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Italian style rice salad card
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5 from 4 votes

Italian rice salad recipe

This vegan rice salad is adapted from delicious Italian "insalata di riso" and it's the perfect summer dish, easy to prepare in advance and bring with you for a picnic outdoors or on the beach. Our rice salad is a fulfilling meal that is nutritious, light, crunchy, colorful, and refreshing. To make it extra healthy and fulfilling we use brown rice, colorful vegetables, and delicious smoked tofu.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Resting time (optional)1 hr
Total Time45 mins
Course: First Course, Main Course
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Plant-Based, Vegan
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 577kcal
Author: Nico


  • 2 cups whole grain rice (400 grams)
  • 0.5 cup chickpea (100 grams)
  • 3 oz smoked tofu (80 grams)
  • 1 medium zucchini (250 grams)
  • 8 leaves lettuce (50 grams)
  • 5 tbsp black olives (50 grams)
  • 8 cherry tomatoes (170 grams)
  • 1 yellow pepper (200 grams)
  • 2 carrots (100 grams)
  • 2.5 tbsp capers (30 grams)
  • salt & pepper


  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp pine nuts (optional) (10 grams)
  • parsley (optional)


Prepping the ingredients

  • In a large pot with lightly salted boiling water, boil the whole grain rice for as long as described on the package minus 2 minutes. This is important as the rice will keep cooking with its residual heat.
    boi the rice
  • Preheat the oven to 390˚F (200˚C). Slice the zucchini into thick slices, season them with salt and a tiny bit of olive oil, and roast them in the oven for about 20 minutes. At the same time, roast the whole yellow pepper in the oven for about 30 minutes. Then set aside to cool down.
    Prepping the zucchini and yellow pepper
  • Once the rice is cooked, drain it well, move it to a large oven dish and add 2 tbsp of lemon juice immediately while mixing it in with a spoon. This will help lower the temperature of the rice and add flavour. Set aside and keep stirring occasionally to help the rice cool down faster.
    cooling down the rice
  • On a non-stick pan warm up 1 tbsp of olive oil, then add drained chickpeas and the tofu chopped into small dice. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for two minutes. You can add some dried Italian herbs if you have them at hand. Set aside and let cool down.
    seasoning chickpea and tofu
  • Slice the olives into thin slices, cut the cherry tomatoes into 4 pieces each, cut the carrot into small dice, slice the lettuce into small pieces, rinse the capers under tap water. Add all in a large bowl and season with 1 tbsp of lemon juice, 1 tbsp of olive oil and salt. Mix well.
    cutting and seasoning all other vegetables
  • Once the zucchini and yellow pepper are cooked and cooled, peel and remove the seeds from the pepper then slice both pepper and zucchini into small dice of roughly the same size.
    dicing the zucchini and pepper

Building the rice salad

  • Build your rice salad following this order: 1) Add the rice to the bowl with the olives, tomatoes, carrot, capers and lettuce. Mix well with a wooden spoon. 2) Add chickpeas and tofu. Mix well with a wooden spoon. 3) Add the roasted zucchini and pepper. Mix gently from bottom to top with a wooden spoon.
    mixing all the ingredients together in bowl
  • Taste and add some more salt if needed. Also, if you wish you can add an extra tbsp or two of olive oil and lemon juice.
    adjusting for taste
  • Finally, let rest in the fridge for about one hour to let the flavours come together. Then take out of the fridge and let at room temperature for about 30 minutes before serving. Rice salad should be served cool but NOT cold.
    serving the rice salad
  • Optional: serve with a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley and some toasted pine nuts.
    topping with toasted pine nuts



If you don't have time to follow this detailed steps you can replace the zucchini with a half a cucumber, then cut all the ingredients as described above and mix everything at the same time with the cooked rice and season with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. The result will be still good, but not as perfect as the full procedure.
Total time is about 45  min as cooking time and prep time are overlapping for at least 15 minutes, for instance, while you bake the zucchini you can boil the rice and cut the other vegetables.


Calories: 577kcal | Carbohydrates: 89g | Protein: 13g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Dietary Fiber: 8g | Sugar: 5g | Calcium: 101mg | Iron: 4mg