Crisp, fresh, and colorful, BBQ Chicken Salad has layers of flavor - sweet and tangy BBQ chicken, crushed tortilla chips, crisp vegetables, and creamy Greek yogurt ranch dressing.
This salad is fresh and satisfying, packed with colorful ingredients, and finished with a creamy dressing (homemade or store bought salad dressings all work well). In addition to layers of fresh romaine, corn, and cheese, it's finished with bite-size pieces of sweet and tangy chicken. The chicken can be cooked in a variety of ways using boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Pile it all together in a large bowl and enjoy. See below for everything you need to know.
BBQ Chicken Salad Ingredients
- Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast - Sliced into cubes, boneless, skinless chicken breast is the hearty base of a bbq / barbecue chicken salad recipe.
- BBQ Sauce - I live in Kansas City, so we always have 2 or 3 local varieties of BBQ sauce in our fridge and have a hard time picking favorites. Use your favorite BBQ sauce here, but I think a sweet and tangy tomato-based version works best.
- Romaine Lettuce - The crisp, cool leaves of romaine lettuce work really well here, but it’s also great with baby spinach or any mixed greens.
- Corn - Frozen corn holds its flavor and crisp texture a bit better than canned, but either work. If using frozen, defrost it in the microwave. If using canned, drain and rinse it first.
- Avocado - Adds cream texture to the salad.
- Red Bell Pepper -Diced red bell peppers give the salad great crunch, but if tomatoes are in season, those work well too.
- Cheese - Shredded Colby Jack, shredded cheddar, or a shredded Mexican blend all work well.
- Tortilla Chips - Crush up your favorite tortilla chips or use store-bought tortilla strips from the salad dressing aisle at the grocery store. If you’re feeling ambitious, these homemade tortilla strips are pretty easy to make and really good.
Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing
The BBQ chicken salad recipe below includes an easy and healthy Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing that’s as good (or better) than anything store-bought. It’s great in the summer if you have fresh herbs on hand or it can be made with dried herbs.
But if you're in a rush, store-bought dressing works just fine!
How to Cook BBQ Chicken for Salad
When I want a big, fresh salad, I’m usually looking for something that’s fast, so the recipe below includes the shortest, quickest route - cooking the chicken in a wok or skillet on the stovetop. But here are some other ideas:
- Grill - Keep the chicken breasts whole and sear them on the grill. Brush them with some BBQ sauce near the end of cooking. Then let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before chopping it and tossing it with the full amount of BBQ sauce. You’ll get all that great smoky flavor from the grill.
- Slow Cooker - I make big batches of Slow Cooker Pulled Chicken throughout the year. We’ll use some in sandwiches, but the leftovers are great in this barbecue chicken salad recipe.
- Instant Pot - I cook cubed chicken in the Instant Pot in 6 minutes (with 10 minute natural release) using my latest kitchen companion - this Mix and Match Guide to 6-Minute Instant Pot Meals. (The chicken photographed below was made using instructions in that 6-Minute guide.)
Is This BBQ Chicken Salad Recipe Healthy?
Homemade is almost always healthier than the BBQ Chicken Salad you might pick up from your favorite restaurant. But this salad has a few healthier twists to keep it light and still delicious. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are low in calories and can be cooked without added oil in the slow cooker or Instant Pot (see below). Creamy dressing can easily weigh down a fresh salad, but in this case the use of Greek yogurt in the dressing makes it very light and fresh.
The Best Way to Store Leftover BBQ Chicken Salad
Store each component of the salad separately for best results. The fresh ingredients can all be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Just before serving, reheat the chicken. Assemble the salad and enjoy! If the salad ingredients have all been combined, it's best to eat it within a day. It starts to loose texture and wilt right after it is tossed.
More Colorful Salads
- Arugula, Steak, and Potato Salad
- Vietnamese Noodle Salad
- Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam)
- Butternut Squash and Kale Salad with Toasted Breadcrumbs
- Global Chef’s Knife - You only really need one chef's knife to use for everything and this is my favorite. I've had it for 7+ years. It's incredibly lightweight. If you, like me, are under 5'4", the 6-inch is a perfect size (if you're taller, get the 8-inch).
- Half Sheet Pan - The perfect size pan for everything from roasting vegetables to baking cookies.
- Mixing Bowls
BBQ Chicken Salad
Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing
- ½ cup Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt
- 1 ½ Tablespoons White Wine Vinegar or Apple Cider Vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Mayonnaise
- ½ teaspoon finely chopped Fresh Parsley or Chives (optional)
- ½ teaspoon Honey
- ¼ teaspoon Dried or Fresh Dill (finely chop if using fresh)
- ¼ teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 Tablespoon Cooking Oil (I prefer grapeseed or avocado oil for most things)
- 1 pound Chicken breast, boneless and skinless, sliced or cubed
- ½ cup BBQ Sauce, plus more for serving (use your favorite)
- 2 hearts Romaine Lettuce, chopped
- 1 cup Corn kernels, fresh or frozen (defrost first if using frozen)
- 1 Avocado chopped
- 1 Red Bell Pepper
- ½ cup shredded Cheddar, Colby Jack, or Monterey Jack Cheese
- 2 cups Crushed Tortilla Chips
- Whisk together all ingredients for the dressing. Stir in a pinch of salt and black pepper.
- Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add oil and then chicken. Saute until chicken is nearly cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes. Add some salt and pepper as the chicken cooks. Add BBQ sauce and simmer the chicken in the sauce until the sauce thickens slightly, 2 to 3 minutes more.
- Assemble the salad by filling a large bowl (or individual serving bowls) with lettuce, corn, avocado, bell pepper, and cheese.
- Top each bowl with chicken and crushed tortilla chips. Drizzle dressing and some extra BBQ sauce over top until the salad is dressed to your liking.