Turn your basic greens into a simple but satisfying meal with my Go-To Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad! So easy to customize and prep ahead, this salad is packed with crisp veggies, topped with fresh herbs, and ranch, of course!
Over the last couple years, I’ve started to create a salad growing routine in my garden. I’ve figured out what I varieties I like best, which go well with others, and how often I should be planting seeds to have a continuous bowl full of greens from late Spring to early Fall.
Of course I still have a lot to learn, and I’m always open to trying new kinds of greens in my garden. But here’s what I know so far about my own lettuce growing preferences. Maybe it’ll help you give lettuce growing a try!
When I grow salad greens in my garden, I try to:
- grow at least 4 varieties. When I started, I thought all I wanted was romaine. But that got boring and bland pretty quickly. Now I’ve got Bloomsdale spinach, red loose leaf, green loose leaf, and romaine. I’m loving this mix!
- plant new lettuce seeds every 2 weeks or so. This is called succession planting, and it’s the best way to have a continuous salad greens harvest all growing season. I do this with carrots too! You can’t eat it all at once, so don’t try to grow it all at once.
- use the cut-and-come again method to harvest. Instead of harvesting the whole heads of lettuce, I just take some of the outer leaves every few days. This is the best way to keep your lettuce plants producing for as long as possible. Once the greens produce flowers, the lettuce is a lot less tender and tasty.
All of this lettuce and salad greens talk to say: I gotta do something with all that lettuce, right? Sometimes, we’ll have a smaller side salad with veggies. Other times, I’ll try to make it into more of a main dish with protein and other additions.
What I usually end up doing is something like this salad, which is why I’m calling it my Go-To Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad. Good with basically any veggies I have on hand and any style of cooked chicken, it’s a solid weeknight dinner choice.
I love this recipe because you can prep all the ingredients ahead of time, modify as much as you want, and best of all, get lots of fresh veggies in! It’s more of an idea than a recipe, so feel free to change it up however you want.
Total Time: 35 minutes
Method: Your Choice
Prep: Make-Ahead Friendly
What are the ingredients in this Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad?
Since this is more of an idea for an easy dinner than a strict recipe, I highly encourage you to modify this recipe however you’d like! Swap the veggies, cook the chicken how you want, or even change the dressing if you aren’t a Ranch fan.
Here are the ingredients I picked for my version of this Go-To Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad:
- boneless skinless chicken breasts – For this recipe, I’m cooking my chicken breasts in the air fryer, but you can use leftovers or rotisserie chicken too! Any will work here.
- avocado oil – I always use avocado oil for cooking in the air fryer, and making chicken is no exception!
- sea salt, fresh ground black pepper, onion powder, garlic powder – These are the seasonings I used for the chicken in this salad, and I tried to keep it low-key on purpose so that the Ranch and fresh herbs would shine through. If you have a favorite seasoning combo, feel free to do that! I also like the seasonings on my Air Fryer Chicken Tenders.
- bacon – I prefer to use no sugar added bacon from my Butcherbox meat delivery service (affiliate link!), but definitely use whatever bacon you prefer.
- mixed salad greens – Elevate this salad by using a mix of greens for varying textures and colors. Look for a mixed greens blend at the store or you can make your own mix by chopping up and mixing store bought or homegrown greens.
- cucumber, green bell peppers, large carrots, cherry tomatoes – These are basically just all my favorite veggies I like to dip in Ranch! Even though it’s a Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad, I try to load up on the veggies to make it feel like a fresher and more complete meal.
- red onion – Not something I’m normally dipping in Ranch, but I do think a small amount of onion is great for a little bit of flavor and bite!
- Ranch dressing – Let yourself be reminded of childhood with some good old Hidden Valley. You won’t regret it, I swear.
- chopped fresh herbs – I chose to add some fresh dill and chives from my garden and it took my whole salad up a notch! I don’t always have these on hand and they are definitely optional, but adding some of the herbs that flavor Ranch is a great way to add even more flavor and freshness to this salad.
How do you cook the chicken breast for the Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad?
What makes this salad so flexible is there are several options for the how to cook the chicken breast. I prefer to use a well seasoned but versatile flavor profile on the chicken, so the bacon and Ranch flavors really shine.
Since the bacon will be cooking in the oven, I prefer to use the air fryer or the Instant Pot to prepare the chicken for this recipe. There are three different options (Instant Pot, stovetop, and air fryer) outlined in my post called How to Cook Chicken for Meal Prep.
You can also use cooked rotisserie chicken or any leftover cooked chicken you have on hand. Whatever works for you!
In the photos below, I made my chicken breasts in the air fryer. I horizontally cut two breasts, tenderized and then seasoned with salt, fresh ground black pepper, onion powder and garlic powder. Check out this tutorial on how to make chicken breast cutlets for detailed photos.
After that, I cooked the chicken in the air fryer at 380F for 11 minutes, flipping halfway through. I let it rest for a few minutes, then sliced it up and put it right on the salad.
How do you cook the bacon for the salad?
For the bacon, I have a much stronger recommendation: To save time, reduce mess, and get the best bacon possible, you should cook your bacon in the oven. For detailed photos and instructions, read my post all about How to Cook Bacon in the Oven.
Depending on the thickness of your bacon, it will take anywhere from 18 to 28 minutes to cook with this method.
How do you assemble this Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad?
You’ve got options when it comes to how to assemble this salad. If it’s all going to be eaten right after being prepared, you can put it all in a giant bowl, mix it up and serve.
If you’re more like me and plan to eat a couple servings on other days, I think the better options are either: prep all servings in meal prep containers and keep the dressing on the side, OR prep all ingredients and store separately, then assemble right before eating.
Can I use different veggies or use more veggies?
This recipe is meant to be more of an example or idea of how to create your favorite Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad! Feel free to go wild and add all your favorite veggies.
Ranch dressing options:
If you aren’t into the classic Hidden Valley Ranch or simply want to try a homemade option, my favorite is this Ranch Dressing from Tastes Lovely.
Even though it’s Whole30 and Keto, it’s the absolute best and I’ll never waste my time with another recipe. Of course, you can use any dressing you have or love to make with this salad recipe. I would never stop you!
How do you meal prep this Go-To Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad?
This salad works for both a quick weeknight meal, or a make-ahead option to take on-the-go during the week. There are a couple ways to save time by preparing this recipe ahead. Here are some options:
- Complete meal prep: Make the recipe as written, but portion the ingredients evenly into four meal prep containers, and store the dressing separately (see photo below!).
- Complete ingredient prep: Make the recipe as written, but instead of preparing the salads, store each ingredient separately in an airtight container in the fridge. Store cucumbers dry with a paper towel to absorb moisture. Assemble salads right before they are eaten.
- Enjoy now & later: Prepare all the ingredients and make the recipe as written. Store prepared leftovers in meal prep containers with lids and use up with 3-4 days. This is basically a combination of the first two options.
What should you serve with this Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad?
This Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad works great as a meal on it’s own, but I think it would also be good served with some garlic bread or some garlic croutons added on top!
Alternative customization ideas:
Here are a few ways to customize this salad and make it your own:
- Change up the veggies: Use your favorite veggies or whatever you have on hand.
- Change up the dressing: They have all kinds of Ranch out now, what about a chipotle Ranch? You don’t even really have to stick with Ranch. You do you!
- Cook & season your chicken differently: I cooked my chicken in the air fryer with pretty basic seasonings. If you like to cook your chicken a different way or you have leftovers, feel free to go a different route!
Is this recipe freezer-friendly?
This recipe as written is not freezer-friendly. But, if you have leftover cooked chicken or cooked bacon, those ingredients can be frozen if you want. Use an airtight freezer safe container and use it up within 3-6 months for best quality.
How to store prepared Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad:
For individual meal prep servings, the best method is to portion the ingredients evenly into four airtight meal prep containers with lids, and store the dressing separately.
You can also store all ingredients individually and assemble right before eating. Enjoy all leftovers within 4 days for best quality!
How to reheat Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad:
The quickest way to enjoy this salad is directly from the fridge – I don’t think it’s necessary to reheat the proteins!
Did you make this? I want to see how it turned out! Tag me in your social media post @projectmealplan and use #projectmealplan when you share!
Go-To Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad
Turn your basic greens into a simple but satisfying meal with my Go-To Chicken Bacon Ranch Salad! Easy to customize and prep ahead, packed with crisp veggies and topped with fresh herbs and ranch, of course!
- 2 (8-ounce) boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- 8 slices raw bacon
- 5 ounces mixed salad greens (about 2 cups per salad)
- 1 large cucumber, sliced
- 1–2 green bell peppers, seeds and stem removed, sliced into small sticks
- 1–2 large carrots, peeled and sliced into small sticks
- 1–2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1/2 red onion, finely diced
- 1/2 cup Ranch dressing
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs: chives, dill and/or parsley (optional!)
- Cook the bacon: Line a rimmed half sheet pan (affiliate link!) with parchment paper. Measure the paper to be slightly longer than the pan. Place strips of raw bacon flat on the parchment lined sheet pan. Place the pan into a cold oven and immediately set the temperature to 375F. Set a timer for the cook time depending on the thickness of the bacon. Thinner bacon will take 18-23 minutes. Thicker bacon will take 24-28 minutes. If you prefer crisper bacon, add another 2 minutes. After removing the bacon from the oven, use a fork or tongs to remove the bacon from the pan and on to a paper towel-lined plate. Once cooled, chop into large bits for the salad and set aside. For more detailed instructions and photos, please read How to Cook Bacon in the Oven.
- Cook the chicken: While the bacon is cooking in the oven, I prefer to cook the chicken in the air fryer. However, you can cook your chicken in whatever method you prefer, or use rotisserie or leftover cooked chicken. For more chicken cooking method options and photos, please read How to Cook Chicken for Meal Prep or Air Fryer Chicken Tenders. Here’s how I cooked the chicken in the photos above:
- Place the chicken breasts on a cutting board and use a sharp chef’s knife to carefully slice each breast in half horizontally to create 2 smaller pieces.
- Next, tenderize each piece by placing it into a Ziploc bag or under plastic wrap and pounding the chicken with a tenderizer or heavy pan, going slowly and methodically to create an even thickness in the chicken.
- Remove the chicken cutlets to a plate and pat dry with paper towels. Drizzle with oil, then season with salt, pepper, onion powder and garlic powder on both sides.
- Place the chicken cutlets into the air fryer in a single layer, trying not to let them overlap. Air fry at 380F for 10-12 minutes, flipping halfway through. The chicken is done when the edges are browning and the internal temperature reads 165F.
- Remove the chicken from the air fryer and let it rest for 5-10 minutes before slicing.
- Assemble and serve: To prepare each serving, add about 2 cups of salad greens, about 4 ounces of chicken, 2 ounces of chopped bacon, and a quarter of each prepped and sliced veggie. Top with a heavy drizzle of Ranch and a few big pinches of chopped fresh herbs. You can also prepare a giant salad for the whole family by mixing everything together in a large bowl and letting everyone serve themselves.
- How to store: Leftovers are best kept without dressing, so if you’re meal prepping, save the dressing on the side to add right before eating! For the freshest results, store ingredients separately in airtight containers and enjoy within 4 days. You can also prep complete portions of this salad, but keep the dressing on the side, and enjoy within 3-4 days.
If all ingredients are prepped ahead of time, this salad can come together in less than 5 minutes. Cooking the proteins is what ends up taking the most time. Feel free to swap veggies for your faves! Nutrition information estimated with My Fitness Pal.
- Serving Size: 1/4 of recipe
- Calories: 514
- Fat: 33g
- Carbohydrates: 22g
- Fiber: 6g
- Protein: 35g
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