Panera Bread salads

The Most Disappointing Panera Bread Salads

Panera Bread / Facebook

In April 2024, Panera launched its “new era.” In doing so, it reimagined a whole menu of new items — all of which Look tried and ranked. As always, there were some hits — notably the ciabatta cheesesteak sandwich — and some misses. Sadly, two salads were at the bottom of our rankings: The balsamic chicken greens with grains salad and the Mediterranean chicken greens with grains salad.

The balsamic chicken greens with grains salad, which Look taste testers placed dead last, sounds good in theory. Looking at the list of ingredients, it sounds even better — they just don’t quite come together the way you might expect. There’s farro, pepperoncini, tomatoes, red rice, feta cheese, cucumber pumpkin seeds, and chicken — none of which work together.

The Mediterranean chicken greens with grains salad came in just ahead of the balsamic chicken greens with grains salad, making it the second to last item in the ranking. This salad shares a lot of common ingredients with its predecessor, including farro, romaine, red rice, and chicken. Where it’s meant to stand out is in the brand’s very own shawarma seasoning. Only our taste testers didn’t get a whiff of it, or any other flavor, for that matter.

In short, these salads were underwhelming at best. While they underperformed our expectations, the new Panera menu has other salads we enjoyed tremendously.

The best salads from Panera Bread

still of woman pouring dressing on salad

Instagram / Panera Bread

It might not sound fair to compare a salad to a cheesesteak sandwich, but trust us, Panera’s salads stand up to the comparison. In fact, Look taste testers ranked the restaurant chain’s ranch Cobb salad a close second to it. The salad — which substitutes ranch for the usual vinaigrette or Caesar dressing in a classic Cobb salad recipe — is a riff on the restaurant’s green goddess Cobb salad which is still available. Both feature crisp romaine and mixed greens tossed with tomatoes, onions, bacon, a hard boiled egg, and grilled chicken to deliver all the flavor and textural variety you expect from a Cobb. Only, now, the green goddess variety gets more chicken.

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The southwest chicken ranch salad also came in highly in the ranking. This salad was a new concept for the Panera menu, featuring crisp romaine and fresh avocado, grape tomatoes, corn, and grilled chicken drizzled with chipotle aioli. It’s dressed with ranch and a garnish of fresh cilantro and crispy blue corn tortilla chips for extra texture. Both of these salad options will satiate your hunger — which is more than you can say about the two chicken greens with grains salads. You’ll be much happier with one of them, and you can always make it a half-and-half and go for the cheesesteak sandwich or a cheesy sourdough melt along with it.

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