Skip to content

I Tried 8 Baked Goods at Panera & the Best Was Big, Sweet, and Gooey

From bagels to cookies to rolls, which Panera baked good is the yeast de résistance?
The product recommendations in this post are recommendations by the writer and/or expert(s) interviewed and do not contain affiliate links. Meaning: If you use these links to buy something, we will not earn a commission.

Did you know that Panera Bread got its start under a different alias? The company opened its doors in 1987 and operated under the name St. Louis Bread Company for its first 10 years in business. In these early days, the bakery's product line was small, with its bread and butter (quite literally) being primarily sourdough loaves.

Now, with an army of more than 2,000 locations, the chain has come a long way. It has morphed into a combination bakery-café that boasts a flourishing menu of soups, salads, sandwiches, and pizza. Yet, at its core, it remains the same. Bread-based products are still king, and an assortment of bagels, pastries, and baked goods continue to be baked fresh daily at each café.

Walking into a Panera location feels like accepting a warm hug, as heavenly scents surround you. Each of the goodies in the front cases is tantalizing. But, out of all the options, which one are you reaching for?

It's impossible to go wrong, but some are a step above. To pick out the best of the best, I tasted eight of the bakery's most popular options. From bagels to cookies to rolls, which Panera baked good is the yeast de résistance? Let's find out.

Brioche Roll

panera brioche roll
Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
PER Serving (1 ROLL): 210 calories, 7 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 310 mg sodium, 31 g carbs (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 8 g protein

In addition to legendary bagels and sugary pastries, Panera offers basic breads at its bakeries. You can buy its French baguettes or white whole grain by the loaf. Sourdough bread bowls are sold individually for you to fill with your own soups or stews. Plus, you'll find specialties like focaccia (the bread made famous by TikTok) and these fluffy egg-based Brioche Rolls. I bought one roll for $1.99 from my nearest Panera location. They are also sold in four-packs in all restaurants and select grocery stores such as Albertsons and Safeway.

The look: I'm impressed by its golden brown top. The bun is smooth and glistening, though it's not wet or buttery to the touch. The interior has a yellow tint from the egg. The air pockets formed during baking give it a fluffy texture.

The taste: Soft and pillowy—a high-quality artisan roll. It's a tiny bit sweet and buttery. Mostly, it's mild, making it the perfect base for a deli sandwich or a hamburger. I'd say it's a step up from most packaged options in the grocery store or a cafeteria-style roll. Yes, it's a fancy bun, but how can that compete with some of the more elaborate confections on this list?

 I Tried 6 Salads At Panera Bread & The Best Was Crisp & Tangy


panera croissant
Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
PER SERVING (1 CROISSANT): 270 calories, 15 g fat (11 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 28 g carbs (1 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 5 g protein

Croissants fall into the ​​Viennoiserie pastry category. This means they are a layered dough product that originated in Vienna, Austria, and later gained popularity in France. Other foods in this niche category include brioche, pain aux raisins, and Danish pastries. With a few other nods to French cuisine and culture, including its baguettes and French onion soup, Panera Bread also offers croissants as part of its bakery menu for $3.09 each.

The look: Picture-perfect—almost too perfect to the point where it resembles artificial food. It was baked to a darker tan hue and rolled evenly. A web of white bread revealed itself as I cut into the middle.

The taste: Puffy and light. But it doesn't flake like a good crescent should. The outer skin stays intact a bit too well, making me think it had gone stale, and it's missing that satisfying crackle. It's not greasy, but also not rich and buttery. Overall, it's a decent croissant. But, the best one I have ever enjoyed? Certainly not.

 I Tried Every Soup at Panera & One Can't Be Beat

Chocolate Chip Muffie

panera chocolate chp muffie
Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
PER SERVING (1 MUFFIE): 340 calories, 13 g fat (4.5 g saturated fat), 200 mg sodium, 51 g carbs (3 g fiber, 22 g sugar), 5 g protein

If you believe the top of the muffin is the only part worth having, then Panera is the place for you. The chain carries "muffies" in addition to full-sized muffins, which follow a similar recipe but leave off the bottom portion of the pastry. Pumpkin Muffies have been available at the bakery in the past. Currently, a chocolate chip version remains. I picked one up for $2.69—a bit of a rip-off, considering the price of a full muffin is 70 cents more.

The look: From the top it looks like a real muffin. It's rounded into a perfect circle with browned edges, and chocolate chips protrude out from below the surface. But, from the side, you can see it's flat like a disc or a Frisbee.

The taste: This reminds me more of a chocolate chip pancake or a cross between a cookie and cake than a muffin. It's soft and puffed up but firmer around the edges and on the bottom—similar to how brownie edges get crispy when baked. I could have used another handful of chocolate chips in the recipe. I like this idea and the innovation, but I would rather get a plain ole chocolate chip muffin.

 11 Secrets Panera Bread Doesn't Want You to Know


panera brownie
Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
PER SERVING (1 BROWNIE): 470 calories, 18 g fat (6 g saturated fat), 95 mg sodium, 69 g carbs (4 g fiber, 50 g sugar), 7 g protein

Brownies are a simple yet highly beloved dessert. The common treat is on-the-go friendly and often sold at fast-casual and fast-food restaurants. You might find them wrapped in cellophane and stacked near the register. Panera's obligatory version is priced at $3.49, and the chain describes it as "rich," "fudgy," and "soft." Let's see if that rings true.

The look: The square is on the smaller side and touts a dark chocolate brown color. It's also only covered halfway with powdered sugar in a diagonal across the middle. I would have dusted the entire square, but I appreciate the look. On the non-powdered half, you can see some normal cracks on the top layer of the brownie. The whole thing is about one inch thick.

The taste: Very dense and definitely fudgy. I was surprised to come across a few firmer chocolate chunks or chips that must have been incorporated into the batter. It tastes somewhat homemade. I don't think I could eat the whole square as it's extremely rich, as advertised, and a tad dry. It would be smart to have a glass of milk on hand.

 The 15 Healthiest Menu Items at Panera

Asiago Bagel

panera asiago bagel
Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
PER SERVING (1 BAGEL): 320 calories, 5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 540 mg sodium, 55 g carbs (2 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 14 g protein

This bakery item is a perfect example of cultures colliding as a fusion of Italy's Asiago cheese and bagels, which started in Poland's Jewish communities. Panera carries the mashup, and it joins other options like the sesame and everything bagel as another savory breakfast choice. I was able to grab one for $1.79. This is the current price (in my area) of Panera's bagels. Cream cheese is not included, coming in at a $1.55 upcharge.

Buying in larger quantities is an option—order by the dozen to get a discount on the bagels and the spread of your choice.

The look: A hearty-sized bagel, as most at Panera tend to be. It took up most of my smaller salad plate and was plenty thick, but it's missing a hole in the middle. On top is crusty shredded cheese, and the inside is soft and doughy.

The taste: I experienced such a nice crunch biting into this bagel. The Asiago on its crest creates a crispy shell without becoming too tough. Small, chewy cavities of mild and parmesan-like cheese are tucked into the dough, so no mouthful is devoid of the good stuff. The bagel itself is fresh, moist, and a little bit salty. Since it is more of a savory option, I love the versatility of this cheesy bagel. I would certainly eat one in the morning with a schmear slathered on. It also doubles as a great foundation for a lunch or dinner sandwich or even a midday snack.

 Every Panera Sandwich—Ranked by Nutrition

Bear Claw

panera bear claw
Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
PER Serving (1 BEAR CLAW): 500 calories, 23 g fat (10 g saturated fat), 350 mg sodium, 65 g carbs (3 g fiber, 30 g sugar), 10 g protein

The Bear Claw at Panera sounds and looks aggressive, but don't let that deter you. The pastry has been a consistent favorite at the chain for years and has even been called a "work of art" by one enthusiastic TikToker. Panera's website describes it as a "freshly baked pastry made with an almond filling and drizzled with icing and sliced almonds." One claw cost me $3.49.

The look: A C-shape croissant-like base with seven digits jutting out. This pastry does not receive points for being anatomically correct, as bears have just five toes. The whole thing is garnished with almond slivers, and a perfectionist must have piped the white icing on top.

The taste: It's much flakier than the previously mentioned plain croissant and doesn't stop showing off there. The paste in the middle is sugary with a rich almond flavor, and the amount is just enough to add a punch of flavor without being overwhelming. I love that the almonds add some crackle and texture. And the icing on top (literally) is the frosting dribbles. They're not just vanilla-flavored. A hint of lemon is also added, giving the entire pastry a citrusy and fresh facelift.

As I dug into this bear claw, I couldn't help but be reminded of the highly cherished Almond Danish at Costco and the Four Almond Croissants at Trader Joe's. Honestly, I don't know which is best.

 20 Best & Worst Panera Breakfast Orders, According To Dietitians

Cinnamon Crunch Bagel

panera cinnamon crunch bagel
Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
PER SERVING (1 BAGEL): 430 calories, 7 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 380 mg sodium, 82 g carbs (2 g fiber, 32 g sugar), 9 g protein

A Cinnamon Crunch Bagel is certainly not the healthiest breakfast on Panera's menu, as confirmed by dietitians. But, it is one of the restaurant's most prominent and idolized bagels. I think a significant reason for this is because it is one-of-a-kind. Most other coffee or bagel shops stick to the classics like cinnamon raisin or cinnamon sugar. Meanwhile, Panera dials things up a notch with cinnamon in multiple forms, plus flavors of vanilla and brown sugar. The bagel and a necessary side of cream cheese cost me $3.34.

The look: Like the Asiago variety, this bagel does not have a hole, leaving room for more crunchy, crystallized sugar and cinnamon on top. Once you cut into it, patches of cinnamon can also be seen. And, once again, it is substantially sized.

The taste: The best Panera Bread bagel, in my opinion. It's almost reminiscent of a cinnamon roll but with an amusing and delicious hard sugary shell. The inside is doughy, and injections of cinnamon make for plenty of flavor in each bite. I could eat it plain, and I have on many prior occasions. Smearing on some plain or honey walnut cream cheese is a game-changer. Get ready for a major sugar rush in the morning and one of the most delectable breakfasts you've ever had.

 Every Panera Soup—Ranked by Nutrition

Kitchen Sink Cookie

panera sink cookie
Megan Hageman, Eat This, Not That!
PER SERVING (1 COOKIE): 820 calories, 44 g fat (29 g saturated fat), 760 mg sodium, 99 g carbs (2 g fiber, 56 g sugar), 8 g protein

Panera's Kitchen Sink Cookie gets its name from the phrase "everything but the kitchen sink," which means to throw in everything imaginable. This cookie recipe does just that, taking a standard chocolate chip cookie to the next level with the inclusion of even more chocolate, caramel mini cups, tiny pretzel sticks, and flake salt. It's no joke, and I'm not sure how I've never picked one up in all my years of eating at Panera. One cookie cost me $4.39.

The look: Almost the size of my head, measuring 5 inches across. It's definitely a shareable size, and it should be shared at that calorie count. It's also bronzed and plenty thick, pumped full of ingredients. Specifically, chocolate chunks are visible outside, and salt flakes are sprinkled on top.

The taste: I broke my cookie in half to take my first taste straight from the middle, and I'm so glad I did. This is where all the gooey and tacky caramel clusters were hiding. Gushes filled every bite, and the intense flavor reminded me of butterscotch. The cookie is chewy and a little bit underdone, which is how I like it. Chocolate is abundant in both semi-sweet and milk chocolate forms, and the salt adds balance.

From the jump, I worried that all the add-ins would be too much, but I was wrong. I would cut out the pretzels. They don't contribute to the flavor and get more chewy than crunchy when baked into things. Beyond this one small quibble, the rest of this cookie is *chef's kiss.*

Megan Hageman
Megan is a freelance writer based in Columbus, Ohio. Read more about Megan
Filed Under