Vegan Guide to Panera Bread: The Best Menu Options and Swaps

Plant-based offerings are on the rise at Panera Bread.

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Treehugger / Catherine Song

Panera Bread, the popular bakery-cafe chain that got its start in 1987, did not officially unveil a full-on plant-based menu item until 2019. That item, the Ten Vegetable Soup, proved to be a market-expanding game-changer for Panera Bread, bursting with fresh vegetables, sprouted brown rice, red fife, and dried Aleppo chili.

Factor in the use of a handy “V” symbol, numerous vegan bakery items, and easily adaptable items on the general menu, and it adds up to a fast-casual dining option that, though not prolific in totally vegan selections, is plenty reliable.

Our Top Picks

The Ten Vegetable Soup was just the beginning of Panera's relatively rapid evolution into a solid choice for vegan customers in the two-plus years since its launch. While there is plenty of room for growth, the best of what's here will please the palate.

Green Passion Smoothie

This delectable smoothie delivers an extra dollop of nutrition through its inclusion of spinach, which is wrapped in a luscious, dairy-free blend of peach and mango purees, passionfruit juice, and white grape concentrates. It is substantial and satisfying, making it an ideal breakfast or mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

The Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich

If you only can offer one vegan sandwich, make it something with style like Panera’s Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich. This sandwich is close to perfect when it's ordered without cheese and the Tomato Basil bread is swapped for one of the many vegan breads from the bakery, such as the sourdough bread or roll. Between the slices, emerald greens, piquant peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and hummus fuse together nicely, and avocado can stand in for the cheese if desired. To make it a well-rounded lunch, add a side salad with vegan salad dressing.

Baja Bowl

When you withhold the feta and Greek yogurt, the Baja Bowl satisfies a craving for Tex-Mex flavor. Black bean and corn salsa, salsa verde, red grape tomatoes, and avocado rest on top of a foundation of cilantro lime brown rice and quinoa. 

Changing With the Seasons

Keep an eye out for seasonal specials, limited-time offers and test marketing of new items. The popular Summer Corn Chowder, Vegan Lentil Quinoa Broth Bowl, and the Soba Noodle Broth Bowl with Edamame Blend are dishes that reflect Panera's potential to eventually bring more plant-based items to their permanent menu.

Vegan Bakery Items

With the fairly large and diverse selections of plant-based, aromatic bread, one can enjoy something different on every visit. It's good to buy a few extra to enjoy at home or later in the day on the go.

  • Plain Bagel
  • Everything Bagel
  • Blueberry Bagel
  • Sesame Bagel
  • White Whole Grain Loaf 
  • Artisan Ciabatta 
  • Black Pepper Focaccia
  • Whole Grain Sourdough Loaf 
  • Classic Sourdough Loaf 
  • Whole Grain Lahvash Wrap 
  • Country Rustic Sourdough XL Loaf
  • French Baguette
  • Sourdough Bread Bowl

Vegan Breakfast Items

The selection of breakfast items beyond bread is small but solid, with comforting items that deliver energy and nutrition, while also being a good stand-in for dessert for those who want a little something sweet.

  • Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries, Pecans & Cinnamon Crunch Topping
  • Fresh Fruit Cup (Seasonal & Summer) 
  • Peach & Blueberry Smoothie with Almond Milk
  • Green Passion Smoothie
  • Vegan Bagels

Vegan Lunch and Dinner Items

Panera's savory, meal-sized items expand when you take care to leave off chicken and dairy products when ordering. With a few exceptions, the offerings fit right in with the Mediterranean Diet, with earthy, herbaceous flavors and an abundance of green vegetables.

To ensure a selection is vegan, leave off the chicken, cheese, and other dairy products when ordering.

  • Baja Bowl (order without feta or Greek yogurt)
  • Mediterranean Grain Bowl (order without feta or Greek yogurt)
  • Tomato Basil Cucumber Salad
  • Fuji Apple with Chicken (order without chicken and gorgonzola)
  • Seasonal Greens Salad
  • Greek Salad (order without feta)
  • Asian Sesame Salad (order with the chicken and wontons)
  • Strawberry Poppyseed Salad
  • Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich 
  • Low Fat Garden Vegetable Soup (no pesto), on its own or in a sourdough bread bowl.
  • Low-Fat Vegetarian Black Bean Soup, on its own or in a sourdough bread bowl.

Treehugger Tip

Want a more hearty, filling salad? Upgrade the Seasonal Greens Salad by adding quinoa and avocado.

​Vegan Sides

A few simple additions that can transform a breakfast or lunch menu item into a full meal, or bring more vegetables and fruit into one's daily food intake.

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • French Baguette
  • Kettle Chips
  • Pickle Spear
  • Side Salad

Vegan Beverages

While not a coffee bar per se, Panera still offers an impressive selection of coffee and tea drinks that run the gamut from thirst-quenching to fruity, earthy, sweet, and caffeinated.

  • Iced 100% Colombian Dark Roast
  • 100% Colombian Dark Roast Coffee
  • Hazelnut Coffee
  • Cafe Blend Light Roast
  • Decaf Coffee
  • Hot Tea
  • Cold Brew
  • Madagascar Vanilla Almond Cold Brew
  • Hazelnut Coffee Tote
  • Cafe Blend Light Roast Tote
  • 100% Colombian Dark Roast Coffee Tote
  • Decaf Coffee Tote
  • Iced Tea
  • Plum Ginger Hibiscus Tea
  • Prickly Pear Hibiscus Fresca
  • Soda (customize to choose flavor)
  • Bottled Passion Fruit Papaya Green Tea
  • Americano
  • Espresso
  • Orange Juice
  • Organic Apple Juice

Treehugger Tip

Although Panera is not officially a “build-your-own” fast-casual concept, several regular and vegetarian items can be made vegan if you ask. A good server can recommend plenty of delicious “off the menu” plant-based items based on what’s fresh and in stock that day. 

FAQs

What is Panera’s “Cool Food Meal” program?

Launched in October 2020, Panera’s “Cool Food Meal” program highlights dishes on their menu (largely plant-based options) with ingredients that can be sourced with a low impact on the climate. Although its vegan program is still a work in progress, Panera acknowledging the environmental impact of animal agriculture and processed foods appears to be a step in the right direction.

Does Panera have plant-based chicken or beef?

While Panera's plans to make their menu more sustainable do involve adding more plant-based selections with ingredients like edamame and quinoa in all categories by late 2021, the official word is that vegan meats will not be test-marketed or brought to the menu anytime soon. Executives at Panera have stressed the goal to offer more plant-based whole food options rather than make processed substitutes their priority.

Are the bagels at Panera vegan?

Many of Panera's bagels, including plain, blueberry, sesame, and everything, are vegan. There are no vegan spreads for the bagels at this time.

Do Panera have vegan baked goods?

As of 2021, Panera does not offer any dairy-free pastries. However, in addition to their bagels, the chain offers a variety of vegan bread, including the beloved sourdough bread bowl.