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Hello! I’m Anjali. I’m a board certified health coach, author, wife, mom and food lover from the SF Bay area (now living in Seattle, WA!); with a passion for delicious food and a desire to make healthy eating easy, tasty and fun! Learn more about me here and stay for a while!

Anjali Shah

Kale and Caramelized Onion Veggie Panini

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This savory veggie panini with caramelized onions makes the vegetarian lifestyle easy – and downright delicious. The fontina cheese oozes out of the sandwich, the bread is warm and crispy, and the sautéed kale adds a complementary lightness.

Kale and Caramelized Onion Veggie Panini Recipe on a white plate

Have you ever made a veggie panini? If not, let’s change that today shall we? I promise it will leave you completely satisfied and possibly a little obsessed.

This vegetarian panini recipe has everything you want in a vegetarian sandwich:

  • Crispy outside
  • Melty inside
  • Savory
  • Meatless (and you don’t miss it!)
  • Low prep time

Plus, it’s a delicious way to get some extra greens into your diet, and is a healthified, dressed-up version of grilled cheese. It’s also super easy to make! An under 30 minute vegetarian meal!

Latest Recipe Video!

How could you not like that? 🙂 It can also easily be made on a weeknight because it takes less than 30 minutes to make.

In fact, my family (including my two kids!) loved it so much, it has now made it into our regular weeknight dinner rotation!

Before we get to the goods, let’s talk about choosing the right ingredients. 

The Best Bread for Paninis

The best panini bread is one that’s hearty and can take heat well. So that includes baguettes, focaccia, or ciabatta. 

At your grocery store, you’ll probably find bread labeled “panini bread,” which is usually one of the three types I just mentioned, so you can also just look for that. Sourdough paninis are really good as well. 

One thing that I think people overlook with panini sandwiches is that the bread can actually contribute to the overall flavor. So don’t just think of it as “holder of the veggies and cheese.”

Instead, think of the bread as equally important of an ingredient as the rest. Imagine what an herb-infused bread like rosemary or oregano would do to the overall flavor!

Beyond that, the general rule of thumb for choosing a good panini bread is the denser the better. 

Kale and Caramelized Onion Veggie Panini Recipe on a white plate

How to Make a Veggie Panini

I wanted to make the sandwich a bit more savory than sweet, so I opted for roasted garlic, sautéed spicy kale, and caramelized onions.

Recipe Ingredients

  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil spray
  • 1 8oz box baby kale (or 8oz of whole kale, chopped thinly)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp crushed red pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 red onion, sliced thinly
  • Fontina cheese: 1 oz per sandwich
  • Good, whole grain, panini bread

Step by Step Instructions

Step 1: Sauté the kale with the garlic, crushed red pepper, olive oil, and a dash of salt until it’s wilted.

kale in a bowl

Step 2: In 1 tsp olive oil, sauté the onions until they are caramelized and golden brown.

caramelized onions in a pan

Step 3: Assemble your sandwiches! Spread 1 clove of roasted garlic on one side of the sandwich. Top with 1 oz fontina cheese per sandwich, 1/4 of the caramelized onion mixture, 1/4 of the kale, and a dash of salt/pepper to taste.

onions and kale on bread

Step 4: Grill in a panini press or a skillet until the cheese is melted and the bread is crispy on the outside/soft on the inside.

Kale and Caramelized Onion Veggie Panini Recipe on a white plate

How to Make a Veggie Panini Without a Panini Press

It’s absolutely possible to make a delicious panini without a panini sandwich maker. There are a couple different ways actually:

How to Cook a Panini in the Oven 

These are lovingly referred to as sheet pan paninis, and they give you that crispy outer crust without any fancy equipment. 

You fix the sandwich like you normally would and place it on a lined baking sheet. Then comes the panini-lover’s hack:

Place another baking sheet on top of it – yes, directly on top of the sandwich – and place a heavy stock pot or dutch oven on top of that to act as a weight or “press” for your panini.

Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes and enjoy.

How to Make a Panini on the Grill 

This is the perfect way to cook a panini when you’re grilling out in the summer or going camping. It adds a slight smoky flavor that really pairs well with the other ingredients. 

All you need is some aluminum foil, butter, and a brick. Yep…a brick!

Brush melted butter on the aluminum foil (to prevent sticking), and wrap your sandwich in it. Place it on the grill and place a brick on top of it. Cook for about 5 minutes on one side, flip, place the brick back on, and cook for another 5 minutes. 

As you can see, there are multiple ways to make a panini at home. Just choose the one that works best for you!

Tips for a Perfect Vegetarian Panini Sandwich Every Time

  • Take the time to roast your veggies if you can. The roasted garlic really kicks this veggie panini up a notch. 
  • I’ve found that vegetarian panini recipes pair well with pesto. Honestly, I haven’t had a sandwich yet that wasn’t improved with pesto! And it’s a quick and easy way to make your panini Italian-style. 
  • If your goal is to make a copycat version of a veggie panini from Panera, use tomato basil bread. Seriously, you’ll thank me later. 
  • If you have problems with the bread sticking, you might want to butter your panini press (if you’re using one). 
  • If you have kids, this is a great way to sneak in some extra veggies into their diet without them noticing. For especially picky kids, try chopping up the kale super small and cooking it down completely before mixing with the cheese and other ingredients in the sandwich. You can also leave off the roasted garlic if it’s too strong for your kids!
Kale and Caramelized Onion Veggie Panini Recipe on a white plate

This kale and roasted garlic version is one of the best vegetarian panini recipes I’ve ever made. You have to try it! And if you liked this one, you’ll drool over these, too:

Oh and if you’re wondering what to eat with a vegetable panini, try pairing it with a healthy coleslaw, side salad, or even a pasta salad!

Kale and Caramelized Onion Veggie Panini Recipe on a white plate
Print Recipe
5 from 6 votes

Kale and Caramelized Onion Veggie Panini Recipe

I love sneaking veggies into traditionally “comfort food” type dishes, and this panini is no exception. The fontina cheese oozes out of the sandwich, the bread is warm and crispy, and the sautéed kale and caramelized onions add some much needed lightness to the dish.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 366kcal
Author: Anjali Shah

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Extra virgin olive oil spray
  • 8 oz box baby kale or 8oz of whole kale, chopped thinly
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 clove roasted garlic per sandwich optional
  • tsp crushed red pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 red onion sliced thinly
  • 4 oz Fontina cheese 1 oz per sandwich
  • 8 slices whole grain panini bread

Instructions

  • Sauté the kale with the garlic, crushed red pepper, olive oil, and a dash of salt until it’s wilted.
  • In 1 tsp olive oil, sauté the onions until they are caramelized and golden brown.
  • Assemble your sandwiches! Spread 1 clove of roasted garlic on one side of the sandwich. Top with 1 oz fontina cheese per sandwich, 1/4 of the caramelized onion mixture, 1/4 of the kale, and a dash of salt/pepper to taste.
  • Grill in a panini press or a skillet until the cheese is melted and the bread is crispy on the outside/soft on the inside.

Video

https://youtu.be/6VVNQ4dJtyw

Notes

Tips for a Perfect Vegetarian Panini Sandwich  
  • Take the time to roast your veggies if you can. The roasted garlic really kicks this veggie panini up a notch.
  • I’ve found that vegetarian panini recipes pair well with pesto. Honestly, I haven’t had a sandwich yet that wasn’t improved with pesto! And it’s a quick and easy way to make your panini Italian-style.
  • If your goal is to make a copycat version of a veggie panini from Panera, use tomato basil bread. Seriously, you’ll thank me later.
  • If you have problems with the bread sticking, you might want to butter your panini press (if you’re using one).
  • If you have kids, this is a great way to sneak in some extra veggies into their diet without them noticing. For especially picky kids, try chopping up the kale super small and cooking it down completely before mixing with the cheese and other ingredients in the sandwich. You can also leave off the roasted garlic if it’s too strong for your kids!

Nutrition

Serving: 1panini | Calories: 366kcal | Carbohydrates: 43.7g | Protein: 18.4g | Fat: 13.3g | Sodium: 540.1mg | Fiber: 7.2g | Sugar: 9.2g

Posted In…

Sandwiches ·

Sandwiches are so versatile and kid-friendly. Try a warm panini loaded with healthy ingredients or a spicy samosa wrap with tons of Indian flavor.

On a budget? My black bean burgers are delicious without breaking the bank!

28 responses to “Kale and Caramelized Onion Veggie Panini”

  1. I appreciate the information on picking the right bread for a panini. I’ve had issues in the past. Will be trying this out asap!5 stars

  2. I love everything about this!! I have all of the ingredients at home and am so excited to try this tomorrow! Thanks for the recipe 🙂

  3. Wow this panini was delicious and so full of flavor! And you’re right, I didn’t even miss having meat— it is a vegetarian delight!

  4. That bread looks epic! I can not get anything like this around me (I think). We have the usual healthy breads, but nothing like that. But I am certainly going to give this sandwich a try. Sometimes I just get stuck in my eating patterns.

    • Haha that’s a great word to describe this bread!! It really was epic, definitely the most unique loaf of freshly baked bread I’ve picked up in a while. I’d suggest going to your local bakery and seeing what breads they have on hand – they might surprise you! I hope you love this recipe when you try it!

  5. Love the simplicity of this. It absolutely will be tasty, this I know. I’ve been away a while so missed your news. Congratulations on the soon-to-arrive new addition to your family!

    • Awww thank you so much Sharmila!! We are super excited about the changes to come 🙂 I’m sure you will love this recipe when you try it!

    • Thanks Nancy! We just had sparkling water / filtered water with this sandwich – but that’s what I drink with dinner on most days! 1 glass of red wine would probably also be great too.

    • yesss 🙂 cheese + bread any day is good in my book, and the kale just makes you feel good about eating it!

  6. That bread looks SO good, oh my gosh – and I bet it was just mind-blowing for this grilled cheese. I need to find this kind of bread at my grocery store *hopeful*

    Grilled cheese is perfect for chilly weather and rainy weather (aka today, yay!) this is lovely!

    • Thanks Kammie!! Yes it really was! I think most grocery stores carry fresh bakery bread — Whole Foods definitely has a ton of varieties to choose from. Can’t wait for you to try this recipe!

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