The Vegetarian’s Guide to Fully Utilizing a Panini Press

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When most people think of Panini presses they might think of burgers and meat-filled pressed sandwiches, but the Panini press can be a gateway to healthier living. Not only can vegetarians get more out of their dietary lifestyle, but a Panini press opens the doors for normal people to prepare healthy vegetables without boiling or roasting all the nutrients out of them.

Everyone knows the vegetarian diet is the healthier alternative, but it can be so hard to stick to without enough variety to keep things interesting. The Panini press is just one more tool to make things interesting. The Panini press not only provides the great char marks of grilling, but it is also a healthier way to cook vegetables to ensure that you get the most nutrients.

What Vegetarian Options Work Best on a Panini Press?

I know it has “Panini” right there in the name, but Panini press could and should be used for so much more. If you are thinking of moving into the realm of using your Panini press to prepare some delicious vegetables, you will want to choose vegetables and other healthy foods that hold up well in the press while also still cooking through.

Panini Press-Friendly Vegetarian Options Include:

table with panini ingredients displayed

  • Tofu – Not only is tofu an excellent source of protein, but it is a great receptacle for flavor if done right. However, tofu and grills have never quite been friendly, but because a Panini press actually heats both sides evenly, it seems like a match made in heaven since there is no need for flipping and testing the integrity of the tofu. However, the key to tasty tofu is to marinate it in something good first. It is also worthwhile to add a little sugar to the marinade to get those beautiful grill marks.
  • Portabella Mushrooms – Giant, round, and usually used as a replacement for burgers, Portabella mushrooms are awesome on a Panini press because they don’t shrivel into nothing like some other mushrooms and they are sturdy enough to withstand the press.
  • Polenta – Like tofu, polenta isn’t friendly with traditional grills, but grilled polenta is so good. This is another tricky-to-grill food that thrives on the Panini press since you can both flatten the polenta and get awesome, flavorful char marks on it with no trouble at all.
  • Zucchini / Eggplant – Why lump these two vegetables together? It is simple, they each have their own subtle flavor, but both of them are also awesome vessels for other flavors too. With both zucchini and eggplant, you get vegetables sturdy enough to withstand the press, but also easy to work with enough that you can turn them into a number of different things, including a grain-free healthy noodle.
  • Tomatoes – If you stew them, tomatoes can break down like the best of them, but a fresh tomato is still plenty firm enough to stand up to a Panini press. The combination of their natural freshness with a hint of char can be a flavor profile that you just can’t get out of your head and opens up so many different recipe options.
  • Fruit – Not all fruit can withstand the Panini press, but the firmer the fruit, the better it will be. Peaches, apricots, tangerines, and apples are all pretty good options, as are some of the larger berries. Grilled fruit often makes a pretty satisfying addition to many dishes.

Vegetarian Recipes that Put it All Together

Kabobs

Whether it is a Panini press or your traditional outside grill, kabobs are a staple recipe when it comes to any kind of grilling. However, the true beauty is that they allow you to bring together a number of different ingredients into one tight serving-size package. Don’t let it just be veggies either, let tofu and fruit in on the skewer action as well.

Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant parm is a classic vegetarian dish, but using a Panini press to make it not only makes it healthier (since it doesn’t use bread crumbs OR frying) but it is also easier to make. You simply need to season and press the eggplant, top with pesto, grilled tomatoes, or marinara, pile on some mozzarella, and then finish with a little basil. It takes a fraction of the time and packs a huge amount of flavor. Maybe you can even try serving it on top of a bed of well-seasoned zucchini noodles.

Polenta and Balsamic Portabellas

Don’t let portabellas only be limited to making some pretty awesome burgers out of. They are a delicious mushroom in their own right, especially when combined with that great polenta flavor. Adding on a little balsamic to the mushroom gives it just the right bit of acid to make the whole dish pop.

Panini Presses That Are Easiest for Grilling Vegetables

Check out our Recommended Press!

Product Brand List Price
De'Longhi CGH800 Contact Grill and Panini Press DeLonghi $65.99

Does it matter which kind of press you use for grilling vegetables? Sometimes. If you have the wrong kind of Panini press, you find that some of your bulkier vegetables aren’t getting grilled evenly, and no one wants to open up a Panini press and have to turn their food. So here are our recommendations for the best even vegetable grillers out there.

De’Longhi CGH800 Contact Grill

No matter how bulky your vegetable choice or how massive you want to try to make a Panini, the De’Longhi CGH800 can take it. The floating hinge allows for a great press and even heating, but you can even adjust it to achieve even greater height. What is particularly nice is the whole bottom plate is slanted so that is can usher grease and juices down to a drip try without issue.

Sunbeam 2-Slice Panini Maker

If you want a Panini maker that is both affordable and super easy to use, then you can’t go wrong with this Sunbeam model. It comes with a float hinge, which is pretty much a must-have, so it allows you to press some impressively large food. The only control it has is a temperature control, and that is really the only control you need when it comes to grilling vegetables.

Cuisinart GR-150 Griddler Deluxe

If you want your Panini press to be a true multi-tool in the kitchen, it is products like the Griddler Deluxe by Cuisinart that show you just how much you can do with one machine. With multiple removable plates, this press can make everything from delicious sandwiches and veggie stir fry to fabulous pancakes. It is the precision controls to allow you to do basically anything with this simple Panini press.

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