Carolina BBQ Chicken Salad. A summer salad fit for the main course. With mustard BBQ grilled chicken, garden fresh veggies, bacon, feta, and a homemade dressing. Loaded with fresh summer flavors, this dish proves that summer salads aren’t just for side dishes anymore.
Too often I find that many of us view summer salads as side dishes with leafy greens and 2 or 3 toppings. Before moving to Oregon, I too thought the same way. Until a new friend changed my perspective.
She taught me that summer salads make the best main course salads and they don’t have to be minimalist endeavors. The vegetables, meats, nuts, and cheeses bring a lot of flavor to the dish and deserve more representation on the plate.
By incorporating more ingredients in your summer salad the whole thing not only tastes better but it keeps you fuller longer. After eating main course salads with her for a week, I was hooked.
After getting settled into our new home and finding my local farmer’s market, this Carolina BBQ chicken salad has become one of my favorite summer salads. It’s loaded with fresh flavors and is filling enough to make a it a meal.
Making a Summer Salad into a Main Course Salad
My rule of thumb when building a summer salad as an entree, is that your leafy greens should make up half of the volume.
The other half should come from a variety of other ingredients like meat, fruits, vegetables, cheese, and nuts. I aim for about 5 – 6 additional ingredients to keep it interesting without overwhelming your tastebuds.
True to form, this Carolina BBQ chicken salad starts with a base of baby spinach, which is topped with chicken, bacon, avocado, tomatoes, zucchini, and feta.
With that many ingredients, you aren’t relying on the dressing for flavor. A simple homemade vinaigrette will do just fine.
Marinating the Carolina BBQ Chicken
To impart maximum Carolina BBQ flavor into this chicken, you’ve got to marinate it before you cook it. When it comes to marinating chicken, the easiest way is to throw it in a zip top bag. However, I’m trying to minimize my one use plastics so I’ve switched to glass containers.
I use a locally made, store bought Carolina BBQ sauce. Any mustard based BBQ sauce that you like will work. If you don’t like mustard BBQ, swap it for a tomato or vinegar based sauce that you love.
Place the chicken in the glass container, pour in just enough sauce to coat the chicken then seal it up and let it rest in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Have more than 30 minutes? Let it go up to 10 hours or overnight.
Building Your Carolina BBQ Chicken Salad
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 Recipe
Summer salad meets main course salad in this Carolina BBQ chicken salad. Loaded with garden fresh flavors, this BBQ chicken salad is just what you need for a night when it’s too hot to cook. The recipe is written for two but easily expands to serve more.
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- 12 ounces chicken breast
- 1/4 cup BBQ sauce
- 2 slices bacon
- 4 cups spinach
- 1 large tomato
- 1 small zucchini
- 1 small avocado
- 1/4 cup feta cheese
- 1 TBSP white balsamic vinegar
- 2 TBSP olive oil
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp pepper
- Place chicken breast and BBQ sauce into a reusable container with lid. Cover 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.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 141 Total Fat: 7g Saturated Fat: 2g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 5g Cholesterol: 29mg Sodium: 236mg Carbohydrates: 7g Fiber: 3g Sugar: 3g Protein: 12g