- Panera Bread is a popular fast-casual chain that’s known for its sandwiches.
- I tried every sandwich available at my nearest Panera and ranked them from worst to best.
- The bacon tomato grilled cheese was my least favourite option because its flavours weren’t that exciting and it didn’t have enough cheese.
- The toasted steak and white cheddar sandwich was my favourite because it had the perfect balance of flavours.
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Panera Bread Company – Panera, for short – is a fast-casual chain with over 2,000 locations across the United States and Canada.
The chain has soups, salads, and bakery items but is most known for its sandwiches. I’d never been to a Panera Bread, so what better way to experience the chain than by ordering every sandwich to figure out the best one?
At the time of writing, the Panera closest to me had 17 different sandwiches on its menu. I ordered the half-size of each, and it cost just over $US130.
Here’s every sandwich from Panera Bread, ranked from worst to best.
Editor’s Note: Some bread substitutions were made throughout based on availability. Pricing and availability are based on a Brooklyn Panera Bread location and are subject to change. This taste test was completed in early March.
Bacon tomato grilled cheese (toasted) — $US7.59/half
It’s hard to completely mess up a grilled cheese sandwich, but this wasn’t the strongest menu option.
Panera used American cheese and added delicious-sounding bacon and tomato confit, but the ingredients were not evenly distributed.
The cheese barely registered with my taste buds, probably because there was so little of it compared to the amount of bread.
This would definitely be better with more cheese or if paired with a hearty bowl of soup.
Bacon Turkey Bravo — $US7.59/half
This sandwich has two types of meat in its name, but it didn’t taste like either of them.
The listed ingredients include turkey breast, Applewood-smoked bacon, smoked Gouda, emerald greens, tomatoes, and signature sauce with salt and pepper.
The coldness of this sandwich stood out more than any flavour did, and I think this dish needed more of the signature sauce and/or more bacon.
Roasted turkey, apple, and cheddar sandwich — $US7.99/half
This sandwich had roasted turkey, Vermont white cheddar, apple and cabbage slaw, arugula, and mustard horseradish sauce – all on cranberry bread.
Sadly, the apple overpowered the other components of the sandwich, especially the turkey. The sandwich was also messy to eat since the slaw kept falling out and I had to keep putting it back inside the bread.
In such a stacked competition, this was not my favourite.
Roasted turkey and avocado BLT — $US8.19/half
This sandwich consisted of turkey, bacon, greens, tomatoes, and mayonnaise.
My initial thought while eating the roasted turkey and avocado BLT was that it was only slightly above what I could make at home, save for the avocado, which I never buy.
That might sound like an insult, but I don’t mean it that way – the homemade taste was nice.
The sandwich wasn’t bad, but it was a bit uninteresting compared to the other options on this list.
Turkey sandwich — $US6.29/half
This sandwich was overpowered by the distinct taste of raw onion.
The turkey was forgettable and the other ingredients (greens, tomatoes, red onions, mayonnaise, and spicy brown mustard) just couldn’t compete with the strong, layered vegetable.
Mediterranean veggie sandwich — $US6.29/half
If you just want a compact salad that doesn’t require a fork, this is the option for you.
With sweet Peppadew piquant peppers, feta, cucumbers, greens, tomatoes, red onions, hummus, salt, and pepper, this sandwich had a lot going on.
Ultimately, the effort and the many ingredients paid off. I would pick this over an actual salad, but it was just OK compared to most of the other sandwiches I tried.
Heritage ham and Swiss sandwich — $US6.29/half
For this decent menu item, Panera combined ham, Swiss cheese, greens, and maple mustard sauce.
I preferred the ham over a lot of the turkey sandwiches I tried, but it still wasn’t mind-blowing enough to grab the top spot.
Sierra turkey sandwich — $US6.69/half
Panera’s roasted turkey breast was its best self in this sandwich. Its sidekicks were emerald greens, red onions, and chipotle mayo, which made for a satisfying combination.
This sandwich was supposed to come on the Asiago cheese focaccia, but that bread was unavailable at my location. Fortunately, the baguette was a solid alternative.
Chipotle chicken avocado melt — $US7.79/half
I’m not the biggest avocado fan, but when paired with pulled chicken, smoked Gouda, cilantro, sweet Peppadew piquant peppers, and chipotle mayo, it wasn’t terrible.
The sandwich was both sweet and a little spicy, and the avocado added a smooth texture in the middle.
The taste of the chicken was stronger than it was in some of the other sandwiches that I tried, but it was slightly overpowered by the cheese and peppers.
Cuban sandwich (toasted) — $US7.99/half
There was one small but crucial thing about the Cuban that I did not love, and it was the flavour of the sweet and spicy pickles.
This sandwich also contained a tasty mix of ham, spicy mustard, shredded pork, and Swiss cheese, but the pickles and lack of mustard did this sandwich a disservice.
Steak and arugula sandwich — $US8.19/half
According to Panera’s online menu, this sandwich is made with steak, arugula, tomatoes, pickled onions, garlic and herb cream cheese spread, and mustard horseradish sauce.
The arugula was fresh and the tangy, slightly sweet onions went well with the salty steak and focaccia. Sadly, the first few bites were almost ruined by very cold tomato slices.
Tuna salad sandwich — $US6.29/half
Tuna salad often gets a bad rap, but as one of the cheaper options on the menu, it’s worth a try.
The usual suspects of greens, tomatoes, and red onions were back again and worked to balance out the fishy salad.
This moist and delicious sandwich was a hit and, thanks to the firm focaccia, it stayed together quite well as I ate it.
Napa almond chicken salad sandwich — $US6.69/half
My main gripe here is that the sliced bread just wasn’t strong enough to hold the contents, which included chicken, diced celery, seedless grapes, almonds, a “special dressing,” greens, and tomatoes.
The chicken salad itself was peppery and moist. Much to my surprise, I would order this again.
Tuscan grilled chicken sandwich (toasted) — $US7.99/half
Made with chicken, mozzarella, Parmesan, arugula, tomato confit, and pesto mayo, this sandwich was perfectly toasted and had great flavour.
The tomatoes had an interesting smoky taste that complimented the moist chicken, cheese, and fresh spinach.
If you’re looking for a lighter meal that still tastes great, a half (or whole) order of the Tuscan grilled chicken sandwich may be the way to go.
Classic grilled cheese — $US6.29/half
This incredibly simple sandwich consisted of sliced American cheese on white bread.
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.
Sometimes you really can’t go wrong with the basics.
Frontega chicken panini (toasted) — $US7.59/half
This sandwich consists of smoked, pulled chicken with mozzarella, tomatoes, red onions, chopped basil, and chipotle mayo on focaccia.
The buttery and salty focaccia was a nice base for the moist chicken, melted cheese, and basil, but I wish there had been a bit more of every ingredient.
The Frontega chicken panini was one of my favourites, but not good enough to take the crown this time around.
Steak and white cheddar panini (toasted) — $US8.19/half
Zero complaints about this one – I just wish I had ordered a whole instead of the half.
The toasted sandwich is filled with steak, pickled red onions, Vermont white cheddar, and horseradish sauce.
The steak was hot, moist, and flavorful. Plus the bread was crunchy and the cheese was melted throughout. The type of sharp cheese was a perfect match for the pickled onions and horseradish, and the ratio of steak to other ingredients was great.
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