Creating healthified versions of popular menu items is often like putting lipstick on a pig — a tiny, flavorless pig. A dish you used to drool over loses its calories, but it also loses its color, consistency and kick. But don't freak out: Panera's new soups — which no longer include any artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, or preservatives — taste just as delicious as the originals.
The goal of Panera's head chef, Dan Kish, and the rest of the team was simple: Create soups with ingredients found in your average pantry. Because of that, some of the old commercial soup additives didn't make the cut and are now permanently on Panera's No No List. And they're serious about that list. So serious, in fact, that they decided to make some of the ingredients from scratch (even the cheese!) in order to get the same great flavors but avoid the less-than-wholesome ingredients, such as maltodextrin and sodium phosphate.
Many of the ingredient swaps make a lot of sense and are things we could all institute in our own kitchens, such as using unbleached wheat flour in place of bleached flour. And after revising his recipes many, many times — his broccoli cheddar saw 60 different versions before he was satisfied — Kish is proud of what will be going on customers' tables.
It's yet another win for those of us who crave wholesome, delicious food, and considering how many chain restaurants and food companies have been making healthy changes to their menus and products recently, 2016 is looking pretty tasty.