Bagels can make the best breakfast out there. Yep, we said it. Is there anything better to wake up to than a warm and toasty bagel with a dollop of something delicious, whether it be butter, cream cheese, or jelly? Or better yet, stick a few fried eggs in between toasted bagel halves with a slice of melty cheese and you’ve got yourself the ultimate breakfast sandwich. All told, bagels are easy to prepare and delicious to enjoy. Plus, they tend to hold us over until our next meal or snack quite well, unlike sad bowls of sugary cereal.
We don’t often make our own homemade bagels because the process tends to be way too involved for our typical day-to-day. But we love stocking up on a restaurant-bought baker’s dozen over the weekend and eating them throughout our busy weekday mornings. Panera Bread is known for its soup, salad, and sandwich varieties, making it the ultimate lunch spot.
However, we have to point out that Panera Bread actually has a great breakfast menu as well. What’s more, for breakfast, Panera Bread carries a variety of bagels in its many locations. We’ve tried all of the bagel varieties available there and ranked them in order from worst to best.
Listen, it’s not that we don’t like the plain bagel. We do. Of course, we do. After all, we’re not animals! But how could we in our right minds rank it higher than last place here? Plain bagels are classic, to be certain, but in no way can a plain bagel pretend to be creative, unique, or unexpected. Panera Bread has a good plain bagel too, but, like arguably any plain bagel out there, we must admit that it’s nothing special.
According to Panera, the plain bagels are lightly sweetened with brown sugar. But, try as we might, we couldn’t taste that at all. Instead, it was nothing more than a standard plain bagel that’s neutral and a bit savory in flavor. If you insist on ordering one anyway, know that at least the plain bagel is still good when it’s served toasted with plain cream cheese.
We hope you aren’t surprised by this last-place ranking. Plain bagels are the OG for a reason, but they don’t score high on these sorts of lists, not with more complex and interesting competition ahead. If you were expecting a plain bagel to win a top-ranking position, you are sorely mistaken.
8. Sprouted Grain Flat
Now, to be fair, we like the sprouted grain flat a lot, but it doesn’t get a high bagel ranking from us. First, it’s technically not a bagel, since it lacks the hole in the middle that’s classic to the bagel form. If we’re being pedantic here, we think it’d be better classified as a roll. This would be downright delightful served alongside tomato soup for dipping, but as far as a bagel served with cream cheese? Well, we’re skeptical.
According to Panera, the Sprouted Grain Flat is a sprouted whole grain bagel that is topped with oats. We happen to really like the hearty whole-grain taste of this bagel and love the added crunch and texture from the oats. Still, the taste and texture only goes so far and is likely to leave you a bit bored. If you must eat it as a bagel, we recommend toasting it and serving it with butter.
7. Chocolate Chip
Have you noticed that chocolate chip bagels, while potentially delicious, are not available everywhere? They are not typically included in the standard bagel selection at our neighborhood bagel shops, at any rate. To that end, we appreciate that Panera Bread offers these. But are they any good?
Upon our first bite, we decided that these chocolate chip bagels taste very similar to chocolate chip pancakes. They are jam-packed with chocolate chips that turn into melty pockets of goodness when toasted. We wouldn’t recommend this flavor of bagel with cream cheese, as the combination of flavors is a bit odd. Instead, we think that these bagels are best toasted with butter.
Yet, these are still near the bottom. Why? While delicious, there are too many other amazing bagels that Panera offers for the chocolate chip ones to be placed near the top. With just a touch too much sweetness for our liking, we’d recommend choosing another variety for your next breakfast unless you’ve got a serious sweet tooth.
6. Cinnamon Swirl
According to Panera, the chain’s Cinnamon Swirl bagel is swirled with cinnamon, cinnamon-flavored chips, brown sugar, and raisins. We love that the brown sugar adds some additional texture and flavor with melted sugar crystals studded all throughout the bagel. Interestingly, Panera uses a sourdough bagel base for this flavor. We think that the tangy sourdough combined with the sweet flavors of cinnamon and sugar in this bagel combine to make a pretty great flavor balance.
When toasted, the cinnamon chips melt and spread into the air pockets in the dough. We think that this flavor is definitely better than your standard cinnamon raisin bagel, given that it’s got so much more complexity going on than that bagel shop favorite. However, even though the Cinnamon Swirl bagel is tasty, it’s still not one of our top favorites at Panera. It remains fairly sweet and may not be pleasing to all customers, especially if someone is looking for a savory option instead.
5. Cinnamon Crunch
Wow! If you like sweets, then there’s no doubt that this bagel is for you. The Cinnamon Crunch bagel from Panera is essentially a dessert for breakfast. To us, it tastes just like a cinnamon roll. Savory lovers, beware. This bagel will potentially put you in a sugar coma.
The Cinnamon Crunch bagel contains cinnamon and vanilla flavored pockets throughout, while the top is covered in cinnamon sugar (via Panera). While this flavor is certainly delicious when it’s served warm and toasty, the top of the bagel does tend to get burnt in the toaster. So, at home, be sure to toast on your toaster’s "bagel" setting, which should just toast the inside.
We wouldn’t recommend adding cream cheese — or any spread or condiment, for that matter — to this bagel. Simply put, it’s got enough going on. In fact, we recommend that you save this for a weekend morning. If you eat too much, we wouldn’t be surprised if you’ll need a nap shortly afterward.
Is it just us or are sesame bagels pretty darn nostalgic? For some readers, they may remind us of our childhood, when we would eat toasted sesame bagels with melted butter after long school days. While this bagel flavor from Panera is indeed delicious with butter, the toasted, nutty flavor of warm sesame seeds combined with plain cream cheese is really exceptional on its own, nostalgia notwithstanding. There’s also a sweet edge here that complements the savory sesame and lends complexity to the final bagel.
The Panera Bread sesame bagel is especially nutty in flavor, likely because they really load up those sesame seeds on top. While you may think this flavor is simple or expected, what can we say? We love this one. It’s a classic for a reason without being overly plain. Still, for anyone who really, seriously craves variety or just wants the best of what Panera has to offer from the bagel case, there are some more interesting options.
Call us crazy, but when we are selecting breakfast food, we tend to stray from the overly sweet stuff. Not only is sugar too strong a flavor right when we wake up, but we tend to find more admiration for well-balanced meals that skillfully combine things, instead of the simple one-note varieties. Not to mention, by avoiding the sweet treats first thing in the morning, we’re more likely to have more energy throughout the day than when we indulge at breakfast time and let our metabolism crash shortly thereafter. In short, give us complexity any day.
To that end, Panera’s blueberry bagels are bound to be a crowd-pleaser. They contain dried blueberries as well as an infusion of blueberry flavor, according to Panera. When you warm these bagels in the toaster, those blueberries melt just a bit and infuse further into the bagel itself. The slightly sweet and tart blueberries combined with the savory dough base is a delicious union. Pair this bagel with a bit of cream cheese or melted butter and you’ve got yourself a practically perfect breakfast.
If you are a savory lover, then you absolutely must try the Asiago bagel from Panera Bread. Seriously, make this your top priority for the day. We’ve had Asiago bagels before, but never like this. These are the cheesiest bagels we’ve ever seen.
According to Panera, its Asiago bagels not only include melted Asiago cheese on top of the bagel, but also chunks of the same cheese studded throughout the dough. This means when you toast these bagels, you are guaranteed to get melty cheesy goodness both inside and out, leading to a delicious, albeit heavy meal.
These are some of our favorite bagels from Panera though you should be sure your stomach is up for it when you order this hefty, carby bagel. While normal Asiago bagels contain some melted cheese on top, once toasted this cheese tends to get burnt and crusty. Well, nothing of the sort happens with the Panera Asiago bagels. Instead, they just get extra melty and cheesy. For this reason, we’ve placed this bagel near the top of our ranking.
It may be a bit too easy to rank an everything bagel as the best bagel from Panera, but it’s true: these everything bagels are pretty delicious. According to Panera, these everything bagels are topped with a spice mixture of sesame seeds, poppy seeds, toasted onion bits, dried garlic bits, and the most important ingredient of all: kosher salt. We happen to adore an everything bagel that includes chunks of salt in its spice mixture, which gives a serious flavor boost to the whole affair.
We recommend serving these bagels toasted with melted butter or plain cream cheese. While Panera Bread does offer a few varieties of cream cheese to go with said bagel, including honey almond and onion and chive, we would strongly recommend the plain cream cheese here over the flavors. You have enough going on in the spice mixture without trying to add more flavor on top of that. If you haven’t had the everything bagel from Panera Bread yet, what are you waiting for? This flavor is delightful.