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Copycat Cheesecake Factory BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

BBQ Chicken Salad is filled with healthy lean protein, veggies, and plenty of flavor thanks to a smoky bbq ranch dressing. Make this Cheesecake Factory copycat salad recipe for a date night at home, or as an appetizer for family dinner.

If you love salads as much as I do, you’ve also got to try this broccoli salad, eggplant chicken pepper salad, and this incredible Greek salad. They are all so refreshing and good!

BBQ Chicken salad on a plate with avocado, tomato, corn, cucumber and fried onion rings.

Cheesecake Factory Copycat Salad Recipe

This BBQ Chicken salad is the only thing we order every single time we’re at the Cheesecake Factory restaurant. The salad is huge and somehow the fresh lettuce, tomatoes, corn, beans, the avocado and the BBQ chicken all tossed together with the creamy BBQ dressing work so amazing that if there was no one around we would probably lick our plates clean. 

It was just a matter of time before I recreated this deliciousness at home. And it didn’t take too long before I figured it out and started making it at the convenience of my own kitchen, for a fraction of the cost with all the ingredints I typically have on hand anyway. 

Cheesecake Factory copycat salad recipe in a bowl with two salad spoons about to mix it.

BBQ Chicken Salad Recipe

In many ways, this is a classic bbq chicken salad recipe. I like to use romaine lettuce for the base, and build my ingredients from there, such as tomato, corn, black beans, and avocado.

Of course, chicken is a main ingredient in the salad as well. I usually prefer to cook chicken tenders (or sliced chicken breast) in a hot pan with oil when making this bbq chicken salad recipe. But going the extra mile and grilling it will give you the best flavors. If you have some leftover grilled chicken, this BBQ Chicken salad recipe is the perfect place to use it up.

Close up of a bbq chicken salad recipe tossed in homemade dressing.

DIY BBQ Ranch Dressing

In my opinion, what takes this salad above and beyond is the bbq ranch dressing. Without it, the flavor would not be near as good!

Thankfully, this BBQ ranch dressing is simple to whip up. You’ll find yourself making this dressing for sandwiches, burgers, as a dip for fries, and more. It’s that good!

This bbq ranch dressing is mayo-based. You’ll want to use the full-fat mayo for the best flavor. The recipe also calls for buttermilk or sour cream. Both work well! Sour cream will give you slightly more creaminess, while buttermilk will give you a bit more tartness. Try both and see which you like best!

Close up of homemade bbq ranch dressing on top of a chicken salad.

Air Fryer Onion Rings

The other big part of what makes this salad so craveable is the crispy fried onion rings. I didn’t really want to pull out a deep fryer, so I decided to play with my air fryer to see if I could recreate the same taste, minus the extra fat.

I’m thrilled to say it worked! These air fryer onion rings are incredible. In fact, I have made them on their own as a side for burgers a few times.

The secret is in the dredging mixture. It has a blend of spices for that perfect flavor. I use paprika, garlic powder and salt, along with panko crumbs for an extra crispy coating.

The air fryer onion rings will take about ten minutes to cook. While they are cooking you can make the dressing. Once the ten minutes are up, pull out the onion rings, add them to your salad and serve immediately.

No air fryer? No worries! Just bake them in the oven for 15-20 minutes instead.

Pile of air fryer onion rings on top of a salad.

How to Make the BBQ Chicken Salad

Find the full directions in the recipe card below.

Grab all your ingredients and prep your veggies by washing and chopping them.

BBQ chicken salad ingredients on a black countertop.

Cook the chicken first: sprinkle the chicken with spices and grill it until the inside registers at 165F. Alternatively, you can pan sear it with a bit of oil, over medium heat.

Make the dressing: in a jar or a small bowl combine all ingredients and stir until well mixed.

Make the onion rings: cut the onions, prepare the dredging mixture and the dipping mixture. Dip the onions into the liquid mixture, then the dry and coat the onions well. Then cook in an air fryer in one layer, turning halfway through until golden in color, about 10 minutes.

Chop the vegetables: while the chicken and the onions are cooking, chop the lettuce, tomatoes and some cucumbers. Open cans of beans and corn and drain them well. Cut the avocado into slices. 

Build the Salad: Place the chopped romaine lettuce on the bottom of the bowl. Then arrange the rest of the ingredients in mounts on top of the lettuce. Place the crispy onion rings on top of the salad.

Drizzle dressing all over the salad. Stir everything together before eating. Check for seasoning and add more salt if needed. Then top with the onion rings and enjoy!

More Copycat Recipes:

Copycat Cheesecake Factory BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

5 from 4 votes

Copycat Cheesecake Factory BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad is a colorful salad with Romaine lettuce, tomatoes, corn, avocados, beans, chicken and a BBQ Ranch dressing that brings this chicken salad recipe altogether.

Author: Marina | Let the Baking Begin
Course: Salad
Cuisine: American
Keyword: BBQ Chicken Salad, ranch chicken salad
Calories: 329 kcal
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Servings: 2 entree size servings


Ingredients for Copycat Cheesecake Factory BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

Grilled or Pan Seared Chicken

For the BBQ Ranch

  • 1 Tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 Tbsp sour cream or buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp BBQ sauce (use your favorite brand, I use Sweet Baby Ray's brand)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice or white vinegar
  • 2 tsp dried ranch seasoning (with no salt added)
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt

For the Air Fryer Onion Rings

BBQ Chicken Salad Ingredients

  • 1 heart of Romaine lettuce
  • ½ cup diced tomatoes or baby tomatoes cut in half
  • 1/2 English cucumber
  • ½ cup corn canned, drained or grilled
  • ½ cup black beans drained, rinsed
  • ½ avocado


How to make Copycat Cheesecake Factory BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

Grilled or Pan Seared Chicken

  1. Rub the chicken with the seasoning and oil, massaging it well into the meat. Then cook on preheated to 450F grill on both sides until the inside registers 160F.

    Or, cook the chicken on a skillet over medium-high heat searing the outside first, then covering with a lid and continuing to cook until the inside registers 160F. You can add a couple tablespoons of water to the pan to allow the steam to cook the chicken if needed.

How to Make Air Fryer Onion Rings**

  1. Mix together 1/2 cup flour, 1½ tsp paprika, ½ tsp garlic powder, ½ tsp salt for the dredging mixture and coat the onion rings in it. Then whisk 1 egg and water and dip into the egg mixture, before coating in 1 cup panko crumbs.

  2. Arrange in a single layer of the air fryer and cook in batches for about 10 minutes at 375F. Turn halfway through cooking for even cooking.

  3. Remove from the air fryer and serve right away over the salad.

  4. Transfer to a cutting board and allow to rest for 10 minutes before cutting into thin strips.

Make the BBQ Ranch dressing

  1. Mix together 1 Tbsp mayo, 1 Tbsp sour cream, 1 Tbsp BBQ sauce, 2 tsp lemon juice, 2 tsp dried ranch seasoning, 1/2 tsp pepper, and 1 tsp salt for the dressing.

Prep the veggies

  1. Chop 1 heart of romaine lettuce, 1/2 cup of baby tomatoes, and 1/2 an English cucumber. Then, open the canned corn and beans and drain them thoroughly. Next, peel half an avocado and cut into slices.

  2. For the best visual presentation, place the chopped lettuce on the bottom of the salad bowl, then place the chopped chicken (you can toss it with some BBQ sauce before putting on top of the salad), and all the vegetables in separate mounds.

    Split-half an avocado into 4 sections lengthwise, peel the skin off and discard it.

    Place 1 piece of avocado between each section.

    Drizzle dressing all over the salad. Stir everything together before eating. Check for seasoning and add more salt if needed, then top with the onion rings and enjoy.

Recipe Notes

*You can replace the chicken breast with 3 chicken tenders
** If you're in a pinch, you can use the storebought Crispy Fried Onions, but obviously they won't be the same as homemade neither flavor-vise nor nutrition/calorie-vise. 

Nutrition Facts
Copycat Cheesecake Factory BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad
Amount Per Serving
Calories 329 Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value*
Fat 16g25%
Saturated Fat 3g19%
Cholesterol 42mg14%
Sodium 1377mg60%
Potassium 893mg26%
Carbohydrates 30g10%
Fiber 9g38%
Sugar 6g7%
Protein 19g38%
Vitamin A 1865IU37%
Vitamin C 21.5mg26%
Calcium 42mg4%
Iron 2.3mg13%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Marina | Let the Baking Begin

Welcome to Let the Baking Begin! I'm Marina and my love and passion for eating only the most delicious foods drive me to share that love here on Let the Baking Begin (since 2009). With over 20 years of experience in the kitchen, you know the recipes are tested and retested until perfect. I'm so happy to have you here. Enjoy! Read more...

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  • Allie

    This sounds great but I don’t know why you would rest them for 10 minutes on a board and then cut the onion rings into strips AFTER you fried them in the air fryer. Step # 4 of On How to make Air Fryer Onion Rings. Maybe you meant that for the chicken?

    · Reply
  • Great recipe, i am going to make it on new year’s eve.

    · Reply
  • Viviane

    I realy love these recipes. I am surely going to give a try.

    · Reply
  • Kendrick

    It looks so delicious and so easy to make.
    I am going to cook it tomorrow.
    Thank You for this recipe!

    · Reply
  • Dominique Chicoye

    Hi, the recipe sounds wonderful. But it would of been great to see a picture of the finished dish.

    · Reply
    • Hi Dominique,
      The last picture of the post is the picture of the finished dish 🙂 You mix it at the table right before you eat it.

      · Reply
  • Marty

    This has become one of my family’s favorites. I make it about every 2-3 weeks. And….it’s pretty healthy with all those vegies. We love it! 🙂

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    • Marty

      Forgot to mention-I add Durkee onion rings on top to give it a crispness and to make it more like Cheessecake Factory’s recipe. Yummy!

      · Reply
  • Valentina

    I made this the other night and we loved it! My hubby requested it again today so I will be making it for dinner. I will be trying it with pinto beans today instead of black beans.. and for the chicken we season it with johnny salt and mix in some mayo and grill it adding some bbq sauce on it afterwards. Thanks for such a great recipe!

    · Reply
    • Hi Valentina, I’m happy to hear that your husband liked this salad 🙂 BBQing chicken sounds like a great idea!

      · Reply
  • Made this for dinner tonight and my family loved it. I think my favorite part was the dressing! Thanks for a great recipe!

    · Reply
  • Lana

    That salad looks absolutely scrumptious! Definitely something I need to try at home. By the way if you ever have another craving for a BBQ chicken salad, Panera Bread also has a fabulous one.

    · Reply
    • Thanks for the lead Lana! I was at Panera’s bread only once (the closest one to me is at the mall and I don’t visit the mall very often) and whatever I had there was really good, so I trust that if they have a BBQ chicken salad it also must be good. I’ll be at the mall tomorrow… hmmm..

      · Reply
  • Natasha

    Wow Marina! Looking at this salad is making me drool!!! I’m totally making it tomorrow for dinner or lunch or maybe both! My hubby is not a big fan of Cheesecake Factory so I’ve never had that salad. Maybe we gotta give it another chance;) thank you for sharing your awesome creations! Btw hour cakes are gorgeous!

    · Reply
    • Thank you Natasha, you’re very sweet!

      Even though Cheesecake factory is a chain restaurant, whenever we go there everything we order is really good, so definitely give it another chance 🙂

      · Reply

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