Panera's Iconic Soups Were Inspired By Pantry Staples

While the bread the chain bakes fresh daily may have been its claim to fame, everyone knows that a Panera baguette would not be the same without a hot bowl of tomato soup to dip it in. This is why the restaurant's soup sales actually account for 25% of its yearly income (per The Street). But even if you anticipate getting cozy with Panera's seasonal autumn squash soup every fall and always stock up on its line of at-home soups when you catch a cold, you may not know that the recipes for today's Panera soups aren't the same as they were seven years ago.

However, this dramatic overhaul to Panera's menu wasn't done to change its soups' taste but to upgrade its quality. According to Delish, in 2016, Panera Bread decided it wanted to give its iconic soup list an additive-free makeover. But, despite their restaurant-level flavor, you may be surprised to learn that your favorite modern-day Panera soup recipes were primarily influenced by ingredients you'd find in your own kitchen. Here's the story of how Panera looked to ordinary pantry staples to bring you its extraordinary soup menu.

Your pantry and Panera's soups have lots in common

When Panera Bread announced it was releasing a new, healthier version of its soups in 2016 (per Delish), we doubt anyone was shocked. After all, the restaurant was once deemed the U.S.'s most nutritious quick-service chain by Health Magazine (per QSR Magazine). However, Panera didn't look to high dining for inspiration on how to reinvent its soup recipes.

As Delish notes, Dan Kish — who Oldways reports was the brand's head chef from 2005 to 2017 — and his cooking team used foods you'd find in your pantry to make sure Panera's improved soups were bursting with additive-free flavor. And this becomes apparent if you look at any of the soups' ingredient lists. For example, you'll find onions, extra virgin olive oil, and cornstarch in Panera's creamy tomato flavor; and milk, carrots, and whipping cream in its beloved broccoli and cheddar variety.

That being said, not everything on these reinvented soups' ingredient lists is easy to access. Namely, the cheese in the broccoli cheddar soup is actually Panera's own special recipe. However, the principle behind Panera's good-for-the-soul and good-for-your-health soups helped it successfully launch the first preservative-free restaurant soup line of its kind (via Brit + Co).