Barbecue Chicken Macaroni Salad


I’m not really a macaroni salad person. Its probably the goopy mayonnaise that coats most macaroni salads, the limp vegetables, the inability to taste anything except a not-that-appealing sauce. Nevertheless, when I saw this recipe on the Kitchn, I knew I had to try it. To me, barbecue sauce is pretty much the ultimate condiment. I could put barbecue sauce on almost anything that wasn’t a dessert. Lucky for me, not too long after I found this recipe, I was invited to a pot-luck, end-of-summer pool party. Perfect.


The recipe starts out by brining chicken thighs for a couple of hours. I went with the lesser amount of chicken because I split off part of the recipe to make a vegetarian option, but if I was making the full recipe I would definitely go for the full 1.5 pounds. I unfortunately didn’t snag a picture of the setup before the chicken went into the broiler, but the chicken gets basted and basically broiler grilled by putting it on a wire rack.


While the chicken was cooking, I chopped up the veggies for the salad. The red onions get soaked for 15 minutes to cut out some of their pungency since they’re raw in the salad.


The sauce is a mix of barbecue sauce and mayo, with a little bit of vinegar. I ended up going for only a 1/4 cup of mayo and more than a 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce, but you can adjust to taste.


Here’s all the chopped veggies mixed in with the cooked macaroni. This was the first recipe I cooked after my previous roommate moved out and took 90% of the pans in the house with her, so I had to cook the macaroni in a large saute pan. An interesting experience.


Once the chicken is cooked, it gets chopped up into small pieces. You can see I pretty heavily basted the chicken with barbecue sauce because you can never have too much barbecue sauce.


The chicken is added to the macaroni and the veggies.


The sauce is poured and mixed in thoroughly to coat everything. This makes a great macaroni salad; the barbecue gives it that different taste that you don’t usually get with macaroni salad, and the chicken gives it a little more heft and makes it a heartier side dish or even a meal. I think the chicken, with it’s cooked-on barbecue sauce, really makes it and adds that other dimension to the dish, but even the vegetarian version was tasty (and, to me, preferable to a standard macaroni salad). This was a great dish for a summer potluck.

Barbecue Chicken Macaroni Salad (from the Kitchn)


For the chicken:

  • 1 quart warm water
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 2 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 – 1.5 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts (3-4 individual breasts)
  • 1/2 cup barbecue sauce

For the macaroni salad:

  • 1/2 pound elbow macaroni (about 2 cups)
  • 1 red or green pepper, diced
  • 1/2 red onion, diced and soaked in cool water for 15 minutes
  • 3-4 stalks celery, diced
  • 1 tomato, seeded and chopped small
  • barbecue chicken, cooked and diced as described above
  • 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
  • Salt and Pepper


  1. Combine the water, salt, and sugar in a shallow baking dish, stirring gently until the salt and the sugar are completely dissolved. Add the chicken to the brine. It should be completely covered by the brine. Add more warm water if necessary. Brine the chicken for 1/2 – 2 hours.
  2. When you’re ready to cook, turn on the oven broiler and position an oven rack about 5 inches below the broiler. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and set a wire rack on top.
  3. Remove the chicken from the brine and discard the brining liquid. Pat the chicken dry and coat each side with some of the barbecue sauce. Arrange the chicken on the rack over the baking sheet and bake for 5 minutes. Flip the breasts, baste them with a little more barbecue sauce, and cook for another 5-7 minutes, until they’re completely cooked through.
  4. Let the chicken breasts cool and then dice them into bite-sized chunks.
  5. Cook the macaroni in a large amount of salted, boiling water until it is cooked a little beyond al dente. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking.
  6. In a large bowl, combine the cooked macaroni, all the vegetables, and the chicken. In a small bowl, combine the cider vinegar, 1/4 cup of mayonnaise, and 1/4 cup of barbecue sauce. Stir this into the salad mix. Taste, season with salt and plenty of black pepper, and add more mayonnaise or barbecue sauce as desired.
  7. This salad will keep unrefrigerated for 4 hours, or up to a week refrigerated.
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