This pesto orzo salad is an easy lunch or side dish you can make in just 15 minutes. It combines delicious orzo pasta with a creamy pesto, sweet sundried tomatoes, peppery arugula, crunchy cucumbers, fresh lemon and more for a refreshing spring or summer meal.
If you love a refreshing pasta dish, this pesto orzo salad recipe is for you! It the perfect cold pasta salad for a spring or summer lunch or light dinner. It can also be a side dish at a picnic, summer BBQ, or gathering and tastes amazing on a hot summer day. I love to double this recipe and bring it to a summer party.
Can't get enough pasta? Try out these other delicious recipes!
For other refreshing vegan salad options, check out Top 20 Vegan Salads for Spring!
- Orzo: A short grain pasta that looks like rice. You can find a gluten-free version here.
- Sun-dried tomatoes: Dried or Oil-Packed. If you use dry make sure to rehydrate your sundried tomatoes by placing them in a bowl of warm water for 5 minutes.
- Pesto: I used store-bought pesto because it saves so much time (and it's not too $$ compared to buying your own basil, pine nuts, etc). If you are vegan, use a dairy-free version which is offered at most grocery stores now. Here is a common brand.
- Feta cheese: The addition of feta adds a tangy and salty flavor to this dish. If you are vegan use a df version such as Follow Your Heart or Violife
- Chickpeas: Adds some extra protein to our dish. Feel free to swap it out with another white bean.
- Cucumber: Adds a great crunch!
- Parsley: This herb adds so much flavor (and color) to this dish.
- Lemon: The addition of lemon creates a refreshing, summery flavor to this dish.
Substitutions & Variations
- Orzo: For a gluten-free orzo try this one here. You can also sub for another small pasta like rotini.
- Sundried tomatoes: If you can't find sundried tomatoes you can use regular sliced tomatoes for a refreshing dish.
- Parsley: Use fresh basil instead
- Feta: Try out fresh mozzarella cubes instead
- Sprinkle with a little parmesan cheese (dairy-free if vegan or try nutritional yeast for another cheesy flavor)
- Try out other veggie additions like juicy cherry tomatoes (or grape tomatoes), bell pepper, fresh spinach, diced red onion, kalamata olives, and more!
- Add some nuts. Sprinkle your final dish with some fresh pine nuts or crushed pistachios
- Add some protein. Consider adding in some cooked tofu or beans for more protein.
Orzo is a pasta that is in the shape of rice. It is also called "risoni". It is traditionally made from flour but occasionally can be made from whole wheat. You can find a gluten-free version here.
Orzo is made from flour and occasionally whole grain flour which is a healthier pasta option. It has twice the amount of protein as brown rice and a similar carbohydrate profile. For the healthiest option choose the whole grain version which has higher fiber and protein.
If you are serving in a cold salad it is best to rinse the orzo in cool water after cooking to remove the starch.
You can find sundried tomatoes in two forms: dried and oil-packed. Dried tomatoes have a similar consistency to dried fruit vs. oil-packed are softer and often infused in an oil with spices.
In this recipe you can use either type of sundried tomato. If you use dried tomatoes I recommend rehydrating them in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes. If you use the oil-packed, drain them of oil before using and save the oil for something else.
I personally think the oil sundried tomatoes have more flavor but they are higher in calories with the addition of the oil.
How to Make Pesto Orzo Salad
Step 1: Start by cooking your orzo in a large pot of salted water to package instructions until al dente. While your orzo is cooking, dice up your cucumbers into bite-sized pieces and parsley.
Step 3: Add pesto sauce and mix well.
Step 4: Taste and add salt and pepper if desired. Eat this pesto orzo pasta salad right away or store in the fridge for an hour until chilled.
Store pesto orzo salad in an airtight container for up 5 days.
I do not recommend freezing this recipe for later.
What can I serve with Pesto Orzo Salad?
This dish is great as a side to a southwest black bean burger, wrap, or vegan flatbread pizza. Serve it alongside these Mediterranean Cucumber Bites that are a refreshing app or snack you can make in 10 minutes!
- Rehydrate dry sundried tomatoes. If using dried sundried tomatoes, rehydrate them before adding to your orzo salad. Simply soak them in warm water for 5 minutes then drain and pat dry.
- Cook your orzo al dente. This helps so the pasta salad doesn't get mushy and retains its texture even when it sits for a few days.
- Rinse the orzo. After cooking the orzo, rinse it with cold water to stop the cooking process and remove excess starch. This helps to prevent clumping and ensures that the orzo stays separate and fluffy.
- Enjoy this dish either at room temperature or chilled!
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Pair this salad with...
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Pesto Orzo Salad with Sundried Tomatoes
- 6 oz orzo pasta =1 cup uncooked, can substitute for gluten-free pasta
- 2 heaping tbsp pesto dairy-free if vegan
- ½ cucumber diced
- ⅓ cup sun-dried tomatoes julienne, in oil or softened
- ⅓ cup feta dairy-free if vegan
- 1 cup arugula
- 1 cup chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 2-3 tablespoon parsley chopped
- ½ lemon juiced
- salt and pepper to taste
- Start by cooking your orzo to package instructions. Cook it until it is al dente and not overcooked.6 oz orzo pasta
- While your orzo is cooking, dice up your cucumbers and parsley.½ cucumber, 2-3 tablespoon parsley
- Once your orzo is done cooking, rinse it under cold water.
- In a large bowl combine cooked orzo with pesto, diced cucumber, sun-dried tomatoes, chickpeas, feta, parsley, arugula, and fresh lemon juice. Gently mix until combined.2 heaping tablespoon pesto, ⅓ cup sun-dried tomatoes, ⅓ cup feta, 1 cup arugula, 1 cup chickpeas, ½ lemon
- Taste and add salt and pepper if desired.salt and pepper to taste
- Eat right away or store in the fridge for an hour until chilled.
- You can substitute orzo with any other pasta of your choice, including gluten-free pasta.
- If you're vegan you can find find vegan pesto near the other pestos and tomato sauces at your grocery store.
- If using dried sundried tomatoes, rehydrate them before adding to your orzo salad. Simply soak them in warm water for 5 minutes then drain and pat dry.
- Enjoy this dish either at room temperature or chilled!