pairings

The Art of the Pairing

Mix and match like you mean it.

Pairing flavors for the way they get along together is every bit as exciting as playing matchmaker with your two single friends whom you just know will hit it off. And when it all works out and you’re sitting there at the wedding telling everyone how you just knew they were meant to be? Finding the perfect Panera pairing feels just as satisfying.

This season, Panera head chef, Dan Kish and the rest of the food team have put together three of their best flavor duos chosen because they play so well together.

The Salad: Chicken Soba Noodle with peanut sauce

The Flatbread: Thai Chicken

Why They’re Made for Each Other:

While the Steak & Arugula and Broccoli Cheddar pairing is a study in contrast, this match made in Asia takes the opposite approach. Choosing two items with the same or similar cultural inspiration offers a breadth of flavors that simply taste great together.

A modern take on the classic salad and sandwich pairing, it’s the interplay of citrus and savory across both dishes that make this a perfect combination. “The orange miso dressing creates a floral note that both balances the heavier flavors of the soba noodles in their spicy peanut sauce, and highlights the hint of lime in the dressing of the flatbread,” says Dan.

The Broth Bowl: Ricotta Sacchettini with Chicken

The Flatbread: Tomato Mozzarella

Why They’re Meant to Be:

That same idea of complementary flavors applies to this Italian pair as well. Both the bowl and flatbread have our nut-free basil pesto and tomato sofrito tying them together, but it’s the additional ingredients that make this a delicious play on Italian tastes.

While the flatbread draws on the brightness of the fresh tomatoes and sofrito tomatoes paired with gooey, melted mozzarella, the bowl takes advantage of a classic Italian technique by infusing the broth with a sharp and airy note from a sprinkle of parmesan. And that lemon wheel floating there is no afterthought. Its acidity balances out the richness of the cheeses and meaty hen broth, while bringing out the bright flavors of the flatbread.

The Sandwich: Steak & Arugula

The Soup: Broccoli Cheddar

Why They’re Perfect Together:

Savory steak, creamy cheddar. At first glance this hearty pair may seem like an overly indulgent choice, but that’s just not the case. “Although Broccoli Cheddar’s not the lowest calorie soup we serve, for the richness that you get, it’s actually quite surprising that you can have it with a substantial sandwich like the Steak & Arugula, and still be below 500 calories for your meal,” says Dan.*

But calories aren’t the only reason to love these two together. The bright flavors found in the sandwich—the tang of the sourdough and the vibrant pickled onions—give it a lightness that works to offset the sharp cheddar and thick, velvety texture of this heavier soup.

Feeling inspired? Try your hand at making the next great pairing of your Panera favorites (take our You Pick Two® generator for a spin at PaneraBread.com), or create your own at-home duos with these tips:

• Pair a composed Mediterranean salad—topped with salami, cheese, chickpeas, and olives—with a simple bruschetta (toasted bread with seasoned chopped tomatoes).

• Serve Thai lettuce wraps—filled with spiced ground chicken or sautéed veggies—with a miso noodle soup.

• Team flatbread pizza with an heirloom-tomato salad.

• Serve half a pita stuffed with hummus, grilled veggies, and feta with a scoop of your favorite whole grain salad (such as quinoa, bulgur or wheatberries)

*Calories do not include a side choice.