When you’re on the go and in need of a quick and easy meal that feels a little lighter and healthier than your typical drive-thru offerings, Panera Bread is a great option. Honestly, no matter what the occasion, Panera is basically always a great idea. Not only does the fast-casual chain offer a ton of healthy options as well as freshly baked bread, but Panera also offers indulgent meals and treats, along with a wide assortment of beverages and snacks.
Panera has plenty to offer, but there are certain menu items that really aren’t worth all the hype and attention they get. As healthy and delicious as Panera paints itself, the nationwide chain’s menu isn’t entirely healthy or delicious. And there are some menu items that are just plain terrible, though you might hear people rave about them. Fortunately, this list of popular Panera menu items ranked from worst to best will do all the hard work for you: All you have to do is avoid the worst. So get reading, and get ordering.
Panera’s steak sandwich is just plain bad
For a place known for its soups, salads, and sandwiches, Panera Bread’s sandwich options are kind of a mixed bag. There are ultra-delicious offerings, and then there are the restaurant’s offerings that sound good but really aren’t. Take, for instance, the Steak and Arugula Sandwich. It certainly sounds like something that would be tasty, but as Insider reported, it lacked in overall taste and texture.
Specifically, while the flavors of all the ingredients brought out the best in each other, the cold, soggy tomato king of ruined the texture. Additionally, when you order a sandwich with steak in it, you expect the steak to be the star of the show. But with this Panera menu item, the steak is more like a guest star making a two-episode run. For over $8 for only the half-sandwich, this is seriously one of the worst Panera menu items, so just avoid it at all costs.
Panera’s vegetable soup is pretty bland
Perhaps one of the healthiest options at Panera Bread is the Ten Vegetable Soup. Just the name shows that the dish is full of nutrients, and at only 100 calories for an entire bowl, it’s certainly diet-friendly. But that doesn’t mean it’s worth ordering. After all, there are other ways to get in your vegetables, and this soup is actually pretty bland.
The vegetables all simmer in a broth, but the flavor just isn’t there. That isn’t to say that the soup is gross by any means, but the lemon added to the mix doesn’t help and actually makes the entire bowl pretty bitter and acidic. Sure, you could get a cup of the vegetable soup to go along with a sandwich or salad to make things healthier, but if you want a good soup option from Panera, then the Ten Vegetable Soup just isn’t the smartest thing to order, especially when you look at all the other options you could choose from.
Panera’s hot chocolate is a bit of a letdown
When the temperature outside starts to drop and the days get shorter, there’s really nothing quite like a nice cup of hot chocolate to warm you up. Hot chocolate is definitely a seasonal item, though there’s absolutely nothing wrong with drinking it year-round or enjoying frozen hot chocolate once it starts to heat up outside. But there’s just something special about ordering a hot chocolate during the winter or holiday seasons. At Panera Bread, though, the hot chocolate isn’t really anything special.
As delicious as a cup of hot chocolate might sound, Panera’s isn’t what you want. It isn’t very chocolatey, and with as many toppings as it includes, the flavor throughout the drink isn’t strong at all. For the most part, Panera’s hot chocolate is more like warm milk with a slight chocolate undertone. With whipped cream and a caramel drizzle, Panera’s hot chocolate might start out tasty, but once the toppings are gone, the drink seriously declines.
Panera’s green tea isn’t strong at all
As surprising as it might sound, Panera Bread actually has quite a few drink options that you can choose from. Some, like their coffees and lemonades, are seriously delicious. But their green tea isn’t strong at all, and it’s definitely not worth the $2.59 you have to shell out for it. When you order a salad for lunch, a nice iced tea probably sounds delicious to go along with it, but at Panera, the green tea is pretty weak.
The thing is, real green tea doesn’t have any calories or any added sugar. So when you drink Panera Bread’s Papaya Green Tea, you aren’t actually getting the full green tea experience. Not only is the drink not very strong with its green tea flavor, but it’s packed with added sugar. Green tea can be very healthy, but when you add as much sugar as Panera Bread, it becomes quite unhealthy and just not as flavorful. So, stay away because it’s not worth it.
Panera’s turkey sandwich is seriously boring
The turkey sandwich is definitely one of the most old-school sandwich options out there, and at Panera Bread, it’s hailed as an easy and simple option. According to the menu, Panera’s Turkey Sandwich is pretty classic. It features an "Oven-roasted turkey breast raised without antibiotics, emerald greens, vine-ripened tomatoes, red onions, mayo, spicy mustard, salt and pepper on Country Rustic Sourdough." Sourdough bread is always a good idea, but overall, this turkey sandwich isn’t anything special.
After all, turkey tends to be pretty bland on its own, and at Panera Bread, the turkey is just that. And all the other ingredients in the sandwich aren’t really standouts, either. Lettuce and tomato are on so many sandwiches that they’re totally expected, and there’s not even a signature sauce to bring out more flavors in the sandwich. Basically, a toddler could whip this sandwich together, and while it’s not the worst thing on the Panera Bread menu, it’s also not the best, and there are a ton of sandwiches at Panera that are delicious.
Panera’s Cinnamon Crunch Bagel just isn’t worth it
Because Panera Bread literally has the word "bread" in its name, it’s no secret that the chain restaurant makes a ton of bread. Specifically, Panera makes over 250 million bagels every year, with some being a lot better than others. The Cinnamon Crunch Bagel, for instance, gets a lot of attention for its sweet and crunchy nature, but as tasty as it is, you’d be better off just eating a donut or three.
Yes, seriously. The Cinnamon Crunch Bagel at Panera Bread has 420 calories, and that’s without any kind of cream cheese or butter spread on top of it. The bagel is so high in sugar that it would be the same as eating three Krispy Kreme donuts, according to Business Insider. Of course, if you’re really craving a sweet and cinnamon-y treat, then this is the bagel for you, but you could just as easily order a muffin or pastry that doesn’t require even more calories to be spread on top of it as bagels do.
Panera’s flatbread pizzas aren’t anything special
In 2020, Panera Bread launched a new line of menu items that were neither soups, nor salads, nor sandwiches. The items were, instead, flatbread pizzas, and they had mixed reviews upon their launch. There were three pizzas initially available: a Margherita option, plain cheese, or a Chipotle Chicken and Bacon option. The flavors might all sound pretty tasty, but when it comes down to it, the flatbreads lack in texture, and the toppings tend to be unevenly spread.
While Twitter users have been generally pretty positive about the flatbreads, with one user sharing that "The chicken chipotle flatbread at Panera slaps every time," other reviews haven’t been quite as kind. Specifically, one reviewer sampled the Margherita Flatbread Pizza and wrote that the "relative dearth of sauce pushes it a fair bit into the cheese bread category," instead of an actual pizza. Not every new product from Panera is going to be a hit, and the flatbread pizzas seem to have gotten a variety of reviews, meaning that they may or may not be worth it at your next Panera Bread run.
Panera’s Mediterranean Veggie sandwich is healthy but not that tasty
As Panera Bread likes to hail itself as one of the healthiest fast food options out there, it’s not surprising that it would offer a sandwich like the Mediterranean Veggie sandwich. The sandwich is basically a nutritionist’s dream, with "Zesty sweet Peppadew piquant peppers, feta, cucumbers, emerald greens, vine-ripened tomatoes, red onions, hummus, salt, and pepper on Tomato Basil," according to the Panera menu.
Yes, the sandwich has no meat on it and is loaded with healthy vegetables and a spread of hummus, which is made from vegetables. Eat This, Not That ranked the Mediterranean Veggie sandwich as one of the healthiest options at Panera Bread. In addition to a healthy amount of protein, fat, and carbs, the sandwich also features vegetables and feta cheese that are part of the so-called Mediterranean diet, one of the best diets out there for weight loss and overall heart health. This sandwich is seriously healthy, but as far as taste is concerned, it doesn’t have much to offer. After all, it’s basically a ton of vegetables on bread, and that’s not exactly what everyone wants in a meal.
Panera’s grilled cheese is a classic
There’s really nothing more classic and American as the grilled cheese sandwich. The Classic Grilled Cheese at Panera Bread really couldn’t get more simple. It’s literally just American cheese between two slices of Panera’s Classic White Miche bread, grilled to perfection. It doesn’t sound like much, but for parents of picky toddlers everywhere, it’s a lifesaver. And honestly, it’s not just delicious for children but for adults as well. After all, sometimes you just want a nice, warm grilled cheese. Nothing complicated, just plenty of buttery, crispy, gooey goodness.
As one reviewer said of the grilled cheese, it wasn’t perfect, but it was still very good. "One slice of my bread was golden and the other was still light, which made me believe it was only half toasted. Even so, that strange fact did not take away from my enjoyment of this gooey standard," the review stated. Again, the Classic Grilled Cheese at Panera Bread isn’t exactly a culinary revelation, but it will still probably knock your socks off.
Panera’s BBQ chicken salad is surprisingly filling
Many people might not think of salads as being substantial or enough to make an entire meal, but Panera Bread proves that idea to be totally wrong with their BBQ Chicken Salad. Per the Panera Bread menu, the salad is pretty complex, with "Chicken raised without antibiotics, romaine, black bean and corn salsa tossed in BBQ ranch dressing, topped with frizzled onions, and drizzled with apple cider vinegar BBQ sauce." If that doesn’t sound delicious, then what does?
Additionally, the entire salad is only 520 calories and has 33 grams of protein, 44 grams of carbs, and 10 grams of fiber. So not only will it fill you up, but it will do so with a relatively low amount of calories and good amount of fiber. The salad is so beloved that there are plenty of copycat recipes you can try out to have the Panera Bread experience right at home. Really, this salad is a winner, if it’s salad you’re looking for.
Panera’s breakfast sandwich is pretty decent
In addition to a pretty impressive lunch and dinner menu, Panera Bread also offers a ton of breakfast items, and they’re not all just bagels or muffins or other kinds of pastries. Panera also has a ton of breakfast sandwiches, wraps, yogurts, and even oatmeal to choose from. And their Avocado, Egg White, and Spinach sandwich is top-notch.
The sandwich is, basically, exactly as it sounds, but Panera Bread does give you some pretty important choices. According to the menu, the sandwich is "Egg whites, Vermont white cheddar, avocado, spinach, vine-ripened tomato, salt and pepper on a Sprouted Grain Bagel Flat." As simple as that sounds, the website also notes that customers can actually customize the sandwich to be exactly how they want it, with their own choice of sauce, bread, or how they want their egg cooked. And, on Doordash, the Avocado, Egg White, and Spinach breakfast sandwich is one of the chain restaurant’s most popular items.
Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar Soup is almost famous
For whatever reason, society has deemed soup to be almost like an appetizer instead of the main course. Some people even think of soup as a side dish or something to accompany a salad or sandwich in order for it to be a complete meal, but the Broccoli Cheddar Soup at Panera Bread needs nothing else to make it truly perfect. The dish is warm and filling and completely worthy of all the copycat recipes and praise it receives. This soup is a true star.
As the Panera Bread menu states, the soup is pretty simple: just "Chopped broccoli, shredded carrots and select seasonings simmered in a velvety smooth cheese sauce."
The soup isn’t exactly healthy, with 30 grams of carbs, 21 grams of fat, and only 14 grams of protein in a 360-calorie bowl. But still, with something as delicious as Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar Soup, health isn’t really a concern. It’s all about taste, and this soup has plenty of that. Cheesy, creamy, and totally decadent, the Broccoli Cheddar Soup is what a cheese-lover’s dreams are made of.
Panera’s Kitchen Sink Cookie is to die for
Panera Bread obviously has a ton of great pastry options, but this one cookie has the ability to wow you. Yes, this one humble cookie is probably the best sweet option at Panera, not some fancy croissant or cake or bear claw. The Kitchen Sink Cookie is the perfect combination of sweet, salty, chocolatey, and crispy. The cookie features a variety of ingredients, hence the name, and is deliciously both uncomplicated and complex in flavor.
The cookie features both semi-sweet chocolate and milk chocolate, as well as pretzels, caramel pieces, and flaky salt, too. And according to Panera’s website, "this little-bit-of-everything cookie is made big, so you can share it with a friend or two — or keep it to yourself." Basically, it’s the perfect cookie, the perfect dessert, and the perfect size to either seriously indulge your sweet tooth or split with a friend. Whatever you do, the cookie will not disappoint you.
Panera’s mac and cheese is addicting
Panera Bread Mac and Cheese is by far the best, most delicious meal at the restaurant. The dish sounds simple, and it is just "Tender shell pasta in a blend of rich cheeses including our tangy Vermont white cheddar cheese sauce." It might only be a few ingredients, but those few ingredients are seriously amazing. What’s more, the Mac and Cheese isn’t freshly made and is, in fact, frozen up until it’s ordered and Panera workers heat it up in hot water to serve. Honestly, the fact that it’s so beloved and delicious while not being freshly made just makes the Mac and Cheese even more impressive.
However, it’s far from healthy. A large order of Mac and Cheese from Panera will set you back over 1,000 calories and is loaded with 67 grams of fat. Mac and Cheese from Panera Bread is seriously popular, though. There are plenty of copycat recipes and even Panera at-home offerings so you can have the dish as often as you’d like.