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We’re fixin’ up a delicious BBQ Chicken Salad Recipe the whole family will love! Get ready for tender marinated chicken nestled on a bed of crisp romaine lettuce, mixed with black beans, corn, juicy tomatoes, and creamy avocado, all drizzled with a tangy BBQ dressing that’s got just the right balance of sweetness and tang.

Oh, but it gets even better– It’s easy to make, great for making ahead of time, and perfect for serving a crowd!

A white salad bowl filled with bbq chicken and a bbq lime dressing.

Why our recipe

  • Irresistible Flavor: This is not your typical salad. It is packed with goodness, like tender BBQ chicken, fresh vegetables, beans, and even cilantro lime rice, all tossed in homemade creamy BBQ dressing!
  • Great for Cookouts: Having a lighter option at your backyard BBQ is always good. Serve this delicious salad for those who want something more refreshing and light to beat the summer heat.
  • Make-Ahead Recipe: The best part of this recipe is that you can do most of the work the night before, freeing up time and kitchen space.

Salads are great for summer, but you’re not alone if someone always complains about having a “boring salad” for dinner. Well, here, no salad is bland or boring! 

Check out more fun salad recipes, like my Tex-Mex Chicken Chopped Salad, this sweet Strawberry Kale Salad, and, everyone’s favorite,  the cheesy Dorito Taco Salad Recipe!

Ingredient Notes

Labeled ingredients need for BBQ chicken salad recipe.
  • Chicken: Choose quality, boneless, skinless chicken breasts for this easy salad recipe.
  • BBQ Marinade: Marinate the chicken in your favorite barbecue sauce, lime juice, and tangy lime zest for a simple yet flavorful taste.

BBQ Dressing

  • Creamy Base: Combine mayonnaise, sour cream, and milk for the creamy dressing.
  • Cilantro: Sprinkle in some chopped cilantro for that fresh, herby flavor.
  • Lime: Freshly squeezed lime juice for a bright citrus taste.
  • Vinegar: Use red or white wine vinegar, depending on your preference, to bring extra tang to the salad dressing recipe.
  • Garlic: Bring a subtle spice and tons of flavor with a freshly minced garlic clove.
  • Honey: Use a bit of honey to balance the flavors with sweetness.
  • Seasonings: To give the dressing a savory spice, combine kosher salt, ground cumin, cayenne pepper, and black pepper.
  • BBQ sauce: This dressing wouldn’t be complete without your favorite BBQ sauce!

Rice (optional)

  • Rice: I like to use white rice to let all the fresh cilantro lime flavor shine!
  • Broth: Create a savory base for the rice’s flavor with chicken broth.
  • Lime: Zest and juice one lime for a bright and tangy taste.
  • Garlic: Mince a fresh garlic clove for subtle spice.
  • Cilantro: Sprinkle in plenty of chopped cilantro.
  • Cumin: Add some depth to the cilantro lime rice with earthy and aromatic ground cumin.

You can always go with a box mix for convenience or make minute rice and stir in ingredients.

Salad

  • Lettuce: Romaine hearts are the perfect base for this flavor-packed salad. They are mild and leafy, letting all the yummy ingredients shine.
  • Beans: Rinse and drain a can of black beans for texture.
  • Corn: Add a can of corn, rinsed and drained, for tiny bursts of sweetness.
  • Cheddar: Sprinkle on some tangy shredded cheddar cheese– Use less or more than suggested, depending on your taste.
  • Tomatoes: Juicy halved cherry tomatoes add sweetness and a pop of color.
  • Avocado: Fresh sliced avocado brings a creamy texture and flavor.

How to Make Barbeque Chicken Salad

Be sure to see the recipe card below for exact ingredients and full recipe instructions!

Step 1 | Make the Salad Dressing

Let’s start with the delicious BBQ dressing. I like to get it done the day before to let the flavors meld. 

Add all the dressing ingredients into a blender and pulse until combined, scraping the sides to get all the goods. Be careful not to over-blend, or the cilantro won’t be visible, and the dressing will be watery.

Then, pour the dressing into a mason jar or a salad dressing bottle, or cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid, and store it in the refrigerator until it’s used.

Dressing ingredients in a blender, then blended together and put in a mason jar.

Step 2 | Marinate the BBQ chicken

Now for the flavorful BBQ marinade! In a gallon resealable bag or a mixing bowl, combine the BBQ sauce, fresh lime juice, and zest. Add the chicken and coat it completely. Then, seal the bag or cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the chicken marinade in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. For the best flavor, let it marinate for 2 hours or overnight.

When you’re ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 400℉ and line a baking sheet with foil. Lightly spray the sheet with non-stick spray, lay the chicken on the sheet, and bake until the internal temperature reaches 165℉, or about 15-20 minutes, depending on how thick your chicken is. Let it rest for at least 5 minutes before chopping or slicing.

A collage image of bbq sauce, lime juice and zest in a bowl and then chicken marinaded in the sauce.

Step 3 | Cook the Cilantro Lime Rice (optional)

In a rice cooker, add the rinsed rice, broth, lime juice, zest, garlic, cilantro, and cumin. Then, stir it lightly and turn on the rice cooker. After about 15-20 minutes, the rice should be finished. Remove it from the rice cooker and set aside.  

For the stovetop directions, check out my Chicken Burrito Bowl Recipe and skip to the instructions for making the cilantro lime rice. 

Rice in a rice cooker with lime juice, zest, broth, cilantro and cumin.

Step 4 | Assemble the salad and serve

This is a great recipe to serve in one large bowl for a big crowd. Toss the chopped hearts of romaine into the large serving bowl and top it with the black beans, corn, tomatoes, cheese, sliced avocado, and cilantro rice. Then, garnish it with the lime wedges, add the juicy cooked chicken, and drizzle the colorful salad with the homemade dressing. 

If preferred, serve individual salads and allow your hungry guests to add the toppings how they like. Either way, this barbecue salad will be a hit! Enjoy, y’all!

Tips

  • Make-Ahead Tips: I suggest making the dressing and marinating the chicken the day before serving. You can also prep these important elements the morning of serving it in the evening. This will let the flavors combine nicely.
  • Planning for Leftovers: Don’t let all the fresh ingredients go to waste. If you’re anticipating leftovers, serve the salads individually, allowing guests to add the toppings they prefer. It’s a great way to keep the ingredients separate if you think you might have leftovers to store.
  • Side of Rice: I love the texture and flavor the rice gives the salad, but you can serve it on the side or leave it off, if desired.
A white serving bowl with a bed of lettuce greens topped with bbq chicken, rice, cheese, corn, black beans, avocado and tomatoes.

Variations and Substitutions

  • Leftover Chicken: This is an excellent opportunity to reheat your leftover chicken breasts or BBQ chicken from a previous meal that week. Rotisserie chicken also works great!
  • Breaded BBQ Chicken: Coat breaded tenders or chicken nuggets in your favorite BBQ sauce or your own homemade BBQ sauce.
  • Lettuce: If preferred, add all the yummy toppings to a bed of crunchy iceberg lettuce or a mix of spinach and other salad greens for a slightly different texture and taste.
  • More Delicious Toppings: Add all your favorites, like crunchy tortilla strips, fried onion straws, pickled red onion, fresh cilantro, sliced green onions, crispy bacon, bell peppers, and more! 
  • Creamy Barbecue Ranch Dressing: Substitute the mayonnaise and milk with ranch for a creamy ranch dressing.
  • Grill Corn: When fresh corn is in season, maximize fresh flavor by grilling the corn instead of using canned corn.

Recipe FAQs

Can I grill the chicken?

Yes! This is a perfect chicken for grilling. Grill each side of the chicken for about 6-8 minutes till the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let cool for about 5 minutes before chopping.

Can I use chicken thighs for the salad?

Absolutely! If you’re a fan of flavorful dark meat, go right ahead and use chicken thighs in your salad. Just remember to trim off any extra fat before cooking.

Is eating a grilled chicken salad healthy?

This particular grilled chicken salad is pretty healthy. However, it’s not best for a limited calorie diet because of the cheese, dressing, and other indulgent ingredients. On the other hand, it is packed with all sorts of nutritious goodies, including protein and fiber. 

Is the dressing spicy?

It is not! The cayenne gives the dressing a really good flavor but not spicy. If you are very sensitive to cayenne, you can leave it out and the dressing will still be delicious.

What can I do with leftover barbecue chicken salad?

Make it a wrap! Just grab a tortilla, load it up with that delicious salad, and voila! You’ve got yourself a quick, healthy meal the next day.

Is this a good salad to serve a big group?

Yes! This is perfect for a large group. Set out all the salad toppings and let each person customize their salad to their liking. This dressing makes enough for about 6 salads so make sure to double the dressing and ingredients if making it for more people than that. Use our serving size slider in the recipe card to help adjust needed ingredients.

Storage

Once assembled with the dressing, the salad won’t store well. Without the dressing, it will store for about two days in the fridge in an airtight container.

If you expect leftovers, keep the ingredients separate and build each salad individually. That way, you can store all the leftover ingredients separately in airtight containers in the fridge.

Spooning a creamy bbq lime dressing on top of salad.

What to Serve with The Best BBQ Chicken Salad Recipe

Serve this hearty salad with a side of these adorable and delicious Mini BBQ Bacon Cheddar Meatloafs or sweet and juicy Air Fryer Corn Ribs. I also like to keep it simple and serve the BBQ salad with some good bread, like my Air Fryer Texas Toast Garlic Bread or Cheesy Green Chile Bread.

More Crowd-Pleasing BBQ Recipes

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A white serving bowl with a bed of lettuce greens topped with bbq chicken, rice, cheese, corn, black beans, avocado, tomatoes and topped with a bbq lime ranch dressing.
Recipe
5 from 1 vote

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BBQ Chicken Salad Recipe

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Marinade Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Nikki Lee
BBQ Chicken Salad Recipe is tender marinated chicken nestled on a bed of crisp romaine lettuce, mixed with black beans, corn, juicy tomatoes, and creamy avocado, all drizzled with a tangy BBQ dressing with just the right balance of sweetness and tang.
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Ingredients 

BBQ Chicken Marinade

  • 2 to 3 pounds chicken breasts
  • cup BBQ sauce
  • 1 lime juice and zested, (zest before cutting)

Dressing

  • ½ cup mayonaise
  • cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • ½ tablespoon honey
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • cup BBQ sauce

Rice (optional)

  • 1 cup white rice, rinsed
  • 1 ⅔ cup chicken broth
  • 1 lime , zested and juiced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 -2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • teaspoon ground cumin

Salad

  • 8 cups romaine hearts
  • 15 ounce black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 15 ounce corn, rinsed and drained
  • 1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese, (or to taste)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 avocado, sliced

Instructions

Salad Dressing

  • Add all the dressing ingredients into a blender and pulse till combined, scraping the sides as needed. Don’t over-blend, or the cilantro won’t be visible, and the dressing will be watery.
  • Put dressing into a mason jar or a salad dressing bottle, or cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a lid, and let refrigerate till it is used. I suggest making the dressing the day before serving or the morning of if serving in the evening to let the flavors combine nicely.

Chicken Marinade

  • In a gallon resealable bag or a mixing bowl combine the BBQ sauce and lime juice and zest. Add the chicken and coat. Seal the bag or cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the chicken marinade in the fridge for at least 30 minutes, but for best flavor for 2 hours or up to overnight.
  • When ready to cook the chicken, preheat the oven to 400℉. Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly spray withnon-stick spray. Lay the chicken on the sheet and bake till the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. About 15-20 minutes, depending on how thick your chicken is. Let rest for at least 5 to 10 minutes before chopping or slicing.

Rice (optional)

  • In a rice cooker add the rinsed rice, broth, lime juice, zest, garlic, cilantro, and cumin. Stir lightly and turn on the rice cooker. When the rice is done (about 15-20 minutes), remove it from the rice cooker immediately. See Cilantro Lime Recipe for stovetop directions.

Salad Assembly

  • If serving one big salad, to a large serving bowl, add lettuce and top with black beans, corn, tomatoes, cheese, sliced avocados, cilantro rice (this can also go on the bottom or serve on the side), tortilla strips, and garnish with lime wedges. Add the chicken to the middle of the salad and drizzle with the dressing.
    You can also build individual salads and add toppings to taste (this is great if you think you will have leftovers, as salads tend to get watery).

Nutrition Information

Serving: 1serving Calories: 875kcal (44%) Carbohydrates: 84g (28%) Protein: 54g (108%) Fat: 38g (58%) Saturated Fat: 11g (69%) Polyunsaturated Fat: 11g Monounsaturated Fat: 11g Trans Fat: 0.1g Cholesterol: 143mg (48%) Sodium: 1175mg (51%) Potassium: 1746mg (50%) Fiber: 14g (58%) Sugar: 20g (22%) Vitamin A: 9544IU (191%) Vitamin C: 38mg (46%) Calcium: 329mg (33%) Iron: 5mg (28%)

Nutritional Disclaimer

Soulfully Made is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is only an estimate. We recommend running the ingredients through an online nutritional calculator if you need to verify any information.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I made this tonight for my family and it was a hit! Even my kids loved it! That dressing is amazing! Saving this to make again in the future!