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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.

BBQ chicken salad on a white plate with tomatoes, black beans, and corn

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.
Ingredients for an easy, healthy recipe on plates and in bowls

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

My one request (for this salad, Mexican Salad, and Taco Salad): 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!

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.


The Ingredients

  • 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.

BBQ Chicken

If you don’t have a grill, or you prefer not to grill outside if the weather is not favorable, you could use Crockpot BBQ Chicken, or Baked BBQ Chicken recipes to make a shredded BBQ chicken salad.

  • 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.)

Substitution Tip

If you are lucky enough to have fresh ears of corn at your disposal when you make this recipe, take a note from my Grilled Corn Salad and grill them along with the chicken. Slice the kernels off the cob and add them to the salad, along with the beans, onions, and other goodies.

  • 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!

The Directions

  1. Grill the chicken, brushing it with barbecue sauce. Let rest, then cut it into small pieces.
  2. Stir the dressing ingredients together.
  3. Add all the salad ingredients to a large bowl, and toss them with the salad dressing. Top with tortilla chips and cilantro. DIG IN!
Easy BBQ chicken salad on a white plate

Storage Tips

  • 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.

Shredded BBQ chicken salad on a white plate

What to Serve with BBQ Chicken Salad

What do you serve with BBQ chicken? The options are endless, but we enjoy ours with fries, fresh fruit, or cornbread.

A white plate with healthy BBQ chicken salad
  • 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

What Can I Do with Leftover BBQ Chicken Salad?

Turn leftover BBQ chicken salad into a scrumptious wrap. Tuck the salad into a tortilla and enjoy an easy, healthy meal.

Is Eating a Grilled Chicken Salad Healthy?

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.

How Can I Use Extra Barbecue Sauce?

If you make a big batch of barbecue sauce and have some leftover (lucky you!), use it to make these scrumptious Easy Baked Beans. It’s also delicious on this Pulled Pork Quesadilla.

BBQ Chicken Salad

4.89 from 9 votes
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.

Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 25 minutes

Servings: 4 servings

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 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

Instructions
 

  • 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.

Notes

  • TO STORE: Refrigerate leftover salad in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 4, with 2 tablespoons crushed tortilla chips)Calories: 308kcalCarbohydrates: 29gProtein: 17gFat: 15gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 7gMonounsaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 41mgPotassium: 719mgFiber: 6gSugar: 8gVitamin A: 6401IUVitamin C: 16mgCalcium: 67mgIron: 2mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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26 Comments

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  1. I can see why you quickly became hooked on this salad – it looks phenomenal! I’m guilty of buying salads more often than I should, because it’s faster than making them myself, but you make a great point about being able to load up on toppings when you make them at home. And don’t worry, I would never skip the tortilla chips!

  2. Sounds and looks absolutely incredible Erin!! :) I’m guilty of wanting to buy salads, especially at sweetgreen or Honeygrow, but I love making my own at home. Thank you for sharing! 

  3. Definitely adding this to the list of dinners I need to make! Your pictures are perfect! Can I ask what camera you use?

    1. Thank you Mia!!! You can get the scoop on my photography here: https://www.wellplated.com/food-blog-photography-resources/

  4. Yum!! Love all the flavors and textures in this salad!! I would be ordering on repeat too ;)

  5. Hi Erin, I love your recipes!  I’ve made a few of them and they’ve all been great.  I made this salad this past weekend and it was delicious!  I even bought a yogurt based ranch dressing to try thinking I have a regular ranch as a back up, just in case.  It was amazing with the barbecue sauce and being less in calories and fat made it even better.  I went grocery shopping yesterday and bought all the ingredients again so I can make it this weekend :).

  6. I just made this salad and oh my goodness! I found a Sriracha Ranch that I used instead of the BBQ Ranch and made such a great salad! Thank you so much for posting this recipe! I can’t wait to finish it!

    1. YAY Brian! I’m so glad you enjoyed it. That sriracha ranch sounds delicious! Thanks for taking the time to leave this awesome review!

  7. I’m meal prepping this right now. Added green onions and for the lettuce did part romaine and part spinach. Can’t wait for lunch tomorrow!!5 stars

  8. Hi, Erin! This looks delish, but I was wondering if I could make this the night before and eat it for lunch the next day. Will the salad still be good? Thanks!

    1. Jessica, I think that would be fine! I’d suggest keeping the dressing on the side and adding it shortly before serving. I hope you love it!

    1. Hi Victoria! So glad you enjoyed the recipe! I stopped including sodium info because it can vary so much depending upon what products you used, and I found a lot of conflicting info online, so ultimately I didn’t feel comfortable publishing it because sometimes it wasn’t even in the ballpark. If you’d like to calculate it yourself, there are lots of free tools online (myfitnesspal.com is popular). I hope that helps!

  9. Phenomenal recipe, and family loved it. I did go the lazy route and buy a rotisserie chicken instead of making my own. Added a bit of Sirracha to the dressing for an extra zip. Will definitely make again!5 stars

  10. This salad was fantastic. Full of flavor and so refreshing. Going to use the dressing for other salads as well!5 stars

  11. I made this salad tonight and it was a hit. Fresh corn is in season so I added it to the grill along with a red onion halved with a spritz of olive oil and skewers of marinated chicken thighs (they cook quickly and eliminate cutting up the chicken). I used bottled BBQ for both the chicken and to the dressing which was amazing per my husband. Also my Sungold and super Sweet cherry tomatoes were just harvested from my backyard which added a wonderful sweet fresh taste. for extras I added some seeded diced Persian cucumbers, grated carrots and avocado. Great use of vegetables.
    This will definitely be a hit for company dinner.5 stars

  12. Hi Erin,

    Just wondering if you heat the canned beans and Mexicorn before adding them to the salad mixture? Or do you just rinse/drain and add it straight from the can?

    Thanks,

    Erica

    1. Hi Erica! You’ll actually see this notated in the recipe card itself. Canned beans, rinsed and drained. Mexicorn, drained. ENJOY!