This pesto orzo salad recipe with red onion and cherry tomatoes is herby, creamy, delicious, refreshing, and perfect for a summer cookout.
This easy orzo salad is made with orzo, red onion, juicy cherry tomatoes, English cucumber, chickpeas, and store-bought pesto or homemade pesto and garnished with fresh basil (optional).
Enjoy this orzo pasta salad with chickpeas as an easy side dish or a main dish for an easy weeknight meal. To add more protein, top with grilled chicken, shrimp, or salmon for a fresh and flavorful meal.
This pesto orzo recipe can be served warm or chilled. Cold pasta salad is the perfect potluck or summer BBQ side dish. Enjoy it on Memorial Day, the 4th of July, Labor Day, or any day in between.
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To make your own pesto sauce, try a classic basil pesto.
- Quick recipe: This recipe only takes 15 minutes to make with a handful of ingredients.
- Fresh flavors: Cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, pesto, and fresh basil.
- Vegetarian: This recipe is vegetarian and is easily made vegan with dairy-free pesto.
This recipe calls for seven simple ingredients.
- red onion
- cherry tomatoes
- English cucumber
- fresh basil (optional)
See the recipe card for quantities.
Cook the orzo in a large pot of water according to the package instructions. The orzo should be al dente.
Top tip: Be sure to salt the water before cooking the pasta.
After cooking, drain the orzo, rinse it, and set it aside.
In a large bowl, mix together the orzo and the remaining ingredients until well combined and coated in the pesto.
Garnish with fresh basil leaves (optional) and enjoy. Other topping ideas include shredded parmesan, feta, or goat cheese.
Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
- Pasta: Orzo can be replaced by other small pasta shapes including mini farfalle, macaroni elbows, or pastini.
- Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes can be replaced by other fresh tomatoes, including baby plum tomatoes and grape tomatoes. Try mixing red, orange, and golden tomatoes.
- Beans: Chickpeas can be switched out for mild white beans such as navy beans or cannellini beans.
- Lemon: Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a dash of lemon zest for a bright flavor.
- Greens: Add chopped fresh baby spinach to the orzo as it cools. The heat will make the spinach wilt.
- Cheese: Add some shredded parmesan cheese, mozzarella pearls (for a caprese orzo salad), or feta cheese (for a Mediterranean orzo salad).
- Vegan: This pesto orzo pasta recipe can easily be made vegan by using dairy-free/vegan pesto. Traditionally, pesto contains parmesan cheese, but there are many vegan options available.
- Gluten-free: This can be made gluten-free by using gluten-free orzo pasta.
Pesto orzo salad can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 3 days. Wait to add the fresh basil until ready to serve. Freezing is not recommended.
Frequently asked questions
Pesto is a sauce traditionally made with basil leaves, pine nuts, garlic, parmesan or pecorino cheese, and olive oil.
No, orzo is not a type of rice. Orzo is a type of pasta.
Pesto Orzo Salad
- 1 cup orzo uncooked
- ½ cup red onion diced
- 1-½ cup cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 medium English cucumber diced
- 15 oz chickpeas drained and rinsed
- 5 tablespoons pesto
- Fresh basil to garnish
- Cook the orzo according to the package instructions. Be sure to salt the water. Drain, rinse, and set aside.
- In a large bowl, mix together the cooked orzo and the remaining ingredients until well combined and coated in the pesto.
- Garnish with fresh basil leaves and enjoy. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.
Pasta salad can sit out for up to two hours at room temperature, but if the temperature is above 90°F, food should not be left out for more than 1 hour. Read more food safety guidelines at USDA.gov.