Kickin’ Chicken Panini with Cilantro Aioli

kickin chicken panini 1

The Scoop:

Here’s the thing about life changes… big ones… the stressful ones… like moving, starting a new job, etc.  They give people a chance to see, well, a different side of one another.  Sometimes for the best.  Sometimes for the worst.  Good or bad, big changes most definitely teach us a little more about the people we already thought we knew pretty well.  Case in point: my recent move / my spatular and I.

Things he learned about me while helping me move:

  1. I do not handle change well.
  2. I am totally incapable of asking for help.
  3. I can be unreasonable and stubborn.
  4. I can fit more into a day than some people can into a week.
  5. When I’m crying about dinner plans and pedicures, I’m probably not really crying about about dinner plans and pedicures.

Things I learned about him while moving:

  1. He is way better under pressure than I am.
  2. He puts up with my antics surprisingly well.
  3. He gets cranky when he’s hungry [and not like, oh let me eat a granola bar and then I’ll feel better.  We’re talking about needing an actual meal.  Someone get this boy a cheesesteak!].

As I mentioned in last week’s post post about community, I decided to make three copy-cat recipes from my local take out spot.  I already made you my favorite fiesta salad and today I’m posting a play on my spatular’s favorite choice, the Kickin’ Chicken Panini.

The original Kickin Chicken sandwich is actually cold and served on The Couch Tomato’s fabulous homemade bread.  Since I’m not in the business of bread baking, I decided to make my at-home version panini style, which is typically my favorite way to eat a sandwich.

I started with oven roasted chicken breasts leftover from when I roasted a whole chicken this style, but you could also individually roasted or grill them; or even slice the breasts off a grocery store rotisserie bird.  I definitely recommend using white meat on this sandwich, though.  Next it’s all about the toppings which create one incredible flavor profile.  The spicy melted cheese is perfected balanced out by the creamy avocado, and the tomatoes are just so good this time  of year, that how could we not use them.  But the real kicker is this cilantro ailoi.  Its only three ingredients but, whoa, does it ever pack a lot of flavor!  I pulse mine in the food processor just long enough that it blends together, but still leaving big specks of cilantro that incorporate into every single bite.

Basically, what I’m trying to tell you is, this sandwich needs to be in your life.

kickin chicken 3

The Goods:


Cilantro Aioli:

  • 1 cup cilantro leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise

Sandwiches (makes 2):

  • 4 slices hearty bread [I used sourdough]
  • 1 chicken breast, roasted or grilled, and thickly sliced
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced
  • 4 slices pepperjack cheese
  • 1 avocado. sliced
  • 1/2 cup baby spinach
  • 2 Tbs butter or butter substitute


  • Panini Press

kickin chicken 5

The Deets:

To make the aioli, combine the cilantro, pressed garlic, and mayonnaise in a food processor or blender and process until almost smooth.

Start by spreading 1/2 Tbs of butter substitute on each slice of bread.  To assemble each sandwich, start with a slice of bread, butter side down.  Top it with 1 piece of pepper jack cheese, half of the sliced chicken, tomato and avocado slices, 1/4 cup of spinach, another piece of pepper jack cheese, and the remaining slice of bread, butter side up.  Transfer the sandwich to the panini press for 7 minutes or until the outside is crispy and the center is warm and melted.  Serve immediately.

kickin chicken 2

The Inspiration:

This is a panini version of my spatular’s favorite sandwich at my local take out joint.

kickin chicken 4

I might just eat this for breakfast today.




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