The Vegetarian Resource Group Blog

Vegan Options at Panera Bread®

Posted on November 15, 2016 by The VRG Blog Editor

By Jeanne Yacoubou, MS

Panera has a Featured Eat Well, Your Way Vegan Menu on its website where this restaurant chain’s working definition of “vegan” appears:

At Panera, [“vegan”] means no animal sources: no meat, fish, shellfish, milk, egg or honey products, and no enzymes and rennet from animal sources allowed.

Complete ingredient information is easily accessed under each item’s photo on Panera Bread’s website.

Sorbitan monostearate is an ingredient in Panera breads which is used in the production of the yeast in the breads. Since a part of this ingredient (i.e., the stearate) could be derived from tallow, we wanted to determine its origin. Panera told us in September 2016 that this ingredient is “vegetable-sourced.”
Here is a list compiled by The VRG of vegan bread products at Panera:

• Country
• Sourdough
• French Baguette
• Sea Salt Focaccia
• Ciabatta
• Sesame Semolina
• Rye

Sara Burnett, Director of Wellness and Food Policy at Panera Bread, confirmed that the dextrose in the French Baguette, Sea Salt Focaccia and Ciabatta “is wheat-based” (i.e., not derived from cane sugar).

Following are questions that The VRG asked Sara accompanied by her responses. The chain was
very helpful and willing to accommodate.

Q: Has the sugar and/or brown sugar in the following been filtered through cow bone char?
• Hoagie Roll
• Blueberry, Everything, Plain, and Sesame Bagels
• Steel Cut Oats with Apple Chips & Pecans
• Steel Cut Oats with Strawberries & Pecans
• White Balsamic With Apple-Flavored Vinaigrette in the Ancient Grain & Arugula Salad
• Roasted Tomato Sofrito Blend of the Modern Greek Salad with Quinoa
• Pickled red onions of the Greek Salad
• Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing of the Seasonal Greens Salad and in the Kid’s Seasonal Greens Salad

A: My understanding is that there are two types of sugar sources (beet and cane). The cane sugar producers still employ the use of bone char (natural charcoal) for filtering, while beet sugar producers do not use bone char. We source both cane and beet sugars for our menu, so we cannot guarantee for all instances the sugar used in all products from all vendors that the bone char (natural charcoal) method is not used. [VRG Note: Today, most, though not all American-processed cane sugar is whitened through a cow bone char filter.]

Looking at all of the bagels’ ingredients The VRG notes that with the exception of the Blueberry, Everything, Plain and Sesame Bagels, all of which contain sugar and/or brown sugar, all of the other bagels at Panera Bread contain dairy and/or honey.

The VRG also asked Sara several specific questions about certain menu options which could be made vegan if one or two components were left off. We wanted to determine if these dishes arrived pre-made at the restaurant or were prepared in-house such that certain components including dairy products and sugar especially in dressings or sauces could be left off. We inquired:

Q: May the Ancient Grain & Arugula Salad (specify “without chicken”) be ordered without the White Balsamic with Apple-Flavored Vinaigrette?
Q: May the Greek Salad and the Kids Greek Salad be ordered without the feta cheese? Without the pickled red onions?
Q: May the Seasonal Greens Salad and the Kids Seasonal Greens Salad be ordered without the Balsamic Vinaigrette?
Q: May the Modern Greek Salad with Quinoa be ordered without the roasted tomato sofrito blend and feta cheese?
Q: May the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich be ordered without the crumb topping and feta cheese?
Q: May the cinnamon sugar topping be left off of the Steel Cut Oatmeal with Apple Chips & Pecans and the Steel Cut Oatmeal with Strawberries & Pecans?
A: We welcome order modifications to our menu items, including those you’ve suggested…

Q: May the Power Almond Quinoa Oatmeal be ordered without honey?
A: Yes. The honey is not included in the base recipe.

Q: Is cinnamon without added sugar available in-store for your oatmeal dishes?
A: Yes.

Q: Are almond and/or soy milk options for your smoothies? Can someone purchase a fruit smoothie with almond and/or soy milk only?
A: Yes. We have almond milk available in-cafe that can be requested in a fruit smoothie…The smoothies just have to be requested as “no yogurt; add almond milk.” The smoothie bases are all dairy-free…We introduced a carrot pineapple smoothie this fall that is vegan.

Q: Is the natural flavor in the White Balsamic with Apple-Flavored Vinaigrette in the Ancient Grain & Arugula Salad all-vegetable?
A: Yes, [the natural flavor is] all-vegetable.

Q: Are the natural flavors in the smoothies, blueberry bagel and in the Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich from all-vegetable sources?
A: Natural flavors are all from botanical sources.

Q: Do you offer a non-dairy cream cheese spread for the bagels?
A: As for the non-dairy, we offer peanut butter and preserves in cafe upon request. We do not have a non-dairy “cream-cheese like” spread.

Q: On your Panera Kids Menu there is a peanut butter & jelly sandwich served on Classic White Bread which contains milk. Can a non-dairy bread be substituted?
A: All of our sandwiches can be made on any other bread on the menu.
On the vegan menu page of the Panera website appears the following disclaimer:

All items are prepared in the same kitchen area where non-vegan products are prepared. We can prepare your order as you would like it to be; however, we cannot guarantee there will be no cross-contact between our ingredients.
Panera’s Director of Wellness and Food Policy provided more detail about their kitchen protocol:
We portion all our meats in the same area as fruits/vegetables; however our practice is to wash surfaces and equipment in between the different ingredients being prepped. We store meat and plant ingredients on our lines side by side, however we do our best to prevent any cross contact between any and all ingredients. Similar to allergens, if a guest is highly concerned about preparation, they should ask to speak to a manager who can do their best to address the guest’s concerns.

Readers may also be interested to know about Panera Bread’s No No List:

Glycerides, which could be animal-derived, will be permanently removed from Panera’s menu by the end of 2016. Several animal ingredients also appear on this list but are not currently in any menu items. These are carmine/cochineal, lard and L-cysteine. Panera states that its list is not exhaustive.

The contents of this posting, our website and our other publications, including Vegetarian Journal, are not intended to provide personal medical advice. Medical advice should be obtained from a qualified health professional. We often depend on product and ingredient information from company statements. It is impossible to be 100% sure about a statement, info can change, people have different views, and mistakes can be made. Please use your best judgement about whether a product is suitable for you. To be sure, do further research or confirmation on your own.

For information on vegetarian and vegan restaurants, see

For information on other chains, see

To support The Vegetarian Resource Group research, donate at
Or join at

Leave a Reply

  • Donate

  • Subscribe to the blog by RSS


    Sign up for our newsletter to receive recipes, ingredient information, reviews of new products, announcements of new books, free samples of products, and other VRG materials.

    Your E-mail address:
    Your Name (optional):

↑ Top