BBQ Chicken Salad

Fast food is a pretty rare occurrence for me. Our refrigerator consistently brims with leftovers begging to be eaten as midday meals, and I also try to save the money I’d spend at the drive through for nicer evenings out. Then, I became addicted to Panera’s BBQ Chicken Salad, and “rare occurrence” started looking decided less…rare.

BBQ Chicken Salad recipe with creamy ranch dressing — Filling and flavorful! This healthy salad comes together quickly and is perfect for a summer meal. With juicy BBQ grilled chicken, crunchy tortilla chips, and lots of fresh veggies. @wellplated

This addictive grilled chicken salad and I met when I had been out of town for a week. After a long morning of running errands, the prospect of returning home to face an empty refrigerator was so unappealing, I decided to pull into Panera. I opted for a new (for me) menu item, the BBQ Chicken Salad.

And so it began.

Between the crispy onions, smoky corn and black beans, and BBQ ranch dressing, I was hooked at first bite.

This BBQ Chicken Salad recipe is so fresh, filling, and healthy too! With light ranch, juicy grilled chicken, crunchy tortilla chips, and black beans. Our whole family loves it! @wellplated

Two days later, I ignored the guilty stares from the container of leftover Healthy Pepperoni Pasta Salad in my fridge and headed to Panera to order BBQ Chicken Salad a second time. It tasted even better than I remembered it.

From this pivotal moment of BBQ Chicken Salad obsession, I had two options: redirect some of my discretionary income (a.k.a. happy hour and date night budget), into purchasing this salad from Panera on repeat (which if you’ve been to Panera recently you know adds up quickly), or to create my own, at-home recipe so that I could enjoy it for a fraction of the price anytime I pleased. Guess which one I picked.

Copycat Panera BBQ Chicken Salad recipe — This easy, healthy salad comes together so quickly and is a family favorite! With creamy ranch, crunchy tortilla chips, and lots of fresh veggies. The perfect summer meal. @wellplated

Not only is this homemade BBQ Chicken Salad a dead-ringer for Panera’s, it’s loaded with twice the toppings for a fraction of the cost. Although I appreciate the fact that Panera offers healthy menu options compared with most fast food chains, the portions can be skimpy. By making my own BBQ Chicken Salad at home, I was able to load it with as large a serving of crisp veggies, juicy chicken, and crunchy tortilla chips as my heart desired.

Copycat Panera BBQ Chicken Salad recipe — A healthy salad that comes together quickly, is filling, and tastes even better than the Panera original! Loaded with fresh veggies, juicy chicken, creamy ranch, and crunchy tortilla chips. @wellplated

Plus, the fact that the BBQ chicken in this recipe is freshly grilled, versus reheated in the back of a food assembly line, guarantees for a richer taste and increased BBQ Chicken Salad satisfaction.

Even Ben, who does not consider “salad” and “dinner” synonymous gave this recipe a vote of approval. It’s healthy, easy to make, and the chicken even tastes good leftover the next day. I see this BBQ Chicken Salad on our weeknight menu often this summer, especially in later months when fresh corn is in season in Wisconsin.

BBQ Chicken Salad recipe — this healthy salad is so quick and easy to make! With juicy BBQ grilled chicken, crunchy tortilla chips, and creamy ranch dressing, it’s filling and a family favorite. @wellplated

Since for most, fresh corn is not available year round, I’ve suggested using canned Mexicorn for the recipe. It makes the BBQ Chicken Salad super fast and easy to prepare too.

If you are lucky enough to have fresh ears of corn at your disposal when you make this recipe, grill them along with the chicken, then slice the kernels off the cob and add them to the salad, along with the beans, onions, and other goodies.

My one request: don’t skip the crushed tortilla chips. I promise this grilled chicken salad is still plenty healthy, and the salt and crunch even a few chips provide will have you addicted to this BBQ Chicken Salad too!

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BBQ Chicken Salad

This fresh, filling BBQ Chicken Salad is quick to make and a family favorite! With juicy grilled chicken, black beans, tortilla chips, and creamy ranch.

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

For the BBQ Chicken Salad:

  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons prepared BBQ sauce (your favorite brand)
  • 6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup canned low-sodium black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup canned Mexicorn, drained
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • Crushed tortilla chips or strips, for serving
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving

For the BBQ Ranch Dressing:

  • 1/3 cup prepared light ranch dressing (I found a Greek yogurt–based dressing in the refrigerated section of the grocery store that I love)
  • 1 tablespoon prepared BBQ sauce

Directions:

  1. Preheat a grill to medium-high heat. Brush both sides of the pounded chicken breast with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on one side for 4 minutes, flip, brush the grilled sides with BBQ sauce, then grill the other side for 3 to 4 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through. Remove to a serving plate and brush the other grilled side with BBQ sauce. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes, then chop into bite-sized pieces.
  2. Prepare the dressing: In a small bowl or measuring cup with a spout, stir together the ranch dressing and BBQ sauce. Taste and adjust the ratio as desired.
  3. In a large serving bowl, combine the romaine, tomatoes, beans, Mexicorn, red onion, and chopped chicken. Drizzle the salad with dressing, then toss to lightly coat. Serve immediately, topped with crushed tortilla chips and cilantro.

Inspired by Panera’s BBQ Chicken Salad

// All images and text ©/Well Plated.

Nutrition Facts

Serving Size: 1 (of 4, with 2 tablespoons crushed tortilla chips)

  • Amount Per Serving:
  • Calories: 329
  • Total Fat: 13g
  • Saturated Fat: 2g
  • Cholesterol: 39mg
  • Sodium: 734mg
  • Carbohydrates: 51g
  • Fiber: 8g
  • Sugar: 18g
  • Protein: 19g

Did you try this recipe? I want to see! Follow Well Plated on Instagram, snap a photo, and tag it #wellplated. I love to know what you are making!

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