16 Panera Bread Menu Hacks You Need To Know

Panera Bread makes delicious meals that are filling, satisfying, and flexible. From creative breakfast egg soufflés to inspired sandwich selections, the only challenging thing about eating here is choosing the best items from its menu.

If you want a mouthwatering meal, customize your order to fit your palette. Panera offers a dizzying array of choices for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. These include customizable egg dishes, soups, salads, bowls, sandwiches, and more. Naturally, the store offers an extensive bakery menu. Order half sizes or grab a family feast. Mix and match items from the Pick Two menu or save money with the pre-selected Value Duets.

You can swap most menu items to recreate a long-lost favorite, cater to a restricted diet, or design an exciting new entrée. You can even order complimentary items and upgrades. You may be new to this bread-maker-turned-bistro, but these hacks get you the most out of your meal.

Incorrect orders score a free treat

What happens when your order is wrong? This is frustrating, especially when you have a customized order. Unfortunately, human error is part of life. And rush times can be difficult for your server, causing them to make mistakes. Panera has a great solution to ease the pain. If your order is wrong, ask for a complimentary treat. We recommend trying the most recently baked items.

Some stores may not honor this request, but you can email customer service directly if you have any issues. Panera's online policy states the team wants to hear from customers who are dissatisfied with the service. Share your experience via the survey they send you, by emailing customer service, or by reaching out on social media. That said, go easy on your servers if they make a mistake. Complaints may hurt their performance reviews or put their job at risk.

Eliminate feta and swap bread to make a vegan Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich

Not every restaurant offers vegan dishes, but Panera has some great vegan menu options that make ordering easy. You can also customize other menu items to suit your diet. For example, the popular Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich becomes vegan with a few simple changes, such as eliminating the feta cheese.

Most bread options at Panera are not a problem, but a few do contain honey or dairy. Safer options include Country Rustic Sourdough, Artisan Ciabatta, French Baguette, Classic Sourdough, Black Pepper Focaccia, Whole Grain Lahvash Wrap, and White Whole Grain. However, these breads are labeled vegetarian rather than vegan. We recommend that you exercise caution if you have an allergy.

In case you're wondering, the Sourdough Bread Bowl is vegan. Currently, there are no vegan soup options, so you may want to buy the bread bowls online (also tagged as vegetarian), to hold your homemade soup.

Replace any meat item with avocado free of charge

You don't have to eat vegan to use this easy hack that's a great option for anyone who wants to cut down on meat. Simply request your server to replace the meat item with avocado. There is no extra charge as long as the dish does not already contain avocado.

You can also do this when ordering online, but if you select the option to add avocado, it will cost you. Instead, click customize, then delete the meat. Next, go under the Topping menu to add avocado. We successfully tried this for salads and sandwiches, and the price remained the same.

If you are choosing vegan options at Panera, check the complete list of toppings. Many entrees add bacon, cheese, or eggs, so step through to customize your order. Before leaving the restaurant, check to see if your order is correct. If not, you may be eligible for that free treat.

Make your own Arnold Palmer by mixing lemonade and iced tea

When you order beverages at Panera, they hand you a cup for unlimited refills. You can order the best pre-made drinks or make your own drink creations by mixing and matching. Want an Arnold Palmer? Fill half your cup with iced tea and half with lemonade. Kick it up a notch by adding a specialty iced tea instead of plain. Panera also allows you to visit the drink station as often as you like while there, so we recommend ordering a small cup. Skip the ice to get even more in your cup.

We also recommend using the mug for a hot beverage unless you need to take it to go. This makes it easier to refill your hot drink when dining there. It also gives your meal a homier feel. Of course, you can save even more by joining the Unlimited Sip Club. The subscription allows you to pay a monthly or annual fee for unlimited drinks so you can order the best ones offered. Eligible drinks include hot coffee, iced coffee, hot tea, fountain soda beverages, bubbler drinks, and Charged Sip. The club allows you to order free beverages once every two hours, including unlimited refills. You also get exclusive offers on Saturdays. If you live close by, this is an excellent deal.

Get a free side of honey for dipping

Believe it or not, there are a few ways you can get free food at Panera, besides an error by your server, and all the options are good. When ordering an apple as your side, ask for a side of honey. Your server can slice up the apple for you, too. For takeout, ask them to put it in a cup or box so the pieces don't roll around the bottom of your bag.

You can use that free side of honey with other Panera foods, too. Slather it on just about any fruit upgrade or buttered bread item. If you'd like a healthier sweetener option than sugar or artificial ones, add it to your hot or iced tea. For breakfast, order a bagel and get the cream cheese on the side. This allows you to mix in the honey for a sweet topping. Finally, drizzle honey on oatmeal breakfast items. Just don't forget that breakfast ends at 10:30 a.m.

Get discounted treats late in the day

Sustainability and community support are both part of Panera's corporate values. Rather than waste day-old food, the company takes pride in supporting its community with its Day-End Dough-Nation program. It donates leftover bakery items to local community programs, such as after-school programs, domestic violence shelters, mental health centers, and food pantries. We've witnessed the good this program has done for families and people in need.

While you may not qualify for these treats, you may be able to take advantage of Panera's "waste not" perspective just before closing time. At the end of the day, ask the cashier if you can get a discount. If there are only a few cookies left, the staff may be reluctant to throw out anything that doesn't qualify for Dough-Nation. Customers have reported getting 50% off the price for these treats. Remember that you can always score a $0.99 treat when you order a meal with a beverage.

Replace sandwich bread with a bagel

Panera bagels are too good just for breakfast. We prefer to swap out the sandwich bread for a bagel. While there is a small upcharge, we think it's worthwhile. What's cool is that if the sandwich has that option, you can select any bagel. We're not sure what a Roasted Turkey and Avocado BLT would taste like on a chocolate chip bagel, but we're sure someone will give it a try.

That said, you cannot do this with every sandwich. Keep in mind there is no option to change the bread either on the Toasted Baguette menu, the Signature Take and Spicy Take Chicken Sandwiches that come on brioche, or the Value Duets menu items. You can, however, swap your sandwich bread out for a bagel on the Pick Two menu. This is surprising since you get half a sandwich. That sounds like a good deal to us.

Create a French dip with baguette sandwich and French onion soup

Panera doesn't offer a French dip sandwich, which is surprising, but you can easily create one yourself. This is an excellent way to upgrade your Pick Two menu options. Start with an item off the baguette sandwich menu as this is the traditional bread choice for a French dip. It doesn't matter which one you select, but we thought the Smoky Buffalo Chicken Melt was the easiest to customize. First, replace the chicken with steak (there is an upcharge).

Next, you may want to change your cheese. We recommend Gouda or white American cheddar (also an upcharge), or you can delete it altogether. You can keep the red onions or delete them. Complete your sandwich by swapping buffalo sauce for horseradish. You can also do this hack using the Toasted Steak and White Cheddar sandwich. If you like cheese and onions, you won't have to customize this one at all. You won't get a baguette, but the toasted ciabatta works just as well.

Your second pick is the Bistro French onion soup. Customize by eliminating both the croutons and the cheese. You can also eliminate sandwich onions, and, instead, top your sandwich with the onions from the soup. Whatever's left is your dip. While it's not a true French au jus, we think this hack is a tasty substitution.

Add extra veggies to your sandwich or salad

At Panera, you can design nutritious meals to support your fitness goals. What kind of foods would you add to your order if you were a nutritionist? Panera Bread has a great solution: free vegetables. You can customize nearly any bowl, salad, or sandwich with these add-ons. Some items have an upcharge, like avocado that is not replacing meat. Keep in mind that five customizations are the limit.

One workaround to those customizations is to start with the Power Vegetable Blend. This is a blend of nutritious veggies, including kale, spinach, broccoli, carrots, and red cabbage. Panera's website does not list the exact ingredients, which may change based on availability.

Other free add-on vegetables include cilantro, Romaine lettuce, spinach, mixed greens, Kalamata olives, red onions, cucumber, and red tomatoes. For a fee, you can also add edamame for extra protein without extra meat (note that if your meal already contains a certain veggie, it will cost you more). Other toppings include crispy carrots, pickled red onions, pepperoncini, and basil. We advise you to make the most of the toppings to eat a full rainbow of veggies whenever you visit Panera.

Order group-sized soups to save money

When you stop by Panera with family, friends, or colleagues, and all want the same soup, there is a workaround from the regular menu that can save you money. While individual portions are one way to go, you can order a group soup off the standard Panera menu. The group soup is reportedly 32 ounces and meant to serve four people. It comes with four free sides and, overall, is a better deal than buying four cups of soup.

There are some other bulk items off the standard menu, too, including a dozen bagels, one dozen chocolate chip or mixed variety cookies, coffee and tea totes, and half-gallon cold beverages. Naturally, Panera also offers catering with discounted delivery and the opportunity to earn rewards.

Even better, Panera allows you to cater virtual events. Through your Panera account, select Panera Connects, then set the date, time, and budget for the event. Your attendees will receive virtual codes to get their meals ordered and delivered. This is a great way to encourage your team even when you're meeting over Zoom.

Order from Panera's special menu guide

We've shared some options that can help people with special dietary needs but Panera itself is well aware that people are food conscious. To that end, there is a menu page for each of six different diets, including vegetarian, vegan, high protein, gluten-conscious, sodium-conscious, and one we have not yet seen at other establishments: climate-friendly.

Dubbed Coolfood meals, these options only have low-carbon emissions. Panera partnered with the World Resources Institute (WRI), which has analyzed the meal's ingredients to ensure they are within sustainable carbon emission guidelines. These specialty menu guides include either a complete list of options, like vegetarian, or dining options with accommodations, like the vegan page. The high protein menu lists options with 20% or more of the U.S. recommended daily value of protein, which is 50 grams.

The gluten-conscious menu is for those avoiding gluten, rather than people with food sensitivities, allergies, or other conditions that cannot safely consume gluten. Sodium-conscious items contain 700 grams of sodium or less. Panera is one of the few chains that can accommodate almost everyone's eating requirements.

Make your Steak and White Cheddar Sandwich more keto-friendly

While many people assume the ketogenic, or keto, diet is just a trendy eating plan, some people follow this diet under a doctor's care for medical or health reasons. Following a keto eating plan means replacing sugars with fats and reducing as many carbohydrates as possible.

Many Panera options are good for this lifestyle. Keto dieters can choose and customize entrées from the high protein menu, such as the Toasted Steak and White Cheddar Sandwich. To adapt this for even more protein, add avocado and an egg. Ask your server if they will let you swap out the bread for lettuce. There is no option to do this on the online menu, but many users have reported they regularly do this at the store. If not, you'll need to stick to salads. Choose the Greek Salad, Caesar Salad with Chicken, or Green Goddess Cobb Salad with Chicken without the pickled onions.

Build your own mac and cheese with salad options

Some years back, Panera used to offer the option to make your own personalized mac and cheese. Now, the only customization available on the dish is bacon, which sounds heavenly, but you can't add options like barbecue sauce or cilantro.

Or can you? There is a workaround. If you order mac and cheese, and a salad, you can use the options to upgrade your mac bowl. Either use the Pick Two menu or get the full-sized version with a half-salad option.

The best way to do this is to order the salad or bowl that comes with the options you want. For example, to recreate the Baja Mac and Cheese that Panera once offered, you'd order half a Baja Bowl Salad, and remove everything but salsa, cilantro, and avocado. To recreate the BBQ chicken, you can get the chicken Caesar salad and customize it so that it only includes salad plus chicken, barbecue sauce, cilantro, and frizzled onions.

Recreate the Sierra Turkey Sandwich by customizing the Roasted Turkey Sandwich

Many beloved sandwiches are also missing from Panera's current menu. These were permanently discontinued, along with the secret menu. Some Panera fans have created petitions to bring them back but to no avail. However, just like with mac and cheese items, customization can do a fair job of mimicking that long-lost sandwich. This time, you won't have to order two separate items.

Take Panera's Sierra Turkey Sandwich. To recreate this one, choose the Roasted Turkey sandwich. Remove all options except the greens and add chipotle sauce and red onions. Asiago Focaccia bread is no longer available but there is a bagel in that flavor so swap that for the bread. Unfortunately, there are some beloved discontinued items you can't recreate, such as paninis or anything with pork. For now, we'll have to do without the fan favorite, Coronado Carnitas Panini or find a way to make it at home.

Remove cheese and dressing to make most dishes dairy-free

We were pleasantly surprised that, with the exception of cheese, dressing, and a few other items, many choices are dairy-free. For salad dressing, you can use Greek, White Balsamic Apple Flavored, Apple Cider BBQ Sauce, and Lemon Tahini Dressing. However, if you simply drop the cheese and dressing altogether, you'll be safe and Whole 30 diet-compliant. Dairy-free options that do not require customization include Chicken Walnut Salad on Molasses Bread and Turkey Chili with a baguette on the side.

Finally, most of the bread and bagels are dairy-free. Bagel options include Blueberry, Everything, Plain, Sesame, and Multigrain Bagel Flat. For bread options, see the list under the vegan section. Panera has many other dairy-free options as well, including a variety of cookies, like Ginger Molasses, Snickerdoodle, and Sugar. You can also try the Zucchini Nut Muffin. Order it with a Peach and Blueberry Smoothie with Almond Milk or Green Passion Smoothie and hard-boiled egg for a well-rounded, safe, and enjoyable meal.

Use ApplePay to get 3% off your order

Panera loves its Apple customers. It now offers an app exclusively on iOS that makes it fast and easy to sign in with your Apple account, but what's really amazing is how users can save money. Panera gives an exclusive discount of 3% off orders for Apple card users when they use ApplePay. Periodically, it runs promotions too, offering 6% off during certain times, like in August 2023. Discounts are good for orders up to $500 when the promotion runs. That's an amazing savings for anyone catering with the company.

Don't use an iPhone? No problem. Be sure to sign up for the MyPanera rewards app, available on all platforms. New user rewards vary but can include free treats or free delivery. Panera also personalizes your discounts based on your info, such as purchases or your birthday. You can find other promotions, such as birthday specials for Panera members, on Panera's promo code page or its social media.