When you have a gluten intolerance or are sticking to a gluten-free diet, eating out at a restaurant can be tricky. At first glance, Panera Bread might not seem like the best option for the gluten conscious – after all, it literally has ‘bread’ in its name!
However, there are still a surprising number of delicious dishes you can find on Panera Bread’s menu that are completely gluten-free, so you can dine without worry.
If you’re dining out at Panera Bread and you’re looking for a gluten-free option, we’ve got you covered! In this list, we’ll take a look at 11 of the best items on Panera Bread’s gluten-free menu – from smoothies to salads.
So let’s get started, shall we?
Why Avoid Gluten?
Before we take a look at the best gluten-free options that Panera Bread has to offer, let’s cover some of the reasons why you might be avoiding gluten in the first place.
The biggest (and most important) reason to go gluten-free is if you have a gluten intolerance. Conditions such as celiac disease affect the body’s auto-immune system, causing it to attack the tissue of your gut when you eat gluten.
This can lead to permanent issues to your stomach and intestines, with symptoms including diarrhea and scarring in your gut. Gluten sensitivity is less severe than celiac disease, but can still be harmful and cause things like bloating and stomach pains.
You might also choose to avoid gluten for dietary reasons. While gluten can be a good source of fiber and plant-based protein (as long as your body can handle it), it is also relatively low in beneficial nutrients.
Whatever helpful nutrients you can find in gluten exist in tiny quantities compared to how much you’ll need to eat, which means that it’s essentially just empty calories.
Avoiding gluten and choosing healthier alternatives can be a great way to avoid empty calories while getting the necessary protein and fiber.
Unless you have a gluten intolerance, there isn’t any urgent need to avoid eating gluten; however, cutting gluten from your diet can come with several benefits and is a great way to reduce empty calories in the foods that you eat.
The 11 Best Gluten-Free Items At Panera Bread
So now that we’ve covered some of the reasons why you might be steering clear from gluten, let’s take a look at the best gluten-free items on Panera Bread’s menu!
Starting off our list is a simple, yet delicious Greek salad. Panera Bread’s Greek salad combines a few basic ingredients together with fresh, bold flavors. Packed with crunchy romaine lettuce, juicy grape tomatoes, sweet pepperoncini, and (of course!) crumbly feta cheese, this tasty salad is full of great taste but with a surprisingly low calorie count of just 400 calories!
Toss in some salty olives and tie it all together with a zesty Greek dressing, Greek salad is the perfect healthy meal that can be enjoyed guilt-free!
A lot of the gluten-free items on Panera Bread’s menu are salads, but it’s hard to go wrong with a Greek salad. Its simplicity is one of its best traits, resulting in a salad that’s as healthy and delicious as it is basic!
2. Baked Potato Soup
This warm and hearty soup is perfect for keeping you cozy on a warm Winter’s day. Filling, rich, and deliciously creamy, Panera Bread’s simple baked potato soup packs a lot of nutrients with just a few simple ingredients.
The main ingredient of Panera Bread’s baked potato soup is, unsurprisingly, potatoes. These make the soup a hearty and filling offering that is perfect as a side dish or as a complete meal in itself.
Potatoes aren’t the only thing in this soup, however – it’s also packed with salty bacon, Neufchatel cheese, and plenty of warming spices for even more flavor!
While it might seem like a basic option at first, baked potato soup is a delicious gluten-free option that’s definitely worth trying.
Just something to bear in mind – most of the soups at Panera Bread come with croutons or bread. These aren’t gluten-free, so make sure you ask for these to be skipped!
3. Mediterranean Warm Grain Bowl with Chicken
You might be wondering why we’re recommending a grain-based dish on our list of gluten-free menu items. Well, you might be surprised to find out that Panera Bread’s warm grain bowls actually use gluten-free ingredients!
Made on a base of quinoa and brown rice, the Mediterranean warm grain bowl also includes tasty grilled chicken and crumbled feta cheese; this makes it a protein-packed option, with a mighty 29 grams of protein altogether.
It’s also full of healthy vegetables, such as peppery arugula, juicy grape tomatoes, Kamata olives, and refreshing cucumber.
This healthy, yet filling grain bowl is absolutely bursting with healthy nutrients, making it one of the heartiest and healthiest gluten-free options that you can find at Panera Bread.
4. Chicken Caesar Salad
Another one of the most popular salads out there, second perhaps only to Greek salad, Panera Bread’s chicken Caesar salad is a rich and creamy dish that absolutely deserves its reputation.
It might not have the same bold flavors as Greek salad does, but it more than makes up for it with a creamy and fresh taste that comes from its crunchy romaine lettuce, juicy chicken, and grated parmesan cheese.
Something to bear in mind is that Panera Bread’s chicken Caesar salad comes with black pepper croutons as standard. To keep it gluten-free, make sure you ask for no croutons when you’re ordering it.
Don’t worry about missing out on taste, however; this delicious salad’s fresh flavors still shine through without the croutons! On top of its yummy mix of chicken, lettuce, and cheese, no chicken Caesar salad would be complete without a generous drizzling of Caesar dressing.
Bold, zesty, and creamy, this rich Caesar dressing helps to tie the other simple ingredients together perfectly!
5. Fuji Apple Salad with Chicken
Speaking of bold and zesty flavors, this Fuji apple salad is the perfect match between bright, fruity and rich ingredients.
The star of the show here is definitely the crunchy apples, which add a hit of sweetness and some subtle acidity to the chicken for a delicious, filling meal that you’re sure to love!
Set on a bed of romaine and red leaf lettuce, arugula, and kale, the grilled chicken and crunchy apples create a surprisingly complex dish that’s full to bursting with bold flavor.
These are also paired with grape tomatoes, pecan nuts, red onion, and gorgonzola cheese to bring even more variety to your palate.
The salad is topped off with a rich apple balsamic vinaigrette, which adds an extra zesty tang to bring the whole thing together.
One of the best parts of Panera Bread’s Fuji apple salad is the variety of textures it brings to the table. The crispy apple pairs beautifully with the tender chicken, while the crunchy lettuce, onion, and pecans add a whole new dimension of flavor and texture to this filling dish.
It does come in a bit more filling than the other salads on this list, with a total of 560 calories, but it’s definitely worth treating yourself if you’re looking for a larger meal that doesn’t skimp on flavor!
6. Vegetarian Creamy Tomato Soup
One of Panera Bread’s other tasty gluten-free soups, it’s hard to go wrong with a lovely creamy tomato soup. It’s rich, slightly sweet, and a great low-calorie option, with just 290 calories in total.
On top of being gluten-free, it’s also meat-free, making it an excellent option for vegetarians.
This tasty soup is almost perfect in its simplicity, containing just a handful of basic ingredients.
Its pureed pear tomatoes are blended with heavy cream for a smooth and velvety texture, while some subtle seasonings (including black, white, and red pepper, oregano, and celery seeds) help to give the rich soup an extra hit of flavor.
Again, if you’re ordering this soup then you will have to ask for no croutons or bread if you want to keep it free of any gluten. Otherwise, you can enjoy this simple, hearty soup that’s perfect for keeping you warm on a chilly afternoon.
7. Turkey Chili
Are you a fan of spicy food? If so, then Panera Bread’s famous turkey chili is the perfect choice for you! With only around 300 calories per serving, this tasty chili is a great low-calorie meal that doesn’t skip out when it comes to flavor.
Made with tender turkey, kidney beans, and chickpeas, this chili is packed full of protein – 21 grams, in fact!
The turkey chili is made in an ancho pasilla stock, which contains both poblano and chilaca peppers. These give the chili a spicy kick and peppery flavor that’s perfect for spice lovers.
It also contains tomatoes, tomatillos, carrots, and edamame beans to help bulk the chili out and make it heartier, while some cilantro and lime juice helps give this Mexican classic a zesty and authentic flavor.
8. Baja Bowl with Chicken
Baja bowls are a great alternative if you’re looking for a gluten-free meal at Panera Bread that isn’t just a salad.
Another Mexican-inspired dish, this tasty Baja bowl is packed full of avocado, feta cheese, grape tomatoes, and a generous dollop of Greek yogurt to add some extra rich creaminess.
Laid on a bed of cilantro lime brown rice and quinoa, the fresh and bold flavors of these ingredients make the Baja bowl a delicious and hearty meal. And of course, who could forget the tender grilled chicken?
But the real star of the show here is the hot salsa verde and bean corn salsa, which gives the Baja bowl a punch of vibrant spiciness to elevate the other ingredients to the next level.
The Panera Bread Baja bowl with chicken does come in at a mighty 740 calories, making it a far heavier option than other items on this list.
However, as most of its calories come from healthy ingredients, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying this hearty Mexican dish guilt-free!
9. Green Goddess Cobb Salad with Chicken
The contrast to the Baja bowl is this light salad, which packs a massive 36 grams of protein while only having 500 calories in total.
The green goddess cobb salad combines bold and colorful ingredients with vibrant flavors for a delicious meal that will definitely leave you feeling full.
Its high protein content comes mostly from its tasty mix of grilled chicken, avocado, and boiled egg. These are complemented by crispy bacon, juicy grape tomatoes, crunchy romaine lettuce, and some tangy pickled onions for an extra burst of flavor.
Colorful and fragrant, this tasty salad is finished off with a drizzle of green goddess dressing; this creamy dressing contains mayo, sour cream, chives, a mix of seasonings, and some zesty lemon juice.
It’s rich, bursting with color, and full of flavor to match. What isn’t there to love? Just bear in mind that it’s served with bread, so you’ll need to give this a miss if you’re sticking to a gluten-free diet.
10. Asian Sesame Salad with Chicken
We’ve covered a pretty wide range of salads on this list, but there are few that can top this delicious Asian sesame salad. Despite its relatively simple ingredients list, this tasty salad spares no expense when it comes to flavor!
With tender grilled chicken and fresh romaine lettuce, it might seem like other salads on this list; however, it switches things up with some fresh cilantro, crunchy almonds, and a sprinkling of toasted sesame seeds for a combination of tasty flavors and textures.
The whole thing is tossed in an aromatic sesame vinaigrette to give it a sharp, nutty taste that works perfectly with the smoky chicken. Simple, yet delicious!
Something that you’ll have to remember is that this dish needs a few different things removed in order to keep it gluten-free. In addition to the regular removal of croutons, you also need to get rid of the wonton strips as these aren’t suitable for gluten-free diets.
Luckily, all the tastiest parts of the salad are perfectly fine if you’re avoiding gluten, so you don’t need to worry about missing out on the great flavors of this dish!
11. Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries & Pecans
Finally, let’s take a look at something more on the sweet side. We’ve not really touched on it yet, but Panera Bread also offers a range of tasty, fruity items, including this delicious strawberry and pecan oatmeal.
Again, the oats used in this recipe are gluten-free, so you don’t need to worry about accidentally eating gluten when you’re enjoying this dish!
The oats are steamed and cooked until they’re rich and creamy, before being topped with fresh strawberries, roasted pecans, and a yummy cinnamon sugar topping for an extra hit of crunchy sweetness.
This simple dish is perfect for breakfast or brunch; packed with nutrients and only coming in at 370 calories, this light and delicious dish is great for easing you into the day!
It may be behind some of the other items on this list in terms of protein content (only containing 8 grams), but it’s full of carbohydrates to give you a burst of energy to really get you moving.
If you’re looking for something lighter than a full meal, then this tasty oatmeal is the perfect thing for you!
And there you have it – 11 of the best gluten-free items you can find at Panera Bread!
Finding a delicious gluten-free meal when you’re eating out can be hard at times, but with these great options from Panera Bread it’s never been easier to find a tasty, healthy, and 100% gluten-free dish.
With all these yummy items to choose from, you’re guaranteed to find something that you love; so now you’ve seen the great gluten-free items that Panera Bread has to offer, all you need to do now is give them a try and find your new favorite!