The Secrets Of Panera's 'Hidden Menu'

Panera Bread is well known and loved for fresh-baked bread and pastries, hearty soups and mac, delicious sandwiches, and everyone's favorite salad (we're looking at you, Strawberry Poppyseed). Other top-ranked Panera menu items include Bistro French Onion Soup, Citrus Asian Crunch Salad with Chicken, and Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich. Yum, yum, and yum!

At first glance, there appears to be something on the menu for everyone. But then again, what about those who are interested in restricting calories, carbs, or gluten? Although there are certainly worse places for health- or diet-conscious individuals to dine, many Panera items (especially the mac, but even some of the salads and bowls) aren't especially light. Enter Panera's hidden menu, which consists of six protein-packed, low-carb, low-calorie, gluten-free items.

Whether you want to lighten things up a little, are bored of Panera's regular offerings, or just enjoy being in the know, we've got the complete scoop on Panera's hidden (if not exactly secret) menu. Be sure to savor every bite!

Panera developed its own secret menu

Many restaurants accommodate secret menu items after receiving ongoing customer requests for certain modifications. Sometimes, these types of requests can develop after popular limited-time offerings are discontinued. Starbucks is a good example of this phenomenon. Remember the Unicorn Frappuccino of 2017? You may (or may not) be relieved to discover that you can still order one. Ah, the creamy pink-purple-and-blue joy of it all.

At any rate, it's a little funny that Panera (specifically Scott Davis, Chief Concept Officer) developed its own secret menu back in 2013. And (surprise!) the secret menu was never much of a secret. That's because when it was first launched, Panera actually alerted the media. In Panera's defense, they are not the only company with a rather transparent secret menu. In-N-Out, for one, lists its not-so-secret menu right on the website.

These days, Panera's hidden menu no longer officially exists (now you're getting the idea, Panera!), but don't worry — you still should be able to order these six "power"-ful menu items. That's right, each one includes the word "power" in the name and is chock full of healthy proteins, lots of veggies, and whole ingredients.

There is no bread on the hidden menu

For a company named Panera Bread, it feels rather counterintuitive to offer any type of menu without bread –– but there you have it. Even Panera's hidden menu developer, Scott Davis, appears to agree, "This is probably the most extreme anti-kind of Panera diet you can have, right? It doesn't include bread and flour and that sort of stuff," he told WBUR.

While Panera's hidden menu may not be right for everyone, individuals interested in cutting down their bread intake may be onto something. According to Women's Health Magazine, not eating bread, particularly those made from refined grains, can benefit your health. Among other health benefits, you may experience weight loss and lower blood sugar levels. However, it is also worth noting that eating any type of carbs, including bread made from refined flour, can help boost brain energy and even mental health.

Whole grains are considered an important dietary element, so be sure to think twice (and talk to your doctor) before deciding to eliminate them. Whole grains provide essential fiber, which can help prevent constipation and limit unhealthy food cravings. They are also rich in iron, magnesium, and B vitamins, which work to keep the body energized. Finally, eating whole grains helps lower cholesterol levels and reduces the risk of developing serious health issues like heart disease, stroke, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes. Bottom line: Choose your bread wisely, but there's no need to cut it out entirely.

Panera's hidden menu includes a breakfast bowl with turkey

Although intermittent fasting may be trending, many health experts agree that breakfast is the most important meal of the day and should not be skipped. The good news is that Panera's Power Breakfast Egg White Bowl with Roasted Turkey, which includes sliced roasted all-natural turkey, egg whites, warm baby spinach, roasted peppers, and basil pesto, may just have you racing out of bed to the nearest restaurant location.

Nutritionally, this light breakfast combo comes in at only 180 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 7 grams of carbs. It also boasts a whopping 25 grams of protein. Overall, the item is really not all that much for a hungry morning tummy, but the high protein content should be able to fill you up for a while.

It is worth noting that there are other breakfast items at Panera that fall somewhere in between this ultra-light bowl and the decadent bakery pastries. For example, there are several sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich options on the regular menu, along with Greek Yogurt with Mixed Berries Parfait and Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries & Pecans. Also, if you absolutely must go with that massive Bear Claw you've been craving –– well, we don't judge.

You can also eat steak and eggs for breakfast

Red meat eaters, rejoice! Panera offers a breakfast bounty with its Power Breakfast Egg Bowl with Steak. This bowl is nutritionally heftier than the previous breakfast bowl mentioned, so it may help keep you full a little longer. The short, clean ingredient list includes sliced top sirloin steak, two all-natural eggs, sliced avocados, and sliced tomatoes. Perhaps best of all, this hidden menu item clocks in with 230 calories, 15 grams of fat, 5 grams of carbs, and 20 grams of protein.

Starting out your day with a healthy dose of protein is a great idea from a health perspective. Eating protein can satiate your appetite longer, build muscle mass, strengthen bones, reduce cravings, boost metabolism, and burn fat, per Healthline. But if you don't feel like driving to Panera first thing in the morning, we do understand. You can always sleep in and make your own steak and eggs (or just eggs) at home. Wear your pajamas.

Salads are also offered

It's probably no big surprise that a healthy menu, especially one developed by Panera, is going to include some salad options. In this case, Panera's Power Mediterranean Roasted Turkey Salad tosses together sliced, all-natural roasted turkey, baby spinach, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, kalamata olives, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil for the win. We love the freshness and absolute simplicity of this salad –– but we also love that it tastes great, too. You're looking at 320 calories, 21 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbs, and 22 grams of protein.

Those olives, though! That's right, let's talk more about kalamata olives. This prized olive variety, named for the Greek town of Kalamata, offers a unique flavor profile, almond-like shape, and deep purple skin. They are smoky, salty, snacky, and, let's face it, even salady all at the same time. The addition of kalamata olives to this Mediterranean-style salad will prompt pleasant dreams of sunny days, warm waters, and clear blue skies. With everything this secret salad has going for it, we wonder why Panera has yet to include it on the regular menu.

If you're really hungry, go with chicken over turkey

For an equally delicious and slightly heartier salad option, try Panera's Power Mediterranean Chicken Salad. This hidden menu item is made with sliced, all-natural chicken, baby spinach, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, applewood-smoked bacon, diced eggs, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil. It offers a little more nutritional punch than the previously mentioned Mediterranean turkey salad. This involves 360 calories, 20 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbs, and (hold your horses) an impressive 35 grams of protein.

While it's always nice to take a break from food prep and eat out, we can't help but think how easy this salad would be to put together at home. If you want to give it a try, check out our tips on how to make the crispiest bacon, perfect hard-boiled eggs, and the absolute best grilled chicken. You can even play around with your greens to find your favorite combination. Lettuce know how it goes. (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

Prefer a little more kick?

If you're looking for a light but flavorful entree, you may want to order Panera's Power Chicken Hummus Bowl. This item combines sliced all-natural chicken, cilantro jalapeno hummus, baby spinach, cucumbers, diced tomatoes, red onions, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and fresh chopped cilantro.

Similar to Panera's other hidden menu items, we don't think this one would be hard to throw together at home. You can find pre-made cilantro jalapeno hummus at the grocery store or try making your own. If you prefer a more mild hummus, try our recipe for simple creamy hummus.

For anyone who enjoys the Mediterranean bowl motif but also wants whole grains and dairy to be a part of their life, check out Panera's Mediterranean Bowl with Chicken from the regular menu. This yummy bowl, which includes cilantro lime brown rice and quinoa, is on the light-to-moderate side of Panera's offerings, containing 560 calories. It even comes with a free side of French baguette, though this adds another 180 calories.

Wrap it up with Panera's lettuce wraps

Last one: Panera describes its Power Steak Lettuce Wraps as having top-sirloin, leaf lettuce, cucumbers, diced tomatoes, red onions, basil pesto, and fresh-squeezed lemon juice. Sounds good, right? These do-it-yourself steak and veggie wraps certainly keep things low in carbs and high in protein with only ​​280 calories, 15 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbs, and 28 grams of protein.

Of course, Panera is far from the only restaurant to offer lettuce wraps in place of bread. Many burger chains, sandwich shops, and Asian eateries offer lettuce wraps on both regular and secret menus. (Doggy Style burger at In-N-Out, anyone?) Plus, countless recipe variations exist, including our own ground pork lettuce wraps and tuna lettuce wraps.

We generally think that Bibb lettuce makes for the best wrap, but feel free to do you. After all, there's really no right or wrong when it comes to combining protein, veggies, and your own unique taste buds. Whatever you come up with, enjoy it to the fullest.

How to order from Panera's hidden menu

If you're interested in trying any of the above items from Panera's hidden menu, you may be wondering how to order them. This should be pretty easy: Just ask an employee if you can order off the hidden, secret, or power menu. Then, name your item.

Keep in mind that although Panera's hidden menu was originally their own brainchild, it no longer officially exists. Therefore, if your cashier doesn't know what you're talking about when you place your order, be forgiving and provide an explanation. You can always request a customized salad, bowl, or wrap instead. Simply describe the desired item and its ingredients in detail, based on the information above. Many Panera locations will rise to the challenge, as long as you can provide enough information. In our experience, Panera tends to do its best to accommodate dietary restrictions.

Finally, out of respect for anyone behind you, we recommend heading to Panera during off-peak hours if you're planning to order off the hidden menu. This small act of kindness will also help the kitchen staff accommodate customization and generally keep everyone's orders rolling out in a timely fashion.