Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad with Tomatillo Avocado Ranch Dressing


Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad with Tomatillo Avocado Ranch is WAY better than your favorite restaurant salad at a fraction of the cost tossed with tender chipotle barbecue chicken and the most intoxicating dressing EVER!


This BBQ Chicken Salad is is Ah-mazing! I was going for a CPK Copycat but I think your taste buds will agree this salad is even better!

Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad with Tomatillo Avocado Ranch Dressing

BBQ Chicken Salad Recipe

BBQ Chicken Salads have to be one of the most popular restaurant salads.  For good reason. Even myself, who is not a huge salad girl, starts drooling over the loaded salad with juicy barbecue chicken, fresh vegetables and crunchy tortilla chips.  Each bite is a flavor texture bomb and each explosion is epic. But…that flavor usually comes with an expensive $$ – until now! 

You can make your favorite BBQ Chicken Salad at a fraction of the price to feed your entire family! You can load on your favorite ingredients, skip the ones you don’t like or create a salad bar so everyone can create their own version of their favorite BBQ Chicken Salad.

To me, a salad is only as good as the dressing and the protein. And this Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad, is drizzled  – or drowned – in one of my all time favorite dressings (we’ll get to the protein a second). The obsessive worthy 5 Minute Blender Tomatillo Avocado Ranch Dressing is creamy, velvety ranch with a Mexican fiesta flair added by the avocado, tomatillo, jalapeno, garlic, cilantro, lime and smoked paprika.  Layers of herbs, layers of spice, layers of luscious goodness that I just can’t seem to get enough of. And all you do is add all the ingredients to your blender and in less than 5 minutes you have created this heavenly dressing.

I would say that this Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad with Tomatillo Avocado Dressing is almost just an excuse to consume the Tomatillo Avocado Ranch by the lettuce-fuls if it wasn’t for the Chipotle BBQ Chicken because this chicken is drool worthy delicious.  

The chicken begins with my Easy All Purpose Chipotle Chicken Recipe which receives rave reviews and can be a meal all on its own with its easy, flavorful Mexican rub of chipotle chili powder, chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, garlic and onion powder BUT this chicken gets even better after cooking/grilling with a BBQ bath transforming Chipotle Chicken into tender, juicy, Chipotle BBQ  Chicken!

The dressing and chicken are supported by an encore cast of crunchy red peppers, jicama, fresh corn, black beans, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, Mexican cheese and my personal favorite, sweet mangos.  I love sweet mangoes and spicy chipotle together!  (Exhibit AExhibit B, Exhibit C)). 

Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad in a bowl with Avocado Ranch Dressing

BBQ Chicken Salad Ingredients

This bbq ranch chicken salad is loaded with so many different flavors and textures. Here’s what you’ll need to make this bbq chicken lettuce salad:

  • Chipotle chicken: I’ve linked the recipe below. Once cooked, chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces.
  • Barbecue sauce: You’ll want to use a sweet bbq sauce in this recipe to balance out the chipotle chicken.
  • Tomatillo avocado ranch: Again, I’ve linked the recipe in the recipe card below.  
  • Romaine lettuce:  I love how crunchy romaine is but you can also use half romaine, half iceberg lettuce, or your favorite spring mix.
  • Fresh corn: You will need one ear of corn and then cut the kernels straight from the cob.  If you want to ramp up your bbq chicken salad, you can grill the corn first or toast it in the skillet.
  • Jicama: Optional, but adds a nice crunch to the salad.
  • Grape tomatoes: They have less watery flesh than Roma tomatoes and are the perfect bite-size juicy morsels when halved.
  • Black beans: You may also substitute red kidney beans, pinto beans etc.  No matter what bean you use, rinse and dry them first.
  • Mango: If you are intimidated by cutting mangos – don’t be, just check out my guide on How to Cut A Mango that teaches everything you could ever want to know about mangos!
  • Red bell pepper:  I use red bell pepper because it is sweeter than other colors, but feel free to substitute for whatever color bell pepper you have on hand.
  • Red onion: I like the fresh pop of red onion but you may also use green onions.  If you’re not a fan of raw red onions, you can cook them 30 seconds or so in the microwave to soften the bite or use less.
  • Sunflower seeds: You can also use pepitas, if desired. Whichever you use, make sure they are roasted and salted, which translates to FLAVOR! I purchase my seeds in the bulk bins at Sprouts.
  • Cheese: I used a mixture of shredded sharp cheddar and Monterey Jack.
  • Tortilla strips: You can easily make your own tortilla strips — like I do in my Chicken Tortilla Soup — or you can purchase tortilla strips for salad which are usually located near/at the end of the produce aisles.
Preparing dressing for Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad with Tomatillo Avocado Ranch Dressing

Ingredient Substitutions

  • Corn: If using canned corn, take care to rinse and drain it first. If using frozen corn, you don’t need to thaw it before you add it to the hot skillet. If using frozen corn, you will need to cook it a couple minutes longer in order for it to char.
  • Cheese: Pepper jack or a Mexican cheese blend would also work nicely in this bbq chicken salad.
  • BBQ Sauce: I prefer using a sweet bbq sauce in this bbq ranch chicken salad, but you’re welcome to use any kind you’d like.
Cooking chicken for Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad.

How to Make BBQ Chicken Salad

  1. Make the dressing: Prepare 5 Minute Blender Tomatillo Ranch according to directions.
  2. Prep the chicken: Prepare Chipotle Chicken according to directions. Chop cooked chicken into bite size pieces and toss with ¼ cup barbecue sauce or enough to generously coat.
  3. Assemble the salad: Add the salad ingredients, bbq chicken, cheese and sunflower seeds to a large bowl and toss to combine.
  4. Garnish individual servings with tortilla strips and drizzle with dressing.

Tips for Making BBQ Chicken Salad

  • Feel free to also add avocado, which is missing in the picture but absolutely heavenly. 
  • The salad recipe ingredient list is simply a guideline. Use as as much or as little — or omit completely  — whatever salad ingredients your stomach desires.
  • For a spicier dressing, leave the seeds in the jalapeño when blending up the salad dressing.
Top view of Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad with Tomatillo Avocado Ranch Dressing.

Recipe Variations to Try

This bbq chicken salad recipe is easily customizable. Here are some variations you can try out:

  • Add shrimp. Instead of bbq chicken, you can easily make bbq shrimp and add those to the salad instead.
  • Add pork. Swap out the bbq chicken for carnitassalsa verde pork or chipotle pork.
  • Add avocado.  I use avocado in the dressing so I haven’t included it in the salad, but you can still add it to the salad if you wish.  Make sure you use ripe avocados but not overly ripe or they will turn to mush.
  • Add bacon.  Because bacon makes everything better. I recommend thick-cut bacon so its wonderfully meaty texture doesn’t get lost in the salad.  You will want to add the bacon to the bbq ranch chicken salad at the end with the tortilla chips.
Showing how to make Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad with Tomatillo Avocado Ranch Dressing

Can I Prep BBQ Chicken Salad in Advance?

Yes! Although you should wait to assemble the salad until you’re ready to serve it, you can easily prep individual components ahead of time.

Chop the vegetables: You can chop your lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, bell peppers and grill your corn ahead of time. Store veggies in separate airtight containers in sealable bag so the moisture doesn’t’ wilt the lettuce.  I do not recommend storing your pre-cut veggies longer than a day because the beauty of this salad is its freshness.

Make the southwest dressing: You can make the salad dressing and store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours in advance. The lime juice will prevent the salad from discoloring too much, but it will darken slightly.  A change in color of color doesn’t mean it’s going bad; it simply means the sauce is oxidizing.

Make the chipotle chicken: Make the chipotle chicken according to directions, chop into bite-sized pieces, and store in an airtight container for up to 4 days.

How to Store BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

Store the veggies, dressing, and chicken separately. Once the salad has been dressed, I don’t recommend saving any leftovers.

What to Serve with BBQ Chicken Salad

This grilled chicken salad is a meal in an of itself, but you can make it stretch further by serving it with sides or light mains.

Top view of Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad with Tomatillo Avocado Ranch Dressing.

Looking for more recipes using Chipotle Chicken?

Looking for more Chicken Salad Recipes?

Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad with Tomatillo Avocado Ranch

Chipotle BBQ Chicken Salad with Tomatillo Avocado Ranch is WAY better than your favorite restaurant salad at a fraction of the cost tossed with tender chipotle barbecue chicken and the most intoxicating dressing EVER! This BBQ Chicken Salad is is Ah-mazing!    I was going for a CPK Copycat but I think your taste buds will agree this salad is even better!
Servings: 8
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1 large head romaine lettuce chopped, about 8 cups
  • fresh corn kernels from 1 ear of corn
  • 1/2 cup jicama, peeled and chopped (optional)
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup black beans,, drained and rinsed
  • 1 mango, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced

Garnish

  • 1/2 cup roasted and salted sunflower seeds
  • 3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup shredded Monterey jack cheese
  • tortilla strips

Instructions

  • Prepare 5 Minute Blender Tomatillo Ranch according to directions. Best chilled before serving.
  • Prepare Chipotle Chicken according to directions. Chop cooked chicken into bite size pieces and toss with ¼ cup barbecue sauce or enough to generously coat.
  • To assemble, add the Salad Ingredients, chicken, cheese and sunflower seeds to a large bowl and toss to combine. Garnish individual servings with tortilla strips and drizzle with dressing.

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Reader Interactions

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18 Comments

  1. Kristin H says

    This salad is delicious! The chicken is so flavorful, and I love the dressing! This is a keeper. Thanks so much for sharing your recipe!

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Kristin, thanks for trying my recipes and for your nice comment! I love that you love this salad because it is one of my favs!

  2. Layne says

    While eating this Jesse turned and said, “I’m so glad you cook well.” To which I responded, “I just follow Jen’s directions!” Fantastic. The end.

    • Jen says

      Best story ever! So happy you are both enjoying them – thank you!!! xo

  3. Trisha says

    I LOVE this salad! I made it exactly as written (including the chicken, dressing, and recommended garnish). It is sooo good! I made lots so I had leftovers. I’ve been eating it almost every day for lunch this past week and I still love it! I will probably make another batch again soon. Thanks so much!

    • Jen says

      That is awesome Trisha – I love that you love it so much – even enough to make leftovers and to make again soon! It is one of my all time favorite salads as well – you have great taste 🙂

  4. Tiffany says

    Could I sub olive oil for the canola oil?

    • Jen says

      Yes, that would be just fine! Enjoy!

    • Jen says

      best comment. Thanks Esther! One of my absolute favorites too!

  5. Crissy says

    This salad was yummy! I loved all the flavors! I used a cilantro cotija dressing and no bbq sauce. I loved the flavor of the chipotle chicken too much to cover it with sauce. Perfect marinade! The jicama at heb was nearly $5 so I didn’t use it, but I do love the crunch it adds to salads. I added avocado and used green onion instead of red. Can’t wait to make this again, great recipe!

    • Jen says

      Hi Crissy, sorry for the delay as I am way behind after recovering from pneumonia, but I so appreciate your comment! I’m thrilled you loved this salad so much and even loved the chicken too much to cover it with dressing 🙂 Your addition of avocado sounds delicoius!

  6. Janet says

    This was seriously delicious!! The dressing was one of the best home made ones I have ever made. I served this to guests and it was a big hit. Thanks for sharing!

    • Jen says

      You are so welcome Janet! I am thrilled you loved this salad as it is still one of my favorites! I’m so happy it was such a hit!

  7. Lecia says

    I made this for my family tonight and they just loved it! Good job!

    • Jen says

      YAY! I’m so happy it was a hit with the family! Its always nice to find recipe everyone loves. Thanks so much Lecia!

  8. Lori says

    This salad – the chicken and dressing are delicious!!! ❤️ Another fantastic recipe!

    • Jen says

      Wahoo! Thanks so much Lori! I’m so happy you loved it!