Mediterranean-Inspired Orzo Pasta Salad

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Large bowl filled with a vibrant Mediterranean-inspired orzo salad

Salads are great, but pasta salads? The greatest! This Mediterranean-inspired orzo pasta salad is the ultimate fresh and satisfying side dish. It’s herby, bright, colorful, filled with veggies, and ready in just 30 minutes!

It’s plant-based, optionally gluten-free, and quickly becoming our new favorite salad for BBQs, picnics, or served with grilled protein for a satisfying summer meal. Let us show you how it’s done!

Dried and fresh herbs, cherry tomatoes, olive oil, olives, bell pepper, red onion, lemon, garlic powder, maple syrup, artichoke hearts, nutritional yeast, and orzo

What is Orzo?

Orzo (also called risoni) is a type of pasta with a shape resembling a large grain of rice. It’s traditionally made from wheat flour, but it can be made from other types of grains and gluten-free versions are now available.

Orzo is said to have originated in Italy, but our search for its origin story didn’t reveal much else. It’s also a popular ingredient in Greek cuisine.

How to Make Orzo Pasta Salad

We start by cooking the orzo in a pot of salted water. Salting the water gives the orzo more flavor and is one of our favorite tricks for elevating pasta dishes. After cooking, we drain and rinse the orzo to cool it down, then toss it with a little olive oil to prevent it from sticking together.

Cooked orzo in a pot

Then we transition to the flavorful, lemony dressing. Olive oil is the thick and rich base, lemon juice and zest add big lemon flavor, and the savory notes come from garlic powder, dried Italian herbs, salt, pepper, and nutritional yeast. While maple syrup adds sweetness, a little reserved pasta water creates the right consistency to evenly coat the orzo.

Fresh veggies beside a bowl of dressing with olive oil, red onion, dried herbs, and other ingredients

Next come the vibrant, crunchy veggies and fresh parsley, plus marinated artichoke hearts and kalamata olives to add swoon-worthy saltiness to every bite!

Bowl of fresh tomatoes, bell pepper, parsley, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and orzo pasta

Lastly, stir in freshly chopped basil just before serving so it retains its vibrant green color.

Freshly chopped basil over orzo pasta salad

We hope you LOVE this orzo salad! It’s:

Fresh
Herby
Bright
Colorful
Satisfying
& SO delicious!

We love this salad as a make-ahead lunch, for bringing to picnics and BBQs, or for dinner with grilled protein. It would pair beautifully with our Crispy Baked Tofu with Italian Herbs or Easy Marinated Grilled Chicken (30 Minutes!).

Note: If using a rice-based gluten-free orzo, it’s best to make the salad just before serving because it will harden once it goes in the refrigerator.

More Summery Side Dishes

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo @minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Bowl of orzo pasta salad with a lemon slice

Mediterranean-Inspired Orzo Pasta Salad

Fresh, colorful Mediterranean-inspired Orzo Pasta Salad! Plant-based, gluten-free optional, and perfect for BBQs, picnics, and beyond. Just 30 minutes required!
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Overhead shot of a bowl of Mediterranean orzo pasta salad
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 6 (~1-cup servings)
Course Side, Side Dish
Cuisine Gluten-Free (optional), Mediterranean-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly No
Does it keep? 3-4 Days

Ingredients

PASTA SALAD

  • 8 oz. dry orzo (for gluten-free* we like DeLallo // 8 oz. or 227 g dry yields ~3 cups or 480 g cooked // or sub equivalent amount of farro, bulgar, or barley)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion (1/2 medium onion yields ~1/2 cup or 70 g)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped yellow bell pepper (1 medium pepper yields ~3/4 cup or 115 g // or sub red or orange)
  • 3/4 cup pitted kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup marinated artichoke hearts, roughly chopped (we used Native Forest)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley, large stems removed
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil, large stems removed

DRESSING

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil (plus more for tossing pasta)
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice (1 medium lemon yields ~2 Tbsp or 30 ml)
  • 2 tsp lemon zest (1 medium lemon yields ~2 tsp zest)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp dried Italian herb seasoning (or sub dried basil + oregano)
  • 1/2 tsp each sea salt and black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 2 Tbsp pasta water

Instructions

  • Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook according to the package instructions. Reserve 1/4 cup (60 ml) of pasta water, drain the pasta, rinse with cold water, and toss with a little olive oil. Set aside to cool.
  • While the water boils/pasta cooks, prep the pasta salad ingredients and make the dressing.
  • Add the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic powder, maple syrup, Italian herbs, salt, pepper, nutritional yeast, and pasta water (once it’s ready) to a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Add the finely chopped red onion and mix again.
  • Add the tomatoes, bell pepper, olives, artichoke hearts, parsley, and cooked orzo to the mixing bowl. Toss well to combine.
  • Mix in the basil just before serving. Taste and adjust as needed, adding more salt for overall flavor, lemon juice for brightness, or herbs for freshness. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Not freezer friendly.

Video

Notes

*If using rice-based gluten-free orzo, it’s best to make the salad just before serving because it will harden once it goes in the refrigerator.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with DeLallo gluten-free orzo.

Nutrition (1 of 6 servings)

Serving: 1 cup Calories: 253 Carbohydrates: 39.9 g Protein: 3.9 g Fat: 9.3 g Saturated Fat: 0.7 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5 g Monounsaturated Fat: 3.3 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 489 mg Potassium: 233 mg Fiber: 2.7 g Sugar: 4.6 g Vitamin A: 1238 IU Vitamin C: 35 mg Calcium: 32 mg Iron: 1 mg

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  1. Tracy says

    Delicious! I could not find gf orzo pasta anywhere, so I used chickpea pasta. Otherwise, followed recipe exactly, complete with fresh veggies and herbs from my garden. mmmmmm!!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Tracy! It was probably extra delicious with garden goodies 😀 Thank you for the lovely review! xo

  2. Terri says

    It’s always hard to find a gluten free, vegan dish that I can share with non-vegans. Everyone loved this dish and the directions were easy to follow. I appreciate that you also included the brands that you have used.
    Simply delicious!!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Thanks so much for the lovely review, Terri. We are so glad everyone enjoyed it! Next time, would you mind leaving a star rating with your review? It’s super helpful for us and other readers. Thanks so much! xo

  3. Lisa B says

    I will be making this salad on repeat all summer!!! So good!!
    I made it for a party on the beach using Tinkyada GF brown rice pasta shells as I was out of GF orzo. The shells didn’t harden and we enjoyed it just as much the next day. Thanks Dana. It’s a winner!

  4. Anne says

    I have this in my refrigerator waiting to take to a picnic tomorrow! I keep sneaking tastes, it’s so fresh and light, the perfect combination of ingredients. All I have to do tomorrow is pick the basil from my garden, chop it up and add it. I think this might be my “go to” dish when I need to bring something to a picnic. If I ever go to a picnic that might not have a lot of vegan food, I’ll throw in a can of chickpeas for extra protein so it can serve as my main meal. Another winner, again!

  5. Megan says

    So good! Made this tonight to go with our turkey burgers, it was an excellent side dish Great flavor, easy to follow recipe, no changes. Shared it with my family and plan to make again.

  6. Frau says

    Hi ‘m wondering if I could substitute the kalamata with green olives. Just don’t like kalamata!

  7. Shelly Schmautz says

    AMAZING SALAD. I followed the recipe as I love everything about it. Used Banza Rice made from Chickpea as it’s a FANTASTIC product. Turned out Perfect. This will be my new GOTO Salad. Easy to bring to any function. Make the day before. Cook day prior, refrigerate and add the Banza rice before serving.

  8. Cedella J says

    Wow!!! It’s her best recipe! I love kalamata olives, and the dressing is delicious with the nutritional yeast! Thanks so much!! I can’t stop eating it!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Aw, thank you so much for your kind words and lovely review, Cedella! We’re so thrilled you’re enjoying it! xo

  9. Ang says

    Total hit !!! … even with hubby who does not like pasta! … loved the Mediterranean infusion of flavours … very colouful and a lovely light dressing ( did not use the Nutritional Yeast component ).
    I did not have the fresh herbs so used frozen spinach balls for greens that I panfried together with the red onion … before adding into the Orzo. Thank you for another great salad!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoyed it, Ang! Thank you for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications! xo

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Donna, we’d suggest increasing the olives and tomatoes to account for the artichoke hearts, they’ll add a similar sweetness and “tang”. Let us know how it goes if you give it a try!