Crisp, fresh, and colorful, BBQ Chicken Salad is no ordinary salad. This dish has layers of flavor – sweet and tangy BBQ chicken, crunchy tortilla strips, and crisp vegetables, all tossed in creamy Greek yogurt ranch dressing.
This salad represents everything I need in January. It’s looks and tastes like summer. It’s healthy but still satisfying. It’s fresh and comforting, sweet and tangy, and packed with ingredients that are both crunchy and creamy. If I want it for lunch, I make the chicken in the Instant Pot in 6-Minutes (and maybe even cook some rice on top to serve with dinner).
Here’s how to make it.
BBQ Chicken Salad Ingredients
- Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast – Sliced into cubes, boneless, skinless chicken breast is the hearty base of this salad. Chicken thighs would also work. You could also make a vegetarian version with chickpeas instead of chicken.
- 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 – I am partial to frozen corn because I think it 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.
- Black Beans – These add creamy texture to the salad and a good dose of protein. Any canned beans will work or you can skip these in a pinch.
- Red Bell Pepper – I like the crunch and color of diced red bell peppers, but if tomatoes are in season, those are great here too.
- Cheese – Shredded Colby Jack is my suggestion, but shredded cheddar, a shredded Mexican blend, or shredded Pepper Jack (for some spice) would all be great.
- Tortilla Strips – 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 recipe below includes an easy and healthy Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing that’s even better than the bottled stuff. It’s great in the summer if you have fresh herbs on hand or it can be made with a mix of a few dried herbs. I keep this Ranch Seasoning in the pantry and often just whisk that into Greek Yogurt with a little water to thin out.
In a rush? Just grab store-bought dressing!
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 – Want to get outside? Keep the chicken breasts whole and sear them on the grill. You can brush them with some of the BBQ sauce near the end of cooking. Then let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before chopping it and tossing it with any remaining 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 perfect for using in this salad.
- 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.)
More Colorful Salads
- Slow Cooker Carnitas Taco Salad – This yummy salad is a Monday-friendly solution to a Saturday-worthy taco craving.
- Sesame Ginger Kale Salad – This bright, fresh salad with less than 400 calories is packed with protein, full of color and can be enjoyed year-round.
- Green Papaya Salad (Som Tam) – This is a light, fresh, colorful salad that embodies the flavors of Northeastern Thailand.
- Butternut Squash and Kale Salad with Toasted Breadcrumbs – Not sure about kale? This is the kind of salad that might even convert those who aren’t sold on this trendy green.
- Pasta Salad with Creamy Chipotle Dressing – This creamy, spicy, packed with flavor pasta salad with a chipotle dressing is a fun twist on a classic. It’s a great way to spice up the pasta salad routine…literally!
- Wok – I don’t just use my wok for Asian recipes. It makes quick work of cooking cubed chicken. (Any skillet or frying pan works too.)
- Wok Spatula – If you do use a wok to cook the chicken, this spatula is the best tool I’ve found for moving food around inside the wok.
BBQ Chicken Salad
- Wok or skillet
Greek Yogurt Ranch Dressing
- 1/2 cup Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt
- 1 tsp Lemon Juice
- 1 1/2 tsp Fresh or Dried Herbs (parsley, dill, chives, or a combination)
- 1/2 tsp Honey
- 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder
- Pinch Salt
- 1 lb Chicken breast, boneless and skinless, sliced into cubes
- 1 Tbsp Cooking Oil (I prefer grapeseed or avocado oil for most things)
- 1/2 cup BBQ Sauce (use your favorite)
- 1 head Romaine Lettuce, chopped
- 1 cup Corn (use canned corn, drained or frozen corn, defrosted)
- 1 cup Black Beans (canned and drained)
- 1 Red Bell Pepper (sub diced tomato)
- 1/2 cup Shredded Colby Jack Cheese
- 1 cup Tortilla Strips (store-bought or homemade)
- Whisk together yogurt, lemon juice, herbs, honey, and garlic powder. Add water until the dressing thins slightly and is easy to pour (start with 1 tsp and add a tiny bit more, as needed). Stir in a pinch of salt. Taste the dressing and add a bit more honey or salt if you’d like it more sweet / salty.
- Heat a wok or skillet over medium heat. Add oil and then chicken. Saute until chicken is cooked through, 5 to 6 minutes. Add some salt and pepper as the chicken cooks. Let chicken cool slightly and then toss it with BBQ Sauce.
- Toss together lettuce, corn, beans, bell pepper, cheese, and tortilla strips. Divide salad between serving bowls.
- Top each bowl with chicken and drizzle dressing over top.
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