As I’ve documented here several times in the past, I am a big fan of barbecue sauce, and anything you can make that includes it. To that end, I am a HUGE fan of barbecue chicken salads, as one might expect. Our favorite local bar recently overhauled their menu, and they added a barbecue chicken salad to it – and since the first time I tried it, I’ve been craving it NON-STOP. So, rather than embarrass myself by going in there and ordering this salad 4 days a week, I decided this weekend that I should just go ahead and make the damn thing myself. And I did. And it was awesome.
Making this salad also involved something else I’ve never attempted to make before – ranch dressing. Despite the fact that ranch dressing is (yet another) thing that I am quite picky about (it should be not-too-thin, and not-too-thick, have a mildly herby flavor, but not be overwhelming, a hint of garlic, not too mayo-y, etc etc), it has always intimidated me for some reason. Now that I’ve made it, I could kick myself for not having tried it before – it was easy to make, crazy delicious, and met all my criteria, since I was able to adjust everything myself. (You: “No shit, Sherlock. That’s half the point of making things from scratch.”)
Barbecue Chicken Salad with Chipotle Ranch Dressing
serves 4, as an entree
2 chicken breasts (about 6oz each), cooked and diced
1/4-1/2 cup sweet barbecue sauce (I like Sweet Baby Ray’s)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can yellow corn, drained and rinsed
3-4 tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 avocado, diced, lightly sprinkled with kosher salt
8 cups lettuce of your choice
Chipotle ranch dressing (below)
Chipotle Ranch Dressing
makes about 2 cups
1/4 cup mayo
1/4 cup sour cream (reduced fat is fine)
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black better
1 clove garlic, grated
1 T minced fresh flat leaf parsley
1 t minced fresh dill
1 T sauce from a can of chipotles in adobo
1.) Add mayo, sour cream, and buttermilk to a bowl, and whisk until well-combined. If the dressing is a little too thick, add a bit more buttermilk. If it’s too thin, add a bit more mayo and sour cream.
2.) Add salt, pepper, and garlic (I like to grate my garlic with a microplane grater, so there are no chunks of garlic in the dressing).
3.) Stir in parsley and dill. If you think you need a bit more herb flavor, you can feel free to add a more herbs – just go slowly, tasting as you go, so that you don’t accidentally end up with a dressing that is overpowering.
4.) Add chipotle sauce* and stir well. Again, if you want more spice, you can add more sauce (or, you can even add one of the peppers, finely minced, if you’d prefer).
5.) When the dressing is to your liking, stick it in the fridge, covered, for an hour or two for all the flavors to really come together. You can even make it a day or two ahead of time! It’ll keep for about a week in the fridge.
*side note: I rarely (if ever) use an entire can of chipotles in one recipe. So, when I open a can up, I separate it into 2 or 3 small ziploc bags, each containing a couple peppers and some sauce, and throw them in the freezer. They thaw really quickly when you need to use them, and that way you don’t waste 3/4 of a can of chipotles every time you open one up!
Barbecue Chicken Salad
1.) Start by cooking your chicken. I simply bake mine (in a foil-covered baking dish, 350° for about 30 minutes), but you can grill it, saute it, or just dice up the meat from a rotisserie chicken.
2.) Once your chicken is cooked and cooled, dice it into bite-size pieces, and toss with barbecue sauce (as much or as little as you like – I prefer mine on the saucier side).
3.) Divide your lettuce into bowls; I used baby romaine lettuce for mine, but regular romaine, iceberg, or spring mix will all be just fine.
4.) Divide the black beans, corn, tomatoes, chicken, and avocado evenly amongst the salads. I prefer to serve the dressing on the side, but you can toss the salad with the dressing if you want!
This salad is delicious, hearty, and totally satisfying – a great balance of spicy and sweet. It’s great for a quick weeknight dinner, but it would also be great for a crowd; it looks awesome as a composed salad, laid out onto a big platter.
Homemade ranch dressing: just do it,