Recipe: Upside-Down BBQ Chicken Bowl

published Jun 2, 2016
Upside-Down BBQ Chicken Bowl
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(Image credit: Christine Han)

Barbecue is a much-loved summer meal in my house, whether it’s a slow cooker full of pulled chicken in sauce, or a slab of ribs from our local BBQ truck — smoky and fatty, leaving drippings down your arm as you gnaw them on the back porch.

Pork, chicken, beef — whatever the meat, barbecue is such a treat, and I especially love a good chicken barbecue sandwich topped with crunchy, creamy slaw. But for an everyday meal, I like to flip the bowl and start with the vegetables first.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

What does it mean to flip the bowl? It’s simple: Take your favorite meat-heavy meal — tacos, meatballs, a steak dinner — and flip it upside down by stuffing your bowl with vegetables first, then using the meat (and carbs) to top off the bowl with flavor.

The five bowls in this series start with a fast, 30-minute base of vegetables, and they’re topped with meat from the freezer or your grocery store hot abar. Easy, fast, good!

Flip the Barbecue Bowl

Like a delicious barbecue sandwich, this meal calls for slaw, pulled chicken or pork, and — if you’re feeling up to it — a slice of toasted bread. But here, the slaw is the base, not the topping. Top it with a scoop of chicken and a slice of toasted garlic bread for an upside-down version of the barbecue sandwich.

Now, when it comes to vegetables, I am a fierce defender of the bag and the box. Shredded cabbage, chopped greens, and other packaged vegetables are a huge time-saver and, quite frankly, as a mother of a new baby, they often make the difference for me between no vegetables and some vegetables. And no veggie has been as popular in my household lately as broccoli slaw, that fresh and crunchy mix of broccoli and carrots.

Here’s a favorite way to use it: as the base of a warm slaw with a drizzle of ranch dressing and a heaping helping of other vegetables like red pepper, corn, and kale. You sauté these extra vegetables and toss them with the slaw, warming it and softening its crunch just a bit.

Dressed with a big spoonful of shredded chicken or pork from the freezer, grocery store, or food truck, this is a meal that gives you all the vegetables you need along with the smoky barbecue flavor you crave.

(Image credit: Christine Han)

What’s in the Bowl

Tips and shortcuts for a quicker dinner.

  • Vegetables: That broccoli slaw is a meal shortcut in a bag. (See more ideas here for using broccoli slaw.) Frozen corn kernels make the rest of the dish even quicker. Just chop a red pepper and a handful of kale and your chopping time is done.
  • Extras: A handful of almonds adds a bit more crunch, although these are certainly optional if you want to keep the calories down.
  • Meat: Any barbecue meat will do well here. Pick up a quarter-pound of pulled chicken or pork at the grocery store if you don’t have any socked away in the freezer.

Make the Meat

For the meat topper, pull out barbecue chicken or pork in sauce from the freezer, or buy it from the hot bar at the grocery store.

Upside-Down BBQ Chicken Bowl

Serves 4

Nutritional Info


For the bowl:

  • 9 to 12 ounces

    shredded broccoli slaw

  • 1/4 cup

    ranch dressing

  • 1 tablespoon

    olive oil

  • 1 1/2 cups

    fresh or frozen corn kernels

  • 1

    medium red bell pepper, trimmed and small dice

  • 2 cups

    finely shredded kale leaves

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2 cup

    roughly chopped or sliced almonds

For serving:

  • 2 cups

    shredded BBQ chicken, warmed

  • Garlic bread


  1. Place the broccoli slaw and ranch dressing in a large bowl and toss to combine; set aside.

  2. Heat the oil in a large frying pan over high heat until shimmering. Add the corn kernels and red pepper and sauté until browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the kale and cook just until wilted.

  3. Transfer the mixture to the bowl with the broccoli slaw. Season with salt and pepper, add the almonds, and toss to combine.

  4. To assemble the bowls, fill large bowls with the broccoli slaw mixture. Top with a scoop of BBQ chicken and serve with a slice of garlic bread.

Recipe Notes

Storage: The leftover bowl mixture can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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