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!
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 A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C)).
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.
- 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.
How to Make BBQ Chicken Salad
- Make the dressing: Prepare 5 Minute Blender Tomatillo Ranch according to directions.
- Prep the chicken: Prepare Chipotle Chicken according to directions. Chop cooked chicken into bite size pieces and toss with 1/4 cup barbecue sauce or enough to generously coat.
- Assemble the salad: Add the salad ingredients, bbq chicken, cheese and sunflower seeds to a large bowl and toss to combine.
- 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.
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 carnitas, salsa 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.
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.
- Baked Mexican French Fries
- Best Bean Dip
- Classic Guacamole
- Chipotle Sweet Potato Soup
- Elote Corn
- Mango Salsa
- Grilled Pineapple
Looking for more recipes using Chipotle Chicken?
- Southwest Salad with Creamy Avocado Salsa Dressing
- Chipotle Chicken Empanadas with Avocado Dip
- Chipotle Chicken Salad with Mango Dressing
- Chipotle Ranch Chicken Flatbread
- BBQ Chipotle Chicken Sandwiches
- TexMex Creamy Roasted Red Pepper Pasta with Chipotle Chicken
Looking for more Chicken Salad Recipes?
- Caprese Chicken Salad with Creamy Balsamic Reduction Dressing
- Buffalo Chicken Salad with Blue Cheese Cilantro Ranch
- Teriyaki Chicken Salad with Pineapple Sesame Dressing
- Cilantro Lime Chicken Taco Salad with Fiesta Catalina Dressing
- Asian Salad (with Chicken) with Sriracha Peanut Dressing
- Greek Chicken Salad with Tzatziki Dressing and Pita Croutons
- Coconut Cashew Chicken Salad with Pineapple Ginger Vinaigrette
- Garden Caesar Salad with Lemon Basil Chicken
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