This BBQ Chicken Salad is even better than Panera, CPK and Cheesecake Factory! I know it's quite the claim, but trust me - it's SO good! Loaded with bbq chicken, smoked gouda, and tons of fresh veggies, this salad is hearty, filling, and the opposite of boring!
Whenever I think of a BBQ Chicken Salad, my mind always races back to high school.
Whether it was visiting Panera Bread after class or going to the mall and eating Cheesecake Factory and CPK, it was always my go-to.
I love how it's sweet, smokey, tangy and so flavorful! Not to mention, it's probably the most satisfying and filling salad ever! You never feel like you're getting skimped when you order it which I love!
So what did I do differently?! I USE SMOKED GOUDA! Unlike the other salads, using smoked gouda adds so much creamy, smoky, cheesy goodness!
I also swapped out black beans for black eyed peas because let's be real -- when's the last time you had black beans at a BBQ joint? Right??
And what I love about this chopped salad, is that the dressing uses stuff you already have on hand so it's super easy to make!
Lastly, rather than cooking your own chicken, I recommend just buying a rotisserie chicken the next time you're at the grocery store.
Not only is it about the same price as a pack of chicken breasts, but it's already fully cooked and you can use the bones to make stock -- which is a win/win!
So let's get to it!
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Rotisserie Chicken - You could use whatever style chicken you like. I just think rotisserie is best and easiest for this!
- Smoked Gouda - Roth's Smoked Gouda is the best for this recipe because it is SO flavorful, but if you don't have any, you could sub it for cheddar, regular gouda or even a spicy cheese like jalapeno havarti or pepper jack.
- Romaine Lettuce - You could use any type of lettuce you like but I think romaine is the heartiest and holds up the best with all of the ingredients.
- Avocado - No sub for avocado but if you don't like it, feel free to leave it out.
- Red Onion - You could use white, yellow or Vidalia onion if you don't have red! These pink pickled onions would also be amazing!
- Tomato - No sub for tomatoes but if you don't like it, feel free to leave it out.
- Corn - I use leftover grilled corn in this recipe. But you could most certainly use canned corn or fresh corn, too!
- Black Eyed Peas - I'm using regular canned black eyed peas, but you could most definitely use black beans like the other versions of this recipe call for!
- Cilantro - Again, no real sub for cilantro. But if it tastes like soap to you, feel free to leave it out!
- Fried Onions - I'm using the packaged fried onions for convenient sake and I highly recommend them! You know -- the green bean casserole style ones!
- Barbecue Sauce - My fav is Sweet Baby Ray's Honey BBQ Sauce but you could use whatever bbq sauce you like the most.... Although I do have to say, the sweeter the better in this recipe!
- Ranch - I'm using Aldi's ranch dressing because I think it's SO dang good but you could either make your own or use your favorite brand. Blue Cheese dressing would also be delicious!
- Lime Juice - Real, fresh squeezed lime juice is the best but you could also use lemon juice if you're in a pinch!
How to make BBQ Chicken Salad
This salad is SUPER easy to make!
Basically all you'll need to do to prep is to chop all your veggies into small pieces. I recommend bite sized pieces so that it's more of a chopped salad that's super scoopable!
Begin by making a bed of lettuce in a large bowl.
Then top the lettuce with cubes of smoked gouda, avocado, rotisserie chicken, red onion, grilled corn, black eyed peas, cilantro and cherry tomatoes.
For crunch, I then add crispy fried onions (the store bought kind) right on top.
Then it's time for a drizzle of bbq sauce and ranch dressing.
Honestly, I don't really measure this out - I just eye it. But i'd say it's probably about ¼ - ⅓ cup of barbecue and a ⅓ - ½ cup of ranch or so.Then it's time for a squeeze of lime juice to brighten it all up.
Now mix it all together and serve immediately!
How to make BBQ Ranch Dressing
Making this BBQ Ranch Dressing ahead of time is a great way to keep this salad fresh if you're doing meal prep. Or if you don't just don't generally want the salad sitting in dressing.
To make BBQ Ranch Dressing, it's super simple. Just mix together ¼ cup bbq sauce, ⅓ cup ranch dressing and the juice from half a lime (or about 1 tbsp)
Mix it all together and then store in an airtight container. This BBQ Ranch dressing should last two weeks or so.
What to serve it with
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BBQ Chicken Salad (Better than Panera!)
- 2 heads chopped romaine
- 1 6 oz wedge Roth’s smoked gouda cut into small cubes
- 1 large avocado cut into small cubes
- 1 cup chopped rotisserie chicken cut into small cubes and tossed in bbq sauce
- ½ cup red onion finely diced
- ½ cup grilled corn
- ½ cup black eyed peas
- ½ cup cilantro finely diced
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes halved
- ½ cup fried onions
- ¼ cup barbecue sauce
- ⅓ cup ranch
- 1 tbsp lime juice
- kosher salt
- Add chopped romaine to a bowl then add gouda, avocado, rotisserie chicken, red onion, grilled corn, black eyed peas, cilantro, cherry tomatoes, and fried onions on top. Add a sprinkle of salt on top of everything.
- Top with a drizzle of bbq sauce and a drizzle of ranch dressing.
- Finish with a squirt of lime juice and toss it all together.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!