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Panera Bread

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    Panera’s top soup pick in the summer is a creamy vegetarian chowder that’s full of flavor and easy to copy at home once you know an important flavor secret. I started my hack using a vegetable broth, since that’s what all the other “copycats” call for, but I found its strong vegetable flavor dominated the soup, so I quickly bailed on that plan.

    Starting over, I referred to the soup’s ingredients posted online by Panera Bread and noticed there is no broth in the soup, which means every copycat recipe online is wrong. I didn’t want to make the same mistake in my recipe, but without the broth my soup would be lacking some important flavor components, and that’s no good either.

    In many soup recipes, the broth or stock is important for the umami quality provided by the yeast extract added to the product. Yeast extracts are one of the many ways food manufacturers add an MSG flavor-enhancing effect without adding MSG. Panera does in fact list “yeast extract” as one of the ingredients in the soup, so I needed to find a readily available ingredient that would provide the same savory quality.

    Enter nutritional yeast—or “nooch” as it’s often called—a flakey, nutrient-packed, vegan ingredient that’s growing quickly in popularity thanks to the savory, cheesy flavor it adds to a variety of foods (it’s great on popcorn). Nooch is also popular with vegans and vegetarians since it’s fortified with vitamin B12, an essential nutrient that's mainly found in animal-sourced foods.

    Now, with nooch in there, along with yellow corn, red-skin potatoes, poblano peppers, tomatoes, cilantro, and other tasty things, no broth is required. Just give it water and a little patience.

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    Other recipes I’ve seen that claim to duplicate the fabulous flavor of this popular soup do not make good clones, yet the long grain and wild rice mix that many of these recipes call for is a great way to get the exact amount of rice you need in a perfect blend. Just be sure not to use the flavor packet that comes with those rice kits, or you won’t get a good clone of the Panera original. Toss out that blend (or you can use it elsewhere; see Tidbits) and use the recipe below to make a better flavoring for the soup.

    Thanks to Panera Bread's policy of completely transparent ingredients, I discovered a surprising ingredient or two (wow, cabbage!), and was able to craft the best clone you’ll find for this top secret signature soup.

    Click here for more of my Panera Bread copycat recipes. 

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    Since Panera Bread makes all its ingredients known, it's not hard to find out that there’s no chicken broth in the original recipe, yet every copycat recipe I located online calls for chicken broth, as well as other ingredients clearly not found in Panera's version. Unlike those other recipes, this hack uses the same or similar ingredients to those listed on the company’s website.

    One of the ingredients in the soup, according to the posted list, is yeast extract. This tasty ingredient adds an MSG-like savoriness to Panera’s soup, and we can duplicate it by using nutritional yeast—often called "nooch"—now found in many stores, including Whole Foods. A little bit of nooch will provide the umami deliciousness that replaces chicken broth or bouillon.

    Panera keeps its soup gluten-free by thickening it with a combination of rice flour and cornstarch, rather than wheat flour. I’ve included those ingredients as well so that your clone is similarly gluten-free. Use the steps below and in about an hour you’ll have 8 servings of a soup that is a culinary doppelganger to Panera Bread's all-time favorite soup, and at a mere fraction of the cost.

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    A great cream scone should include just enough cream to help the dough stick together, but not so much that the inside of the scone is gooey. And the perfect amount of butter is required to keep the scone from being either too tough, or too flakey, like pie crust. After two dozen attempts, I believe I’ve found the right ratios that will give you tender, nicely-browned scones with juicy blueberries buried inside—and very little blue dough from blueberry juice, just like the real thing.

    I tried this recipe with every type of blueberry—fresh, frozen, dry, and rehydrated—and found that frozen worked best. After baking, these berries had the same flavor and texture as those in the original scone, so I have to assume that Panera also uses frozen berries. The secret is to first rinse and blot the berries dry before adding them to the dough. If you mix the dough properly, it should be crumbly so that you can easily integrate the juicy berries into every portion of dough. Just don’t squeeze too hard when you form the dough, or the berries may pop and you’ll be seeing blue.

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    Panera Bread’s product information pages refer to a long proofing time when describing the sour characteristic of the chain’s phenomenal bagels, but there is no mention of how long. After several weeks of trying different approaches to proofing these cinnamon bit–filled bagels, I decided the best solution was to form the bagels and proof them overnight in the cold. The next day the bagels came out of the refrigerator not much bigger, but after sitting for several hours at room temperature they more than doubled in size and had a light sourdough flavor like the original.

    The cinnamon drops that go into the bagel were also tricky. I needed to come up with a way to make bits of cinnamon/sugar that were crunchy, but not so hard as to break a tooth. I found the best way was to make oven-cooked cinnamon candy bound with cornstarch and milk and tenderized with oil. This sugar mixture is baked in a loaf pan until no longer bubbling, then cooled and shattered into tiny pieces. When the candy is broken up, much of it gets pulverized into dust, which you separate from the crumbs with a sieve. The crumbs are the cinnamon drops used in the bagel, and the cinnamon/sugar powder is used to dust the tops of the bagels just before baking.

    I also found that kettling (boiling the bagels) with just a tablespoon of sugar in the water produced a browner bagel than kettling with no sugar, so that’s the technique I’m sharing here. Some techniques call for malt in the water, but sugar works just fine and makes the perfectly shiny, blistered crust you see in the photo.

    Panera Bread has amazing soups too! See if I hacked your favorite here

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    Panera’s turkey chili is a wholesome and flavorful mix of dark meat turkey, beans, tomatoes, chilies, carrots, onions, and spices that’s easy to hack at home, once you know the secrets. I found that adding turkey in two forms—ground and sliced—resulted in the best copy. The sliced turkey should be dark meat, if possible, but if you can’t find uncooked, sliced dark meat, white meat is fine. It doesn’t finish quite as tender and flavorful as the dark meat, but it still works.

    To further improve flavor, I’m slipping in some nutritional yeast, which acts like MSG. Panera uses a natural yeast extract similar to this in many of their soups to improve flavor, so we’ll do the same. You can find nutritional yeast, or “nooch,” at Whole Foods or another well-stocked food store. If you can’t track it down, add another ¼ teaspoon of salt to the pot.

    And take note that you won’t be adding the edamame until the latter half of the cooking process. We do it this way so that when the chili is ready, the edamame will still be green, rather than the unappetizing grey color that can curse overcooked soybeans.

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    After the success of Panera Bread’s Cinnamon Crunch Bagels, the popular sandwich chain went back into the development kitchen and came out with these incredible scones, filled with the same crunchy cinnamon drops found in the bagels and drizzled with cinnamon icing.

    When first released, these scones were cut as triangles and frosted, but in 2018 the shape was changed to more “rustic”-shaped round blobs with drizzled or piped icing on top. I like to hack the latest recipe, so the newer version of this pastry is the version I’ve re-created here.

    These are cream scones, so cream is the main wet ingredient that holds the dough together—but keep the dough crumbly as you mix it, and try not to compress it much, or you risk making the final product too dense. The best way to form the scones is to use both hands and shape the dough like you’re making a loose snowball. Then use one hand to place the dough onto the baking sheet and form it into a rough dome shape. The scones will flatten and spread out a little bit as they bake.

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 2

    The weather’s cooler, the days are shorter, and pumpkin spice lattes are back in style. When fall arrives, it brings with it the traditional edibles we have come to expect. Usually, that’s something warm and/or orange and/or with squash in it. Panera’s top fall-release soup is all of the above. And its great taste inspired this new hack.

    On Panera’s ingredients statement for this soup, there is no specification for which types of squash are used. The ingredients mention only “squash,” so it’s possible there is more than one type of squash in it. Butternut squash has a great taste and rich orange color, so that’s an obvious choice, but I am also adding another flavorful squash to our pot: acorn squash. Its flesh is golden in color and tastes like pumpkin, but it’s sweeter and more buttery. I found the blended color and flavor from the combination of both butternut squash and acorn squash worked perfectly here.

    The flavor of the soup is created with several spices including cinnamon, curry, and cardamom, plus ginger puree, honey, apple juice, and Neufchatel cheese. Just a little cream at the end gives the soup body and a smooth richness you will love.

    When the soup is thick, serve it hot with freshly toasted pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top, and taste the season.

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    It’s a good thing that Panera’s delicious tomato soup is made with pear tomatoes so we can use canned San Marzano-style tomatoes for a quick and easy hack, and we’ll pump up the tomato flavor with added tomato paste.

    Other hacks will call for some form of broth here, but the broth is unnecessary and it's not in the real thing so a good clone recipe wouldn't include it. There is plenty of flavorful liquid in the canned tomatoes and we’ll sculpt the final flavor with herbs and spices, sugar, and lemon juice.

    You can buy premade croutons to use on top of your soup, but I’ve also included an easy hack to make black pepper croutons from focaccia or ciabatta bread just like those you get at the restaurant. 

    Check here for more of my Panera Bread copycat recipes. 

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 6

    Panera Bread's Baked Spinach and Artichoke Egg Souffle reminds me of a breakfast Hot Pocket, if a Hot Pocket tasted really good. With eggs, cheese, spinach, and artichoke hearts baked into a buttery crust, this super-cool presentation will earn you big bonus points from your crew in the a.m. And the best part about this copycat Panera spinach souffle recipe is you won't stress out over making the dough from scratch since you use premade Pillsbury Crescent Dough that comes in a tube. Just be sure when you unroll the dough that you don't separate it into triangles. Instead, pinch the dough together along the diagonal perforations to make four squares. After the dough is rolled out, line four buttered ramekins with each square, fill each ramekin with the secret egg mixture, and bake. 

    Find more of your favorite recipes from Panera Bread here

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Unlocked by Todd Wilbur.

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I'm Todd Wilbur,
Chronic Food Hacker

For 30 years I've been deconstructing America's most iconic brand-name foods to make the best original clone recipes for you to use at home. Welcome to my lab.

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