Fast food is usually a rare occurrence around here, until I became addicted to Panera’s BBQ Chicken Salad. That “rare occurrence” started looking decided less…rare.
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Between the crispy onions, smoky corn and black beans, and BBQ ranch dressing, I was hooked at first bite.
I decided to take my newfound obsession and use it to create my own, at-home recipe so that I could enjoy the salad for a fraction of the price anytime I pleased (I did the same thing with this Italian Pasta Salad).
- Not only is this homemade healthy BBQ chicken salad a dead-ringer for the Panera and Cheesecake Factory BBQ chicken salad, but it’s also loaded with twice the toppings for a fraction of the cost.
- 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.
- Plus, the fact that the BBQ chicken in this recipe is freshly grilled (thank you, Grilled Chicken Breast), versus reheated in the back of a food assembly line, guarantees a richer taste and increased BBQ chicken salad satisfaction.
5 Star Review
“I just made this salad and oh my goodness! Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I can’t wait to finish it!”— Brian —
How to Make BBQ Chicken Salad
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!
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.
- Chicken. Boneless, skinless chicken breast is grilled to perfection and slathered with a delicious homemade barbecue sauce. It’s tender, flavorful, and a large part of what makes this salad so scrumptious and filling.
- Barbecue Sauce. The flavor star of this salad! Whether you use my homemade Barbecue Sauce or opt for a store-bought version is up to you. Craving more BBQ? Check out BBQ Chicken Pizza.
- Romaine. Crisp romaine leaves stand up to the creamy dressing and heaping pile of tasty toppings.
- Cherry Tomatoes. Add freshness and provide a burst of sweetness.
- Black Beans. Canned black beans are an easy addition that brings oodles of fiber and potassium to the salad.
- Mexicorn. Since for most, fresh corn is not available year-round, I’ve suggested using canned Mexicorn for the recipe. It makes the salad super fast and easy to prepare too. (You can also use it in this Black Bean Corn Salad.)
- Red Onion. What you have on chicken salad for a crisp, fresh bite.
- Tortilla Chips. The crunchy, salty topping you mustn’t skip!
- BBQ Ranch Dressing. An unbelievably simple combination of barbecue sauce and light ranch dressing (to keep the BBQ chicken salad calories low). It’s cool, sweet, savory, and delightfully creamy!
- Grill the chicken, brushing it with barbecue sauce. Let rest, then cut it into small pieces.
- Stir the dressing ingredients together.
- Add all the salad ingredients to a large bowl, and toss them with the salad dressing. Top with tortilla chips and cilantro. DIG IN!
- To Store. Refrigerate leftover salad in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days. Store leftover tortilla chips at room temperature separately from the cold BBQ chicken salad.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, grill the chicken as directed and brush it with the barbecue sauce. Stir the dressing ingredients together and refrigerate it until you’re ready to serve the salad.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Grill Brush. Perfect for brushing the chicken with oil and barbecue sauce.
- Tongs. A nice pair of tongs makes grilling the chicken a breeze.
- Non-Slip Cutting Board. Your cutting board will stay in place while you’re chopping.
Frequently Asked Questions
Turn leftover BBQ chicken salad into a scrumptious wrap. Tuck the salad into a tortilla and enjoy an easy, healthy meal.
Sometimes, grilled BBQ chicken salad ingredients aren’t healthy, but this grilled chicken salad is healthy and packed with nutritious ingredients. Plus, with plenty of protein and fiber, this salad will help keep you fuller for longer.
BBQ Chicken Salad
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 homemade barbecue sauce or prepared store-bought sauce
- 6 cups chopped romaine lettuce
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes 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 homemade barbecue sauce or prepared store-bought sauce
- 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 barbecue 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 barbecue sauce. Cover and let rest for 5 minutes, then chop into bite-sized pieces.
- Prepare the dressing: In a small bowl or measuring cup with a spout, stir together the ranch dressing and barbecue sauce. Taste and adjust the ratio as desired.
- 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.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate leftover salad in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
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