The Meatwave

Grilled Meatloaf Paninis

Grilled Meatloaf Paninis View Recipe

So last week I was left very pleased with a Dr Pepper-glazed planked meatloaf I had grilled up, but it still didn't move meatloaf up into a more loving spot in my heart. Don't get me wrong, I like meatloaf, it's just never something that excites me or that I consider turning to on a regular basis. Having that mindset, it also doesn't help that meatloaf leaves a lot of leftovers, but this time around I decided that to up my desire to keep eating that loaf, I'd try making it into sandwiches, and with that, this grilled meatloaf panini has finally bumped meatloaf up into something I would want to make again and again.

Smoked Roast Beef Toasts

While my meatloaf recipes are well seasoned and flavorful, they just never hit the intensity I'm personally drawn too. Turning meatloaf into a sandwich afforded me the ability to up the flavor game and build up the broad compliments and contrasts that would make each bite even more savory. I began with caramelized onions, which I had a stash of in the freezer after making a large batch when working on a recipe for roast beef toasts. The glaze on the meatloaf was already plenty sweet, but I didn't think that would come through fully in sandwich form and deemed some added sweetness was going to be called for.

Meatloaf Paninis

Then to contrast the sweet, I needed spicy, and for that I turned to chipotle mayonnaise. In the early days of blogging, chipotle mayo was all the rage, but that has fizzled out a bit and I haven't actually made it in many years. The high heat of the chipotles, along with their smokiness, felt like it was going to be right match for the meatloaf though, so this sauce got to make a longer awaited reappearance on this site.

Meatloaf Paninis

Making the onions and chipotle mayo is the bulk of the prep here, so with those done, it was time to bust out the meatloaf and get grilling. The chill on the meatloaf made it easy to slice, of which I initially cut the standard roughly one inch thick pieces. I noticed that was going to me a pretty small, but tall panini, that might be awkward to eat. I also worried the pressing of the sandwich would mash the loaf too much, so I decided to split those larger slices in two, which made for a much better sandwich size with two thinner slices comprising each panini.

Meatloaf Paninis

I didn't think the panini pressing time was going to be adequate to completelty reheat the meatloaf, so before sandwich assembly, I quickly grilled the meatloaf slices over direct high heat. I was mainly looking to take the chill off, so once the slices felt warmed and developed some grill marks, I deemed them ready for the panini making.

Meatloaf Paninis

To assemble, I began by spreading a healthy layer of mayo on each side of the bread. Then I laid two slices of the meatloaf on each bottom half, followed by a couple slices of a gouda cheese, caramelized onions, and a handful of arugula.

Meatloaf Paninis

While I was grilling the meatloaf and putting together the sandwiches, I had my two cast iron presses warming over direct heat on the grill. When it came time for pressing the sandwiches, they were well heated, but not scorching hot, which was exactly what I was after. I placed the sandwiches on the cool side of my two-zone fire, and then placed the presses on top, handling them while wearing my welding gloves and pressing down firmly to get a good start on sandwich compression. I then covered the grill and let the paninis cook until I saw the cheese was melted and they had flattened a bit further, which took about five minutes.

Meatloaf Paninis

I didn't have the highest hopes for these sandwiches—going into this recipe I kind of thought I'd be left wishing I had a well seared burger in there instead of the meatloaf, but that feeling never came to fruition. Instead, the meatloaf felt like just the right thing in these panini, offering a hearty filling with a light earthiness and sweetness whose more mild manner was boosted by the spicy mayo, sweet onions, peppery arugula, and creamy cheese. I breathed new life into that meatloaf, and I could see myself wanting this sandwich over and over again. My overall lackluster feeling of meatloaf has also led me never to order a meatloaf sandwich before, but after trying this one, I'm intrigued by what other possibilities this American mainstay has to offer, so might start branching out and embracing the loaf more than I have in the past.

Print Recipe

Grilled Meatloaf Paninis

  • Yield 4 servings
  • Prep 40 Minutes
  • Cook 10 Minutes
  • Total 50 Minutes


  • For the Chipotle Mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 2 chipotle chiles from 1 can of chipotles in adobo
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon adobo sauce from can of chipotles in adobo
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • For the Onions
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • For the Paninis
  • 8 1/2-inch thick slices leftover meatloaf
  • 4 ciabatta rolls, split in half horizontally
  • 3oz arugula, washed and dried
  • 8 slices gouda cheese


  1. To make the chipotle mayonnaise: Place mayonnaise, sour cream, chipotles, lime juice, adobo sauce, and cumin in the jar of a blender. Puree until chipotles are completely chopped and sauce is smooth. Transfer to an airtight container and place in refrigerator until ready to use.
  2. To make the onions: Melt butter in a large heavy-bottomed stainless steel or enameled cast iron dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and bottom of saucepan is coated in a pale brown fond, about 15 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water and deglaze pan by scraping with a wood spoon. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until another layer of fond has built up again, 3-5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of water and deglaze. Repeat process until onions are completely softened and a deep, dark brown, about 15 minutes more. Season onions to taste with salt. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  3. To make the paninis: Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover grill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Place cast iron panini presses or foil-wrapped bricks on hot side of grill. Place meatloaf slices on hot side of grill and cook until warmed through, 1 to 2 minutes per side. Transfer meatloaf to a cutting board or plate.
  4. Spread chipotle mayo on cut side of each roll. Place 2 meatloaf slices on each bottom half of roll followed by 2 cheese slices, onions, and arugula. Working in batches as necessary, place sandwiches close to, but not directly over, the fire. Place panini press or brick on top of sandwiches, cover grill, and cook until sandwiches are heated through and well compressed, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer sandwiches to a plate, cut into two pieces, and serve immediately.

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