Are the bowls at Panera gluten free?

Gluten-free dining can be challenging, but many popular restaurants offer gluten-free options. Panera Bread is one such restaurant that has a variety of choices for those avoiding gluten. With an assortment of bowls, salads, and baked goods available, Panera aims to accommodate a wide range of dietary needs.

Quick Answers

Here are quick answers to common questions about the gluten-free status of Panera’s bowls:

  • Most of Panera’s bowl options are gluten-free when customized, but some bowl ingredients contain gluten.
  • All proteins, vegetables, and base greens in the bowls are gluten-free.
  • Grains like brown rice, quinoa, and lentils are also gluten-free.
  • Potential sources of gluten include pasta, croutons, baguettes, and some dressings.
  • Bowls can be made gluten-free by swapping gluten-containing ingredients for gluten-free alternatives.
  • Panera employees take steps to avoid cross-contamination when preparing gluten-free orders.
  • Those with celiac disease or severe gluten sensitivity should verify ingredients and preparation with staff.

Overview of Panera’s Bowls

Panera offers a variety of grain bowls, salad bowls, and soups that come in pre-set combinations or can be customized to each person’s preferences. Options include:

  • Grain Bowls: Build Your Own Grain Bowl, Thai Chili Chicken Grain Bowl, Chipotle Chicken Avocado Grain Bowl, Mediterranean Grain Bowl
  • Salad Bowls: Fuji Apple Chicken Salad Bowl, Modern Greek Salad Bowl, Strawberry Poppyseed Chicken Salad Bowl
  • Soups: Broccoli Cheddar Soup Bowl, Baked Potato Soup Bowl, Chicken Tortilla Soup Bowl

While many of the standard bowl combinations are not gluten-free, they can be modified to suit gluten-free diets. The proteins, vegetables, and base ingredients like greens, grains, and beans are generally safe, while croutons, pasta, baguette chips, and dressings may contain gluten.

Are the Individual Bowl Ingredients Gluten-Free?

When building your own gluten-free bowl at Panera, it helps to know the gluten-free status of each component:


All of Panera’s protein options for bowls are gluten-free, including:

  • Chicken (sliced grilled, chicken salad, chili lime chicken)
  • Steak
  • Tofu


For bases, these choices are gluten-free:

  • Greens (lettuce, kale, romaine, spinach)
  • Rice (brown, wild)
  • Quinoa
  • Lentils

Veggies and Fruits

All vegetables and fruits offered for bowls at Panera are gluten-free, such as:

  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Bell peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes
  • Apples
  • Dried cranberries

Crunch and Bread Options

With crunch and bread toppings, gluten-free choices include:

  • Nuts (pecans, walnuts, almonds)
  • Seeds (pumpkin, sunflower)
  • Rice crackers
  • Corn bread croutons

Avoid ingredients with gluten like baguette chips, croutons, pasta chips, and regular bread croutons.

Dressings and Sauces

For dressings and sauces, options like vinaigrettes, Greek dressing, chipotle lime vinaigrette, and chili sauce are typically safe, but check labels to be sure. Ask to skip creamy caesar dressing, as it likely contains gluten.


Most of Panera’s soup varieties are gluten-free, but a few like the cream of chicken and wild rice soup contain gluten. Stick to broth-based soups to be safe.

Building a Gluten-Free Bowl at Panera

When ordering a customized gluten-free bowl, salad, or soup at Panera, follow these guidelines:

  • Start with a gluten-free base like greens, rice, quinoa, or lentils.
  • Add lean proteins like grilled chicken, steak, or tofu.
  • Pile on plenty of fresh veggies.
  • Top with gluten-free crunch like nuts, seeds, or corn croutons.
  • Drizzle dressing if desired, but verify it’s gluten-free.
  • For soups, stick to brothy options and avoid cream soups.
  • Request no bread or croutons.
  • Ask about ingredients and preparation if concerned about cross-contamination.

Being aware of what contains gluten will help you safely customize items. An app like Find Me Gluten Free can also help determine menu choices.

Cross-Contamination Concerns

For those with celiac disease or wheat allergy, cross-contamination with gluten is a concern at restaurants like Panera. Even if an item doesn’t contain gluten-based ingredients, it could pick up traces of gluten during preparation and serving.

Panera tries to prevent cross-contamination by:

  • Using dedicated kitchen tools and workspaces for gluten-free orders.
  • Changing gloves between preparing gluten and gluten-free items.
  • Using disposable paper bowls and fresh utensils for gluten-free menu items.
  • Cleaning surfaces thoroughly before preparing gluten-free dishes.

However, normal kitchen operations make eliminating cross-contact extremely difficult. Employees may not always follow best practices consistently. If you have celiac disease or are highly sensitive, check at each location about their safety procedures.

Tips for Ordering Gluten-Free at Panera

Follow these tips for a safer gluten-free experience when ordering bowls, salads, or soups at Panera:

  • Study the menu online and decide on gluten-free choices before arriving.
  • Tell staff you need gluten-free options when ordering.
  • Ask about ingredients or cross-contamination concerns.
  • Request fresh gloves to prevent contact with gluten.
  • Customize orders to avoid croutons, batter, bread, and other gluten items.
  • Seek recommendations from staff on gluten-free menu combinations.
  • Ask for dressings, toppings, and sauces on the side.
  • Consider lower-risk times like beginning of service to reduce cross-contact.

Taking a proactive approach increases the chances you’ll receive a safe gluten-free meal. Check in each visit too, as menu options and protocols may change.

Gluten-Free Bowl and Salad Combinations

Building your own bowl or salad is the best approach for gluten-free dining at Panera. Here are some safe, delicious combinations to try:

Thai Chili Chicken Bowl

  • Greens
  • Quinoa
  • Chili lime chicken
  • Broccoli
  • Carrots
  • Cilantro
  • Almonds
  • Chili sauce

Mediterranean Steak Salad

  • Romaine lettuce
  • Steak
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Cucumbers
  • Kalamata olives
  • Feta cheese
  • Greek dressing

Southwest Tofu Bowl

  • Rice
  • Tofu
  • Corn
  • Bell peppers
  • Onions
  • Black beans
  • Cilantro
  • Chipotle lime vinaigrette

There are endless tasty combinations possible to suit your tastes and nutrition needs. Feel free to get creative!

Is the Panera Kids Meal Gluten-Free?

Panera’s standard kids meal comes with a choice of turkey, ham, roast beef, or grilled cheese sandwich. Unfortunately, none of these options are gluten-free since they all contain bread.

However, you can modify the kids meal to be gluten-free by requesting one of the following swaps:

  • Grilled chicken instead of sandwich
  • Salad with no croutons
  • Bowl with gluten-free ingredients
  • Broth-based soup

The side items that come with the kids meal like apple sauce, yogurt, and drinks are all gluten-free. So with some simple modifications, children can enjoy safe gluten-free choices from the Panera menu.

Desserts and Baked Goods

A few gluten-free dessert options at Panera include:

  • Fresh fruit cups
  • Apple cinnamon fruit and grain bar

However, most baked goods including bagels, muffins, cookies, and pastries contain gluten. Those with celiac disease or wheat allergy will want to avoid these items.

While Panera doesn’t offer gluten-free bread options, some locations allow you to bring in your own gluten-free bun or bread to accompany menu items. Call ahead to see if your local Panera provides this service.

Is Panera Catering Gluten-Free?

For business meetings, parties, or other events, Panera’s catering menu includes several choices suitable for gluten-free diets, such as:

  • Salad bowls and build your own salads
  • Some soup varieties
  • Sandwiches on gluten-free bread (if supplied)

Their breakfast catering options are more limited but could include oatmeal, yogurt parfaits, or salads without croutons. Be sure to inform your Panera catering associate about gluten-free needs so they can avoid cross-contact and recommend appropriate items.

Gluten-Free Menu Resources at Panera

Panera offers several resources to guide gluten-free diners:

  • Allergen Menu: Details which menu items are gluten-free, vegetarian, nut-free, etc.
  • Special Diets Menu: Highlights gluten-free, vegetarian, heart-healthy, and low-carb choices.
  • Online ordering: Lets you customize orders and exclude allergen ingredients.
  • Nutrition calculator: Shows nutrition info and allergen status for menu items.
  • Mobile app: View menu options, order ahead, and earn rewards.

These make it easier to determine your best gluten-free options at Panera before visiting.

Gluten-Free Chain Restaurants Similar to Panera

In addition to Panera, several other popular chain restaurants also offer gluten-free menus, including:

Noodles & Company

At Noodles & Company, you can substitute gluten-free noodles in any dish and customize with gluten-free sauces and toppings. They also have specialty gluten-free combinations.

Zoës Kitchen

This fast-casual Mediterranean restaurant labels gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan items right on the menu. Bowls, salads, kabobs, and more can be prepared gluten-free.


Build your own salads and bowls from a wide selection of gluten-free ingredients at Sweetgreen. Dressings and toppings are free of gluten too.


Burrito bowls and salads at Chipotle can easily be made gluten-free. Just skip the tortilla and request gluten-free toppings.


Qdoba highlights certified gluten-free menu items and allows you to build burrito bowls, tacos, and other Mexican favorites around your diet.

Checking out these and other gluten-aware chains broadens your healthy dining out options.

Is Panera Bread Gluten-Free Friendly Overall?

In general, Panera Bread takes customer allergies and dietary restrictions seriously. They provide ample information to customize orders and avoid gluten-containing ingredients.

While the risk of cross-contamination still exists, proactively working with staff and carefully choosing menu items can provide a reasonably safe gluten-free experience at Panera. Anyone highly sensitive should take extra precautions.

Compared to many other restaurants, Panera’s wide range of soups, salads, bowls and customization makes it one of the more gluten-free friendly chains. With some adjustments, those avoiding gluten can find plenty of appetizing and satisfying options to enjoy.

The Bottom Line

Dining gluten-free at Panera Bread is definitely doable.Bowls, salads, soups, and catering choices can all be adapted to gluten-free diets when customizing orders. While risk of cross-contamination from shared work spaces remains, Panera aims to accommodate gluten-free diners through menu information and special request handling.Following provided tips on customizing orders, verifying ingredients, and working with staff helps ensure a safer gluten-free experience eating at Panera.

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