Fast food is a pretty rare occurrence for my boyfriend and I as our refrigerator consistently brims with leftovers begging to be eaten as midday meals. But, I have a confession to air with you…I am addicted to Panera’s BBQ Chicken Salad, and these “rare occurrences” have started looking less…rare.
This addictive grilled chicken salad and I first met when I had been out of town for a week. After a long morning of running errands, the prospect of returning home to face an empty refrigerator was so unappealing, I decided to pull into Panera. I opted for a new (for me) menu item, the BBQ Chicken Salad.
And so it began.
Between the crispy onions, smoky corn and black beans, and BBQ ranch dressing, I was hooked at first bite. Everything I knew vanished and it was just me alone with this salad.
Two days later, I ignored the guilty stares from the container of leftover Pasta Salad in my fridge and headed out on the 22km drive to Panera Bread to order a BBQ Chicken Salad for the second time. It tasted even better than I remembered it.
From this pivotal moment of BBQ Chicken Salad obsession, I had two options: redirect some of my income and savings into purchasing this salad from Panera on repeat (which if you’ve been to Panera recently you know adds up quickly), or to create my own, at-home recipe so that I could enjoy it for a fraction of the price anytime I pleased. Guess which one I picked.
Not only is this homemade BBQ Chicken Salad a dead-ringer for Panera’s, it’s loaded with twice the toppings for a fraction of the cost. Although I appreciate the fact that Panera offers healthy menu options compared to most fast food chains, the portions can be skimpy. By making my own at home, I was able to load it with as large a serving of crisp veggies, juicy chicken, and crunchy tortilla chips as my heart desired.
Plus, the fact that the chicken in this recipe is freshly grilled, versus reheated in the back of a food assembly line, guarantees for a richer taste and increased BBQ Chicken Salad satisfaction.
Even my coworker, who does not consider “salad” and “main course” synonymous gave this recipe a vote of approval. It’s healthy, easy to make, and the chicken even tastes good leftover the next day. I see this BBQ Chicken Salad on our weeknight menu often this summer, especially in later months when fresh corn is in season.
Since for most, fresh corn is not available year round, I’ve suggested using canned corn for the recipe. It makes the recipe super fast and easy to prepare too.
If you are lucky enough to have fresh ears of corn at your disposal when you make this recipe, grill them along with the chicken, then slice the kernels off the cob and add them to the salad, along with the beans, onions, and other goodies.
My one request: don’t skip the crushed tortilla chips. I promise this grilled chicken salad is still plenty healthy, and the salt and crunch even a few chips provide will have you addicted to this BBQ Chicken Salad too!
Here is what you will need:
♥ 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts – pounded about 1/2 inch thick
♥ 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
♥ 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
♥ 1/4 teaspoon of ground black pepper
♥ 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce
♥ 6 cups of chopped romaine lettuce
♥ 1 cup of cherry tomatoes (or grape tomatoes) – halved
♥ 1 cup of canned low-sodium black beans, rinses and drained
♥ 1/2 cup of canned corn
♥ 1/4 cup of diced red onion
♥ Crushed tortilla chips or strips
For the BBQ ranch dressing:
♥ 1/3 cup light ranch dressing
♥ 1 tablespoon BBQ sauce
Here is what you will need to do:
♥ Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Brush both sides of the chicken bresats with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Grill on one side for about 4 minutes, flip and brush the grilled sides with BBQ sauce while grilling the other side for about 4 minutes. Sauce up the other side. Set aside, cover and rest for about 5 minutes then chop into bite-sized pieces.
♥ Prepare the dressing in a small bowl by combining the ranch and BBQ sauce. Adjust the ratio as needed.
♥ In a large serving bowl, combine the romaine, tomatoes, beans, cord, red onion and chicken. Drizzle with the salad dressing and then top with crushed tortilla chips.
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