Easy and quick BBQ chicken salad loaded with healthy ingredients like tomatoes, avocado, corn, black beans, red onion, and cilantro. This salad has a quick "shortcut" for the chicken and the best creamy cilantro ranch dressing.
DRESSING: (See Note 3) Combine all of the ingredients: 3/4 cup cilantro, zest and juice of a lime to get 1/2 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons dry ranch mix, 1/2 to 1 full jalapeno (remove seeds; use less for less spicy), 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 1/2 cup mayo, 1/2 cup buttermilk, and salt and pepper to taste into a miniature powerful blender. I use Blendtec Twister jar. Blend until smooth. Taste and adjust any ingredients to personal preference. Store in the fridge to chill and allow flavors to deepen while preparing the rest of the salad.
SALAD: Chop the lettuce into small bite-sized pieces. Wash and thoroughly dry the lettuce (a salad spinner comes in handy here). Wet lettuce keeps the dressing from adhering properly.
VEGGIE PREP: Drain and rinse the black beans. Drain canned corn or thaw frozen corn. Halve cherry tomatoes, finely dice the cilantro, dice the red onion (Note 1), and peel, remove pit, and thinly slice or chop the avocado. (toss the avocado slices with some lime juice to keep from browning).
CHICKEN: Shred a rotisserie chicken (or use a pre-shredded rotisserie chicken) and measure 2 and 1/2 cups. Pour in the BBQ sauce; starting with 1/2 cup and adding the additional 2 tablespoons as needed. Gently toss with tongs until the chicken is coated to your liking. (I like to warm the chicken for just a minute in the microwave or in a skillet.) Set aside.
ASSEMBLE: Add the lettuce to large bowl (or individual plates). Top with black beans, corn, tomato, cilantro, red onion, and avocado. Add tortilla strips and cheddar cheese if using. Add sauced chicken on top.
ENJOY: Drizzle dressing over salad (Note 2 and Note 3). Gently toss to combine and enjoy!
Note 1: If you’re sensitive to the flavor of raw red onion, soak the onions in ice cold water (with a pinch of salt) for 10 minutes. Drain thoroughly and dry before adding to the salad.
Note 2: Only add dressing, cheese, and tortilla strips to the amount of salad that will be eaten the same day you make it. The lettuce/veggies/tortillas don’t sit well with the dressing; everything needs to be stored separately.
Note 3: There is a lot of dressing and you will likely not use it all in this recipe. You can halve it if you'd like, but I like to make this full batch and use it on other recipes throughout the week. It will last 5-7 days stored in an airtight container in the fridge.