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Overhead view of BBQ chicken salad in a bowl surrounded by corn on the cob, watermelon slices, and other barbecue essentials.

BBQ Chicken Salad

A smoky, sweet twist on a classic summer recipe, straight from a Memphis kitchen.
Course Main Course
Cuisine American, Southern
Keyword 4th of july, cookouts, summer recipe
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Calories 337kcal


  • Large skillet with lid
  • internal meat thermometer
  • tools to shred chicken (see Notes)
  • Large bowl
  • Large spoon or silicone spatula


  • 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


  • 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.
    Raw chicken breasts in skillet of water
  • 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.
    Cooked chicken breasts in skillet with broth
  • Shred chicken using desired method from Notes below.
    Shredded chicken in a large silver mixing bowl with two hand mixer beaters.
  • 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.
    Overhead view of all ingredients for BBQ chicken salad in a large silver mixing bowl on a wooden counter.
  • 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.
    Overhead view of fully mixed BBQ chicken salad in a large silver mixing bowl on a wooden counter.
  • 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.


Shredding Methods

  • 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.


Serving: 1serving | Calories: 337kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 15g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 7g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.05g | Cholesterol: 115mg | Sodium: 736mg | Potassium: 805mg | Fiber: 1g | Vitamin A: 171IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 34mg | Iron: 1mg | Net Carbs: 8g