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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

I never would have made this salad, had my husband not stood me up. 🙂 In a way, I’m glad he did because this Cheesecake Factory copycat salad recipe is one of my favorite salads of all time!

But, I’m jumping ahead. Back to my husband and our failed date night. He called me from work and offered to go for dinner to Cheesecake Factory. It’s kind of a drive from where we live, but we absolutely love their BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad, so sometimes we make the drive just for that.

We usually order one chicken salad and split it between the two of us and our daughter (their portions are HUGE) and then share one entrée. But no matter what we order for an entrée we must have this salad first.

Somehow the fresh lettuce, tomatoes, corn, beans, the avocado and the BBQ chicken all tossed together with the creamy BBQ dressing just works so amazing that if there was no one around we would probably lick our plates clean. Unfortunately, not soon after the initial call my husband called me again canceling due to work. 

I was really looking forward to that salad. So, I opened my fridge and scanned it for the right ingredients, then went to my pantry got a couple of cans and decided to make my own Cheesecake Factory copycat salad recipe right at home.

I have to say, it turned out so good that we have made it many times since then. I also made it for my sister, who thought I was joking about making it at home—she thought I had gone to Cheesecake Factory and pretended like I made it. Aren’t sisters funny?

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. This way, the chicken is cooked entirely through and moist on the inside while retaining a seared outer edge.

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 tart flavor while buttermilk is a bit more creamy. 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.

For the best visual presentation, place the chopped lettuce on the bottom of the bowl, then place the chopped chicken (you can toss it with some BBQ sauce before putting on top of the salad), beans, corn & the tomatoes in 4 mounds.

Split half an avocado into 4 sections lengthwise, peel the skin off and discard it. Put 1 piece of avocado between each section.

Meanwhile, make the air fryer onion rings and allow them to cook in the fryer for ten minutes, turning halfway.

Next put the chopped scallions in the center between the 4 mounds. 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 1 vote

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

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

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

For the Air Fryer Onion Rings

Instructions

How to make Copycat Cheesecake Factory BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad

Grilled or Pan Seared Chicken

  1. Chop 1 heart of romaine lettuce, 1/2 cup green onion, and 1/2 cup tomatoes.

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

  3. Before putting your salad together, start working on the air fryer onion rings (see below).

  4. For the best visual presentation, place the chopped lettuce on the bottom of the bowl, then place the grilled chopped chicken (you can toss it with some BBQ sauce before putting on top of the salad), 1/2 cup beans, 1/2 cup corn & 1/2 cup tomatoes in 4 mounds.

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

    Place 1 piece of avocado between each section. Next put the chopped scallions in the center between the 4 mounds (optional).

    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.

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. 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.

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

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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  • 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.
    Viviane

    · Reply
  • Kendrick

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

    · Reply
  • […] Copycat Cheesecake Factory BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad – Copycat Cheesecake Factory BBQ Ranch Chicken Salad – get the flavors of summer any time of year with this colorful array of flavors bound together with a creamy BBQ Ranch dressing. […]

    · 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! 🙂

    · Reply
    • 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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