Pesto Orzo Salad – delicious cold Mediterranean salad with orzo, tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, chickpeas, olives and feta blended with herby basil pesto.
Summer vegetables are prepped and sliced in the time it takes to cook the orzo, then tossed with chickpeas, salty olives and basil pesto – a delicious herby sauce.
Packed with fresh flavors, it’s the ideal make-ahead salad perfect for parties, potlucks and summer barbecues.
This easy side dish becomes a complete meal simply by adding chicken (shredded rotisserie works great!), salmon or shrimp.
STORE BOUGHT OR HOMEMADE PESTO?
You can buy a jar of pesto from the pasta aisle of most grocery stores but if you’d like to make your own pesto sauce click here for my easy, pesto recipe that whips up in 5 minutes.
Pesto ingredients include fresh basil, olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, parmesan cheese and pine nuts (other nuts can be substituted or left out completely) blended in a food processor until smooth.
WHAT’S IN PESTO ORZO SALAD?
- cherry tomatoes (can sub grape tomatoes)
- bell peppers (any color)
- mini cucumbers
- red onion
- canned chickpeas
- crumbled feta cheese
- kalamata olives sliced (or a mixture of olives)
- fresh dil
- basil pesto (homemade or store bought)
- lemon juice and zest
- salt and pepper
HOW TO MAKE PESTO ORZO SALAD:
Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat then add a big pinch of salt to it. Once the water is boiling, add the orzo, reduce to medium heat and cook according to package directions for al dente.
Orzo usually cooks in 8-10 minutes, but cooking time varies. While the orzo cooks, prep and chop the vegetables.
Once the orzo is cooked, drain well using a stainer then add to a large bowl to let it cool.
Blend in the bell peppers, cucumber, red onion, feta, olives, dill, lemon juice and lemon zest (lemon brightens and enhances all the flavors).
Next stir in the pesto until combined then add the chickpeas and halved tomatoes giving it a gentle stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Pesto Orzo Salad can be eaten right away at room temperature or refrigerate covered in plastic wrap or an airtight container and serve chilled.
VARIATIONS TO THE RECIPE:
To switch up this recipe next time check out the suggestions below:
- Add marinated artichokes
- Blend in arugula or fresh spinach
- In place of feta, try goat cheese
- For a Caprese Orzo Salad substitute mozzarella pearls for feta and chopped basil leaves in place of dill.
LOOKING FOR MORE easy dinner recipes with orzo?
Shrimp Scampi with Orzo – shrimp and orzo in a delicious garlicky-butter, white wine sauce with bursts of lemon and a hint of red pepper flakes. Delicious 30 minute meal.
Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup – hearty soup if chicken, orzo, carrots, spinach and fresh herbs in a light, lemony broth. Comes together in under 30 minutes.
Greek Stuffed Peppers – bell peppers stuffed with seasoned ground turkey, orzo, feta cheese, spinach and chickpeas baked with a Greek-style tomato-herb sauce.
Full details for this Pesto Orzo Pasta Salad are in the printable recipe card below. If you tried this recipe or any other on the blog then I hope you’ll leave a comment and some stars!
Pesto Orzo Salad
- 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
- 2 cups bell peppers any color - diced
- 3-4 mini cucumbers diced (can sub 1 English cucumber)
- 1/4 cup red onion thinly sliced
- 15 ounce can chickpeas drained, rinsed and dried well
- 1/2 cup feta cheese crumbled or more to taste
- 1/3 cup kalamata olives sliced
- 2 tablespoons fresh dill finely chopped
- 1/2 small lemon juice and zest
- 1 1/2 to 2 cups cherry tomatoes halved (can sub grape tomatoes)
- 1/2 cup basil pesto or to taste
- salt and pepper to taste
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil then add a big pinch of salt to it. Once the water is boiling, add the orzo and cook according to package directions for al dente (usually 8-10 minutes).
- While the orzo cooks, prep and chop the vegetables. Drain, rinse and dry the chickpeas.
- Once the orzo is cooked, drain well using a stainer then add to a large bowl to let it cool.
- Blend in the bell peppers, cucumber, red onion, feta, olives, dill, lemon juice and lemon zest.
- Stir in the pesto until combined then add the chickpeas and halved tomatoes giving it a gentle stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- This salad can be enjoyed at room temperature or chilled.