Build A Super Salad: Our Take-Home Secrets

Our salads are customer favorites. So how can you capture the tastes at home? With these tips from our salad creator and head chef, Dan Kish.

The beauty of a salad is its ultimate versatility. Whether it is served as a side or dished up as the main course, there’s almost no end to the combinations you can create. “It’s really about layering flavors and textures,” says Dan Kish, head chef at Panera Bread®. “It’s a little bit art, a little bit science.”

And while we think our menu features some of the best and tastiest salads available, there’s no reason why you can’t duplicate some of our favorites—or create your own unique combinations—at home. Here’s how.

Start With Quality Lettuce

Don’t be afraid to mix varieties. Tender baby leaves work well in almost any combination: spinach and romaine, for example. Arugula and red leaf is another delicious blend. “A great tip is to mix fresh herbs in with the lettuce,” says Dan. “It will add a layer of depth to the salad and allow you to cut back on extra dressing at the end to enhance the overall flavor.” Basil, dill, parsley, mint, and chives are good ones to try.

How much lettuce is best? That’s up to you. “Composed salads—in which ingredients are arranged rather than tossed together—have become very popular,” says Dan, explaining that in this case, the lettuce greens account for just less than half of the total mix of ingredients. That’s less than traditional salads, leaving room to…

Add Layers of Flavor

A seasonal approach will help you combine the types of ingredients that go well together. Remember things that grow together go together: carrots, cucumbers, and tomatoes; apples and cranberries; mushrooms, spinach, and onions. Another way to build a super salad is to layer complementary regional flavors. For example, our Mediterranean Salmon Salad is made with fresh romaine, kalamata olives, Mandarin oranges, toasted almonds, and feta.

“It’s always nice to add a little protein to any salad that you want to make a meal out of,” says Dan. “At home you can make use of leftover meats sliced very thin, hard-boiled eggs, bacon, lentils and beans, or goat cheese.”

Dan also keeps the pantry stocked with nuts, dried fruit, and good-quality extra virgin olive oil. “I’m not a fan of store-bought salad dressings,” he says. “In fact, one of the best things you can do for any salad is to dress it lightly with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh lemon juice. It’s simple, fresh, and easy—and delivers a ton of flavor.”

Don’t Forget the Croutons

“Good croutons come from good bread,” says Dan. “They add a lot of great texture to any salad.”

Try cubing day-old bread (choose any one of our artisan loaves); toss with olive oil, salt, and pepper; and toast in a 350°F oven until dry and crispy.