Pesto orzo salad is a light and refreshing take on the awesome TikTok orzo salad trend – with just 6 ingredients! It’s an orzo vegan salad that features chickpeas, a herby and fresh pesto as well as lots of vibrant salad veggies too. A hearty salad that will really hit the spot! You could even make it with wild garlic pesto, if it’s the right time of year.
🌟 Why this recipe works
- Minimal cooking – pesto orzo salad is really all about the prep of the fresh salad ingredients. The only thing that needs to be cooked is the orzo, and that just needs to be boiled for around 10 minutes in hot water! That means that this orzo vegan salad is great for meal prep too. Especially perfect for midweek lunches during spring and summer.
- Fresh, tasty ingredients – just like this easy Mexican salad, orzo chickpea salad really is a perfect summer salad, especially when using super fresh vegetables. It’s super refreshing and really fills a gap. Featuring cucumber, grape tomatoes and chickpeas. More summer salads to try include these delicious Indonesian delights: Warm Urab Sayur and the creamy Gado Gado.
- Popular for a reason – those TikTokers that made this orzo salad famous aren’t just all about fun dances and lip syncing! This salad really stands up to scrutiny, and it deserved all of the attention that it got. And now it’s had a makeover by becoming a pesto orzo salad, which we think is even better than the original! Plus, it only needs 6 ingredients, it easily scales and is great for BBQs and parties as it can be made ahead. It’s also versatile and can be made with some substitutions too, but we’ll get to that below. If you're planning a party, check out these vegan party food ideas.
📋 Ingredient Notes
- Orzo – so, it turns out, that even though orzo looks like a rice grain, it is indeed pasta! It’s made of flour like any other pasta. Also known as risoni, it’s usually vegan but it’s always worth checking the ingredients just to make sure.
- Pesto – you can use shop bought or homemade pesto for this pesto orzo salad. If buying in, just make sure the pesto is labelled as vegan or doesn’t contain any dairy. It’s really easy to make pesto. And if it’s around spring when you make this, you may even be able to pick some wild garlic and make the orzo vegan salad with wild garlic pesto!
- Chickpeas – we like the added bite and protein that chickpeas add to this dish, making it more filling and satisfying. Other beans would work great too, such as butter beans, black beans and cannellini beans.
Check out the recipe card at the bottom of this article for exact measurements to make this pesto orzo salad recipe.
🔪 Step-by-step Instructions
This is a step-by-step overview with photos for making orzo vegan salad with pesto. The full recipe, along with measurements and detailed instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of the page.
1. Cook the orzo according to package instructions. This should be around 10 minutes boiling in a pan of salted hot water.
2. Drain the orzo and then rinse with cold water. This will remove any excess starch, cool the orzo down and stop it from sticking to itself and clumping up.
3. While the orzo cooks, dice the red onion, cut the cherry tomatoes in half, slice the cucumber and then drain and rinse the chickpeas.
4. In a mixing bowl, stir together the orzo, all the salad veggies, the chickpeas and pesto until everything is well coated. Season to your liking with salt and pepper.
5. Garnish with fresh basil leaves and enjoy. You could also add shop-bought vegan parmesan or vegan feta for extra creaminess.
👩🍳 Expert Tips
- Rinse it – some people rinse orzo, some people don't. We rinse it for two reasons – it stops it clumping up and it cools it down ready for use straight away. Yes, it does rinse off the extra starch which helps sauces cling to it, but pesto is generally so thick and oily that it sticks nicely to the orzo – rinsed or not.
- Mix it up – we like the combo of vegetables and pesto in this recipe, but orzo pesto salad is a versatile one, so try out some different ingredients if you fancy! Peppers, vegan feta and olives are all great in an orzo vegan salad. You could also try different varieties of pesto – we've been making a lot of pea pesto recently and it's great in this orzo pesto salad too.
- Meal prepping – just like our tofu quinoa bowl, orzo chickpea salad is great for meal prepping. It keeps well in the fridge for up to 4 days in an airtight container. So that means it’s perfect for meal prepping for the week ahead. It also scales well generally so it’s great for parties, BBQs, picnics and potlucks. It’s also worthwhile mentioning that it’s best to mix the pesto through the orzo salad even if you’re making it ahead of time. It’s easier to mix through while the orzo is still kind of wet.
Yes, it's usually made with semolina or durum wheat and water like most dried pastas. If you’re not sure, just check the packet in the store before purchasing.
For this pesto orzo salad recipe, we say rinse it – it stops the orzo clumping up, cools the pasta down and the pesto still coats it well. That’s because it is thick and oily. If you're making an orzo dish with a runnier dressing, don't rinse it as the starch will help the sauce cling to the pasta.
Definitely – any type of pasta shape would work great in this dish, and the quantities can be switched like-for-like. It’s best to use pasta shapes rather than spaghetti or linguine types of pasta.
Orzo and risotto are not the same. Risotto is an Italian dish made with arborio rice and cooked with stock. Orzo is a type of small pasta shaped like rice. They can't be interchanged.
🍛 Serving suggestions
🥗 More recipes to try
If you're looking for more lunch ideas, check out these amazing vegan sandwiches, as well as these awesome salads below.
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Easy Pesto Orzo Salad
- 1 cup orzo
- 1 red onion ½ cup – diced
- 1.5 cup grape tomatoes 225g / 8oz – halved (or cherry tomatoes)
- 1 cucumber 250g / 9oz – chopped
- 250 g chickpeas – 400g/14oz can, drained
- 5 tbsp pesto
- Fresh basil
- Cook the orzo according to package instructions. This should be around 10 minutes boiling in a pan of salted hot water.1 cup orzo
- While the orzo cooks, dice the red onion, cut the cherry tomatoes in half, slice the cucumber and then drain and rinse the chickpeas.1 red onion, 1.5 cup grape tomatoes, 250 g chickpeas, 1 cucumber
- Drain the orzo and then rinse with cold water. This will remove any excess starch, cool the orzo down and stop it from sticking to itself and clumping up.
- In a mixing bowl, stir together the orzo, all the salad veggies, the chickpeas and pesto until everything is well coated. Season to your liking with salt and pepper.5 tbsp pesto
- Garnish with fresh basil leaves and enjoy. You could also add vegan parmesan or feta for extra creaminess.Fresh basil
It keeps in the fridge for upto 4 days in an airtight container, so it can also be made ahead.
Not suitable for freezing.
Make it gluten free by using gluten free orzo or pasta.