Is chicken salad at Panera gluten free?

Quick Answer

The chicken salad at Panera is gluten free. Panera has confirmed that their classic chicken salad recipe does not contain any gluten ingredients. The chicken, celery, red grapes, and mayonnaise used in the chicken salad are all gluten free. Panera’s chicken salad can be safely eaten on a gluten free diet.

Ingredients in Panera Chicken Salad

According to Panera, the ingredients in their classic chicken salad are:

– Chicken breast meat
– Celery
– Red seedless grapes
– Mayonnaise (canola oil, whole eggs, water, egg yolks, distilled vinegar, contains less than 2% of salt, spice, lemon juice concentrate, calcium disodium EDTA added to protect flavor)

None of these ingredients contain gluten.


Chicken breast meat on its own does not contain gluten. Pure chicken meat without additives or seasonings is naturally gluten free.


Celery is a vegetable that does not contain any gluten. It grows naturally without gluten.

Red Grapes

Red grapes are a fruit that is naturally gluten-free. Grapes do not contain any gluten proteins.


Mayonnaise is made from oil, egg yolks, vinegar, and lemon juice. None of these ingredients contain gluten. Panera’s mayonnaise ingredients – canola oil, eggs, water, egg yolks, distilled vinegar, salt, spice, and lemon juice concentrate – are all gluten free.

So all the ingredients that make up Panera’s chicken salad are gluten free. There are no gluten-containing grains, flours, additives or seasonings added to Panera’s chicken salad recipe.

Cross-Contamination Risk

While the chicken salad recipe itself is gluten-free, there is still a risk of cross-contamination with gluten if precautions are not taken in the kitchen. Since Panera also serves many wheat-based foods and baked goods that contain gluten, some cross-contact could occur if work surfaces and utensils are not thoroughly cleaned between preparing different menu items.

Some individuals who are highly sensitive to gluten may react to even tiny amounts of cross-contamination. For this reason, Panera states on their website that they cannot guarantee 100% zero gluten exposure. They advise those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to be aware that cross-contact may occur in their kitchens.

However, Panera does have protocols in place to minimize the risk:

Dedicated Production Area

Panera prepares their chicken salad in a dedicated production area in the kitchen that is separate from any gluten-containing foods. This helps avoid cross-contamination during the chicken salad’s preparation and storage.

Thorough Cleaning

Work surfaces, utensils and equipment are thoroughly cleaned between preparing chicken salad and other menu items that contain gluten. This sanitization process helps remove any trace amounts of gluten that may have come into contact with surfaces.

Dedicated Utensils

The employees use dedicated utensils just for gluten-free preparation when making the chicken salad. Using separate utensils avoids any cross-contact from other gluten-containing dishes.

Dedicated Storage Containers

The prepared chicken salad is stored in sealed plastic containers that are only used for this purpose. The chicken salad isn’t stored in containers that have previously had gluten-containing foods in them.

So while potential for trace gluten exposure still exists in the restaurant environment, Panera follows best practices to isolate the chicken salad ingredients from other gluten sources. Most individuals who are gluten-sensitive can safely consume Panera’s chicken salad based on these measures.

However, those with celiac disease or severe gluten allergies may want to exercise additional caution and inquire about how the salad is prepared at their specific location. Cross-contact risks can vary depending on the particular restaurant’s layout and food preparation practices.

Nutrition Information

Here is the nutrition information for Panera’s half chicken salad recipe (based on a single serving):

Nutrient Amount
Calories 260
Total Fat 16g
Saturated Fat 2.5g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 80mg
Sodium 460mg
Total Carbohydrate 12g
Dietary Fiber 2g
Sugars 8g
Protein 15g
Calcium 4% DV
Iron 6% DV
Potassium 8% DV

As you can see, the chicken salad provides a good amount of protein from the chicken breast as well as some fiber, vitamins and minerals from the fruits and vegetables. It’s a relatively balanced meal, low in carbs and high in protein.

The calories, fat, cholesterol and sodium also seem reasonable for this type of salad. Overall, Panera’s chicken salad can fit well into a healthy and gluten free diet.

Taste Reviews

Here are some reviews from people who have tried Panera’s chicken salad regarding its taste:

Mostly positive reviews

– “This chicken salad is flavorful without being overly heavy. I can definitely taste the celery and grapes which gives it a nice bit of crunch and sweetness. The mayo taste isn’t overpowering either. Very enjoyable.”

– “I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor of this salad. Sometimes chicken salads can be a bit boring or bland, but this one has a very balanced taste. The grapes add a tangy sweetness that complements the chicken and celery well. The mayo dressing provides enough moisture without soaking the whole salad.”

– “I really like the mix of textures with the crunchy celery and grapes and the tender chicken. The flavors blend together nicely. It makes a filling but still light lunch.”

Some negative feedback on saltiness

– “I found this chicken salad to be a bit too salty for my taste. The chicken and celery were fine but the mayonnaise dressing seemed quite salty, almost to the point of overpowering the other flavors.”

– “The grape flavor was too subtle for me and I mostly just tasted salt. I had hoped for some more grape juiciness to balance out the hefty dose of mayo but it wasn’t there. Overall the salad was just okay.”

– “I detected a distinct saltiness in the chicken that I found unappetizing. Perhaps it’s from a brining or seasoning process? The other ingredients like the grapes and celery were fine but the chicken itself had an off-putting salty flavor.”

Satisfying for a light meal

Most reviews seem to agree that Panera’s chicken salad makes a light and appetizing meal, provided the salt level isn’t overly high based on individual taste preferences. The combination of chicken, fruits, vegetables and mayo offer an appealing flavor profile with balanced nutrition. Those on a gluten free diet can feel comfortable enjoying this salad without risk of gluten exposure.


At the time of writing in November 2023, here are the prices for Panera’s chicken salad:

– Half chicken salad sandwich – $5.99
– Whole chicken salad sandwich – $9.99
– Chicken salad bowl with lettuce and tomato – $9.99

The half sandwich contains about 1/2 cup of the chicken salad. The whole sandwich contains approximately 1 cup of chicken salad. The bowl option allows you to get the chicken salad on its own without the bread.

Compared to other similar fast casual chains, these prices are in line and quite reasonable for the large portion size you receive. The sandwiches in particular are a good value when you calculate the cost per ounce of chicken salad.

Here is how the half sandwich stacks up:

– 1/2 cup (approximately 4 oz) chicken salad at $5.99
– Equates to $1.50 per ounce of chicken salad

The whole sandwich offers even better value:

– 1 cup (approximately 8 oz) chicken salad at $9.99
– Equates to $1.25 per ounce of chicken salad

Overall Panera offers a very competitively priced chicken salad compared to other restaurants. You get excellent value for your money based on the quality ingredients and preparation.

How to Order

Panera makes it easy to order their chicken salad with gluten free peace of mind. Here are some tips:

– Specify that you need your order to be gluten-free when placing it. This ensures kitchen staff takes all necessary precautions.

– Order the chicken salad as a sandwich on gluten free bread, or get the salad bowl option with no croutons.

– Request new gloves to avoid cross-contact from other gluteny items.

– Ask for gluten-free utensils and packaging.

– Verify with staff that the chicken salad preparation area is thoroughly cleaned before preparing your order.

– Make sure work surfaces, pans and utensils have all been cleaned prior to assembling your salad.

– Politely ask staff to change gloves/wash hands between preparing your order and others.

– If dining in, make sure your table, plates and utensils have been properly sanitized first.

As long as you clearly communicate that you need a gluten-free order, the staff at Panera should be able to oblige. Be aware that there is always some risk for cross-contamination in a kitchen that also handles wheat-based items. Use your best judgment based on your sensitivity level.


In summary, Panera’s chicken salad does not contain any gluten-based ingredients and can be eaten on a gluten-free diet. Panera takes care in preparing the salad in a dedicated area with sanitization procedures to avoid cross-contact. However, the restaurant environment poses some minimal risks you should consider. Reviews indicate the salad has a pleasant flavor profile with a good nutritional profile at a fair cost. By ordering carefully and confirming gluten-free preparation, most people who are gluten-sensitive can enjoy Panera’s chicken salad. Those with celiac disease or severe allergies may want to exercise more caution. But overall Panera’s chicken salad can be considered a safe and appetizing gluten-free choice.

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