to melt.
- Finish sandwich: When the panini is ready, use a plastic spatula to remove the sandwich from the press. Plate the sandwich, cutting it in half if you like for presentation effects. Serve with an extra dollop of pesto. Enjoy!
- We gave this recipe for one panini, but it scales up easily. If you make pesto fresh for this recipe, you will have enough for several sandwiches and/or some leftover for another meal.
- Use pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts for a nut free pesto.
- This turkey panini is also good with kale pesto.
- To make this turkey pesto panini without a sandwich press, do so in similar fashion to a basic grilled cheese in a skillet. Use a spatula to press down on the sandwich as it cooks to facilitate the melting.
Keywords: Starbucks copycat turkey pesto panini, leftover turkey panini, turkey sandwich with pesto
More ways to use pesto
As I mentioned, if you make a batch of pesto for this turkey panini, you will have some leftovers. Here are some great ways to put it to use.