BBQ Chicken Salad

bbq ranch chicken salad
The Spruce / Diana Rattray
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 12 mins
Total: 32 mins
Servings: 10 to 12 servings
Yield: 3 quarts
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
489 Calories
28g Fat
41g Carbs
21g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 10 to 12
Amount per serving
Calories 489
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 28g 36%
Saturated Fat 6g 32%
Cholesterol 51mg 17%
Sodium 595mg 26%
Total Carbohydrate 41g 15%
Dietary Fiber 7g 26%
Total Sugars 10g
Protein 21g
Vitamin C 11mg 57%
Calcium 178mg 14%
Iron 2mg 12%
Potassium 691mg 15%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

This BBQ chicken salad is a satisfying whole meal salad that is perfect for any day of the week. It's an excellent salad to take along to a cookout or potluck as well. This salad is a great choice for the warm weather and it's versatile because if there's an ingredient someone doesn't like, then you can omit it or replace it with something else.

The recipe includes a homemade cilantro and lime ranch-style dressing with freshly poached chicken breasts, but feel free to use a store-bought rotisserie chicken and bottled dressing if you're short on time. For a dynamite presentation, drizzle some of the dressing and barbecue sauce over the salad just before serving.

You can also prepare the dressing and chicken the day before—all you have to do to serve is simply chop a few vegetables and assemble the salad.


For the Chicken:

  • 1 pound boneless chicken breasts

  • 1 small onion, quartered

  • 3 medium garlic cloves, crushed

  • 1 large bay leaf

  • 1 teaspoon chili powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano

  • 3/4 cup barbecue sauce (your favorite, plus more for serving)

For the Cilantro-Lime Ranch Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise

  • 1/2 cup sour cream

  • 1/2 cup milk (or as needed to thin)

  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro

  • 3 tablespoons lime juice

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • 3/4 teaspoon onion powder

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste

For the Salad:

  • 6 to 8 cups torn lettuce

  • 1 1/2 cups black beans, drained and rinsed

  • 1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, halved

  • 1 1/2 cups corn kernels (canned or frozen and cooked)

  • 1 medium cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced into half-moons

  • 3/4 cup diced red onion

  • 1 1/2 cups corn chips (or tortilla strips)

  • 4 ounces diced pepper jack cheese (or cheddar or Monterey Jack)

  • 1 medium avocado, sliced or diced

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro

Steps to Make It

Prepare the Chicken

  1. Gather the ingredients for the chicken.

    ingredients for poached chicken
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  2. Place the chicken, quartered onion, crushed garlic, bay leaf, chili powder, kosher salt, and oregano in a medium saucepan or Dutch oven. Add 3 cups of water or enough water to cover everything.

    cook the chicken with aromatics
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  3. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Cover the pan, then reduce the heat to low and continue to cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of the chicken, or until the chicken is cooked through to 165 F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the chicken to a plate to cool slightly.

    place the chicken breasts on a plate
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  4. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, shred or chop it. Toss the chicken with barbecue sauce. Cover and refrigerate until it's time to assemble the salad.

    shredded chicken with bbq sauce
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Prepare the Cilantro-Lime Ranch Dressing

  1. Gather the dressing ingredients.

    ingredients for cilantro lime ranch style dressing
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  2. In a bowl or Mason jar, combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, milk, chopped cilantro, lime juice, garlic powder, onion powder, and pepper. Whisk or shake until combined. Taste and add kosher salt, as needed. Cover and refrigerate until it's time to assemble and serve the salad.

    cilantro lime ranch dressing for the bbq ranch chicken salad
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Prepare and Assemble the Salad

  1. Gather the salad ingredients.

    ingredients for salad
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray
  2. Transfer the lettuce to a large salad bowl, then arrange the black beans, tomatoes, corn, cucumber, onion, avocado, cheese, tortilla strips, and cilantro over top. Add the BBQ chicken, then drizzle some of the dressing over the salad along with additional barbecue sauce, if desired. Serve any additional dressing or sauce on the side. Enjoy!

    prepared bbq chicken salad
    The Spruce / Diana Rattray

Recipe Variations

  • Replace the corn chips with crispy fried onion rings.
  • Instead of poached chicken, use diced or shredded grilled chicken.
  • Use the Instant Pot for cooking the chicken.
  • Add some smoky flavor with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of crumbled cooked bacon.
  • Add a shredded carrot to the lettuce mixture.
  • Use grilled corn or canned corn with peppers.
  • Add green or multicolored bell pepper strips to the salad.
  • Replace the black beans with drained and rinsed pinto beans.
  • Greek yogurt or buttermilk can be used to replace sour cream in the dressing.

How to Store

If you know you will have leftovers, hold off on drizzling the salad with dressing and serve the cheese, avocado, and chips in separate bowls. Cover and refrigerate the salad for up to 3 days. Refrigerate the dressing in a tightly covered container for up to 1 week.

How Many Chicken Breasts Are in One Pound?

A boneless chicken breast can weigh from 4 ounces to 8 or more, so there's no easy way to be sure unless you use a scale to weigh them. If the chicken breasts are quite small, it will take about 4 to make a pound. If medium to large, use 2 or 3 chicken breasts.