If you love BBQ Chicken Salad like I love BBQ chicken salad (hint: I love it a lot), these BBQ Chicken Salad and Cilantro Lime Rice Bowls are going to make you very, very happy. Quick and so delicious, they make the perfect lunch or dinner!

BBQ Chicken Salad Cilantro Lime Rice Bowl

How are you?? I missed you last week; we played off the grid for several days at a family reunion near West Yellowstone, and it was absolutely wonderful to pack in 24/7 family time (including a jaunt over to Jackson Hole to the Bar J Wranglers, an annual summer tradition, and one of my favorite shows ever; I laugh hysterically at all the corny jokes and I love me some old-fashioned cowboy music).

Thanks for your patience while it took a bit longer to respond to many of your comments and questions and emails.

I have so much to talk to you about and I can’t wait for the posts I have ready to go up over the next couple of weeks. I still owe you some details of the amazing and rather life-changing trip Brian and I took to Africa last month, and I’m also gearing up to reveal a long-awaited project I’ve had up my sleeve that I’m incredibly excited about.

Of course, there’ll also be no shortage of absolutely amazing summer recipes coming your way, too (it’s still summer in my world despite the fact that that Hobby Lobby already has Christmas decorations up – what the what??).

BBQ Chicken Salad Cilantro Lime Rice Bowl

If you’ve made and loved my most favorite BBQ Chicken Salad with Creamy BBQ Cilantro Lime Dressing, you are going to do some serious cartwheels over today’s recipe.

A spin-off on that much-adored salad, today’s BBQ chicken salad bowls are filled with all the good things that make BBQ chicken salad worthy of all day, every day summer eating.

Plus these pretty little salad and rice bowls get a healthy dose of extra yumminess thanks to the scoop of cilantro lime rice and healthy drizzle of new and improved BBQ cilantro lime dressing (thank you, buttermilk). Of course, the salad bowl won’t stay pretty forever; eventually you’re going to have to dig in and toss it all together, but I promise the ensuing ingredient mayhem is all deliciousness.

BBQ Chicken Salad Cilantro Lime Rice Bowl

If you were to open my refrigerator right now, you’d see all the ingredients for this salad prepped and ready to go, because I’m an absolute sucker for lunches and dinners that take seconds to throw together.

Ok, actually, I’m lying to you right now. On the heels of returning from vacation, my refrigerator is positively scary with its wilty bag of 2-week old cilantro and a carton of sour milk (coming home from vacation is hard in the food department).

But, before vacation, BBQ chicken salad bowls were happening daily (best lunch ever); give me a few days to tackle the 34 loads of laundry, and I’ll be back in BBQ chicken salad bowl business.

That cilantro lime rice is pretty much the best thing ever. Have you made it? The recipe has been on my site forever. Throw it in there with all those fresh, crisp, flavorful ingredients and you’ve got some serious lunch and dinner magic.

One Year Ago: Soft and Chewy 7-Layer Cookies {Not Bars…Cookies!}
Two Years Ago: Brookies {Brownie + Chocolate Chip Cookies}
Three Years Ago: Chopped Taco Salad with Homemade Catalina Dressing

BBQ Chicken Salad Cilantro Lime Rice Bowls

Yield: Serves 6

BBQ Chicken Salad Cilantro Lime Rice Bowls

I often make the cilantro lime rice in the InstantPot. Use the Saute function and melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add 1 1/4 cups white, jasmine or basmati rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt, juice and zest of 1 lime, 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro and 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin. Stir. Secure the lid and cook on high pressure for 4 minutes. Naturally release pressure.


    Salad Bowl:
  • 3 to 4 cups cooked, chopped chicken (rotisserie chicken works great here)
  • 1 to 2 cups BBQ sauce (homemade version here)
  • 6 to 8 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • Cilantro lime rice (homemade version here)
  • 2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (thawed if frozen)
  • 15-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 to 2 cups shredded or cubed Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese (or a combo)
  • 1 to 2 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 1 to 2 avocados, pitted and diced
  • Cilantro Lime BBQ Dressing:
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise, light or regular
  • 2/3 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine or white vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 1/3 cup BBQ sauce (homemade version here)


  1. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a blender and process until smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use (can be made and refrigerated up to several weeks ahead of time).
  2. Toss the chicken and BBQ sauce together until the chicken is well coated.
  3. Assemble the salad bowls by placing lettuce in the bottom of each bowl (or plate). Top with cilantro lime rice, corn, black beans, red onion, BBQ chicken, cheese, tomatoes and avocados.
  4. Drizzle with dressing and serve.

Recipe Source: Mel’s Kitchen Cafe

31 Responses to BBQ Chicken Salad Cilantro Lime Rice Bowls

  1. Rachel says:

    We loved this! Thank you!

  2. Ann says:

    This BBQ chicken salad is the best! My husband can’t stop raving about the dressing!! so, so good! thank you

  3. Ann says:

    This BBQ chicken salad is the best! My husband can’t stop raving about the dressing!! so, so good! thank you

  4. Brittany says:

    I have made MANY of your recipes, but this is one of my favorites. I love the cilantro lime rice. For dressing I just make a packet of hidden valley ranch and throw in some cilantro to taste. Really, really delicious recipe. Thanks, Mel!

  5. Kim says:

    Everyone loved this for dinner. That is a miracle in our house. Thank you!

  6. Suzanne says:

    Hi, this looks SO good, but I never have mayo on hand. Would Greek yogurt work in place of the mayo for the dressing?

  7. Suzanne says:

    Hi, this looks SO good, but I never have mayo on hand. Would Greek yogurt work in place of the mayo?

  8. Andra says:

    Yum! I didn’t think your BBQ chicken salad could get any better (it’s my favorite meal) but I’m loving the addition of your cilantro rice!

  9. Maria says:

    This is a perfect summer meal. Made this last week for dinner guests and it was a hit. The dressing tasted amazing, my kids licked the jar clean. The only issue I had was with the way my cilantro lime rice turned out in the instapot. It was mushy and seems to have had too much liquid. I have always made it on the stovetop with fabulous results, so maybe the recipe needs more tweaking on my part.

  10. Blanca says:

    Hi Mel,
    I have been enjoying your blog for a while, thank you!
    Question, have you posted anything about the uses of an InstaPot? why is it worth it? etc. also what brand would you recommend? I’m considering getting one and want to make a wise choice 🙂

  11. Lesli says:

    Mel, you got another great one here. Layla and I made it tonight because we wanted it so much, but I was pleasantly surprised that my little boys all loved it too!

  12. Jill says:

    I’m so glad I’m not alone in being startled about hobby lobby’s Christmas in July! Hahaha!

  13. katie w says:

    I made this salad for dinner last night. IT WAS SO DELICIOUS!!! I cannot wait to eat it again for lunch-I made sure my husband didn’t take too many leftovers to work today. The dressing is so good, and I’m thinking that homemade potato fries would be delicious dipped in it. I’ll be trying that out today as well. Thanks Mel!!!

  14. Heidi says:

    This salad was DELICIOUS … love the dressing. I am devouring it as I type!!

  15. Desiree says:

    Hi Mel,
    Totally off topic, but I just bought an InstaPot on Amazon for under $70.00! I’m so excited, and I thought some of your readers might want one too!
    Thanks for all the great recipes!

  16. Erin says:

    Thank you once again for another great recipe. I made this last night and it was a big hit. I can’t wait to eat leftovers today. The dressing was AMAZING!

  17. Bethany says:

    I have to tell you that I found your blog when I lived in Africa (Kenya) and it has provided us with so many great recipes that use simple ingredients that I could find (mostly) even in Kenya. Thanks so much!!

    • Mel says:

      Thank you so much, Bethany – I love hearing that! Having just traveled to Ghana, I don’t know what it would be like to cook American recipes in Africa so I’m happy most of them were accessible. 🙂

  18. Cathy says:

    Thank you for the dinner inspiration as always! We made it for dinner and everyone is scarfing it down and wanting more!!

  19. Emily says:

    oh, yum! this is perfect summertime food! can’t wait to stuff this in my mouth!

  20. Fiona says:

    Hi Mel, so glad you and your family had a wonderful holiday, and I can’t wait to hear about your trip at Africa. This salad looks amazing, it’s the depths of winter here but as soon as it’s a bit warmer this recipe will be in rotation. Thanks again for all your fantastic recipes and photos. Mel, can I ask, with your photos, are you always able to take them during the day? You have such amazing light on all the photos! I am just starting out in the world of blogging and even though my blog is not strictly about food, I do post some recipes. By the time I get home there is no good light left to support a good photo. Just curious. Have a terrific day

    • Mel says:

      Hi Fiona – yes, 99% of the time, I take my photos during the day or early evening when the light is really dreamy and perfect. In the winter when the days are shorter, I’ll sometimes pull out my EGO digital lights but I don’t love the look of photos with them nearly as much as natural light so I’ll often save leftovers and shoot a photo the next day. Good luck on your blog! It’s been such a fun journey for me; I hope it is for you as well!

      • Fiona says:

        Hi Mel, thanks for the info, that makes total sense to keep a little of the meal back and take the photo when you have more time and great natural lighting. I will be trying that, but not today (sad face) because it’s overcast and gloomy!! Have a splendid weekend

  21. Lachelle says:

    I also LOVE your BBQ chicken salad and am excited to try this version as well. Yes, I missed the new recipes on Melskitchencafe but am so glad you were able to spend time with family and got back home safely. I can’t wait to read about this new project you have planned! Thanks for all your hard work to bring delicious meals to the table!

  22. Michelle says:

    This looks amazing and can’t wait to make it. Question for you: if I don’t have buttermilk on hand, what do you think would make a good sub? Usually I just do the lemon juice in milk trick but that doesn’t seem like it would work as well here…

  23. Kat says:

    I LOVE your BBQ chicken salad and make it regularly. It is a happy day to wake up and see this option! Yum! I can’t wait to make it! PS- I’m glad your back, and I’m also glad you’ve been able to do so many great things! I’m excited to get the scoop on them all!

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