BBQ Chicken Salad with Creamy BBQ Cilantro Lime Dressing

Refreshing. Crisp. Flavorful. Healthy-ish.

BBQ Chicken Salad. Probably one of my favorite salad combos ever. Ranks right up there with this one. Oh and this one and this one.

Gotta love a great dinner salad.

What To ServeClassic Deviled Eggs or Egg Salad Sandwich
Cheesy Ham and Broccoli Quinoa Bites or Little Quinoa Patties
Fresh Fruit

One Year Ago: Cream Biscuits
Two Years Ago: Tri Color Pasta Salad
Three Years Ago: Pasta Chicken Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Spinach

BBQ Chicken Salad with Creamy BBQ Cilantro Lime Dressing

Yield: Serves 4-6

BBQ Chicken Salad with Creamy BBQ Cilantro Lime Dressing

Note: this recipe calls for already cooked chicken so plan ahead! I like to cook my chicken in the crockpot, using frozen chicken breasts and about 1 cup of chicken broth for every 2 chicken breasts. I cook on low for about 4-5 hours and then shred and refrigerate (or freeze) for later.


    Chicken and Salad:
  • 3 cups cooked, shredded chicken
  • 2 cups BBQ sauce, storebought or (I used this awesome homemade version)
  • ½ head iceberg lettuce, cored and chopped
  • 2 romaine hearts, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
  • 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese, cubed small or shredded
  • 4 ounces Monterey jack cheese, cubed small or shredded
  • Creamy BBQ Cilantro Lime Dressing:
  • 1 cup mayonnaise, light or regular
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (here is a guide for making your own buttermilk)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup BBQ sauce


  1. For the salad, combine the cooked chicken and BBQ sauce in a medium bowl. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. In a large bowl, toss together the iceberg lettuce, romaine lettuce, red onion, cilantro, corn, black beans and cheese. Toss the mixed salad with about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the dressing, if desired. Otherwise, you can serve the dressing on the side. Place salad on plates and top with the prepared BBQ chicken and additional dressing.
  3. For the dressing, combine all the ingredients together and whisk (or shake, if using a jar) vigorously to combine. You could also run this through a blender to make it even more smooth. Refrigerate until ready to serve.


Make Ahead Instructions: All the components of this salad can be prepared up to a day in advance (the dressing can be made up to 3 days in advance). Store separately in the refrigerator and toss before serving.

Recipe Source: salad from Mel’s Kitchen Cafe, dressing inspired by El Pollo Loco’s Creamy Cilantro Dressing

115 Responses to BBQ Chicken Salad with Creamy BBQ Cilantro Lime Dressing

  1. mamalala says:

    Another win Mel! This was super easy to make and my whole family loved it. I forgot to add the garlic in the dressing but it didn’t impact it all that much. Plus, I can sit next to people after eating this yummy salad.

  2. Gail says:

    This was a fantastic meal on a warm evening. The flavors really go quite well together. I always like a little crunch in my salad so next time I will get those thin tortilla strips in the produce section to add as my “crouton” or maybe sunflower seeds. I looked for honey BBQ fritoes as one commenter suggested but couldn’t find them….they probably don’t make them anymore. I used the Slow cooker BBQ chicken of yours and it was yummy…next time I will shred half the chicken for sandwiches and dice the other half for this salad….LOVE getting two meals out of one dish! Also, I served the copycat red lobster garlic bisquits with this and they complimented the salad very nicely. Thanks for a hearty salad recipe!

  3. Tammy says:

    I made this for my family tonight and it they loved it. I set it up like a salad bar, so that they could customize. My mom can’t have raw onion, my daughter would not be caught dead eating beans. I added all of the ingredients to mine.

    What a fabulous taste and texture combo! This recipe is definitely a keeper!

  4. Beth W. says:

    Divine. My 18 yo, skinny girl, could not get enough. She finally had to walk away from the table. She left out the purple onion, but I thought the onion put it over the top with flavor. We subbed parsley for cilantro because the same said skinny girl won’t touch the stuff anymore. The dressing was still wonderful. So glad I gave this one a whirl. A great Saturday lunch for the hard working family.

  5. Tanya W says:

    I will review later this week… but I want to say the 2 cups BBQ sauce to 3 cups chicken is so saucy that I added another cup of shredded chicken… and it’s still very saucy (I’ll try it like that)… going to make the dinner later this week. I appreciate your recipes this is the second I am trying. The Honey Lime Enchiladas were a big hit… thanks a bunch.

  6. Tanya W says:

    This salad is delicious! I’ll definitely make it again. The dressing is amazing and I could eat it straight… I can’t believe how good it is… it doesn’t seem the combination of ingredients would impart as sweet a flavor. I will make this dressing often. Also, I love that wish bread this is a complete meal with plenty of veggies and a good, lean protein. Thanks!

  7. Sara says:

    Thanks for another great salad Mel!!! I made the Thai Chicken Salad and my family loved that one too! Can’t wait to try another of your wonderful salad creations!

  8. Tanya W says:

    This salad is so versatile! A couple of nights ago In a pinch, I didn’t have a dinner plan. But I had made this before and had leftover dressing from a month ago. I threw breaded chicken patties from Costco into the oven. I used what I had on hand for the salad and what I thought would go well with the dressing since I didn’t have red onion or iceberg. I used half spinach and half romaine, a can of black beans drained, a can of corn drained, 1/2 a yellow pepper, tomatoes, and green onions. Everyone raved about it and loved it. I had a little leftover salad and we ate that tonight as a side salad without chicken… my husband can’t stop saying what a great salad it is. Thanks again! This will definitely be in our regular rotation and I’ll keep the dressing on hand for nights when I’m in a pinch since that worked so well just to throw cut up chicken on top (but love the BBQ chicken too)!

  9. Katie says:

    Mel, I have to tell you that I absolutely love your recipes! It was our anniversary on Sunday. For our special dinner at home, I made your BBQ pulled pork sandwiches and the BBQ macaroni salad with the recipe for homemade BBQ sauce. Everything was delicious. I won’t be buying BBQ sauce at the store anymore thanks to your recipe. And, since we had a lot of leftover meat, we had a BBQ pork pizza, and tonight for dinner we are having the BBQ Chicken Salad (using the pork instead) Our mouths have been very happy this week! Thanks for the stellar recipes! 🙂

  10. Candela says:

    I made this salad TWICE last week because it’s that good!! Thank you for sharing so many wonderful recipes, Mel. My family and I thank you deeply! 🙂

  11. Lisa says:

    Just made this, and the dressing is fabulous!!! I even used fat free mayo, and it didn’t hurt the taste!

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