Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad

This Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad is perfect for lunch or dinner! It’s drizzled with the most amazing jalapeño ranch dressing and topped with cheesy croutons!

Your entire family will be begging for this Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad with Cheesy Croutons! The juicy, tangy chicken is incredible all on its own but complemented by the crunchy cheesy croutons, crispy salty bacon and all doused with creamy Jalapeño Ranch you will fall in love! 

Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad with dressing being poured on top.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad Recipe

I would say the star of this Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad is the chicken, but then I want to say it’s the Jalapeno Ranch and then I want to say it’s the Cheesy Croutons and then of course there is the bacon – they all come together to create an explosion of tangy, salty, spicy flavors and creamy, crunchy, crispy palate pleasing textures that will leave you What About Bob “mmmmm-ing” over this Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad.

The Ranch Chicken is marinated in a tangy ranch marinade of ranch seasoning mix, red wine vinegar, lemon juice and lemon pepper to create a tangy Lemon Pepper Ranch Chicken. The chicken emerges from the spice bath tender, juicy, tangy and ready to tempt you to devour it alone without its adorning greens.

The Lemon Pepper Ranch Chicken is complemented by crunchy homemade Cheesy Cheddar Croutons that are an addicting snack all on their own.  When Patrick passed through the kitchen, he stopped and munched on these croutons, exclaiming how good they were…and then he had to pass through again and again and again, as the plate of cheesy croutons diminished before me.

The Jalapeño Ranch is a super simple blending of jalapeño, ranch seasoning mix, milk, mayo and sour cream to create a silky, tantalizing dressing that you will want to douse on everything like I did here. But first start by dousing your Ranch Chicken, Cheesy Croutons, bacon, avocado, carrots, bell peppers, broccoli and cucumber.   And then savoring every sensational bite.

Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad in a bowl with dressing poured on top.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad Ingredients

This salad has four main components: the chicken (+ marinade), the salad fixings, the jalapeño ranch dressing, and the cheesy croutons. Here’s what you’ll need to make this recipe:

  • Chicken: You can use chicken breasts or chicken thighs – totally personal preference here.  After the chicken cooks, let it rest for 5 minutes to reabsorb the juices then you can slice or chop the chicken.
  • Olive oil: Use extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
  • Red wine vinegar: Makes the dressing tangy but also adds flavor.
  • Dijon mustard: Rounds out the flavor profile of the dressing.
  • Lemon juice: Fresh or bottled may be used.
  • Ranch seasoning mix: Buy the dry ranch seasoning packets, not a bottle of pre-made dressing.
  • Lemon pepper seasoning: If you don’t have lemon pepper, you don’t have to buy it just for this recipe and can just add a dash of pepper and lemon zest but it is one of my favorite seasonings so I strongly suggest stocking it.
  • Earthbound Farm Baby Spinach Spring Mix: Boasts a broad spectrum of flavor and textural interest.
  • Romaine lettuce: Super crunchy and pairs well with the spinach mix.
  • Veggies: I added a variety of veggies in this salad to add lots of contrasting textures. I used fresh corn, cucumber, carrot, broccoli, and bell pepper.
  • Avocado: Slice or chop a large avocado for satisfying creamy bursts to complement the crunchy textures. 
  • Bacon: Use thick cut bacon for its extra flavor and because it is hearty enough to stand up to the dressing without immediately becoming soggy.
  • Sour cream: I prefer sour cream but Greek yogurt also works well because we are making a tangy dressing. If the dressing is too tangy by using Greek yogurt, add a teaspoon or so of honey.
  • Mayonnaise: Provides the creamy base of the dressing and binds all of the ingredients together.  You can also use avocado mayonnaise for a healthier alternative.
  • Milk: Thins out the dressing without making it watery.
  • Jalapeño: For a spicier dressing, leave the seeds in.
  • Sourdough bread: I love how the slightly tangy sourdough bread pairs with sharp cheddar cheese!
  • Shredded cheddar cheese: Feel free to use another type of cheese, if desired.
  • Spices: The croutons are seasoned with garlic powder and paprika.
Showing how to make Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad by cooking the croutons.

How to Make Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad

I’ve given detailed instructions in the recipe card below on how to make this chicken bacon salad, but here are the basics:

  1. Make the Marinade: Whisk together all of the marinade ingredients in a freezer size plastic bag. Marinate chicken 4 hours up to overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Make the Dressing: Meanwhile, add all of the ranch salad dressing ingredients to your blender and blend until smooth.
  3. Cook the Chicken: Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Once very hot, remove chicken from marinade and pat dry. Add chicken and cook until done. Remove to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
  4. Make the Croutons: Toss the cubed bread pieces in olive oil and spices. Bake at 400F or until golden. Remove from oven and push all croutons close together in the center of the pan. Cover with 1 cup shredded cheese and bake until cheese is melted.
  5. Assemble the Salad: Add all of the salad ingredients to a large bowl and toss to combine. Garnish with bacon, avocados and croutons. Top with chicken and drizzle with jalapeño ranch dressing.
Showing how to make Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad by adding cheesy croutons.

Tips for Making Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad

  • Customize ingredients.  The ranch chicken salad ingredients and measurements are simply suggestions.  You can add/swap any ingredients for your favorite veggies and fruits as long as you maintain a balance of sweet, tangy, and crunchy; if you swap out an ingredient, replace it with something with a similar flavor profile and texture. 
  • Alternative proteins.  The chicken marinade would also be delicious on shrimp, salmon, pork or steak, so feel free to mix it up!
  • Salad bar. If you have picky eaters or want a fun entertaining idea, then consider a salad bar where everyone can pile on as much or as little of their favorite toppings.  Everyone is a winner with a salad bar!

Recipe Variations to Try

  • Switch up the dressing. I love this jalapeño dressing, but you could also pair this chicken bacon salad with Tomatillo Avocado Ranch, Cilantro Lime Dressing, or Homemade Italian Dressing.
  • Make classic croutons. Don’t want cheesy croutons? Simply omit the cheese and enjoy classic croutons instead!
  • Make the dressing spicy. Leave the ribs and seeds in the jalapeño pepper for a spicier ranch salad dressing.
Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad with dressing being poured on top with cheese and croutons.

What Can I Prep Ahead?

This ranch chicken salad recipe is simple to make but does require some chopping. The good news is you can prep your ingredients while your chicken is marinating. To prep ahead:

  • Chicken:  Can be marinated 12 hours in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.  You can also cook the chicken completely ahead of time.
  • Chop vegetables:  Can be chopped 24 hours in advance (except the avocados) and stored in separate airtight containers in the refrigerator.  I will add the vegetables to separate paper towels, fold up the paper towels around the contents and place in sandwich bags – this keeps excess moisture away from the veggies to keep them fresh.
  • Cook bacon:  Can be cooked up to 3 days in advance, crumbled and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Dressing: Can be made 24 hours+ ahead of time. Dressing will thicken as it chills so you will probably need to stir in additional milk when ready to serve.
  • Croutons: Can be made 24 hours+ ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.

How to Store Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad

If you plan on storing ranch chicken salad, do not toss the salad with the dressing or the lettuce will become soggy and wilted.  Instead, store the salad and dressing in separate airtight containers. The avocados and bacon should also be removed from the salad or better yet, not tossed with the salad initially and instead added to individual servings.

The chicken bacon salad without dressing will stay nice and fresh for about 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.

What to Serve with Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad

This ranch chicken salad is practically a meal-in-itself – the only thing left to add is carby bread!  We love it with a side of cornbread  or buttery breadsticks. It’s also fabulous with favorite backyard barbecue sides such as Baked Mac and Cheese,  Potato SaladBaked Beans, and Corn Casserole 

Bacon Ranch Chicken Salad with all the toppings.

Looking for more Chicken Salad Recipes?

 WANT TO TRY THIS BACON RANCH CHICKEN SALAD WITH CHEESY CROUTONS?

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©Carlsbad Cravings by CarlsbadCravings.com

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a large, sharp knife, trim ends; halve squash crosswise to separate bulb from neck. Peel with a vegetable peeler. Cut both pieces in half lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out seeds; discard. Cut squash into 2-inch chunks; transfer to a small rimmed baking sheet. Toss with oil and sage; season generously with salt and pepper. Scatter garlic around squash. Roast until squash is very tender, about 40 minutes, tossing once halfway through. Remove and discard skin from garlic. Transfer squash and garlic to a food processor; puree. With motor running, add half-and-half through the feed tube; process until smooth. Add 1 to 2 cups water; continue to process until smooth, adding water to thin if necessary. Season again generously with salt. (To freeze, see below.) Cook pasta according to package instructions. Reserve 1 cup pasta water; drain pasta and return to pot. Pour sauce over pasta; toss to coat. Add some pasta water to thin sauce if necessary. Serve with desired toppings.

Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad with Cheesy Croutons

Servings: 6 -8
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts (2-3 breasts)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Lemon Pepper Ranch Chicken Marinade

Garden Salad**

  • 1 5 oz. package Earthbound Farm Baby Spinach Spring Mix
  • 1/2 small head romaine lettuce, chopped
  • Fresh corn from 1 ear of corn
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 carrot, peeled and sliced
  • 1 small cucumber peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 Avocados, sliced or chopped
  • 4-6 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Easy Jalapeno Ranch

  • 3 tablespoons ranch dry seasoning dressing mix
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded, deveined, roughly chopped

Easy Cheddar Croutons

  • 5 slices sourdough bread, cubed (roughly 5 cups)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

Instructions

  • Marinade: Whisk together all off the Chicken Marinade ingredients in a freezer size plastic bag. Marinate chicken 4 hours up to overnight in the refrigerator.
  • Dressing: Meanwhile, add all of the Jalapeno Ranch ingredients to your blender and blend until smooth. Add additional milk if needed to reach desired consistency. Refrigerate. (Best chilled. Can be made 24 hours+ ahead of time). Dressing will thicken as it chills so you will probably need to stir in additional milk when ready to serve.
  • Chicken: Let chicken sit at room temperature for 20 minutes (meanwhile you can chop your veggies). Heat a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Once very hot, remove chicken from marinade and pat dry. Add chicken and cook, undisturbed for 3-5 minutes, or until nicely browned on one side. Turn chicken over, cover, and reduce heat to medium. Cook for approximately 5-7 more minutes (depending on thickness of chicken), or until chicken is cooked through. Remove to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before slicing.
  • Croutons: Preheat oven to 400F degrees. Cube bread into bite size pieces and add to foil lined baking sheet. Toss with ¼ cup olive oil, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder and ¼ teaspoon paprika. Toss until evenly coated then spread into an even layer on baking sheet. Bake for 10 minutes or until golden.
  • Remove from oven and push all croutons close together in the center of the pan. Cover with 1 cup shredded cheese and bake an additional 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Let cool before breaking croutons apart with your hands. (Can be done 24 hours+ ahead of time and stored in an airtight container.)
  • Assemble: Add all of the Salad Ingredients to a large bowl except avocadoes and bacon and toss to combine. Garnish with bacon, avocadoes and croutons. Top with chicken and drizzle with Jalapeno Dressing. (If you are expecting leftovers, garnish individual servings with dressing, bacon, croutons and chicken).

Notes

*Total time does not include marinating as that will vary between individuals.
**You can add more of whatever ingredients you love (measurements are just guidelines).

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Albertsons Companies & Hunger Is. The opinions and text are all mine.

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1 Comment

  1. Dorothy Dunton says

    Hi Jen! What a perfect meal for the hot days we are having! Gary doesn’t usually like croutons (I know, WHAT!), however I can’t see him passing these up! I’d probably have to make extra once he got ahold of some! 🙂 Have a great Labor Day!

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