Orzo salad is a quick and easy solution for a tasty, satisfying, and healthy meal. You can make it with fresh vegetables, chickpeas, and a zesty mustard dressing.
It's an excellent recipe for meal prep, picnics, and summer cookouts, perfect as a main meal or side dish.
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Ingredients & Substitutions
Find the complete recipe with ingredients and instructions in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.
Substitute any other short pasta shape for orzo pasta, such as fusilli, rotini, penne, ditalini, farfalle, ziti, or macaroni.
Use gluten-free pasta to make this orzo pasta salad recipe without gluten.
Note that the name "orzo" for this pasta shape is used mainly in the United States, but it is generally not used in Europe and Italy, where this pasta shape is called "Risoni."
Orzo in Italian means "barley," as in the grain, and has nothing to do with pasta. Here's the link if you are looking for a barley salad.
Pick and choose a mix of your favorite veggies keeping trying to use different colors and textures. We recommend:
- Cherry tomatoes: substitute vine tomatoes, grape tomatoes, plum tomatoes, or roma tomatoes for cherry tomatoes. You can also use small tomatoes of different colors.
- Cucumber: You can use English cucumber, Persian, or Kirby cucumber. Substitute radishes, celery, or grated carrots for cucumber.
- Olives: You can use Kalamata olives, Gaeta olives, or simple black pitted olives.
- Red onion: Substitute shallot or spring onions for red onion for a milder and less sharp flavor.
- Chickpeas: You can use canned or dry chickpeas that you first soak in water for 12 hours and then cook for 2 hours or until tender.
In either case, drain and rinse the chickpeas before using. Chickpeas add protein and make the dish fulfilling.
Substitute black beans, cannellini beans, or lentils for chickpeas.
- Fresh parsley: You use fresh flat-leaf parsley or substitute other fresh herbs such as fresh basil leaves, fresh mint, dill, chives, or coriander for parsley. It's best if the herbs are fresh and not dried.
You can substitute arugula or baby spinach for fresh herbs.
Feta cheese (optional)
You can use regular feta or non-dairy feta. We recommend crumbling it before adding it in. Substitute with diced mozzarella.
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh lemon juice: substitute apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar.
- Lemon zest: omit if you don't have a lemon.
- Mustard: use yellow mustard or Dijon mustard.
- Maple syrup: substitute honey.
- Salt and black pepper: use sea salt or kosher salt.
- Garlic: optional. Substitute garlic powder.
How to make orzo salad
Marinate the chickpeas
Make the dressing in a medium bowl by whisking extra virgin olive oil, grated lemon zest, lemon juice, mustard, maple syrup, salt, and black pepper.
Add canned chickpeas (drained and rinsed), toss, and set aside for the time it takes to cook the pasta and cut the veggies.
Cook the orzo pasta
Boil the orzo pasta in a large pot with salted boiling water per package instructions.
When the pasta is al dente, drain and rinse it under cold water for 15 seconds to prevent it from overcooking.
Mix in the veggies
To a large bowl, add the cooked orzo pasta, the chickpeas with the dressing, quartered cherry tomatoes, diced cucumber, sliced olives, chopped red onion, and chopped parsley.
Toss, then taste and adjust for salt before serving.
Greek orzo pasta salad
Add crumbled feta (or non-dairy feta) and a pinch of dried oregano to give this orzo salad a Mediterranean spin.
This Greek orzo pasta salad is tangy, cheesy, and delicious, and we think you'll love it.
You can serve it with a topping or with a second dressing. Yep, sometimes we like adding a second dressing to make the recipe tastier.
Make ahead: you can make orzo salad up to a day in advance. We advise against making it earlier than that because the veggies lose their crunch.
Refrigerator: keep leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Freezer: we don't recommend freezing orzo pasta salad.
More pasta salad recipes
Get more easy and fresh pasta salad ideas here:
- Creamy pasta salad (bell pepper, pasta, mayonnaise, yogurt, cucumber, corn, etc.)
- Macaroni salad (mayonnaise, yogurt, peas, red bell pepper, carrots, etc.)
- Chickpea pasta salad (cherry tomato, cucumber, chickpeas, parsley, olive oil, etc.)
- Vegan pasta salad (olives, bowtie pasta, basil, white beans, corn, cucumber, etc.)
More summer salad ideas
If you love light and refreshing summer salads, get healthy inspiration here:
- Rice salad (olives, cherry tomato, pickled cucumber, chickpeas, parsley, lemon, etc.)
- Farro salad (farro, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, lemon, olive oil, olives, etc.)
- Couscous salad (couscous, bell pepper, cucumber, olives, lemon, olive oil, etc.)
- Quinoa salad (chickpeas, quinoa, olives, red onion, parsley, mustard, etc.)
- Chickpea salad (maple syrup, mustard, chickpeas, cucumber, corn, etc.)
For many more salad ideas, check out our salads category page.
For the salad
- 1½ cups orzo pasta or ½ pound
- 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas or 1½ cups cooked chickpeas
- 1½ cups cherry tomatoes quartered
- 1½ cups cucumber diced
- ½ cup olives sliced
- ⅓ cup red onion chopped
- ⅓ cup parsley chopped
- 2 ounces feta or non-dairy feta
For the dressing
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice + the zest of ½ lemon
- 1 tablespoon mustard
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
MARINATE THE CHICKPEAS
- In a medium bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients: 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon mustard, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper.Add 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas (drained and rinsed), toss, and set aside for 10 minutes.
COOK THE ORZO PASTA
- Cook 1½ cups orzo pasta in a large pot of salted boiling water per package instructions.When the pasta is al dente, drain and rinse it under cold water for 15 seconds to prevent it from overcooking.
MIX IN THE VEGGIES
- To a large bowl, add the cooked orzo pasta, the chickpeas with the dressing, 1½ cups cherry tomatoes (quartered), 1½ cups cucumber (diced), ½ cup olives (sliced), ⅓ cup red onion (chopped), and ⅓ cup parsley (chopped).
- Toss, then taste and adjust for salt before serving.
- Optionally you can crumble in 2 ounces feta and a pinch of dried oregano.