Panera: Home of the bread bowl with a sandwich on the side. At one point, it was painted in a nutritious light. These days, Panera is known as a great place to have a filling and flavorful meal in a quick fashion, all while getting ingredients you can trust (per Startup Sapience). From sharpening their coffee game to putting a fresh focus on breakfast (per Forbes), Panera’s menu is constantly growing and changing. Whether you go for a sandwich, a flatbread pizza, or even just a piece of bread on the side, Panera certainly isn’t going to disappoint … even if you’re looking for great fast-food keto options, too.
While we enjoy a lot of the dishes on Panera’s menu, it doesn’t mean that they’re all equally delicious. Some dishes range from okay to good, while other menu items are certifiably top-notch for a chain restaurant. We don’t want you to order a meal you’re not going to love every bite of, so we’ve decided to rank some of the best items on Panera’s menu. Give anything that sounds good a try. You never know what new flavors you’ll discover in the process.
20. Margherita Flatbread Pizza
We love pizza. Especially a good Margherita pizza. So we’re happy to inform you that the Margherita Flatbread Pizza at Panera has a lot of what we’re looking for in a good pie. Okay, technically it is a flatbread, and in the case of pizza, flatbread can come with some contention — especially if you like deep-dish styles that hold pizza toppings like a pillow. Panera’s is a super crispy base, which means they had to go light on the ingredients as well. For that fact, it ranks a little lower on this list. While an average pizza would be brimming with cheese and herbs, this flatbread doesn’t get quite the same treatment. The flavors are good, but some bites feel more like you’re eating tomato sauce on a cracker than an actual pie.
It’s great that Panera is trying something new with its flatbread pizza line, and most of the other options are just as solid as the Margherita. As reliable as it is though, you are likely not coming to Panera for pizza. Still, if you’re looking for something different than the usual Panera fare, it is worth a try.
19. Turkey Chili
We wanted to like the Turkey Chili at Panera, and it turns out we really do. Healthline reports that in terms of saturated fats and calorie count, turkey is a more nutritious option than beef. Plus, we love a nice, warming chili on an especially cold day. As you probably already know, turkey can be a reliably dry protein, which means that a lot of dishes made with turkey can fall flat on the satiation scale. Fortunately, that isn’t the case here. The veggies, beans, and broth come together to form a decent soup, but to be frank, the turkey meat is the hearty superstar here. As Fast Food Nutrition data shows, soups are a big draw for Panera, and though the turkey soup isn’t top of their rankings, it still fits in with some of the best dishes you should know about.
As this list covers, Panera has a lot of great items, so if you’re not full-in on this chili, we recommend trying it as a side dish. Being packed with beans and protein, it can feel a bit more filling than some of the other soups on the menu, so a smaller serving goes great along with a sandwich or a salad. While it is not our absolute favorite soup on the menu (we’re getting there), it’s definitely in the category of items you’ve got to try.
18. Bacon Turkey Bravo Sandwich
Looking for a solid sandwich to fill up your grumbling lunch belly? Panera has just what you’re searching for with its Bacon Turkey Bravo Sandwich. This sandwich has a reliably solid taste to it, and something that’s really special about the way it mimics an ordinary snack. In fact, it looks and tastes like a meal you could whip up at home in no time (only it has the benefit of saving you from having to wash the dishes). Turkey, bacon, and cheese are accompanied by tomatoes, greens, and special sauce. Basically, it’s the most primary version of a sandwich — and it tastes good all while saving you a ton of effort.
We really love how this sandwich tastes. Everyone knows that sometimes the most basic pleasures taste the best. One hit against this sandwich is that Panera charges a premium for a plate that’s super simple, but on days when you forgot your lunch (or don’t feel like making it), this is a reliable bite. Are there more elaborate sandwiches at Panera? Sure. But when you feel like something classic, this sandwich will leave you saying, "Bravo!"
17. Teriyaki Chicken & Broccoli Bowl
In theory, the Teriyaki Chicken & Broccoli Bowl at Panera sounds absolutely delicious. In practice, though, it’s mouth-watering. The cilantro lime brown rice and quinoa sounds like something you might find at a high-end eatery, but Panera does them in a dressed-down manner. You can lightly taste the cilantro, and the lime flavoring doesn’t overpower the rest of the components of the bowl. Additionally, the chicken itself is nice and juicy, which is great, though sometimes the marinade can come in as an overly sweet point that moves this further away from being a savory dish. Fortunately, the broccoli adds a nice, hearty bite. The earthy greens provide a contrast to what can be a super sweet sauce, and it also feels like you’re really getting your greens in.
This is the kind of meal you would eat while you are on the go and also crave while you’re feeling peckish at your desk. If you want to truly enjoy your lunch, consider picking up this bowl as a full-flavored go-to.
16. Mac & Cheese
It’s hard to go wrong with mac and cheese — it’s pretty much always going to taste good. Take pasta, douse it in cheese, and you’ve automatically got a winner. But the Mac & Cheese at Panera? It’s better than good: It is great. Our compliments here start with the texture of the pasta. It’s a touch al dente, so that when the creamy sauce lands overtop, there are no soggy noodles. Only pasta that has been perfectly softened to a silky consistency and outstanding flavor. With that light touch of texture, the pasta plate is one of Panera’s best menu items.
However, it’s more than just good pasta. The cheese sauce is super flavorful, especially for a quick-service restaurant. It has a lovely creaminess to it that we appreciate, but sometimes we do wish there was some more spice. Of course, you can always add hot sauce, black pepper, or other toppings of your choice to your mac and cheese, but without any additions, there is some "oomph" missing from it. But if you’re desperate for mac and cheese, or just having the normal level of longing for velvety pasta, you probably won’t mind dumping in your own additions. Especially if you’re looking for some of the best mac on the block.
15. Sausage & Pepperoni Flatbread Pizza
We already mentioned that we’re pretty big fans of the Margherita Flatbread Pizza, but what about the other options? There are a lot of other flatbread pizzas at Panera that meet our taste. Let’s talk about the Sausage & Pepperoni Flatbread Pizza. Crust-wise, it might raise some of the same debates among pizza buffs as the Margherita. But when it comes to the toppings? This option has the Margherita beat. There’s just the right amount of meat on this pizza — enough that you feel like you’re getting your money’s worth, but not so much that you can’t taste the cheese or the sauce. It’s a great combo, especially if you’re looking for an alternative to the light soups and salads on the rest of the Panera menu.
Despite its crust considerations, this flatbread ranks pretty high on the list of things you’ve got to try at Panera. If you love crispy, snappy crust, you’re probably going to love the rest of this flatbread pizza just as much as we do.
14. Caramel Latte
Panera has a wide range of coffee drinks for you to choose from, and most of them are pretty solid. That being said, we’re only going to go out of our way to get a coffee from Panera on special occasions. Perhaps our favorite exceptional circumstance on the Panera lineup is the Caramel Latte. Warning: If you’re looking for a plain coffee that isn’t too sugary, this one probably isn’t for you. Rather, the caramel latte is what you should choose when you’re looking for a drink that’s halfway between a coffee and a dessert. It’s quite sweet with the caramel syrup, caramel drizzle, and whipped cream, but we don’t mind that sweetness, especially when we’ve just finished a savory sandwich or bowl of soup.
It is hard to compete with the sweet, flavored lattes and iced drinks at Starbucks, or your favorite local coffee house. Still, as far as Panera coffee goes, it’s a fun indulgence that will give you the energy to get through the rest of your day, and that’s worth a lot for us.
13. Smokehouse BBQ Chicken Sandwich
BBQ lovers, you’re going to want to stick around for this one. The Smokehouse BBQ Chicken Sandwich is a vibe, and we’re actually surprised at how much we like it. The smoked chicken is, well, quite smoky, which lends a lot of flavor to otherwise mild meat. It’s tossed in an apple cider vinegar BBQ sauce. While many BBQ sauces are pretty sweet, this one has a lovely touch of acidity that balances out the other flavors nicely. We love the addition of fresh red and fried onions, which both add some crispiness in very different ways. However, the best part of the sandwich is the thick slices of white miche bread. It all comes together in a delectable sandwich that’s a little messy but totally worth it.
The only thing we would change about this sandwich is its lack of veggies. Just a bit of lettuce or other greens or some hot pepper rings could transform this sandwich and take it to a whole new level. But even without those additions, this is a delicious sandwich.
12. Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt
For all those who can’t get enough avocado, the Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt is one of the best options on the menu. There’s a slight heat here from the peppadew peppers that’s balanced exceptionally well by the addition of the avocado. Cilantro adds just the perfect amount of freshness to the sandwich, while gouda and chipotle sauce add creaminess and some much-needed moisture to the pulled chicken. Surprisingly, the chicken can sometimes be sort of dry in this sandwich, but considering all the other ingredients it’s combined with, that isn’t easily noticed.
We’ll be honest — this sandwich might not taste as good if the cheese wasn’t nice and melted — luckily, it is. Because after that cheese melts, it’s like all the other ingredients have been transformed. Considering the gooey cheese and everything else the chipotle chicken avocado melt has going for it, we think it can solidly qualify as one of the tastiest menu items at Panera.
11. Green Passion Smoothie
You have a ton of bread-based menu options at Panera, but what about those days when you feel like you really need to consume something healthy but just aren’t feeling a salad? When that feeling hits, we suggest the Green Passion Smoothie. We know, we know: Not everyone likes a green smoothie, but trust us when we say that this isn’t your average green smoothie. White grape and passionfruit juices meld together to create a flavor that is just like candy. But with the addition of spinach in your drink, you can feel good about what you’re sipping on.
Just remember: Panera isn’t known as a smoothie place, so you should keep your expectations in check. You’re not going to find a ton of fresh fruits going into this smoothie, so don’t expect that this will be the most wholesome smoothie you’ve ever had. However, when you’re in need of something green to drink, this smoothie should go down, er, smoothly.
10. Greek Yogurt with Mixed Berries Parfait
Sometimes, you find yourself at Panera before you realize that a soup, sandwich, or salad doesn’t sound exactly like what you want. When you’re looking for something on the lighter side (or you want to snag a different side dish from your usual), the Greek Yogurt with Mixed Berries Parfait is a solid option. It all starts with a base of thick Greek yogurt, served with maple butter pecan granola sprinkled over top. This granola has a touch of spiced notes, which add another layer of flavor for some brightened interest. The fresh blueberries and strawberries add the perfect touch of tart juiciness, and the honey drizzled over it all brings everything together with the right touch of sweetness.
We think this Greek yogurt parfait is delicious, even if it is something you can grab at plenty of other restaurants. It’s also something that’s pretty easy to make in your own kitchen. But there is a lot to be said for convenience. Some days, it just makes sense to grab a nutritious, sweet treat from Panera (per Spoon University).
9. Tuna Salad Sandwich
It’s true that you probably don’t want to get a tuna salad sandwich from just anywhere. But when you choose the Tuna Salad Sandwich at Panera, you can feel confident that you’re going to get a tasty, filling lunch. The tuna salad itself is one of our favorites — outside of what we make at home, of course — in fact, one of the better tuna salads at a fast-casual chain. It seems to be a pretty standard recipe, so even if it doesn’t completely wow you, it’s definitely going to hit the comfort food part of your taste buds. This sandwich isn’t overwhelmed with tuna, either — rather, veggies like emerald greens, tomatoes, and sliced red onion take on a starring role. The result is a super fresh sandwich perfect for a light lunch.
The absolute best part of this sandwich, though, is the black pepper focaccia bread that everything else rests on. This pillowy bread is by far one of the best bread offerings at Panera, and we honestly wish we could have it with everything on the menu. While the rest of the sandwich is a cast of stand-up ingredients, you may find yourself ordering the tuna salad just to get a bite of the sandwich bread.
8. Ten Vegetable Soup
There’s not much we love more than a healthy soup option, particularly in the colder months of the year. The Ten Vegetable Soup at Panera is one of our favorites. Not only is it nutritious, writes Savor the Flavor, but it’s also vegan. If you’re trying to cut back on dairy or just want a lighter soup to sip on, you should give this one a try. It boasts celery, tomatoes, two different kinds of bell pepper, onions, carrots, and corn, plus a whole host of other fantastic flavors. The poblano peppers and dried Aleppo chile add just a kick of heat that we love. Admittedly, we do wish it were even spicier, but we’re not going to get too picky — you can always add spice on your own.
Our only real complaint about this soup is the fact that you’re going to need to eat something else on the side if you want to fill yourself up. That could be a slice of bread, or you could opt for a half-serving of soup and pair a salad or sandwich with your bowl. When it comes to flavor, though, it’s hard to deny that the Ten Vegetable Soup stands up all on its own.
7. Toasted Frontega Chicken Sandwich
The black pepper focaccia bread makes yet another appearance, but this time, it’s in a sandwich we love even more. Enter the Toasted Frontega Chicken Sandwich, a filling meal that offers a little something for everyone. It’s piled high with smoked pulled chicken, which adds a heartiness to this sandwich that’s sure to give you the energy you need for the rest of the day. In fact, there’s so much chicken filling that you may only need to eat half of this sandwich before you decide to save the rest for later.
We love that this sandwich also comes with plenty of basil along with a chipotle sauce — just the right amount of flavor. The freshness of the tomatoes and red onions is also a nice touch. It may not be the most complex sandwich in the world, but with such simple, delicious ingredients, it’s no wonder the Toasted Frontega is one of our favorites on the Panera menu. Especially when we’re looking for something that is always reliable and unique.
6. Frozen Chocolate Cold Brew
Sometimes, you need a coffee. Sometimes, you need a dessert. And sometimes, on the roughest of days, you need to treat yourself to both. That’s just where the Frozen Chocolate Cold Brew from Panera comes in. Let us clear one thing up right now: If you’re the type of person who usually takes your coffee black, then this is not the drink for you. On the other hand, if you worship at the feet of your favorite Starbucks Frappuccino, there’s a good chance you’ll want to check this cold brew out.
Because it’s made with cold brew, which CNET notes as being quite strong in caffeine content, it’s ideal for those afternoons when you really need some energy. The bittersweet chocolate syrup is quite balanced, and even though we were afraid this drink would be cloying, it’s actually not. Add some whipped cream on top, and the drink is complete. If you want something lighter but still need that extra dose of chocolate, don’t be afraid to ask for your drink without the whip.
5. Fuji Apple Salad with Chicken
The salads you’ll find at Panera are usually pretty hit or miss. Some of them are boring, basic salads that are super easy to recreate at home — salads that might not be worth your money. Others are veggie-decked delights packed with the freshest of ingredients, served in heaping portions that will keep you feeling both full and light. The Fuji Apple Salad with Chicken fits into that latter category. The best part about this salad is the dried apple chips that add tartness, crunch, and just a touch of sweetness to this otherwise quite savory salad. It’s not a salad ingredient you come across every day, making this option feel different and exciting.
Along with the apples, chicken, pecans, red onions, and red grape, some tomatoes sit on a bed of kale, romaine, and arugula. With this salad, you are truly treated to a wide variety of flavors. For us, though, the highlight is the gorgonzola and white balsamic apple vinaigrette, which are working overtime to deliver punches of intense acidity. Exactly how we like it.
4. Grilled Mac & Cheese Sandwich
Does the Grilled Mac & Cheese Sandwich at Panera go heavy on the carbs? Absolutely. Do we sometimes need that sort of comfort food in our lives? Without a doubt. Sure, if you’re looking for a dish that is nice and light, this sandwich is not the way to go. But now and then, you want to indulge. When that’s the kind of mood you’re in, mac and cheese on a sandwich is the perfect solution. The mac and cheese itself is an important part of this recipe, of course, but the parmesan crisps are the element that’s really holding everything together. They give this sandwich structure and texture. Without them, eating this menu item would still be an experience. With them, you’ll enjoy something out of this world.
The mac and cheese and parmesan crisps are all served on white miche bread. When grilled, this bread develops a lovely crust that plays well with the other textures. When you feel like treating yourself, a grilled mac and cheese sandwich is going to be just what you’ve been searching for.
3. Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich
We love it when a restaurant, any restaurant, serves up plenty of vegetarian options. While the veggie menu at Panera may not be bursting at the seams, there are some tremendous non-meat items on the menu. And if you want something light, fresh, and all-around delicious, you can’t go wrong with the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich. We’re not exaggerating when we say that this sandwich is absolutely packed with veggies. Cucumbers, greens, onions, tomatoes, and hummus all nestle into a little sandwich home between luscious tomato basil bread that’s bursting with herbaceous goodness. The sprinkling of feta on this sandwich means it’s not vegan, but we think this addition is necessary for some much-needed creaminess and a touch of acidity.
It’s essential to get plenty of veggies in your diet, and that’s just what the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich helps us do. On the days you want an easy and nourishing lunch, this sandwich should be at the very top of your list.
2. Citrus Asian Crunch Salad with Chicken
There’s no doubt that the Citrus Asian Crunch Salad with Chicken is explicitly one of the best menu items at Panera. Crunchy, fresh, and satisfying, this is one salad we could have every day of the week without complaint. The romaine lettuce is dressed up with the addition of cilantro and pickled red onions, and we’re here for it. Add on some edamame for a boost of protein, then pour the teriyaki sauce and tangerine soy-ginger dressing on top, and it’s no wonder we always want seconds of this delectable bowl.
The absolute best part of this salad is the chicken. In our opinion, the seared chicken thigh is significantly tastier than any of the other cuts of chicken on the menu. In the perspective of MasterClass, dark meat is normally juicer than white meat. At Panera, the well-known advantages of dark meat make every bite of this salad feel succulent. Our only complaint about this salad is that it doesn’t contain any actual slices of citrus. However, it’s definitely not missing any tangy flavor, so we can’t be too upset.
1. Bistro French Onion Soup
And finally, we come to the best Panera menu item of them all. Not everyone will agree, but we stand by our decision to rank the Bistro French Onion Soup in first place. One thing is for sure: You’re definitely going to want to order the bread bowl with this one so you can take advantage of every morsel of that delicious broth. Of course, you also get to indulge in the smattering of breadcrumbs sprinkled over the top of the soup. And with melty gruyere cheese on top? It’s no wonder this one comes in top place.
French onion soup can be difficult to make on your own, so we love that we can get it any day of the week at Panera. The rich, beefy broth is unbelievably flavorful, and with every bite, you’ll get to enjoy caramelized onions cooked to perfection. If you’re going to order soup at Panera, the French onion should be your top choice.