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This healthy BBQ chicken salad is better than the restaurant! It includes classic southwest toppings and a creamy (dairy free) cilantro lime ranch that takes 5 minutes to make.

If you’re a fan of hearty chicken salads, try this buffalo chicken salad or crispy chicken salad next.

bbq chicken on a big platter with cilantro lime ranch dressing and a spoon and fork
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If you’re familiar with Panera’s BBQ chicken salad, then you probably love it as much as me! Same with California Pizza Kitchen. Both of those restaraunts make a KILLER BBQ chicken salad.

But I’m here to share with you a salad that rivals both of them!

Why is this BBQ chicken salad better than the restaraunt?

  1. This salad includes all of the toppings, but a bit healthier. The BBQ sauce is paleo-approved and the dressing is dairy free. You know exactly what’s going into your salad when you eat it!
  2. It’s more affordable! You can make a huge salad for a lot cheaper than spending money one one. You’ll make a batch and have salads for the rest of the week.

How to make a BBQ chicken salad:

Start by making the shredded BBQ chicken. Rub the chicken with the spice blend and add it to the slow cooker with the BBQ sauce ingredients (or pre-made BBQ sauce). Cook on low for 6-7 hours or high for 3 hours.

When it’s done, shred with two forks and add it to a bed of romaine lettuce. Top with the rest of the salad ingredients and drizzle with homemade cilantro lime ranch dressing.

cilantro lime ranch being poured onto bbq chicken salad

If you love this recipe as much as I do, don’t forget to follow me on Instagram and tag me with @what_mollymade so I can see it and feature you!

More healthy salads:

Tap stars to rate!
5 from 2 votes

BBQ Chicken Salad

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 0 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
This healthy BBQ chicken salad is better than the restaurant! It includes classic southwest toppings and a creamy (dairy free) cilantro lime ranch that takes 5 minutes to make.

Save this Recipe!

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Servings: 6


For the salad:

  • 1 2 and 1/2 cups rotisserie chicken shredded with 1/2 cup sugar free BBQ sauce(I like primal kitchen) OR 1 serving bbq chicken in the slower cooker
  • 8 cups romaine lettuce (could also use spinach)
  • 1 cup black beans drained & rinsed
  • 1 cup canned corn (fire roasted if you can find it)
  • 1 cup grape tomatoes halved
  • 1-2 avocados chopped
  • 1/2 cup red onion thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro finely chopped
  • Additional optional toppings: shredded mexican cheese, sour cream, tortilla chips

Creamy Cilantro Jalapeno Dressing

  • 3/4 cup paleo mayo (I like primal kitchen)
  • 1/2 cup full fat canned coconut milk shaken first to combine cream and liquid
  • 1/2 cup cilantro tightly packed about 1/2 bunch
  • 1 tablespoon honey omit for whole30 option
  • Juice from 1/2 a lime
  • 2 teaspoons dried chives
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 clove of garlic or 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 jalapeno roughly chopped with or without seeds for more spice *see notes
  • 1/4 cup mild salsa verde * see notes
  • 3 tablespoon almond milk more or less depending on your consistency preference


  • Add all of the ingredients, except for the almond milk, to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth, scraping sides down as needed. Add the almond milk a few tablespoons at a time until you reach your desired consistency. Place in the refrigerator to chill before using.
  • If you are using rotisserie chicken, add it to a medium bowl and toss with BBQ sauce. Set aside.
  • Prep all of your ingredients including draining the beans and corn and chopping the onion, avocado and tomato. Add the lettuce to a large bowl and top with BBQ chicken, black beans, corn, tomatoes, avocado, onion and cilantro. Top with any additional ingredients and serve with cilantro lime ranch dressing.
Last step! If you make this, please leave a review letting us know how it was!


For the dressing:
You can swap a fresh jalapeno for 3/4 cup pickled jalapeno.
You can swap the salsa verde for 1 can of diced green chilis.
Add more almond milk if you want the dressing thinner.
*Nutrition information does not include dressing


Serving: 1g | Calories: 388kcal | Carbohydrates: 33.2g | Protein: 40.9g | Fat: 11.3g | Fiber: 9.2g | Sugar: 11.9g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

collage of two pictures of bbq chicken salad with cilantro lime ranch dressing

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Recipe Rating


  1. Kayla Thielen says:

    5 stars
    One of the BEST salads I have ever tasted in my life! So simple, so easy to make, but also SO delicious! It’s a new staple in my meal prep rotation. The dressing is to die for! So yummy!

    1. Molly Thompson says:

      Best comment! So glad you think so!! We love this one for meal prep too!

  2. Alicia says:

    5 stars
    Needed to try another one of your recipes since the first one I made was delicious! This one is another winner! I’m so happy I came across your sight while researching PCOS stuff. Your meals are so tasty and easy to make. I can’t thank you enough for making cooking and eating enjoyable again. Having to follow a PCOS friendly diet is not the easiest task and you are restoring my hope that enjoying meals can be done while watching the ingredients in it. Thanks again for another fabulous meal to add to my list.

    1. Molly Thompson says:

      Thank you so much for taking the time to share this, Alicia! This just made my day!!! This really is my purpose for sharing my story and recipes and I’m so glad you’re feeling hopeful.