This BBQ chicken salad is a delicious take on a picnic or potluck classic. Smoky, sweet barbecue sauce turns this shredded chicken salad into a new favorite, delicious by itself, on a bed of lettuce, or on a bun for a make-ahead barbecue sandwich! Here in Memphis, we know a thing or two about barbecue, and I know you’ll love this upgrade to a traditional dish!
What Makes This Recipe So Good
- Chicken salad is one of those quintessential summer dishes. I mean, yes, of course, you can have chicken salad any time of year. But there’s something about it that just says summer. Maybe it’s how light and creamy and refreshing it is… or how easy it is to make. Whatever it is, we’ve doubled down on the summer vibes by combining classic chicken salad with rich, smoky, sweet BBQ flavors. And it’s REALLY REALLY REALLY GOOD.
- This recipe is so easy to make, and you can make it even easier by using already-cooked chicken. I like to use Costco’s rotisserie chicken when I’m in a pinch because it’s DELICIOUS, cost-effective, and all you have to do is shred it. If you’re Whole30 or keto, though, you’ll want to avoid the Costco rotisserie. They use sugar in their brine.
- You can absolutely mix up some BBQ chicken salad ahead of time, making it perfect for party prep or just your every-week meal prep. Just refrigerate it in an airtight container until you’re ready to enjoy it.
- You can serve your BBQ chicken salad right away and it will be absolutely delicious. BUT. If you’ve got time, I recommend letting it chill in the fridge at least 30 minutes before you serve it. That window gives the flavors a chance to really meld together and deepen, making things even more amazing.
- So what’s the best way to serve it? Depends on what you like! If you’re having the chicken salad as your meal, I’d opt for burger buns, lettuce cups, or even a scoop or two of chicken salad on top of a mixed greens salad. If you plan to put it out as an appetizer or dip, include some buttery crackers, bacon chips, and sticks of celery. Just need a light snack? Don’t hesitate to enjoy it all on its own.
- Before you serve the chicken salad, give it another quick dusting of dry rub. Trust me.
- Don’t forget food safety! We’ve got chicken and mayo here, so don’t let your chicken salad sit out for more than 2 hours at room temperature. Taking this to a potluck or cookout? If you’re outdoors and it’s hotter than 90° Fahrenheit outside, the chicken salad should only sit out for 1 hour, MAX.
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- Pork Belly Burnt Ends on the Grill
- BBQ Chicken Bowls with Sweet Potatoes and Coleslaw (Whole30)
- Vegan BBQ Sauce
- 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 2 ¼ pounds cooked chicken
- 1 32-ounce carton chicken broth or chicken stock
- 1 tablespoon BBQ dry rub plus more for serving
- ½ cup mayonnaise plus more to taste
- ½ cup BBQ sauce of choice store-bought or make your own
- 1 cup finely diced celery
- ½ cup finely minced sweet onion
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- salt to taste
- Large skillet with lid
- internal meat thermometer
- tools to shred chicken (see Notes)
- Large bowl
- Large spoon or silicone spatula
- If using raw chicken, place chicken breasts in large skillet and cover chicken with chicken broth. Place skillet over medium-high heat and bring liquid to boil, then reduce heat to low.
- Cover skillet and simmer chicken 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken breasts are cooked through, reading 165° Fahrenheit when checked with an internal thermometer. Remove chicken from skillet and set broth aside.
- Shred chicken using desired method from Notes below.
- Place shredded chicken in large bowl (if not already in one) and add dry rub, mayo, BBQ sauce, celery, onion, pepper, and salt. Stir well to combine ingredients.
- Once combined, stir in reserved chicken broth in 1 tablespoon increments until mixture is as creamy as desired. Note: I typically use between 2 to 4 tablespoons chicken broth.
- Sprinkle additional dry rub over chicken salad if desired. Serve immediately or cover bowl and refrigerate at least 30 minutes, then serve with buns, lettuce cups, crackers, or as-is.
- Leftovers: Refrigerate leftover chicken salad in an airtight container up to 5 days.
- Make it Keto: Use a keto BBQ sauce. Make sure your dry rub doesn’t contain any sugar. Skip the onion for fewer carbs.
- Make it Whole30: Use a compliant mayo, compliant chicken broth, and a compliant BBQ sauce. Make sure your dry rub doesn’t contain any sugar.
- Hand Shredded: Using your hands/fingers, pull the chicken apart until completely shredded. Pieces can be as big or as small as you like.
- Two Forks: Use one fork to steady the chicken while shredding the chicken with another fork. Work in small, short strokes, moving forks away from each other.
- Hand Mixer: Break the chicken into manageable chunks and place them in a large bowl. Use the standard attachments on your mixer and set mixer to a medium speed. Mix until chicken is completely shredded.
- Stand Mixer: Use the standard paddle attachment and mix on medium-low speed until chicken chunks are completely shredded.
- Food Processor: Break up the cooked chicken breasts into chunks first, and work in multiple batches. Add chicken to food processor and use the plastic dough blade attachment to avoid your chicken turning to mush. Process for 30 seconds or until uniformly shredded. Repeat until all chicken is shredded.
Number of total servings shown is approximate. Actual number of servings will depend on your preferred portion sizes.
Nutritional values shown are general guidelines and reflect information for 1 serving using the ingredients listed, not including any optional ingredients. Actual macros may vary slightly depending on specific brands and types of ingredients used.
To determine the weight of one serving, prepare the recipe as instructed. Weigh the finished recipe, then divide the weight of the finished recipe (not including the weight of the container the food is in) by the desired number of servings. Result will be the weight of one serving.