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Plant-based Panini with Marinated Tofu and Avocado Mash

Plant-based Panini with Marinated Tofu and Avocado Mash

Adapted from a recipe originally posted: https://plantbasedrdblog.com/2021/11/vegan-panini/

Some of my favorite sandwiches growing up were the grilled kind. Paninis are just perfection: warm, gooey, crispy outside. They are just so good. So I wanted to make an equally satisfying vegan panini to help me relive those childhood sandwiches, it's really easy and can be made without a panini press.

What It Takes to Stay Energized

When I think about a sandwich, I want it to be filling and energizing, especially if I'm enjoying it for lunch. I need my lunch-time meal to keep me from feeling sluggish and unproductive. So there's a couple of things I keep in mind when building my dream lunchtime sandwich. It needs to be:

  • Filled with Plant-Based Protein
  • Rich in Fiber
  • Balanced in complex carbohydrates that will keep my energy stable
An Energizing Vegan Panini

So far, I've mentioned plant-based protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates as being really important nutrients for an energizing sandwich. We satisfy some of those nutrients by including marinated tofu as our main protein source and the vegetable filling to help fill in for fiber. To help maximize on these nutritious fillings, pairing it with sprouted grain bread helps not only fill in for our complex carbohydrate, but also provides additional fiber and protein.

Because of these extra nutrients, sprouted grains are a great little hack for sustaining energy better. The process of sprouting helps to unlock these nutrients that are often left dormant in our grains.

  • Sprouting helps to increase the amount and type of fibers in grains, and that fiber helps to keep our blood sugars more stable to avoid those afternoon slumps in energy.
  • Proteins also become more available and easier to digest during the sprouting process that helps lead us to feeling more satisfied with a meal.

And more meals that highlight these basic needs tend to also make us feel good. Better food, better mood, happy me.

How to Make a Vegan Panini

Before starting, make sure you have pressed your tofu of excess water. After prepping, mix together your marinade ingredients in a large container. Slice the tofu into slabs at the thickness you like then place into your marinade. Seal the container and gently shake to coat the tofu. Cook the tofu for 2-3 minutes then flip to cook on the other side.

As your tofu cooks, you can prepare your mushrooms and onions. Add them to a heated skillet to cook down with a pinch of salt and pepper. Once cooked, set aside.

To a slice of bread, add your mashed avocado. Top with spinach, the cooked tofu slices, and then the mushrooms and onions. Mix together some vegan butter and miso to spread on the other piece of toast and use it to top the sandwich, butter side up. Now, place the sandwich butter side down on the griddle. Spread some of the butter mixture on top of the sandwich bread and then close the griddle down between your sandwich.

Gently press down to help seal the sandwich and allow to cook for about 2 minutes or until you get some nice grill marks. Then, serve your sandwich immediately.

Ingredients
For Marinated Tofu
  • 1 block (450g) extra-firm tofu, pressed and drained
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cornstarch or nutritional yeast
for Sandwich Assembly
  • 1 cup mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small onion, cut into slices
  • 1 medium avocado, mashed, or sub vegan cheese
  • 6-8 slices of Organic Sprouted Power Bread
  • 2 handfuls of baby spinach, optional
  • 2 tbsp vegan butter
  • 1 tsp miso paste
Instructions:
  1. Cut your tofu into thin slabs. In a large airtight container, mix together all the remaining marinade ingredients. Place tofu in the marinade, seal the container and give a gentle shake to make sure the tofu is coated. Allow it to sit for a few minutes while you heat your panini grill and prepare your other ingredients. Place the tofu onto the heated griddle and cook the tofu for 2-3 minutes then flip to cook on the other side.
  2. Add your mushrooms and onions to a heated non-stick skillet to cook down with a pinch of salt and pepper until most of the moisture from the mushrooms has cooked off and the onions have softened.
  3. To a slice of bread, mash on a thin layer of avocado along with a pinch of salt and pepper. Top the avocado with the spinach, then the tofu slices, followed by the mushrooms and onions. Mix together some vegan butter and miso to spread on the other piece of toast.
  4. Place the toast with the butter mixture facing the outside of the sandwich, then place the sandwich butter side down on the griddle. Spread some of the butter mixture on the top slice of the bread facing you and then close the griddle down between your sandwich. Gently press down to help seal the sandwich and allow to cook for about 2 minutes or until you get some nice grill marks. Then, serve your sandwich immediately.
Tips
  • Spread a little butter on the outside of your bread before placing on the panini press. The butter will help crisp up the edges. You can also use a little olive oil brushed on the bread to crisp it as well.
  • Make sure you don't use too many wet ingredients. I like to cook my mushrooms and onions down to remove a good amount of liquid so they aren't soggy before adding them to the sandwich.
  • Heat up your pan first to make sure it is hot before placing your sandwich on the plate. This will make sure it sears well and gets nice and crispy.
Frequently Asked Questions
What bread is best for paninis?

Hearty breads that can withstand the pressure of a panini press are best. So if you are aiming to use a sandwich bread, make sure it is hearty. Sandwich bread options like Silver Hills Soft Wheat Sprouted Bread work well for panini sandwiches like this one. And if looking for more traditional breads, Ciabatta bread and French Baguettes are good at withstanding the pressure of the panini press.

Do you need to butter your bread for a panini?

I included a miso butter spread for this panini. While butter is not an absolute necessity for a panini, buttering the bread does help to effectively give it those nice crisp edges and beautiful browning.

Can I make a panini without a panini press?

Yes! You just need a skillet and a heavy bottom pot. Place your sandwich in the skillet and place the heavy bottom pot on top of it, gently pressing down on it as it cooks for 1-2 minutes or until crispy. Then with a spatula, flip the sandwich over and repeat the process with the heavy bottom pot to crisp up the other side.

Catherine is a registered dietitian with a masters in Human Nutrition. She is a plant-based enthusiast who has been vegan since 2009 and first chose a plant-based lifestyle to improve her overall health. This eventually led to her passion for using this lifestyle to help reduce harm to the environment and all living creatures within her ability. She currently works one on one virtually with clients in the employee wellness space while sharing her favorite recipes on her blog, Plant Based RD, and Instagram in hopes of sharing evidence-based nutrition education and easy to approach plant-based recipes.