Is Panera’s broccoli cheddar gluten free?

Gluten free diets have become increasingly popular in recent years, with more and more people opting to avoid gluten for health or dietary reasons. For those following a gluten free diet, dining out can present challenges, as many menu items at restaurants contain gluten. Panera Bread offers a variety of soups, including a popular Broccoli Cheddar soup. But is this soup gluten free?

What is Gluten?

Before diving into whether Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar soup contains gluten, it’s helpful to understand what exactly gluten is. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. It acts as a glue that helps foods maintain their shape and texture. For those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten can trigger a negative immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue, brain fog, and more. The only treatment for celiac disease is strictly adhering to a 100% gluten free diet. For those with non-celiac gluten sensitivity, avoiding gluten may help manage symptoms.

Gluten at Panera Bread

Many dishes at Panera Bread contain gluten, as they are made using bread, pasta, baked goods, and other ingredients that contain wheat, barley, or rye. However, Panera does offer some certified gluten free menu options, including salads, soups, smoothies, and bakery items. Gluten free choices are marked on their menus and online for easier identification. Panera also has protocols in place to avoid cross-contamination, such as preparing gluten free foods separately and using dedicated kitchen tools and workspaces.

Ingredients in Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar Soup

So what exactly is in Panera Bread’s fan favorite Broccoli Cheddar soup? Here is the list of ingredients, according to Panera’s website:

  • Water
  • Half and half
  • Broccoli florets
  • White cheddar cheese sauce (milk, cream, cheddar cheese culture, salt, enzymes)
  • Sea salt
  • Cream
  • Celery
  • Onion
  • Carrot
  • Unbleached enriched wheat flour (flour, niacin, reduced iron, thiamine mononitrate, riboflavin, folic acid)
  • Canola oil
  • Cheddar cheese (pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt, enzymes, annatto)
  • Soybean oil
  • Potato starch
  • Turmeric
  • Natural flavors
  • Sugar
  • Yeast extract

Looking at this ingredient list, the broth part of the soup does not contain any gluten-containing grains. However, the soup does contain wheat flour, which is added as a thickener. So Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar soup is not gluten free.

Cross-Contamination Risk

Even if a menu item doesn’t contain an obvious source of gluten as an ingredient, cross-contamination is still a risk for those with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity. Cross-contamination means gluten could accidentally be introduced during food preparation or handling. At Panera Bread, while they aim to avoid cross-contamination of their certified gluten free items through their protocols, there is still a chance of cross-contamination with a soup containing wheat flour like their Broccoli Cheddar.

Modifications to Make it Gluten Free

While Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar soup contains wheat flour, some modifications could potentially be made to create a gluten free version. This would require omitting the wheat flour to eliminate the gluten source. To thicken and add creaminess without gluten, alternate thickeners like rice flour, cornstarch, or potato starch could potentially be used. Of course, this would require additional consideration from Panera in terms of their kitchen protocols and procedures. But in theory, a gluten free version could be possible with some adjustments.

Other Gluten Free Soup Options at Panera

For those seeking a gluten free soup at Panera Bread, there are some certified gluten free options available. As of October 2022, their gluten free soups include:

  • Broccoli Cheddar Soup (seasonal)
  • Creamy Tomato Soup
  • Ten Vegetable Soup
  • Chicken Noodle Soup
  • Autumn Squash Soup (seasonal)

It’s important to note that while these soups are designed to be gluten free, there is still some risk of cross-contamination, given Panera’s kitchen environment and shared equipment. Those with celiac disease or who are highly sensitive should exercise caution.

Tips for Eating Gluten Free at Panera

Here are some tips for safely navigating a gluten free meal at Panera Bread:

  • Review the menu online ahead of time and identify gluten free options
  • Tell the cashier or server you need gluten free for a medical reason
  • Request that gluten free items are prepared using new gloves and pans
  • Avoid croutons and bread bowls
  • Check the gluten free menu when ordering at the kiosk
  • Know the high risk cross-contamination areas, like sandwiches and bakery items
  • Consider lower risk choices like salads, smoothies, and soups
  • Check labels of bottled drinks, chips, and snacks for gluten

Dining Out Gluten Free

Those adhering to a strict gluten free diet should exercise caution when eating at restaurants like Panera Bread. While some menu items may be labeled gluten free, there is always potential for cross-contamination. Being well-informed about menu choices, carefully questioning restaurant staff, and communicating the severity of your gluten intolerance can help reduce the risk. If you have celiac disease or are highly sensitive, consuming gluten free items from shared kitchens may still cause issues. In those cases, it may be safest to avoid restaurant dining altogether and focus on preparing your own gluten free meals at home.

Is Panera’s Broccoli Cheddar Soup Gluten Free? The Verdict

After looking closely at the ingredients and preparation, Panera Bread’s Broccoli Cheddar soup does contain gluten due to the wheat flour used as a thickening agent. While Panera does make efforts around gluten free protocols and offers some certified gluten free soups, their popular Broccoli Cheddar recipe contains an ingredient that those sensitive to gluten cannot safely consume. Modifications would need to be made to the recipe and kitchen procedures to potentially offer a gluten free version of this soup. For a safer gluten free dining experience, celiacs and those highly sensitive should use caution when ordering any item from a restaurant with shared kitchen equipment and choose lower risk options that are naturally gluten free, like salads and dressings.


  • Panera Bread’s Broccoli Cheddar soup contains wheat flour and is not gluten free
  • The wheat flour acts as a thickener and adds creaminess to the soup
  • Even items labeled gluten free at Panera carry some risk of cross-contamination
  • Modifications like alternate thickeners could potentially make this soup gluten free
  • Those with celiac disease should use extreme caution when eating at restaurants like Panera

Frequently Asked Questions

Is any of Panera’s food gluten free?

Yes, Panera offers some certified gluten free menu items, including salads, soups, smoothies, and select bakery items. Gluten free choices are labeled on menus and online.

Does Panera have gluten free bread?

Yes, Panera carries gluten free baguettes and bread loaves that can be used for sandwiches or eaten on their own. They are certified gluten free.

Is Panera gluten free safe for celiacs?

While Panera does have a gluten free menu, there is still some risk of cross-contamination. Those with celiac disease need to be very cautious when eating at restaurants with shared kitchens like Panera and should minimize riskier menu choices.

What soups from Panera are gluten free?

As of October 2022, Panera’s gluten free soups include Broccoli Cheddar (seasonal), Creamy Tomato, Ten Vegetable, Chicken Noodle, and Autumn Squash (seasonal). Always confirm ingredients and preparation practices before consuming.

Does Panera have gluten free pasta?

At this time Panera does not offer any gluten free pasta options. Their mac and cheese, pasta bowls, and other pasta-based dishes contain gluten from wheat pasta.


While Panera Bread does offer some gluten free dishes and makes efforts to avoid cross-contamination, wheat flour in their popular Broccoli Cheddar soup means it is off limits for those avoiding gluten. Dining out with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity can be challenging, but being an informed customer, asking questions, and choosing naturally gluten free foods can help reduce the risk of exposure. When in doubt, those with celiac disease or who are highly sensitive may want to avoid restaurant meals altogether to eliminate the chance of cross-contamination.

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