Sticky Chicken Salad

published Feb 15, 2024
Salad Person
Sticky Chicken Salad Recipe

The best way to eat Buffalo glazed chicken? On this salad.


Prep15 minutes

Cook15 minutes to 18 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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An overhead view of sticky chicken salad on a white plate on a green background with a spoon digging in.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

When I was growing up, my family used to go to this neighborhood icehouse (an indoor-outdoor dive bar and restaurant popular in Texas) and my go-to order was a salad they called “chicken on the green.” It had a lot going on, but the key components were fried popcorn chicken and some crunchy vegetables over lettuce with cheddar cheese. It was so good that I was ordering it by choice — as a child. 

Perhaps that’s why when I saw Tiktok after Tiktok about Winger’s copycat sticky (chicken) finger salad, it really struck a chord with me. The salad is very similar to my childhood favorite, but topped with saucy chopped chicken tenders. I just had to create my own version.

In this recipe, I toss store-bought frozen chicken tenders in Buffalo wing sauce and make my own semi-homemade ranch dressing. Then I top the whole thing with a shower of crushed barbecue potato chips. You could easily scale this up to feed a crowd, or halve it if it’s just for you. Whoever you make this salad for will leave the kitchen table happy. 

Why You’ll Love It

  • Crispy crushed barbecue potato chips and chopped cheddar cheese take the flavor — and texture — to the next level.
  • Using store-bought frozen chicken tenders makes it easy to pull this salad together. Plus, everything else comes together quickly while the chicken’s in the oven.

Key Ingredients in Sticky Chicken Salad

  • Chicken tenders. Use whatever brand of frozen chicken tenders, frozen chicken nuggets, or popcorn chicken you like. You could even go with a meatless variety to make this salad vegetarian.
  • Wing sauce. Toss the chicken in an easy Buffalo wing sauce made from hot sauce and brown sugar.
  • Ranch dressing. This semi-homemade version with yogurt is a little lighter and tangier than store-bought ranch.
  • Lettuce. Extra-crunchy iceberg or romaine are the best contrast to fried chicken tenders.
  • Cheddar. Chopped cheddar cheese adds more texture and flavor than pre-shredded.
  • Barbecue chips. Crushed chips make a flavorful, easy alternative to croutons.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

The 3 C’s Of Delicious Salads

One way to ensure you make satisfying salads like this one is through textural variety. As a starting point to any great salad, keep the three C’s in mind: crispy, crunchy, and chewy. You’ll want to add one from each category. Here are some examples.

  • Crispy. Breaded chicken, roasted potatoes, fried shallots, chips, and bacon.
  • Crunchy. Radishes, cucumbers, roasted nuts, pickled vegetables, and croutons.
  • Chewy. Dried fruit, cheddar cheese, cooked grains, noodles, and edamame.

Helpful Swaps

Feel free to customize this salad to your liking. 

  • Use your fave store-bought ranch instead of homemade. Or, try honey mustard or blue cheese dressing instead.
  • Toss the chicken in store-bought barbecue sauce if Buffalo sauce isn’t your thing.
  • Swap the tomatoes for julienned celery to give it more of a wing basket vibe.
  • Chopped crispy bacon would be a delicious addition.
  • You can use grilled chicken or sautéed shrimp in place of chicken tenders.
  • Coarsely chop your favorite variety of pickles and sprinkle them in. I love garlic dill pickles or bread and butter ones in this salad. You can also stir some of the brine into the dressing for an extra pickle-y kick.

Salad Person is my column dedicated to making better, more delicious salads at home that you’re actually excited to eat. Each month, I’ll provide tips and techniques so you can enjoy them as much as I do — which is a lot! Follow along and find the recipes here.

Sticky Chicken Salad Recipe

The best way to eat Buffalo glazed chicken? On this salad.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 15 minutes to 18 minutes

Serves 2

Nutritional Info


For the chicken and Buffalo glaze:

  • 8 ounces

    frozen breaded chicken tenders or nuggets (4 to 8 tenders or 8 to 12 nuggets)

  • 1/2 cup

    packed light or dark brown sugar

  • 1/4 cup

    Frank’s RedHot Original or Crystal hot sauce

  • 2 tablespoons


  • 1 tablespoon

    unsalted butter

For the salad:

  • 1/3 cup

    plain Greek yogurt

  • 2 tablespoons

    mayonnaise (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon

    ranch seasoning powder or ranch spice mix

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/2

    medium iceberg lettuce head or 1 medium romaine lettuce heart

  • 1/2 cup

    cherry or grape tomatoes

  • 1/2

    small red onion

  • 1

    medium carrot

  • 2 ounces

    unshredded sharp or medium cheddar cheese (roughly 2x1-inch piece)

  • 1 1/2 cups

    barbecue kettle-style potato chips

  • 2

    sprigs fresh dill (optional)


  1. Cook 8 ounces frozen chicken tenders or nuggets according to package directions. Meanwhile, prepare the Buffalo sauce, salad components, and dressing.

  2. Place 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/4 cup Frank’s RedHot Original or Crystal hot sauce, 2 tablespoons water, and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until bubbling and the sugar is dissolved, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl.

  3. Place 1/3 cup Greek yogurt, 2 tablespoons mayonnaise if using, and 1 tablespoon ranch seasoning powder in a small bowl and stir to combine. Stir in water 1 tablespoon at a time as needed until the dressing reaches a pourable consistency. Taste and season with kosher salt and black pepper as needed.

  4. Core and cut 1/2 medium iceberg lettuce head or 1 medium romaine heart crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick strips (about 4 cups). Halve 1/2 cup cherry or grape tomatoes. Thinly slice 1/2 small red onion (about 1/4 cup). Peel 1 medium carrot, then shave into ribbons using a vegetable peeler (about 1 cup); if the ribbons are long, cut in half crosswise.

  5. Finely dice 2 ounces sharp or medium cheddar cheese (about 1/2 cup). Place 1 1/2 cups barbecue kettle-style chips in a resealable plastic bag, then crush into bite-size pieces with your hands or a rolling pin.

  6. When the chicken tenders or nuggets are ready, add to the Buffalo sauce and toss to coat. Transfer to a clean cutting board and cut into bite-size pieces. (Alternatively, use kitchen shears to cut the chicken directly in the bowl.)

  7. Place the lettuce and half of the dressing in a large, preferably wide, serving bowl and toss to coat. Top with the carrots, red onions, and tomatoes. Drizzle with more dressing as desired. Top with the chicken, cheese, and chips. Pick the fronds from 2 fresh dill sprigs and scatter over the salad if desired.

Recipe Notes

Substitutions: You can substitute all of the ingredients in the Buffalo glaze for 3/4 cup warmed barbecue sauce. You can substitute all of the ingredients in the dressing for about 1/2 cup store-bought ranch dressing.

Make ahead: The ranch dressing can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. All the salad components except the barbecue chips can be prepped ahead and refrigerated, undressed, in an airtight container up to 1 day ahead. Dress the salad and add the barbecue chips before serving.