When anyone asks me for tips on packing school lunch, I often suggest they choose something that’s as appealing to them as it is to their children. After all, you’re going through the trouble of making lunch for your kid—might as well make some for yourself, too. The trick is finding recipes that suit everyone’s taste. This chickpea panini qualifies.
If you think a sandwich built with chickpeas is a no-go for pint-sized eaters, I don’t blame you. But chickpea hummus is so popular among kids—this sandwich isn’t much of a stretch. It was such a favorite among all three of my kids that I included it in my first cookbook, Best Lunch Box Ever.
How to Build a Chickpea Panini
The filling for this sandwich is a combination of chickpeas, shredded carrots, lots of lemon juice, and soft goat cheese. It’s satisfying and flavorful and lasts several days in the fridge. It’s all done in a single bowl and no more complicated than making tuna or chicken salad.
Here are a few pointers:
- The first step is to smash the chickpeas, which simply requires a fork to get the job done.
- Use pre-shredded carrots to save time.
- This makes a hearty lunch. Half of a sandwich will likely suffice for kids and folks with lighter appetites.
Swaps and Substitutions
Any good lunchbox recipe is flexible, which this panini definitely is. Feel free to riff on the recipe using any of the ideas below:
- Use another crunchy vegetable instead of the carrots, such as diced celery or fennel.
- Replace the arugula with a couple of lettuce leaves or thinly sliced cucumber.
- If you aren’t fond of goat cheese, use whipped cream cheese.
- A baguette sandwich can be a mouthful for younger kids, so feel free to use sliced sourdough or whole-wheat bread. The spread is also tasty spooned onto whole-grain crackers for a snack.
- Use cannellini beans in lieu of chickpeas.
Make It Ahead
You can make the filling ahead of time. Put it in a covered container and store it in the fridge, where it will stay tasty for about 4 days. I recommend assembling sandwiches the same day you plan to eat them so the bread doesn’t get soggy.
What Else to Pack
While this sandwich makes a nourishing lunch all on its own, it’s always fun to toss a few other goodies into a lunchbox, such as:
- A piece of whole fruit, small bunch of grapes, or DIY Fruit Leather
- Jicama, cherry tomatoes, or carrot sticks with dip, such as this Edamame Avocado or Homemade Ranch
- Something crunchy, such as pretzels or toasted pumpkin seeds
- A small container of dark chocolate chips or a granola bar
- A water bottle (Tip! Freeze the bottle overnight so it’s nice and cold at lunch time.)
More Vegetarian Sandwiches to Try
Not all panini are grilled. "Panini" is simply a name for a sandwich usually served on an Italian-style bread. They're often served warm or grilled, but not always, as with the following recipe, which is loaded onto a baguette and lunchbox-ready.
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, plus more for assembling
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for assembling
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3 ounces soft goat cheese (chèvre)
1 loosely packed cup grated carrot (from 1 medium carrot)
1 (18-inch) baguette
1 1/2 cups lightly packed arugula
Salt to taste
Make the chickpea filling:
Drain the chickpeas in a colander or sieve, and rinse under cold running water. Drain well. Transfer into a medium bowl and add the lemon juice, olive oil, and ground cumin. Use the back of a fork to press the chickpeas into a thick, chunky mash.
Add the cheese and carrots:
Crumble the goat cheese into the bowl, add the carrots, and stir well.
Fill the baguettes:
Cut the baguette into 3 5- to 6-inch pieces. If you have leftover bread, save it for another use.
Cut each piece in half lengthwise, but not all the way through—you want it connected along one edge so you can open the baguette like a book. Divide the chickpea mash among the 3 pieces, spreading it evenly.
Top with the arugula. Squeeze a little lemon juice, a light drizzle of olive oil, and a pinch of salt to the top. Serve.
Leftovers don’t keep well. I recommend assembling sandwiches the same day you plan to eat them so the bread doesn’t get soggy.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 20g||26%|
|Saturated Fat 6g||31%|
|Total Carbohydrate 83g||30%|
|Dietary Fiber 11g||38%|
|Total Sugars 11g|
|Vitamin C 9mg||44%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|