Is Panera Bread salad dressing gluten free?

Panera Bread is a popular bakery-cafe chain that offers sandwiches, soups, salads, and bakery items. For people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, dining out can be challenging. Panera Bread does offer some gluten-free menu items, but it’s important to understand which menu items contain gluten and which are safe to eat when avoiding gluten. One area of confusion is often around Panera’s salad dressings – are they gluten free or not?

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It helps give dough its elasticity and chewy texture. For most people, gluten is harmless. But for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, gluten triggers an autoimmune response that damages the small intestine. Even small amounts of gluten can cause symptoms like abdominal pain, diarrhea, vomiting, constipation, fatigue, headache, anxiety, and more. The only treatment is to follow a strict lifelong gluten-free diet by avoiding all foods and products containing gluten. This includes avoiding dishes prepared in shared cooking spaces and with utensils that have touched gluten.

Are Panera Bread Salad Dressings Gluten Free?

The good news is that most of Panera’s salad dressings are labeled gluten free. On Panera’s website, the following salad dressings are listed as being gluten-free:

  • Greek Dressing
  • Caesar Dressing
  • Fuji Apple Dressing
  • Sesame Ginger Dressing
  • Poppyseed Dressing
  • Green Goddess Dressing
  • Asian Sesame Vinaigrette
  • Chipotle Lime Vinaigrette

So those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity should feel comfortable ordering a salad with any of Panera’s gluten-free labeled dressings.

Exceptions and Risk Factors

However, there are some caveats to keep in mind:

  • Panera’s Balsamic Vinaigrette contains malt vinegar, which is not gluten-free.
  • The restaurant uses shared equipment and prep areas, so there is a risk of cross-contamination.
  • Employees may not be fully trained on gluten-free protocols.
  • The gluten-free status of ingredients can change without notice.

So even the gluten-free labeled dressings could potentially come into contact with gluten. The risk varies based on each restaurant’s practices. Those who are highly sensitive should use caution and check with their local Panera on their gluten-free policies.

Some other tips for enjoying salad safely at Panera:

  • Ask for fresh gloves before your salad is prepared.
  • Request a clean, unused salad bowl.
  • Choose lettuce varieties less likely to be cross-contaminated like romaine hearts.
  • Stick to basic ingredients like veggies, cheese, nuts, chickpeas.
  • Avoid croutons and breaded toppings.

Being aware of what dressings are gluten-free as well as using these serving tips can help those avoiding gluten build a delicious salad at Panera. But it’s always smart to reiterate your need for a gluten-free meal when ordering.

contacting Panera about gluten free menu

The best way to ensure your Salad dressing is truly gluten free when dining at Panera is to contact the restaurant directly:

  • Speak to a manager about gluten-free protocols and training when you order.
  • Ask which dressings are stored separately from gluten-containing ones.
  • Inquire about dedicated storage, prep areas, utensils for gluten-free items.
  • Request that fresh gloves be used before handling your order.
  • Ask for your salad to be prepared in a clean bowl and fresh ingredients.
  • Consider calling ahead to ask these questions as well.

Panera’s customer service line and website also provide additional information on their gluten-free offerings. Being proactive with questions can help assess the risk of cross-contamination at your local Panera.

Is Panera Bread Salad Dressing Completely Gluten-Free?

While Panera’s gluten-free labeled dressings are designed to be gluten-free, it can be difficult for any restaurant to prevent 100% of cross-contamination. Here are a few factors to keep in mind:

  • Other wheat-based menu items like sandwiches and pastries are prepared in the same kitchen as salads.
  • Shared fryers are used for croutons and other items.
  • Salad ingredients are prepped and stored in common areas.
  • Employee hand washing and dedicated utensils may not be strictly enforced.
  • Labels, supplier ingredients, and recipes can change without notice.

So while Panera makes an effort to avoid cross-contamination, it’s impossible for any restaurant to fully guarantee a 100% gluten-free environment. The good news is that Panera seems to take food allergies seriously based on their training and gluten-free menu options. But those with celiac disease or wheat allergy should use their best judgment on their comfort level with the risk of dining out. Being vigilant about asking questions helps assess cross-contamination risk. Overall, Panera’s salad dressings seem like a fairly safe option for most with gluten issues, though not guaranteed completely gluten-free for those highly sensitive.

Homemade Dressing Options

For those with celiac disease or wheat allergies who prefer to avoid any risk of dining out, making salad dressings at home is an easy alternative. Here are some gluten-free oil and vinegar based options:

Balsamic Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk ingredients together or blend in a mini food processor. Store in the refrigerator.

Greek Dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Whisk or blend together and store refrigerated.

Honey Mustard Dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Whisk or blend ingredients and refrigerate.

The possibilities are endless for easy homemade dressings using oils, vinegars, herbs and spices! A little meal prep goes a long way to having tasty gluten-free dressings on hand.

Bottom Line

When dining at Panera Bread, the company states that most of their salad dressings are gluten-free, apart from the Balsamic Vinaigrette. However, the risk of cross-contamination can never be fully eliminated at any restaurant. Those with celiac disease or wheat allergies need to weigh the risks of eating out. Being vigilant, asking questions, and requesting special prep procedures can help minimize exposure at Panera. And making your own gluten-free dressings at home is an easy, risk-free option for those highly sensitive. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to contact Panera’s customer service for their latest gluten-free policies to help inform your choice.

1 thought on “Is Panera Bread salad dressing gluten free?”

  1. There are sooooo many inaccuracies and contradictions on here that I just stopped reading altogether. Please educate yourself before publishing things like this:
    1. You state that Panera mac, breakfast sandwiches and some bakery items are GF. Which ones? I see none. Please also check the Mac ingredients listed by Panera. SEMOLINA is NOT gluten free. If you don’t know what that is, I suggest you find out.
    2. MSG does not contain gluten, despite “glutamate” being the G.
    3. At first you suggest that Worcestershire sauce is not GF, but later you say it is. If it contains malted vinegar, it is not GF.

    Thank you in advance for correcting these statements, and for including the important reminders to always read labels for sneaky additives. It is so challenging, especially as places are always changing ingredients, which makes eating out a challenge. At one point I thought Panera 10 veggie soup was GF, but it contained something (soy sauce maybe?). If only places could be consistent—Panera uses soy sauce that is GF but also soy sauce that is not.


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