This Tangy BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad is the perfect combination of tangy barbecue chicken, crisp veggies, and a homemade BBQ ranch dressing that will leave your mouth watering. Whether you’re looking for a filling meal or a quick dish to meal prep, this flavorful salad is sure to become one of your favorite go-to options.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- FLAVOR EXPLOSION. Spicy grilled chicken breast paired with creamy and tangy ranch isn’t enough. This barbecue chicken salad has blackened corn, pickled red onions, black beans, juicy tomatoes, and so much more.
- SIMPLE PREP. Cook everything fresh, or make it ahead of time. Use frozen corn if you need it, or fresh onions to keep it simple. This is a flexible recipe that can be made quickly.
- AMAZING LEFTOVERS. Don’t worry about food going to waste, all of these ingredients can be used for several other dishes if you happen to make too much. You should intentionally make too much, trust me.
Related: If you love blue cheese, try out this chunky Homemade Blue Cheese Dressing!
How to Make BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad
Yes, you don’t see very many salads on Chiles and Smoke, I understand. Trust me on this one though. Barbecue ranch chicken works well with the spicy, wood-fired chicken paired with the sweet and tangy dressing.
Most of the food can be prepped ahead of time, though the temperature contrast of having a warm grilled chicken breast with cool bbq ranch dressing is pretty amazing on the palate.
Let’s break down the simple steps, including some variations and substitutions.
- Grilled Chicken: Spicy grilled chicken breast is the centerpiece, proving the wood-fired savory flavors. We recommend using a bold rub such as Sedona Sand All-Purpose Rub.
- Romaine Lettuce: Crisp and refreshing, romaine lettuce serves as the base of the salad, providing a hearty and nutritious foundation.
- BBQ Ranch Dressing: The homemade ranch dressing is the secret sauce that brings the salad together, adding a tangy and creamy element. Use mayo, sour cream, your favorite BBQ sauce, and plenty of herbs to whip this up.
- Corn: Use fresh corn, or grilled sweet corn, or take it a step further and make Blackened Corn for extra flavor.
- Red Onions: These add a nice tang and sharpness to the salad. Quick pickled red onions are highly recommended, otherwise, use a fine dice of fresh red onion.
- Black Beans: Homemade or canned black beans will work here, just drain off the liquid first.
- Tomatoes: Use a finely diced tomato, cherry or grape tomatoes, or even fire-roasted tomatoes.
Substitutions and Variations
Every bite of this bbq chicken salad has explosive flavors, but we also know that tastes vary. Here are some other flavorful options for you:
- Skinless Chicken Thighs. Kick up the flavor even more by using juicy grilled chicken thighs.
- Grilled Steak. Oh yeah, juicy grilled steak works perfectly with this entire salad. Just drizzle on that bbq ranch dressing and enjoy.
- Rotisserie Chicken. Always useful and easy to have on hand. You can also use smoked pulled chicken for additional flavor.
- Onions. Use caramelized onions, sweet onions, green onions, or even grilled onions.
- Herbs. Top with different herbs such as cilantro, mint, flat-leaf parsley, or chives.
- Add Crunch. Let’s think past croutons and lean towards diced jicama, cucumber, or apples for a hearty salad. Don’t forget crushed tortilla chips or tortilla strips, which are a classic topping. Oh, and bacon!
- Avocado. Whether it’s diced avocado or creamy guacamole, it will work very well.
- BBQ Sauce. Don’t like ranch dressing? Skip over and grab your favorite bottle of barbecue sauce. We also have a huge list of homemade bbq sauce recipes for you!
- Cheese. Shredded cheddar, Gouda, or Monterey jack cheese would all work well. Even a little bit of salty cotija or queso fresco will work very well.
- Beans. Black beans are recommended, but homemade pinto beans also taste delicious. If you’re using canned beans, make sure to drain and rinse the beans so they aren’t watery in the salad.
Now that we’ve explored the key ingredients of the BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad, let’s dive into the art of grilling chicken. Grilling chicken breast or thighs is the best way to achieve juicy and flavorful meat that will be the star of your salad.
Tips for Perfectly Grilled Chicken
Grilling chicken breast isn’t difficult, and with a few tips and tricks, you’ll be able to achieve perfectly grilled chicken every time.
- Pound the chicken breast, or use thinner cuts: Thick chicken breasts tend to cook unevenly, leaving the edges dry before the middle is cooked. Chicken thighs are a great option as well due to their size.
- Season the chicken: Before grilling, season the chicken with olive oil and seasonings of your choice. Rest the chicken breast for 30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.
- Use medium heat: This is probably the part where most people have challenges. Too high of heat can result in chicken that chars too quickly, drying out the crust before the inside is cooked properly. Make sure to use medium heat, whether it’s a gas grill or a charcoal grill.
- Flip and use the grill lid. Chicken breasts can take a bit to grill, so make sure you’re flipping them for even cooking. Shut the grill lid to create a warmer environment which speeds up the cooking.
- Cook to the right temperature. Chicken is safe to eat past 165°F, but it will be dry if you pull it off the grill at that temp. Try to cook the chicken until it’s around 158-160°F, pull it off and let it rest to temperature. You can use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature.
Once your barbecue ranch chicken salad is assembled, it’s important to store it properly and serve it in the best way possible.
Refrigerate the leftover salad in an airtight storage container for up to 2 days. If using crunchy toppings such as crushed tortilla chips or croutons, keep them stored separately from the mixed barbecue chicken salad.
Important Tip: Don’t toss the entire salad with dressing if you plan on having leftovers. Keep the dressing on the side, otherwise everything will get soggy.
More Sauces for Barbecue Chicken Salad
Is BBQ ranch dressing not your thing? Well, I don’t want you to miss out.
- Tangy Horseradish Aioli – Thin it out with a little lemon juice if you need, this sauce works great with grilled chicken or steak as a salad dressing.
- Hatch Chile Chimichurri Sauce – This herbal sauce coats everything perfectly, and is on the healthier side too.
- Fresh Pico De Gallo – These classic toppings of tomatoes, onions, and cilantro keep the salad on the fresh side.
- Fire Roasted Santa Maria Salsa – Try this savory salsa for an unbeatable grilled chicken salad.
- Maple Chipotle BBQ Sauce – Stick with this sweet and tangy mustard-based bbq sauce for the ultimate dressing.
BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad Recipe
Drizzle on the flavorful dressing and your grilled chicken salad is ready to go. At Chiles and Smoke, we’re here to bring people together with bold flavors, using spice and flames to ignite the food and friendships.Print
- 2 Chicken breasts, pounded ½-inch thick
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons Sedona Sand All-Purpose Rub
- 6 cups chopped Romaine lettuce
- 1 cup black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup corn kernels*
- 1 Roma tomato, seeded and diced
- ¼ cup pickled red onions
- Cilantro, garnish
- Crushed tortilla chips for serving
- 1/2 cup BBQ Ranch Dressing
- Prepare the chicken breasts. Pound them thin if they are too thick, using a plastic zipped bag and a rolling pin. Spread the olive oil on the surface and add the seasoning as desired. Let them rest at room temperature while the grill heats up.
- Grill the chicken at medium heat. Clean the grates to prevent the chicken from sticking, and place them on the grill, closing the lid. Allow them to sit undisturbed for about 5 minutes before flipping. Continue to grill and flip as needed, checking the internal temperature. Pull the chicken off the grill at around 158-160°F and let them rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing.
- Assemble the salad. Portion the chopped lettuce into bowls, and add the beans, corn, and tomatoes. Top with diced chicken, pickled red onions, cilantro, and tortilla strips. Pour on the BBQ ranch dressing and enjoy!
- Corn kernels – Use fresh corn, grilled corn, frozen corn, or try the Blackened Corn recipe for an extra kick.
- Add wood chips if using a charcoal grill for additional flavor.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Category: Chicken & Poultry
- Method: Grilling
- Cuisine: Salad
Keywords: bbq ranch chicken salad, barbecue chicken salad, chicken ranch salad, bbq chicken salad, grilled chicken salad