Smoked Turkey, Pepper Jack Cheese, and Basil Panini Sandwich

Sneak Preview: This Smoked Turkey, Pepper Jack Cheese, and Basil Panini Sandwich is a crispy panini stuffed with flavor–inspired by Oprah’s Love Sandwich.

SMOKED TURKEY, PEPPER JACK CHEESE, AND BASIL PANINI - sliced in half with tomato in the backgroundPin

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Have you ever heard of the 5-second rule about dropping food on the floor?  It’s possible I made it up.

As a teenage girl, I spent many summer days driving a tractor by myself in the fields of our Indiana farm.  Either Mom would bring me lunch or send it with me. It was almost always a cold-cut sandwich, more often than not, bologna.

Sometimes, I would accidentally drop my sandwich on the ground.  Since it was all there was to eat, I wasn’t about to throw it away.  If I could rescue it and brush the dirt off faster than the germs could hop on (less than 5 seconds), then all was good. Right?

A hot lunch is so much better when possible…

While I never got sick from this immunity-building exercise, I did get tired of bologna sandwiches.  In fact, I pretty much avoid cold sandwiches altogether, especially now that I can make a warm and crusty panini instead.

Recipe Inspiration: Discovering the “Love Sandwich”

A few years ago, Oprah published the recipe for her “Love Sandwich,” which is the basis for this recipe.  As Oprah suggested, I use smoked turkey instead of plain, roasted turkey. Add tomato slices (dried by pressing between paper towels) for more color and flavor.

Ingredients and Substitutions

Basil is the unique calling card of this sandwich.  Substitute spinach or another green if you prefer.

Instead of smoked turkey, use roast turkey or ham.

Pepper Jack cheese adds spicy interest,t but a milder cheese like Muenster or mild Cheddar sounds good, too.

Looking for More Ideas and Information About Paninis?

I’m not an expert, but I know someone who is. Check out Panini Happy. Kathy’s blog contains creative recipes and helpful hints about making a panini.  She also gives advice for buying a panini maker, or you can read about making one using two skillets.

Help at Your Fingertips: For questions or suggestions, email Paula at If you need help, I’m happy to troubleshoot via email (faster than leaving a comment). Attach pictures and as many details as possible for the best advice.

smoked turkey panini cut in halfPin
Yield: 1 sandwich

Smoked Turkey, Pepper Jack Cheese, and Basil Panini

A simple panini stuffed with smoked turkey, cheese, basil and tomatoes — good for beginners.

Rate this recipe

(5 stars if you loved it)

5 from 1 vote
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Total time: 10 minutes


  • 2 slices of sourdough bread
  • 4 squirts olive oil spray
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil mayo
  • 2 ounces (56 g) thinly sliced Pepper Jack Cheese
  • 2 ounces (56 g) thinly sliced smoked turkey or rotisserie chicken
  • 1 small tomato thinly sliced and patted dry
  • Basil leaves whole


  • Brush one side of each slice of bread with olive oil.
  • Spread a light coating of mayo on reverse side of the bread.
  • Stack slices of cheese, turkey, tomato, basil and more cheese on top of mayo-covered side of bread. Cover with remaining slice of bread–mayonnaise side to the top layer of cheese.
  • Cook on a panini grill preheated to HIGH or use a heavy skillet with another skillet placed on top of the sandwich–in which case you will need to flip the sandwich after a couple of minutes. Allow the sandwich to grill until the cheese melts and the bread is golden brown and toasty.


If you prefer, add basil or spinach to sandwich after cooking.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 791kcal | Carbohydrates: 78g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 34g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 8g | Monounsaturated Fat: 10g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 92mg | Sodium: 1084mg | Potassium: 504mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1470IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 493mg | Iron: 6mg

All images and text ©️ Paula Rhodes for Salad in a

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  1. Kiran @ says:

    I am fine with the 5 second rule – so long, it’s on MY kitchen floor 😀

    That panini looks droolicious and dare i say, better than the ones served in Panera Bread? 😀

  2. I wish you would come make this for me right now. Smoked Turkey, pepper jack (maybe habanero jack?) with tomatoes- – -perfect for a panini.

    How’d your quinoa experimenting turn out?

  3. Yudith @ Blissfully Delicious says:

    I am with you! I eat cold sandwiches pretty much when I have no time to eat lunch at work, but I LOVE paninis. Yours look fantastic 🙂

  4. Sylvie @ Gourmande in the Kitchen says:

    I still follow that 5 second rule sometimes, lol. I know, I know it doesn’t really work but it makes me feel better to think it does.

  5. Betty @ scrambled hen fruit says:

    Yay! I still have basil! 🙂 This sandwich looks scrumptious. I don’t have a panini press, but I do have iron skillets in all shapes and sizes. I agree that a nice warm toasted sandwich is better than a cold one any day!

  6. Wow, looks good. I believe Chris was talking about this only today – something about photo-op before eating??? :+)

  7. Love all of this…panini’s are a favorite! Basil in a panini is a must too. The fall favorites on your side bar look amazing especially those pumpkin pancakes, I need to give those try.

  8. My Thanksgiving turkey was roasted but some of the leftovers are still going to make it into this awesome looking sandwich.

  9. TheKitchenWitch says:

    Looks awesome! I’m grabbing my basil while I still can!

    1. As a matter of fact, I moved the publication of this post up because of your last post about your basil and the impending frost. I need to make some serious pesto myself.

  10. Kathy - Panini Happy says:

    Love the Love Sandwich! I’ve tried it before, it’s a great one – I’m sure smoked turkey makes it even better. And thanks for the kind words about my blog (Panini Happy, actually :-))!