Carolina BBQ Chicken Salad. An entree salad with grilled mustard BBQ chicken, garden fresh veggies, bacon, feta, and a homemade dressing. Simply delicious.
Too often I find that many of us view entree salads as a big plate of leafy greens with 2 or 3 other toppings, instead of a big bowl of many ingredients loaded with flavor. Before moving to Oregon I too thought the same way. Until a new friend changed my perspective.
She showed me that other ingredients are more than just toppings. Entree salads don’t have to be a minimalist endeavor and the vegetables, meats, nuts, and cheeses deserve more representation on the plate. By incorporating more ingredients in your salad the whole thing not only tastes better but it keeps you fuller longer. After trying her version, I began making different versions of entree salads once or twice a week.
Summer may be coming to a close, but now is the perfect time to take advantage of the end of season bounty to try my version of an entree salad with this Carolina BBQ chicken salad. It was inspired by my local farmer’s market and has been repeated in my kitchen many times over the past few weeks.
One of my favorite things so far about being in the Portland area is the availability of local produce, especially at the farmers’ markets. On one of my most recent trips I came across the Red Duck stand, where I got to sample their sweet mustard peppercorn BBQ sauce.
It was so good that I made my husband’s head spin with ideas on how to use it, but one of favorites so far is marinated grilled chicken. From there this salad was born.
When it comes to marinating chicken, the easiest way is to throw it in a zip top bag and pour in just enough sauce to coat the chicken. Zip it up, push out the air, then let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes or overnight.
If you want to really plan ahead put it in the freezer and let the marinating action take place in the fridge as it thaws out. The longer it sits, the more intense the flavor. For this salad I think the more flavor the better, so I tend to leave mine overnight.
The chicken and bacon can be cooked on the grill, the stovetop, or in the oven. For the best flavor, I suggest the grill, using indirect medium-high heat with the lid closed. Start the chicken with about 5 minutes per side, then check with a meat thermometer. Grill time can vary, but the chicken should cook until it’s 165 degrees. To make bacon on the grill use an oven safe skillet, like cast iron, over direct heat. Flip it when you flip the bacon and cook until your desired degree of crispiness.
If opting for the oven, roast the chicken at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes. At this temperature the bacon will cook quickly, about 5 – 7 minutes. On the stove top, use a medium flame and cook for about 5 – 7 minutes per side. Again, check to ensure the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
While the chicken cooks, wash and chop the rest of your ingredients and put them into a large mixing bowl. Once the chicken and bacon are cool enough to handle, chop them into bite sized pieces. If you like your bacon extra crispy, wait and add it just before serving the salad.
With all the fresh flavors keeping the dressing simple is best. I use a white (or golden) balsamic vinegar and olive oil as the dressing. I prefer a lightly dressed salad, so adjust the amounts as you see fit. For the best flavor use two parts oil to one part vinegar. For the best BBQ in a salad experience, I like to serve this salad with a slice of Grandma’s cornbread.
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Carolina BBQ Chicken Salad
- 1 large chicken breast about 3/4 lb
- 1/4 cup Red Duck Sweet Mustard Peppercorn BBQ sauce
- 2 slices thick cut bacon
- 4 cups spinach
- 1 large slicer tomato
- 1 small zucchini
- 1 small avocado
- 1/4 cup feta cheese
- 1 TBSP white balsamic vinegar
- 2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt *adjust to taste
- 1/8 tsp pepper *adjust to taste
- Place chicken breast and BBQ sauce into a large zip top bag. Squeeze air out and allow to marinate in the fridge for a minimum 30 minutes, up to over night.
- Heat your grill to medium-high, leaving space for direct heat and indirect heat.
- Over indirect heat cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees, starting with 5 minutes on each side adjusting according to your meat thermometer.
- Place the bacon slices into an oven safe skillet - preferably cast iron and place on the grill in direct heat. Flip bacon every 2 - 3 minutes to prevent burning. Remove from heat and drain once it's done according to your crispy preference.
- While the chicken cooks, wash and chop your vegetables into bite sized pieces, placing them into a large mixing bowl along with the feta, olive oil and golden balsamic vinegar.
- Once the chicken is cooked and has had a chance to cool, chop into bite sized slices or chunks. Chop or crumble bacon as desired.
- Add bacon and chicken to the mixing bowl. Toss the salad to combine and serve immediately.