Buffalo Chicken Chopped Salad


Thanks to my newly-discovered love of watching football on TV, I’m super duper excited about the Super Bowl. (I even got a vintage-inspired Patriots sweatshirt to wear on Sunday to show my team spirit.) One of my fondest Super Bowl memories is from about a decade ago in California. Dave and I took over a table in a dark, wood-paneled sports bar with my parents, and we all drank beer and chowed down on chicken wings.

There will be no beer nor chicken wings at our Super Bowl bash this year. But I wondered if I could recreate the sensation of tender chicken, spicy sauce, and cool go-alongs for a healthier version that still tastes like “junk food.” Yes, technically wings are paleo, but they’re not exactly a food that makes us healthier. The proportion of fat to protein is unfavorably tilted toward the fat end of the scale — and the traditional dipping sauce of either blue cheese or ranch dressing usually means unfavorable industrial oils and dairy.

I got busy with my food-gination (Yes, I just made up a new word!) and tinkered in the kitchen. The result: Buffalo Chicken Chopped Salad.

The wings are replaced with lean chicken breasts (“brined” in the slow cooker) so the fat in the recipe can be concentrated in two other flavor sources I consider essential: the clarified butter in the wing sauce and the homemade mayo in ranch dressing. Instead of a few sad stalks of celery on the side like an after-thought, the chicken rests on a crisp bed of chopped salad.


Buffalo Chicken Chopped Salad
Buffalo Chicken Chopped Salad

Serves 2-4 | Prep 20 minutes | Cook 35 minutes | Whole30 compliant

Ranch Dressing
  • 1/4 cup homemade mayo

  • 1/2 clove garlic, minced

  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika

  • 2 teaspoons dried chives

  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

  • salt and black pepper, to taste

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts

  • 2 cups chicken broth or water

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

  • 1 jalapeño, cut into rings

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

  • 1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 2 tablespoons ghee, melted

  • 1/4 cup (or more!) hot sauce (I like Louisiana.)

  • 1 head iceberg lettuce, thinly sliced

  • 1 large seedless cucumber, thinly sliced

  • 3 ribs celery, thinly sliced

  • 2 large carrots, peeled and thinly sliced

  • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced

  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley leaves, coarsely chopped


Make the dressing. Place all ingredients — except salt and pepper — in a small bowl and mix energetically with a fork until blended. Taste, then season with salt and pepper.


Make the chicken. In a large saucepan, place chicken, water, garlic, jalapeño, bay leaf, salt, peppercorns, mustard seeds, and thyme. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low, 15-20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the chicken relax in its spa, covered, for 20-25 minutes. Remove the chicken from the water and shred with two forks, then toss with melted ghee and hot sauce.


Make the salad. In a large bowl, toss the salad ingredients with the dressing using two wooden spoons. Think of it as a mini cardio workout and toss for about two minutes so all the vegetables are coated with dressing. Top with shredded chicken and dig in!

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  • Deb says:

    Thank you for the ideas! All will love! GO PATS!!!!!

  • Angela W says:

    Looks good, as always!

  • Jean says:

    Just wondering…what would happen if you put hot sauce in the slow cooker with the chicken, as it was cooking? (I’m thinking it would still want some dressing after it’s done…)

    • Mel says:

      I decided against that because I wanted to “brine” the chicken first so it would stay tender. However, you really can’t mess up with a slow cooker, so try it and see what happens.

  • Andrea says:

    I’d add Bora Bora Fireballs to the menu! Those things ROCK!

  • aseafish says:

    Buffalo chicken wings with lots of hot buttery sauce, dipped in tart and creamy blue cheese dressing is a dish I would dream about if I had such dreams. It’s one of the few flavor and texture combos I still miss, inspite of the fact that they always made me sick afterward.

    This salad sounds like a fun way to shift that fantasy. Your brining directions produced a really moist and flavorful chicken breast without making too squishy, thanks. I was delighted, too, to see the coconut oil option in your recipe. As much as I love butter, it’s a thing of the past for me. I can’t even handle ghee or clarified butter, darn it. Can’t wait to try this.


  • Lisa says:

    Wow. As usual your recipe looks amazing!

    Have you read “Lunch in Paris… A love story with recipes” by Elizabeth Bard? I find myself thinking… how could I paleo-ify this recipe.

  • Melissa M says:

    Reading this recipe made me literally groan out loud. What a dynamite sounding combination! We’re gonna have to give this a shot.

  • Mel says:

    Mel, this sounds delicious! I just bought your cookbook, too (also sounds delicious). We’re 90% done with a kitchen remodel, so I can’t wait to have a stove again (although I *do* have a slow cooker out!)

  • Kelly R. says:

    Mel – you are brilliant!!!!!

    I received Well Fed and had my first Weekly Cookup on Sunday. It took 2 hours, but I am sure that once I can trust myself and not re-read the directions five times, it will be quicker.

    The only issue I had was my extremely messy kitchen. It literally looked like a bomb hit it. There were purple marks all over the counter, fridge, floor and even the walls from the cabbage! It will take time for me to let go of the obsessive-complusive need to keep up with the dishes. Next week, my goal is to embrace the mess.

    I have already had a Thai hot plate and an American hot plate. Both were delicious!! I can’t wait to cook Pad Thai tonight. I have already made the sunshine sauce and I only have one word to express my feelings for this recipe – Heaven.

    • Mel says:

      I completely destroy my kitchen when I do my cookups, too. It’s fun, no?! I find purple cabbage prints on the freezer door and Brussels sprouts hiding under the stove 😉

      Hope your Pad Thai was awesome. YAY for Hot Plates, too!

  • Dare says:

    Thank you for this recipe! For the first time in two months, my girlfriend actually liked what I cooked for dinner!!

  • Sarah says:

    Mel, love your buffalo chicken recipe. My cousin sent a similar recipe (below) to me last week. Do you think almond flour would work instead of the bread crumbs?

    Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
    2 tbsp olive oil
    1 stick unsalted butter
    3/4 cup Franks Hot Sauce(more for serving)
    2 lbs ground chicken
    2 lg eggs
    1cup minced celery
    2tsp coarse salt
    1 2/3cup dried bread crumbs (REPLACE THIS with ??)
    Ranch Dressing
    celery sticks
    Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat large baking sheet with olive oil and set aside. In small pot melt butter and hot sauce over low heat whisking often, remove from heat and pour into large bowl. Let cool for 10-15 minutes. Add eggs and coarse salt, mixing well. Stir in celery and bread crumbs. Mix in chicken. Once mixed roll into 1 inch balls and place on prepared baking sheet, making sure they touch on all sides. Bake 10-15 minutes,remove from oven and allow them to sit on pan 10 minutes. Transfer to serving platter and drizzle with hot sauce. Serve with dressing and celery sticks.

    • Mel says:

      You have two options:
      – use almond flour in the meatballs instead of bread crumbs
      – just make the meatballs without a “filler”

      Generally, breadcrumbs are used in meatballs to make them slightly more tender, but I like them just fine without any filler. 1 2/3 cups is a pretty big amount of almond flour — that’s a lot of omega-6 for not much reward, but that’s a personal choice.

      Other than that, the recipe looks awesome!

  • Elizabeth says:

    Made this last week and it was great! Plan to make it again this week. It was so good that I hoarded the leftovers and kept them all for myself. Thanks!

    And I have to say, I have a whole collection of Paleo cookbooks and yours is my absolute favorite. Love the layout and have had success with all the recipes. Well, except for the one that calls for Chinese Five Spice but that is only because we don’t care for that flavor. The technique was fine. Keep the recipes coming!

    • Mel says:

      HA! I do that sometimes, too… “hide” stuff in the back of the fridge so i can eat the leftovers. Then I feel guilty… then I think of it as “tax” because I do all the cooking.

      Thank you SO much for the sweet words about Well Fed. I’m thrilled that you’re enjoying it.

  • Tash says:

    I am making this one tonight and I’m too excited….

  • Catherine says:

    Hi! I just bought Well Fed and I am just LOVING your recipes these days. I made this tonight and it was delish — I can’t wait to eat the leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

  • Kathryn says:

    My friend told me about this recipe. I have made several others from your blog, including the mayonaise. My friend kept telling me how great this salad is, and it seems so simple, I didn’t get it. Then I made it!!!! WOW!!! I’m not sure what it is, but the combination of flavors is just amazingly good! Everyone should try this easy-to-make salad–you won’t be disappointed. It is rich and filling. Great summer recipe!

  • Andrea says:

    I’ve had this 3x in the past 10 days. I love it. It’s so simple and I always always have the ingredients on hand so when I’m lazy (which is often by the way) I make this delicious mix 🙂 thanks again for keeping my husband and I (who LOVE food) happy and healthy.

  • Jennifer D. says:

    I made this with Frank’s and used salmon instead of chicken based on a Food & Wine recipe I had made before. The kids declared this salad a “make again,” even though I accidentally used cayenne in the dressing instead of paprika. It had some zing for sure, but the iceberg, cukes, and celery were nice and cooling.

    Thanks for the idea.

    • Mel says:

      That sounds REALLY tasty — and I have a can of salmon in my cabinet. I might have to give that a go. Thanks for sharing!

  • Amy says:

    I made this last night for my Day 17 supper. It was just the flavor combo “pick me up” that I needed. Instead of following the lettuce/celery/onion combo I did spinach, cucumber, avocado & hard boiled egg. I will definitely be making the chicken on a regular basis. Also, your mayo recipe has won over this Hellman’s gal. Your recipes, blog & Well Fed have been very helpful – thank you!!

  • brittany says:

    Ok, so I made your mayo last night and used it to make this ranch dressing. Then today I made this with my leftover crockpot chicken and the ranch. YUM! Real food is possible! Even for me!

  • Kate H says:

    I am in LOVE with this recipe. It totally satisfied my craving for buffalo chicken and RANCH! I’ve made it twice, and I’m super pumped about the fact that making mayo is so easy! You are my paleo hero. I have tried many of your recipes, and plan on making many more! Thank you for sharing your culinary paleo genius with us 🙂

    • Mel says:

      Woot! I’m really glad you like this recipe and that you’re not a mayo master. Homemade mayo is such a helpful trick! Happy cooking to you!

  • Liz W. says:

    This was awesome–thanks! I’ve become somewhat obsessed with Buffalo wings, as they’re oftentimes the best Paleo option when ordering pizza or dining out. This salad is hot and cool at the same time–perfect! I added Blue Cheese to the Ranch and used Frank’s Red Hot in the sauce. Delish!

  • Suz says:

    Made this for day 21 on Superbowl nite. By far this has been the BEST recipe I’ve tried on Whole 30. The entire family LOVED it and asked to make it again. Took me 2 tries on the mayo and after watching a video with immersion blender it worked. I didn’t have dried chives so used fresh dill for the dressing and it was divine. Am making plantain nachos tomorrow. Thank you!

  • Alicia Kleppinger says:

    Hey Melissa – I’ve made this salad over and over again. It’s so satisfying between the spicy chicken and the cool vegetables and the creamy dressing.

    Am I wrong for remembering that this recipe originally had a slow cooker option for cooking the chicken? I’m making it for a pot luck and feel like I’m either losing my mind or confusing it with another recipe.

    Anyway, I use both of your books often so thank you for all of your hard work on these delicious recipes.

    P.S. my favorite way to shred chicken is with the dough hook of my stand mixer.

    • You’re not losing your mind. The original blog recipe was slow cooker, but when I re-tested it for the cookbook, I liked the stovetop version more. The chicken stays more tender. Dough hook is GENIUS!

  • brittany says:

    making it in slow cooker today. i just threw all the chicken and bring together in the crock and am hoping for the best!! i made it the way your recipe is written the first time and it was soooooo awesome! thanks for all the wonderful recipes!!

  • Kitty says:

    Just wanted to say that as with all your recipes I have become addicted to this one, in fact I’m eating it right now! Thank you =)

  • Keli says:

    This salad looks so delicious. Do you think that using romaine lettuce would mess up the texture too much? Not a fan of iceburg, but I will use that if it needs that extra crunchiness.

    • Any lettuce (or cabbage) works great, and romaine is an excellent choice. I just chose iceberg because I like it.

    • Rachel says:

      I made my own salad mixture and anything will go with this chicken and ranch 🙂 we used red onions, mushrooms, shredded carrots, cucumber and tomato on roughly chopped romaine.

  • Rachel says:

    Just made this and it was amazing!!! Boyfriend loved it! I have anther 2 lbs of chicken and am going to make some more just to have in the fridge for the week. Can mix the salad diced components and chicken and throw it in a lettuce wrap. Mmmm!

  • Wende says:

    Love this recipe. My 14 yr old son thought it was good too – win win. Been doing paleo and using both your Well Feb recipes. Down 10 lbs and feeling great. Thank you Melissa!!