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Carolina BBQ Chicken Salad

4.9 stars (11 ratings)

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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.

Square shot of hot of a wooden serving bowl filled with Carolina BBQ Chicken Salad in a dark wooden bowl.

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.

An overhead shot of a wooden serving bowl filled with Carolina BBQ Chicken Salad on the bottom and cornbread on a cutting board on the top.

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.

Prep photo for Carolina Chicken salad - an overhead shot showing all ingredients on a cutting board.

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.

Prep photo for Carolina Chicken salad - a close up of the chicken and bacon with spinach in the background.

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.

Wooden serving bowl filled with Carolina BBQ Chicken Salad with cornbread on a cutting board in the background.

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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.

Looking for more summer salads? Try a California Steak Salad, Tomato Burrata Salad, Veggie Couscous Salad, or see all my salad recipes.

If you like this recipe, please give it a FIVE-STAR rating and share it on your favorite social channel!

Square shot of hot of a wooden serving bowl filled with Carolina BBQ Chicken Salad in a dark wooden bowl.

Carolina BBQ Chicken Salad

Carolina BBQ Chicken Salad. With mustard BBQ grilled chicken, garden fresh veggies, bacon, feta, and a homemade dressing this dish proves that summer salads make the best main course salads.
4.9 stars (11 ratings)
prep: 30 minutes
cook: 15 minutes
total: 45 minutes
servings: 2 entree portions

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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. 

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Nutrition

Serving: 1Calories: 141kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 12gFat: 7gSaturated Fat: 2gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 29mgSodium: 236mgFiber: 3gSugar: 3g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated and is for general information purposes only. For the most accurate information, calculate using your select brands and exact measurements.

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About Renee N Gardner

I'm the recipe developer, food photographer, and mastermind behind Renee Nicole's Kitchen, where I help create kitchen confidence to inspire home cooks to become home chefs. No fancy fads here, just high-quality, homemade recipes featuring seasonal ingredients.

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28 Comments on “Carolina BBQ Chicken Salad”

  1. 5 stars
    You had me at mustard chicken … and then adding bacon!? I’m sold! Looks so delicious, pinning this to try soon!

    Reply
  2. 5 stars
    I am always looking for more filling salads to add to the menu plan, and this definitely fits the bill! Loving the sound of that grilled BBQ mustard chicken!

    Reply
  3. 5 stars
    Wonderful way to have salad,i love this kind of salad – so many things go in together veggies,meat/seafood and dressing thats so filling.

    Reply

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