I gotta tell ya guys, I can’t resist this Copycat Panera Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt. I ordered it the first time by accident and was immediately hooked! I found myself stopping by Panera more than once just to satisfy my cravings, so I knew I had to make a home version and avoid spending $$ and avoid the long waits in line.
Now, my first Panera love was this discontinued number (I swear I mourned it when it was gone from their menu) Panera’s Turkey Artichoke Panini. Next, I fell for their Steak and White Cheddar Panini. I NEVER in a zillion years would have ordered that except a friend raved about it!
About Copycat Panera Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt:
So now, I hope you’ll think of me as the friend raving about this Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt. I don’t care if you get it from Panera or make my homemade version, just get it…and get it in your tummy asap! You can thank me later. When your mouth’s not full. Mic drop. Boom.
So if you’ve been following me for a while, ya gotta know iI can be a little bossy when it comes to food but trust me on this one. See the ingredients (and doncha love that Panera discloses all their ingredients?) seem kind of simple. Maybe even a little weird.
It’s the combination of a little smoke from the chicken, the smoked gouda, and the chipotle peppers, a little spicy (again the chipotles), all cooled down by the avocado and punctuated by the sweet/sour tang of the Peppadew peppers. It melds into one glorious, hot, cheesy, squishy (if a little messy) sandwich!
Finding those “Special” ingredients:
Depending on where you live, you may or may not be able to come up with all the ingredients for the sandwich. Here are my thoughts on items that might be harder to find and a couple of substitutions that I think won’t break the integrity of the sandwich.
- Black Pepper Focaccia: I have had no luck ever seeing this type of focaccia in a store other than at Panera (which you can buy there) but if you are a diehard stickler for exactness and don’t want to pay Panera’s price, you can make your own. Focaccia is really easy to make and you can try this recipe from Sweet Tea & Thyme. Disclosure…I haven’t made it but I have made her Sweet Potato Pie (coz I guess I’m Southern, now 🙂 and it rocked!) I just used basic focaccia from the bakery aisle. If your store has no focaccia, try a flatbread or naan.
- Peppadew Peppers: Peppadews (brand name for pickled Juanita peppers) are mild but have some intense sweet/sour tanginess. They’re fabulous. You might find them in jars in the condiment aisle (and they will keep forever coz they’re basically pickles) or maybe you might find them at a salad or olive bar (that’s how I got mine.) Of course, they can be ordered tho they’re a little pricey. A reasonable but different tasting substitute could be roasted red peppers but if you sub, you’ll lose the unique flavor of the peppadews.
- Smoked Pulled Chicken: If you can go there, more power to you! I have used leftover chicken (rotisserie would be great) and have poached chicken, roasted chicken, and used leftover turkey. I did try a few drops of liquid smoke (see my Top Secret Super Stealth Arsenal of Ingredients) when I roasted the chicken. It did add a bit of smokey flavor but I wouldn’t go buy a bottle just for this. Plain chicken is just fine. If you’re making this after a holiday, turkey works well, too!
- Chipotle Peppers: I am referring to Chipotle Peppers in Adobo sauce. I use them so often (and they’re on my link above, the arsenal one) that I forget not everyone knows about these gems. If you want to read more, Fine Cooking has a nice write-up. They have a fiery, smoky flavor and bring some heat to the spread. Add them to mayo to taste so you can choose your heat level. Freeze any remaining and use them in one of my other recipes, maybe. Just click the links at the bottom of my post for Chipotle or use my search bar.
- Smoked Gouda: It’s easier to find these days than it used to be; you might want to check the deli and I know Aldi has it for about half the price of the grocery store. It’s not a deal-breaker for me to use plain ol’ Gouda rather than smoked, though. I think white cheddar would be great in this sandwich, too.
What to serve with Copycat Panera Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt:
The sandwich just by itself is such a complete meal that you don’t need much to accompany it. Guys, just like Panera, I had to go with chips to serve alongside my sandwich. A nice side salad would be great, too.
You could add a bowl of soup, maybe if you lean that way. I mean ya can’t go wrong with soup and sandwiches, amirite?! And of course, I’m going to put in a shameless plug and direct you to my Soup Menu where you’ll find Soups, Chowders & Ghilis galore coz I love love love me some soup!
Making Copycat Panera Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt:
Like most sandwiches, after getting all your ingredients together, it’s just about assembly and the heating. You can really play around with the amounts of ingredients and think of my recipe, below, as kind of a “guide.”
First, make the Chipotle mayo: mince up a little chipotle pepper and add to the mayonnaise, just so the flavors can meld together while you get everything else ready. Go by taste when you add the chipotle and make it as mild or as hot as you’d like.
Then smear on the inside of both the top and bottom of the bread with the Chipotle mayo and layer on the rest of the ingredients. I like to put the gouda on top of the mayo (use a slice on the top and the bottom piece of bread) so it is closest to the heat, then the chicken and Peppadew, and finally, the avocado and cilantro.
Grill your sandwich in a large skillet (just dry, no oil or butter) and take a hint from the restaurants. As you start to get a little color on the bread, add a small bit of water to the skillet and add a lid. That steam is going to really warm every part of the sandwich and help the cheese to melt perfectly. Once the water is gone (watch that you don’t burn the sandwich or add so much water everything gets wet and soggy) and the bread crisps up a bit, give it a turn, and toast the other side.
There’s no getting around that there are some pricier ingredients in this sandwich (although it was much cheaper to make than to order).
I covered several options for the chicken above, but whatever chicken you use (white meat preferred, here) know that buying and cooking your own is cheaper than using a Rotisserie chicken. Look for breasts at a rock bottom (they’ll drop to a low about once a quarter) and stock your freezer when they’re on sale.
Aldi is gonna be your friend when it comes to ingredients (except for the Chipotle and the Peppadew). They have several bread options that work, smoked gouda for 1/2 the price of my grocery deli, and depending on the season avocados are often on sale and sometimes bagged.
If there are canned items, like the chipotle in adobo, or pantry items, like Mayo, that you use regularly, be mindful of when you are buying. Watch for sales, and know when the cycles are:
- Mexican and Latin American items are almost always at a rock bottom around Cinco de Mayo and some holidays.
- Mayo and other condiments are the cheapest during the summer holiday sales, with good sales also around the Superbowl.
As for the Peppadew, do seek them out if you can. They really make the sandwich. If your store deli carries them, it might be your cheapest option. Then if you find yourself as hooked as I am, consider looking for them jarred. They’re delicious stuffed with cheese, btw.
I can’t stop thinking about this sandwich and have made it a number of times since I “discovered” it!! I hope you’ll love it as much as we do! Next up is my Epic Apple Salad, I think, then probably I am going to move into soup mode!
Since the weather here in Georgia is like October in Minnesota (haha my Northern friends!) my innate sense of food timing regarding soup must be off! My Sis has been promising me a fabulous recipe or two so look for those soon! In the meantime, take care and stay warm wherever you are!
Copycat Panera Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: five minutes
- Total Time: 56 minute
- Yield: 2 sandwiches 1x
- Category: Sandwiches
- 4 to 5 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 1 chipotle pepper from a can of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (as much or as little as you’d like), minced
- black pepper focaccia (or substitute) enough for two sandwiches
- 4 slices smoked gouda
- about a cup of cooked, shredded chicken (smoked pulled chicken if you have it)
- 1/2 avocado, sliced
- 2 to 3 peppadew peppers, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup cilantro or parsley
Mix together the mayonnaise and chipotle pepper (add the chipotle to taste.) Set aside.
Slice the focaccia, slather the inside portion of each slice with the chipotle mayo mixture. Add a slice of gouda on top of the mayo mixture on each slice. Layer on the remaining ingredients.
Close sandwich and add to a skillet preheated over medium heat. Allow to toast enough to pick up just a little color, then tilt the skillet and add about 2 tablespoons water. Immediately lid and allow the water to boil off and steam. Remove the lid when water has evaporated. When the bottom of the sandwich is dry and toasty, turn the sandwich and allow the second side to toast.
Remove from skillet, cut in half and serve immediately.
Keywords: Avocado, Cheese, Chicken, Chicken Breast, Chipotle, Gouda, Hot Peppers, panera, peppadew, Sandwiches