This orzo salad is made with fresh veggies and chickpeas all tossed in a zingy lemon vinaigrette. A healthy and refreshing pasta salad that will make everyone come back for seconds.
If you love Mediterranean flavors, then you will absolutely enjoy this easy-to-make orzo pasta salad.
Cook the orzo, mix in some chopped veggies, add chickpeas for protein, mix in the delicious Greek-style marinade, and your healthy pasta salad is ready.
Why this recipe works
- Takes less than 10 minutes to make. Considering the fact that orzo takes around 8 minutes to cook and you can prep the remaining ingredients while it cooks, this salad can be made in under 10 minutes (just like our rice salad!).
- A versatile side dish. This orzo salad goes well with a variety of main dishes, including chicken, fish, and steak. If you are not feeling too hungry, you can even eat this salad as your main dish.
- Customizable. Not only can you add your favorite ingredients to this salad but you can also make it gluten-free by using gluten-free orzo and vegan by leaving out the feta cheese.
Not all pasta salads are good. If you have tried pasta salads in the past and didn’t like them, we highly recommend you give this one a try as it will surely change your mind.
What is orzo salad made of?
Both the salad base and the dressing use simple pantry-staple ingredients that you’ll likely have on hand. Here is what you’ll need:
- Orzo. Choose orzo made from whole-grain flour as it is a lot healthier than orzo made from white flour.
- Cucumber. Chopped cucumber for freshness and some crunch.
- Tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes cut in half. You can use other tomato varieties too but make sure they are not too watery.
- Chickpeas. Canned or freshly cooked. Using canned chickpeas is a lot easier as you only need to drain them.
- Onion. I prefer using red onion as it has a milder flavor.
- Feta cheese. To crumble into the salad.
- Parsley. Finely chopped.
- Pesto. Homemade or store-bought. To change things up, we like to use a sun dried tomato pesto.
For the Greek dressing:
- Olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil is best for salad dressings.
- Lemon juice. To create a bright and citrusy flavor.
- Vinegar. To balance out the flavors of the dressing. Red wine vinegar will work well for this recipe.
- Oregano. The perfect dried herb to use in this Mediterranean-style pasta salad.
- Salt. To taste.
How to make orzo pasta salad
Considering the fact that orzo takes less than 10 minutes to cook, making this salad is not only easy but also quite quick. Ready to make some salad?
Step 1 – Cook the orzo
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the orzo until al dente. Then drain it and set it aside.
Step 2 – Make the dressing
In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, oregano, and salt. Mix until fully combined.
Step 3 – Combine all ingredients and serve
Stir pesto through the cooked orzo. Add the pasta to a large bowl and mix in the chickpeas, chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, and crumbled feta cheese. Add the salad dressing, mix well, and serve.
To keep the Greek/Mediterranean inspiration, here are some ideas to change up the flavor, without sacrificing taste:
- Add olives. Green or Kalamata olives added to this salad will enhance its Mediterranean feel and will make the overall taste of the salad brighter and richer.
- Chop in some bell peppers. Adding chopped bell peppers to this salad will not only make it more colorful and vibrant but will add a good amount of vitamins too.
- Sprinkle with pine nuts. Toasted pine nuts will add a nice nutty flavor to the salad and some heart-healthy fats.
- Swap chickpeas for beans. Chickpeas are a great source of protein. But not everyone likes them. If you don’t like chickpeas in your food, use white beans instead.
Tips to make the best recipe
- Rinse the orzo. When making salads, rinse the orzo after cooking it. Rinsing removes the starchy layer from pasta and helps the sauce stick to it a lot better.
- Use freshly made pesto. If you have time, whip up your own pesto. The flavor of homemade pesto is always a lot brighter and lighter.
- Use Greek salad dressing. Store-bought Greek salad dressing will work well for this recipe in case you want to spend less time cooking. A Greek dressing is typically a combination of olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, and oregano.
Store leftover orzo salad in the fridge in an airtight container. While this salad can be safely kept in the fridge for up to 4 days, it is best to eat it within 2 days while the veggies are fresh and crunchy.
More salad recipes to try
Frequently asked questions
No pasta is bad for you if consumed in moderation. But whole-grain pasta, including orzo, is a lot healthier. Whole-grain orzo is lower in calories, and higher in fiber, protein, and minerals.
Italians call orzo risoni. The word risoni translates into ‘big rice’. With this said, orzo is an Italian word too and means barley.
- 8 ounces orzo dry weight
- 1 small cucumber chopped
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 cup canned chickpeas drained
- 1/4 small red onion finely chopped
- 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled
- 1/3 cup parsley finely chopped
- 1/4 cup pesto
- Cook the orzo in a pot of boiling water until al dente. Drain and set aside.
- Whisk together the dressing ingredients until combined.
- Mix the pesto through the cooked orzo. Add it to a large bowl, along with the remaining salad ingredients, and mix well.
- Add the dressing and mix everything together until combined.
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