Panera’s BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad

by Cate on October 13, 2009

BBQ Chopped Chicken Salad

My mom says I’m in a rut with this salad, but I swear I’ve only had it, like, four or five times.  ‘Course it was the last four or five times I went to Panera, all in a row, so I could see where she might think that.  But I can’t help it.  Salad, although I like it just fine, is not something that I normally crave.  But then I met this salad.  I don’t know what even compelled me to order it the first time.  Oh wait, yes I do.  It was the giant placard they had in the front of the restaurant, advertising it.  I’m a sucker for a good food picture.  Or a good ad.  Or both. I ordered it right away, and it’s been love at first bite ever since.  I stop just short of licking the bowl clean.

So let me break it down:

romaine lettuce
roasted pieces of corn
black beans
tender pieces of chicken
crispy bits of blue and red tortilla strips
and the dressing

Now the first couple of times I had the salad, I had it in the restaurant, so I didn’t pay much attention to dissecting the dressing.  But then when I ordered the salad to-go once, and I paid closer attention.  The dressing is a Thousand Island/French (what is the difference between the two anyway?) and BBQ sauce.  When you get it to go, it’s in two separate cups, so it was easier to tell what was going on.  Well, scratch that.  I happened to look the salad up on the website, and it says it’s a Ranch with the BBQ sauce.  Hmm, go figure.  I think further research might be in order, especially since it tastes like Thousand Island/French, and I have yet to see a pinky-colored Ranch.

And, of course, all of this means that should I ever feel compelled to make this salad at home, it’s totally doable.  I would never have thought of putting BBQ sauce on a salad, but with the dressing, it works.  I promise.  I’m just glad my new favorite salad didn’t end up on this list.  I have to say, I held my breath as I was reading through the entries.  If this, or Wendy’s Mandarin Chicken Salad ended up there, I don’t know what I’d do.

If you’re near Panera, or even just want to try this one at home, do.  I promise you won’t be sorry.  Excuse me while I wipe the drool from the keyboard.

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{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Heather October 13, 2009 at 9:44 pm

i haven’t tried this yet, but it does look tasty. panera has so many things i love, i can’t get around to them all. but with this rave review… this salad might get bumped to the top of my list ;)


Abby October 13, 2009 at 10:18 pm

If we’re talking about the same things: Hmmm. I *like* Thousand Island, but I don’t care for French – it’s too sweet for me!

Panera is a fave place of mine; of course it is – I could live on bread!


Josie October 13, 2009 at 11:09 pm

Ahhhh that was so stressful – I was checking out that evil list to see if my favorite salad was on it. Thank heavens it wasn’t! I am obsessed with the Greek salad from Panera. If you could figure out that dressing, I’d be ever so grateful :)


Joanne October 14, 2009 at 6:16 am

I adore Panera bread. And I love French dressing – by far my favorite of all salad dressings. Next time I am at a Panera, I will know what to order!


J October 14, 2009 at 7:19 am

I have a minor obsession with Panera’s “Summer Corn Chowder”…’s good stuff. I happened to have this salad yesterday. Even with my aversion to thousand island-ish dressings, I really enjoyed it!


Laura October 14, 2009 at 12:21 pm

sounds so yummy!


Suzi October 14, 2009 at 4:50 pm

Just a note from the menu description……it’s BBQ ranch dressing…so sounds like they add bbq sauce to regular ranch and there you go!

i have a 1 get 1…might be trying this soon!


Karine October 14, 2009 at 9:19 pm

Your salad sounds delicious! I have never had panena bread, I should definitively try it!


Patsy October 15, 2009 at 12:30 pm

I can see how that salad would cause cravings! What a flavor combo… I’m thinking that the ranch has be to be a bit “kicked” up if it’s kind of pink in color… wonder if it might be in one of those restaurant secret recipe books?


Ramona October 15, 2009 at 4:37 pm

It looks pretty good. I really like to eat salad out more than I like to make one and eat it at home.



Meghan November 17, 2009 at 1:18 pm

OMG!! I love this salad too. Kind of obsessed and was just looking up the ingredients when I found this post. I am going to try to make it at home too. Haven’t completely figured out the dressing though.


jenna March 2, 2010 at 10:51 am

love your blog and the panera bbq chicken salad! gonna have it tomorrow for dinner :)
come check out my bloggggg~


Kerri April 16, 2010 at 8:33 am

I think that the dressing is thousand island and ranch mixed or french and ranch mixed. I use to work at a restaurant and they use to mix thousand and ranch for one of their signature salads.


hally February 11, 2011 at 3:23 am

the bbq ranch dressing is just that, bbq sauce and ranch dressing mixed together. i work there and it comes that way, but i am also addicted so i made the salad at home too, and the dressing really is that simple!


Cate February 11, 2011 at 8:31 am

Hally – thanks for the heads up; totally making it this weekend!


becky June 15, 2011 at 6:11 pm

i freaked out the first time i had this salad at panera. why is it so good?! anyway when i recreate it at home, i use Cindy’s chipotle ranch dressing (found in the produce section) and store bought bbq sauce drizzled on top. it’s very close, the only down side is you have to make it for yourself.


Tineshia January 26, 2012 at 5:00 pm

Also one of my absolute favorite salads!!! Thanks for the help on getting the recipe girls, I appreciate it!


Shawna April 13, 2012 at 7:01 pm

Ever since I have tried this, (i was skeptical at first) this is now my all time favorite salad, and I crave it often. It is so good i can hardly stop to breathe for air. Usually not a thousand island dressing fan either but it all tastes so darn good.
And i think you’re right about it not being ranch ;)

thanks for dissecting it!


Sharon O June 22, 2012 at 7:38 pm

I LOVE this salad @ Panera but I don’t like paying$7 for it. I knew I could make it @ home but the dressing was the missing piece. Once I read what the dressing was made with, the rest was a piece of cake.


amanda May 7, 2013 at 12:55 pm

If you mix ranch and bbq, it turns pinkish.


Carolyn March 1, 2014 at 10:48 am

Last weekend I went into my local Panera to order this salad and I was told it is “no longer on the menu.” I was shocked. The salad is no longer on the panera website either.


Carolyn March 1, 2014 at 10:50 am

My local Panera told me last weekend that this salad is “no longer on the menu.” Oh, no! It’s my favorite Panera dish. It’s also no longer on the Panera website.


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