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This BBQ chicken salad recipe feels like summer on a plate, but the ingredients are versatile and common enough that you can make it anytime of year. It’s also perfect for using up what you might often have on hand. I made it when I had some leftover baked chicken breast, hard boiled eggs, BBQ sauce, and ranch dressing in my fridge. It brought whole new life to these “boring” staples — and this salad is anything but that. It’s perfect for both meat lovers and salad lovers!
I love adding chicken to salad recipes, from green goddess salad and grilled chicken salad to a loaded cobb salad. After trying barbecue chicken on stuffed sweet potatoes, I knew it needed to go on a healthy salad, too!
Why You’ll Love This BBQ Chicken Salad Recipe
- Fresh greens, sweet tomatoes, creamy avocado, crispy bacon, and juicy chicken
- Smoky BBQ sauce, creamy ranch dressing
- Simple, common ingredients
- Easy to customize to fit your preferences and dietary needs
- Packed with protein — a perfect healthy lunch or dinner!
- Great for using up meal prep staples like cooked chicken, bacon, and hard boiled eggs
Ingredients & Substitutions
This section explains how to choose the best ingredients for copycat Panera BBQ chicken salad, what each one does in the recipe, and substitution options. For measurements, see the recipe card below.
- Bacon – For easy cleanup, I like to make bacon in the oven. You could also make air fryer bacon or faster bacon in the microwave as well.
- Corn Tortillas – I made my own crunchy tortilla chips using corn tortillas, but you could easily use crushed tortilla chips for convenience, make healthier almond flour tortilla chips, or omit the chips altogether.
- Cooking Spray – For making the tortilla strips crispy. Avocado oil spray is my favorite, but olive oil and coconut oil sprays also work well.
- Romaine Lettuce – Use any greens you like! Iceberg lettuce, kale, arugula and spinach can make excellent substitutes.
- Cherry Tomatoes – You could also slice regular tomatoes, grape tomatoes, or even add sun-dried tomatoes.
- Hard Boiled Eggs – I use this method for easy peel eggs, but you could also make boiled eggs in the air fryer or even boiled eggs in the oven. Of course, if you have any on hand then use them up!
- Cooked Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts – I like to use up leftover chicken in this BBQ chicken salad recipe, cut into cubes or shredded. If you don’t have any, store-bought rotisserie chicken is the fastest and Instant Pot shredded chicken is the next best thing. You can also opt to pan sear chicken breast, grill chicken if it’s nice outside, or bake chicken breast.
- Cheese – I used cubed Colby Jack cheese, but you can swap in any kind you like. Monterey Jack, mozzarella, feta, blue cheese, or cheddar cheese would all work well.
- Corn Kernels – These are optional, but add a little crunch and subtle sweetness to smoky flavors in the salad. I used canned corn for convenience, but you can also throw in leftover corn on the cob.
- Black Beans – For extra texture and protein. You can substitute a different type of beans if you prefer, or omit altogether.
- Avocado – I pretty much add these to salads every chance I get! Make sure it’s nice and ripe.
- BBQ Ranch Dressing – I think this salad tastes best with a combination of both ranch and barbecue sauce. I used homemade ranch dressing and sugar-free BBQ sauce I had on hand (both are quick to make with clean ingredients!), but of course your favorite BBQ sauce and ranch from the store would work as well.
- Fresh Chives – These are optional, but I think fresh herbs add a nice touch. You could also sprinkle this barbecue chicken salad with chopped green onions, red onion, fresh cilantro, fresh parsley, or omit.
How To Make BBQ Chicken Salad
This section shows how to make the best BBQ chicken salad recipe, with step-by-step photos and details about the technique, to help you visualize it. For full instructions, including amounts and temperatures, see the recipe card below.
- Cook the bacon. Cook bacon in the oven according to the instructions here. Cool and chop or crumble the bacon into small pieces.
- Make the tortilla chips (optional). If using, cut tortillas into thin, long strips. Place on a baking sheet. Spray strips with cooking spray and a sprinkle of salt. Bake until lightly browned and crispy.
- Assemble the BBQ chicken salad. Spread chopped lettuce on a large serving platter, in a large bowl, or on individual plates. Top with tomatoes, bacon, eggs, chicken, cheese, corn and beans (if using), avocado, and tortilla strips (if using).
- Finish with dressing. Drizzle the ranch dressing and BBQ sauce over the salad. Sprinkle with fresh chives (if using).
- Store: Keep leftover BBQ ranch chicken salad in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days. It will last a couple days longer if you don’t add the dressing. For best results, store the tortilla chips separately.
- Meal prep: Cut veggies, prepare hard boiled eggs, and cook and chop meats ahead of time. Store separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator until ready to assemble.
TIP: Make meal prep BBQ chicken salads using mason jars!
Simply layer the ingredients in a mason jar in this order: Ranch dressing, BBQ sauce, cooked chicken, beans, corn, boiled eggs, bacon, cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, chives, and tortilla chips. They will keep this way for up to 5 days! Add the avocado fresh right before serving.
What To Serve With BBQ Chicken Salad
BBQ chicken salad is filling all on its own, so you don’t have to serve anything with it! But if you want to add a little something, here are some ideas:
- Soup – Skip Panera or Olive Garden and have soup, salad and cauliflower breadsticks right at home. Creamy soups like corn chowder, potato soup, or roasted cauliflower soup pair well with this salad.
- Rice – Serve some white rice or brown rice on the side for a filling and satisfying addition to the meal. For a lighter option, try riced cauliflower.
More Chicken Meal Salad Recipes
Chicken and salad belong together! Try even more ways to serve them with these easy dishes:
BBQ Chicken Salad Recipe
BBQ Chicken Salad
This BBQ chicken salad recipe is packed with juicy chicken, lettuce, tomatoes, bacon, avocado and BBQ ranch dressing. A healthy, filling meal!
Tap underlined ingredients to see where to get them. Please turn Safari reader mode OFF to view ingredients.
Tap on the times in the instructions below to start a kitchen timer while you cook.
Cook bacon in the oven according to the instructions here. Pat with paper towels and allow to cool slightly. Chop or crumble the bacon into small pieces.
If using the optional corn tortillas, reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees F (191 degrees C). Cut the tortillas into thin, 2-inch long strips. Place spaced apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Lightly spray the tortilla strips with non-stick cooking spray and a light sprinkle of salt. Bake tortilla strips for about 10 minutes, or until lightly browned and crispy.
Arrange the chopped lettuce on a large serving platter or individual plates.
Top the lettuce with tomatoes, then bacon, eggs, chicken, cheese, corn and beans (if using), avocado, and tortilla strips.
Drizzle ranch dressing and BBQ sauce over the salad. Sprinkle chives on top, if desired.
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Serving size: 2 cups
Nutrition info does not include optional ingredients.
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