This Open-Faced Creamy Chicken Rainier with Caramelized Onions and Gruyère Sandwich makes a decadent lunch or a great dinner with a side salad. Delicious creamy caramelized onion filling over a toasted ciabatta bun, topped with chicken and asparagus and dotted with a bit of Gruyère. And it’s only 236 calories or 7 WW points!
Make it up ahead of time, eat it in various ways
If you have the chicken already grilled or cooked, this sandwich goes together fairly fast. You can make up the filling ahead of time (up to 7 days) and have it whenever you want. While you can cut the recipe in half to make only 4 servings, there will be left over cream cheese and 1/2 onion. For me, I find it’s easier to just to make a full batch. It’s ready and waiting in the fridge. In our family, we’ll eat it up over the course of a week in various ways – sandwiches, wraps or over salads.
How to make the Open-Faced Creamy Chicken Rainier Sandwich with Caramelized Onions and Gruyère:
Caramelize the Walla Walla onions (or use another variety of sweet onion) in a stainless steel skillet (paid link) with a little bit of olive oil from the olive oil mister (paid link).
Mix the caramelized onions with the light cream cheese, a bit of light mayo, liquid smoke (paid link) (if desired), garlic, a few grinds from the nutmeg grinder (paid link), salt, pepper and part of the Gruyère cheese.
Nutmeg isn’t essential in this recipe but it does add a nice complement to the filling. Use a nutmeg grinder (paid link) for best results.
Arrange ciabatta halves on a baking pan, top with caramelized onion filling, grilled or cooked chicken, steamed asparagus and a tablespoon of Gruyère cheese. Broil until hot and cheese is melted. Serve with a fork and knife.
Variations of the Creamy Chicken Sandwich
Turn it into a wrap
This Creamy Chicken Rainier Sandwich can definitely be made into a wrap. Use a medium tortilla. Spread about 1/4 c. filling over the tortilla, add chicken, maybe even some lettuce, asparagus and 1 T. cheese. Roll it all up and you have a fantastic gourmet wrap for about 7 points depending on the tortilla you use.
Make it into a salad
You can also make a salad version. Place lettuce greens in a bowl or plate. Add chicken and asparagus and a few dollops of the filling (equal to 1/4 c. for calorie/point purposes). Drizzle a little balsamic over it if desired and you have a gourmet salad for only 4 WW points.
How did I lighten it up?
I created this healthy version of my Creamy Chicken Rainier because it’s such a great combination of flavors. Originally this sandwich was probably around 30 points per sandwich. Obviously it was too pricey in points and calories for me to fit realistically with my healthy lifestyle.
- First of all, I made it an open- faced sandwich. While I love a good French roll or ciabatta sandwich, I don’t need to consume 7 points right off the top- just for the bread. By being open-faced it cuts the bread points down to 3. (Weight Watcher math, not mine).
- Next I lightened the filling. Originally I mixed the chicken with full fat cream cheese, lots of swiss cheese and mayo. This new healthy version still includes cheese. (I just can’t live without my cheese, just need less of it now.) Instead of regular cream cheese, I used light cream cheese.
- Instead of a huge amount of swiss, I reduced the amount in the filling and also replaced the swiss with a more flavorful Gruyère. Gruyère is also a swiss but a hard yellow swiss cheese. In my opinion it has more flavor than a regular swiss cheese. I wanted a smokey flavor, so I added a bit of Liquid Smoke (paid link). This is entirely optional, it tastes great without it as well.
- I substituted a small bit of light mayo for the full fat mayonnaise. (I’m not a huge fan of light mayo but in this recipe it works.)
- Instead of caramelizing the onions in lots of butter, I did them in a pan with olive oil spray (paid link).
- Last but not least, I wanted this sandwich to be filling so I added asparagus. You could also add sauteed green beans, mushrooms (really any vegetable that you like that goes with chicken and Gruyère/swiss cheese). That helps gives the sandwich some bulk.
Origin and inspiration of the Chicken Rainier
Years ago when I lived in Sacramento, California, there was a restaurant near the Arden Fair Mall called, Bistro 33. They had a version of this sandwich called, The Rainier. It was creamy chicken and caramelized onion on focaccia -then grilled as a panini. They also used smoked mozzarella and a mango mayonnaise. It was almost like an adult gourmet grilled cheese with chicken. So yummy! After they closed, I found myself craving it so I created my own version. It was delicious but obviously not so healthy back in those days. Just the other day I started dreaming about that sandwich again (can you tell I’m a foodie?). I told my husband I was going to try and lighten it up. His response was, “Good luck with that one!” But surprisingly I did and he raved,”This one is a winner!”
Open-Faced Creamy Chicken Rainier Sandwich with Caramelized Onions and Gruyere
- 1 large about 19 oz walla walla onion or a sweet onion variety, roughly chopped in bite size pieces
- olive oil spray
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 1 8 oz. pkg light cream cheese I use Philadelphia Reduced Fat Cream Cheese brick
- 4 1/2 oz Gruyère or swiss cheese divided (save out 8 tablespoons)
- 1/8 t. liquid smoke optional
- a few grinds of nutmeg or a dash of ground nutmeg
- 1 T. light mayonnaise I use Best Foods Light Mayonnaise
- kosher salt as needed
- freshly ground pepper
- 16 oz. chicken breasts cooked or grilled
- 1 c. asparagus steamed and chopped into bite-sized pieces (for an easy way to steam, see notes below)
- 4 ciabatta rolls or French bread rolls sliced in half
- Spray a medium/large stainless steel skillet with olive oil spray. For this recipe it's best to use a regular stainless steel skillet. Onions are harder to caramelize in a non stick skillet. Heat to medium high heat.
- Add chopped onions. Spray the onions with a little more olive oil spray. Cook on medium high heat for about 8-10 minutes, stirring as needed. Add more olive oil spray if needed. Don't let them burn. Be sure to scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan.
- Reduce heat to low. Continue cooking onions until brown and caramelized for at least 20 minutes. The onions will stick to the pan, that's ok, just continue to keep scraping up the bits. You may be tempted to consider them "done," but allow the full 20-30 minutes for best flavor. Add minced garlic to the onions during the last few minutes of cooking. Remove from heat.
- While onions are cooking, in a medium bowl, combine cream cheese, Gruyère cheese (minus 8 T.) kosher salt and pepper.
- When onions and garlic are done cooking, transfer them to a food processor and lightly pulse a few times. Add to cream cheese mixture.
- Spread about 1/4 c. over half of bread. Top with chicken and asparagus. Add a bit of gruyere cheese to top.
- Broil in oven or toaster oven until hot and cheese is melted.