16 Panera Bread Sandwiches, Ranked Worst To First

Panera Bread may be the king of lunch breaks but that doesn't mean all of its sandwich options are winners. For a fast-casual staple, the restaurant cycles items on and off its menu more than you'd expect; it's not uncommon to show up and find your favorite sandwich missing and suddenly in need of selecting a different option to chow down on. Sometimes you end up with a new favorite, but sometimes you don't. 

With a wide variety of sandwiches on the menu, from a classic turkey and cheese to a spicy buffalo to a veggie-filled delight, there are plenty of options for all taste preferences. However, they are not all created equal. While there are certainly those that are worth it, there are some that just don't hit the target. No one wants a dud lunch, so this list lays out Panera Bread's sandwich menu from the ones to avoid to the best it has to offer.

16. Deli turkey sandwich

Panera's basic deli turkey sandwich sits at the bottom of the pile because it's just that: Basic. It features oven-roasted turkey breast deli meat with tomato, red onion, greens, mayo, and spicy mustard. The most unique part of the sandwich is that it's served on the company's rustic sourdough bread instead of the white or wheat you might get at a cafeteria.

While you're probably not making the choice to head to Panera Bread strictly for your health, it's worth mentioning that there are healthier options to be had. Other sandwiches might have a higher calorie count but this sliced turkey breast carries more health risks than Panera's unprocessed meats. According to the World Health Organization, there's evidence that processed meats, like deli meat, are linked to higher rates of cancer.

With the increased health risk and the fact that there's simply nothing special about this sandwich — you could easily make it at home — why not order something more interesting? You can do better.

15. Signature Take chicken sandwich

The Signature Take chicken sandwich was one of Panera's two forays into the chicken sandwich wars. Unlike the other restaurants duking it out for the title of best chicken sandwich, Panera introduced a healthier option with a chicken breast that hasn't been deep-fried. It was a gutsy move considering frying equals flavor and it absolutely did not pay off. The reception was poor and, honestly, that's what the sandwich deserved. Interestingly enough, the answer to the question of why customers weren't impressed with Panera's chicken sandwiches doesn't seem to be the fact that they aren't fried, but because the chicken is paired with strange flavor combinations.

The Signature Take chicken sandwich features a seared chicken breast, greens, garlic aioli, and crunchy parmesan crisps. Panera copied the other restaurant's use of sweeter brioche buns but turned the rest into an Italian-themed chicken sandwich, which does not work. The chicken is fairly tasteless, the garlic is over-powering, and the parmesan crisp texture in a sandwich is all wrong. It feels like someone stuck croutons between two pieces of bread. This sandwich certainly doesn't scratch the itch when you're looking for a chicken sandwich, which is why it lands near the bottom of our list. 

14. Tuna salad sandwich

The tuna salad sandwich is a love-it-or-hate-it type of food, and Panera's offering isn't anything to write home about. The sandwich features tuna salad, greens, sliced tomato, and red onions on black pepper focaccia. The tuna salad consists of water-packed tuna, mayo, sweet relish, mustard, distilled vinegar, and breadcrumbs for added body. 

If you like a good tuna salad sandwich, this has everything you may want in theory but it's lacking in the amount of tuna. Even if you've enjoyed the sandwich from Panera in the past, the tuna portions aren't what they used to be. One Tripadvisor user wrote, "You used to buy the sandwich and it was overflowing with delicious white Albacore tuna. Now, you will be lucky to get 2 tablespoons of tuna on each half of the sandwich." Other tuna lovers have noted that the consistency is lacking as well with the tuna appearing to be closer to a spread than a salad with big pieces of tuna. A customer complained on Yelp that it's a "tuna sandwich with more vegetables than tuna," and that the tuna salad itself "has way too much oil/mayo!"  

13. Smoky Buffalo Chicken Melt

The Smoky Buffalo Chicken Melt, one of Panera's new toasted baguette melts, had so much promise but the execution isn't there. This sandwich features a baguette filled with pulled smoked chicken, buffalo sauce, American cheese, and red onion. The whole thing is toasted until the cheese is melty and the crust of the baguette has a satisfying crunch. The flavors individually sound great but the combination doesn't really work. Chicken, buffalo sauce, and red onion go well together but the odd choice is the American cheese. As Will from the Thrill of Will Reviews YouTube channel stated in a review, "It's a little weird having American cheese on a buffalo chicken sandwich, I'm not gonna lie. It's a little strange. It doesn't taste terrible but it doesn't make a lot of sense." 

The sandwich's biggest misstep is how little filling there is compared to the amount of bread. These baguette melts are huge at around 10 inches long, but most of each bite is bread. In that same video review, Will summed it up in a cheeky way saying, "It's definitely kind of what you always get at Panera. It's a lot of bread. Not a lot of meat. You know, you kinda know what to expect. They're 'baguette-it' again."

12. Bacon Turkey Bravo Sandwich

Panera's getting bolder with its modifications of traditional deli sandwiches. The Bacon Turkey Bravo isn't anything like the creativity to come but it's certainly an upgrade from the restaurant's boring deli turkey sandwich. You still get the same processed deli turkey slices, tomato, and greens but the sourdough bread has been switched up to a more flavorful tomato basil bread. Instead of plain mayo, you get Panera's signature sauce, and the best additions are bacon and slices of smoked gouda. With these changes, the flavor profile has been punched up to something worth ordering. 

This is the only sandwich that features Panera's signature sauce, which has a savory and complex flavor profile. Some components are easier to pick out than others, like the brightness of tomato paste, distinctive garlic, sweetness from green bell pepper purée, and the tanginess from its mayonnaise base. Other ingredients may not be as apparent but add to the overall taste. The sauce contains green olive puree which provides a salty, umami kick as well as spices you might not expect like allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon. As much as that sounds like a pumpkin spice bomb, these flavors make the sauce feel properly spiced rather than fall-spiced.

11. Spicy Take Chicken Sandwich

Panera's second attempt at finding its place in the chicken sandwich wars was the Spicy Take Chicken Sandwich. It's better than the garlic and parmesan Signature Take Chicken Sandwich but it's a long way from great. At first, the sandwich shows promise, with a seared chicken breast, buffalo sauce, and spicy fried pickle chips on a soft brioche bun. It could have stopped there and done well but Panera couldn't help but add one more sauce. Instead of staying true to the buffalo chicken sandwich vibe by adding ranch or bleu cheese dressing, Panera added the same garlic aioli from the Signature Take Chicken Sandwich.

While the sauces are fighting each other, the predominant flavor of the whole sandwich becomes the salty pickle chips, so much so that you can't even taste the chicken. "I don't hate it but I don't love it," YouTuber Lynee' Monae added. "Why are the pickles outshining the chicken?" It's not that this sandwich is bad, it's just a vaguely disappointing experience. 

10. Pepperoni Mozzarella Melt

If you're surprised to see the Pepperoni Mozzarella Melt this far down the list, that's entirely fair. This sandwich features pepperoni, fresh mozzarella, a fontina and mozzarella cheese blend, and a tomato and red bell pepper sauce on half of a crusty baguette. How could it go wrong? It goes wrong by not giving you enough of those things.

The biggest complaint about these melts across the board is that Panera is so skimpy on the fillings that your sandwich is mostly bread. All the elements are there but it's disappointing at these proportions. In his review of the sandwich, YouTuber Joe is Hungry said, "It's dry, overpriced. As I said, lacks basic ingredients. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad flavor, I just wish we had more of it." One user on Reddit didn't go as easy on the sandwich, commenting, "It's literally the worst melt in the history of melts. I'm shocked there isn't some nationwide outrage."  

9. Grilled Cheese

Panera's Grilled Cheese is exactly what you think it is: American cheese on white bread, or in this case, thickly-sliced white miche. It's basic and more simple than the deli turkey sandwich but it's higher on the list because this grilled cheese is classic and satisfying in its simplicity. The bread is soft, not too burnt or crispy, and Panera doesn't skimp on the gooey American cheese and gives you a nice thick layer. This is comfort food at its finest: Warm, cheesy, and uncomplicated. Grazelnut's Food Journey went as far as to title their review, "This grilled cheese sandwich you have to eat before you die!"

Another thing this sandwich has going for it is that its simple nature leaves the door wide open to add items without messing up a carefully calculated balance of half a dozen components. There are infinite fancy grilled cheese recipes to play with using Panera's robust customization system. You can add bacon and tomato for something more hearty. You can also switch out the cheese for white cheddar or smoked gouda -– or opt for several kinds of cheese for a melty blend. Spice it up with mustard or create your own warm caprese sandwich by selecting fresh mozzarella, fresh tomato, and basil.

8. Napa Almond Chicken Sandwich

A deli specialty with a twist, the Napa Almond Chicken Salad Sandwich is refreshing and light. Sandwich joints are practically obligated to offer a sandwich with the traditional combination of chicken salad, sliced tomato, and greens on a neutral bread (in this case sourdough), but Panera has improved on the base chicken salad recipe. The chicken salad is made with all-white chicken breast, celery, sliced red grapes, and toasted slivered almonds, and while most recipes call for mayonnaise, Panera has its own distinctive chicken salad dressing. 

This dressing is made with soybean oil and egg yolks which indicate a mayonnaise base that is flavored with honey, cider vinegar, mustard oil, and rosemary extract. The sliced red grapes and toasted slivered almonds add a bit of crunch as well as a touch of sweetness. This is a good sandwich with bright sweet notes to keep it interesting but the portion size of the chicken salad can leave you wanting more. 

7. Toasted Frontega Chicken Sandwich

The Toasted Frontega Chicken Sandwich is another example of Panera's fusion flavor tendencies. It includes tender smoked pulled chicken, tomato slices, red onion, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella. It's served panini-style on black pepper focaccia and topped, unexpectedly, with chipotle mayo. It's essentially a Caprese sandwich with chicken and chipotle sauce -– but it works. The smokiness of the chipotle goes great with the smoked chicken and mozzarella. Chipotle peppers and fresh basil might not seem like a traditional combination but it brings a pleasant spice for a new take on a classic sandwich that's definitely worth trying. 

The one major flaw with this sandwich is that while the top slice of the focaccia is pleasantly airy and chewy, that same spongey texture means the bottom slice soaks up too much moisture and becomes mushy almost immediately. If this is one of your favorites and you can't get out to Panera as often as you'd like, you can try your hand at this copycat Panera Frontega Chicken Panini recipe.

6. Mediterranean Veggie

The Mediterranean Veggie is tangy, tastes healthy in a pleasant way, and is more filling than you'd expect. This vegetarian favorite starts with Panera's tomato basil bread that has a touch of herby sweetness. There's a crunch of fresh veg with cucumber, red onion, tomato, and greens. Zesty pickled peppadew peppers bring a sweet and vinegary spice that pairs well with the crumbly feta cheese and smooth hummus. It's all the elements you'd expect to find in a Greek salad served as a sandwich. 

The choice of hummus as the condiment adds the creaminess of mayonnaise or a signature sauce as well as bringing much-needed protein. Plenty of restaurants forget when building a vegetarian menu item that vegetarians actually want and need more than just vegetables. Protein from the chickpeas in the hummus makes this an item that won't leave non-carnivores hungry 20 minutes later.

How good is it really? "It's so amazing," one Reddit user wrote, going so far as to say, "I work at Panera and a major reason I do is because I get a free med veg at the end of every shift."

5. Roasted Turkey and Avocado BLT

Panera's Roasted Turkey and Avocado BLT is made with roasted turkey slices rather than deli meat, making it significantly healthier and tastier than the other turkey options on this list. The thicker slices have a markedly better texture and the edges have a peppery crust. Timmy's Takeout described it as "a sliced Thanksgiving-y turkey" which is a huge improvement from deli meat. 

The sandwich meets the BLT requirement of bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo, and a neutral sourdough bread, but Panera went off the book by adding avocado. The BLT is bright, crunchy, and salty from the bacon, and the slices of creamy avocado completely elevate the texture. It adds a buttery softness that enhances the feel and flavor of the lean turkey and helps to make the BLT feel even more filling. If it included a more acidic or tangy element to cut through the avocado, this could be a perfect sandwich. 

4. Toasted Steak & White Cheddar

You won't find a lot of red meat offered at Panera, but the Toasted Steak & White Cheddar Sandwich is a solidly good pick. It's an uncomplicated sandwich with only a few ingredients. A toasted ciabatta roll is topped with sliced grass-fed beef sirloin, melty aged white cheddar, and pickled red onions, then slathered with a creamy horseradish sauce. Does that sound good? It is.  

Iceberg Gem Foodstuffs called it "an artisan cheesesteak," and he's right on the money. Panera has taken the sub-shop staple and elevated it to something a little more chic. The steak, cheese, and buttery horseradish sauce together have the potential to be overwhelmingly rich but the acid of those pickled red onions keeps popping up like little oniony starbursts in your mouth. Their vinegary zing cuts right through all that richness for a balancing act of tastes that will make this one of your new favorite Panera options. That said, if you don't like horseradish, this is not the sandwich for you. It's not so strong that it will make your nose burn but it is a very dominant flavor.

3. Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt

Now we're really starting to get into some winners with the Chipotle Chicken Avocado Melt. Moving away from Panera's deli-chic routine, this sandwich has a Mexican flare with chipotle sauce, avocado, and fresh cilantro. The tangy and spicy peppadew peppers add an extra kick and some sweetness. It uses the same smoked chicken as the buffalo melt but the proportion of sandwich filling to bread is what you'd want for this size sandwich. Gouda cheese and focaccia bread aren't traditionally something you'd think would go with these Tex-Mex flavors — and yet, they work. The gouda is smoked, which blends in seamlessly with the smoked chicken and smoky chipotle adobo sauce. The soft, chewy focaccia bread soaks up that chipotle sauce and plays well with the creamy avocado.

For those looking for some heat to come from that chipotle sauce, you won't find it. It's spiced but not spicy. Mostly Healthy Food Reviews called it, "Very tasty, very flavorful. The flavors mesh really well on this one." He later added that it's "definitely worth the money." 

2. Green Goddess Caprese Melt

Panera's vegetarian menu has been lacking since the modern caprese sandwich was discontinued so this new release in 2023 has vegetarians celebrating. The Green Goddess Caprese Melt is the first of the new toasted baguette melts to not only work but stand out as one of the best on the menu. Unlike the other two melts which suffer from a marked lack of filling, this sandwich has a proper filling-to-baguette ratio. 

Kelly Party of 2 reviewed all three melts somewhat reluctantly, admitting that they aren't fans of Panera, but had this to say about the Green Goddess Caprese Melt, "Can't believe I'm going to say this. This is the best one of the three. It has the most flavor." He later concluded, "I actually really like this one," surprising his wife who commented, "But you're a meat guy!"

The huge, crusty baguette is filled with fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, fresh basil, arugula, peppadew peppers, and grated parmesan cheese. Panera went with two sauces (which was the right call with the thickness of the baguette): Garlic aioli and the green goddess dressing. Green goddess dressing is a dressed-up pesto with a creamy zing. Basil, garlic, and parmesan create the pesto flavor and the tangy creaminess comes from Greek yogurt. The addition of zesty champagne vinegar and Dijon mustard gives it a wonderful brightness. This is one tasty sandwich that is also filling, making it a great option for a quick lunch.

1. Smokehouse BBQ Chicken Sandwich

The Smokehouse BBQ Chicken Sandwich is as good as it gets for Panera Bread sandwiches. It's balanced and cohesive, and no single ingredient overshadows the rest to become a dominant, one-note flavor. The smoked pulled chicken pairs perfectly with the sweet and tangy apple cider vinegar barbecue sauce. It's topped with melty white cheddar, red onions, and crispy fried onions. It's all served on Panera's white miche loaf and griddled for a buttery Texas toast feel. Plus, unlike the focaccia bread sandwiches, this grilled white miche holds its own against the saucy contents, even as a take-out item.

It's a flawlessly-designed sandwich. Each element enhances the other. The bite of the red onions plays off the acid and sweetness of the barbecue, which pairs with the saltiness of the crispy fried onions. The buttery bread and white cheddar are a winning combination and the smokiness of the pulled chicken still shines through it all. Being a barbecue sandwich, it may be a little messier than some of the drier options but it's well worth the extra napkin. You're not going to find a more satisfying sandwich at Panera.