Orzo Chickpea Salad

BY : PUBLISHED : September 15th, 2021 UPDATED: September 17th, 2021

This simple, flavorful orzo chickpea salad is packed with flavor and just 6 ingredients (plus salt and pepper). With a combination of chickpeas, tomatoes, red onion, and a tangy red wine vinegar dressing, this versatile Mediterranean orzo salad is a refreshing, summery appetizer or side salad – perfect for any potluck, BBQ, picnic, or garden party!

finished orzo chickpea salad in a white bowl with ingredients in a white background

Light and Summery Mediterranean Orzo Chickpea Salad

While summer is creeping to a close, we’re not quite there yet, and it looks like there may still be some grilling days left – meaning yummy vegan burgers, grilled potatoes and veggies, and dishes like this flavorful orzo chickpea salad! 

Like any pasta salad, this Mediterranean orzo pasta salad is quick to prepare (in under 15 minutes!), requires just a few simple ingredients, and packs in a ton of flavor. Better yet, it’s light, vibrant, and healthy – making it a perfect summer side (or main). However, you can also easily swap out the veggies based on the season or even use frozen veggies (like peas and corn) for a year-round, budget-friendly main or side that won’t weigh you down. 

What is Orzo?

While it may look like rice, orzo is a type of pasta with a slightly nutty flavor and firm, slightly chewy texture. However, unlike ‘regular’ pasta, orzo is often made with semolina flour (which contains more protein and fiber than regular white flour). There are gluten-free versions, too. 

We’ve actually only used orzo for ‘a warming mushroom orzo soup on PBOAB previously; however, it also makes for a great addition to summer dishes; it’s light, flavorful, and relatively low-budget. When combined with fresh veggies, protein-dense chickpeas, and fresh herbs (garden-grown to save even more money!), you have a crowd-pleasing dish that vegans and non-vegans alike will enjoy. 

Best of all, this Mediterranean orzo salad recipe can be prepared in advance, travels well, and is super versatile. And, if you’re looking for more summer pasta salad recipes, you might enjoy this perfect pasta salad, arugula pesto couscous, pearl couscous salad, summer garden pasta, or any of these other pasta salad recipes!

The Ingredients and Substitutes

    • Orzo: Use orzo OR any small pasta shapes/giant couscous (Israel couscous). 
    • Water: Use salted water OR vegetable stock to cook the orzo.
    • Chickpeas: Use one cup of canned or pre-cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Alternatively, any white bean (like Northern or Butter beans). 
    • Vegetables: We’ve used a simple combination of red onion and cherry tomatoes which are cost-efficient and packed with flavor. 
    • Red wine vinegar: White wine vinegar would also work or possibly rice vinegar (which is slightly sweet). 
    • Herbs: We used a combination of fresh basil and mint leaves. However, a combination of parsley and basil also works well. Feel free to experiment with other combos and herbs like dill, scallions, etc.
    • Salt & Pepper

uncooked orzo chickpea salad ingredients measured out against a white surface

The Add-ins and Variations:

We’ve kept the vegetables above at a minimum for this orzo chickpea salad to keep the recipe low-budget (while still delicious). However, depending on what you have available, you could add:

  • Other vegetables: Swap out the veggies seasonally: spinach, kale, cucumber, peppers, olives, corn, peas, sugar snap peas, or even leftover roasted/grilled veggies like cauliflower, broccoli, etc. 
  • Mediterranean orzo salad: I already consider this orzo chickpea salad Mediterranean-inspired. However, push it further with the addition of olives, bell peppers (raw or roasted), and possibly some vegan feta cheese. 
  • Lemon: Serve the orzo pasta salad with lemon slices and/or stir in some lemon zest for extra ‘bright’ flavor. 
  • Gluten-free: Use gluten-free orzo or small pasta shapes. 
  • Lower Carb: You could use cauliflower rice in place of the orzo. 
  • Spice: Sprinkle over some red pepper flakes for a kick of heat. 
  • Nuts: For a bit of crunch, add in some nuts or seeds; sunflower seeds, pepitas, almonds, etc. 
  • Tofu: You can use tofu for protein instead of (or alongside) the chickpeas. I recommend using Mediterranean marinated tofu.

Alternative dressings: 

  • Lemon dressing: Combine 4tbsp olive oil and 3tbsp lemon juice (or a combo of red wine vinegar and lemon juice), optionally with some minced garlic, ½ tsp of dried herbs (like basil, oregano, mint, etc. or a combo). Remember to add salt and pepper to taste. You can also add a little sweetener if preferred to round out the flavor of the lemon orzo salad if needed (like maple/agave or what you have available). 
  • Pesto: Pesto is one of our favorite dressings for summer grain dishes and pasta salads- especially since there are many options.  Avocado pestovegan walnut pestoraw kale pestosunflower seed pesto, arugula pesto, etc. 

finished orzo chickpea salad in a white bowl with ingredients in a white background

How to Make Orzo Chickpea Salad?

Keep scrolling to the recipe card for the complete list of ingredients and recipe instructions. 

  1. First, fill a large pot with four cups of water (salt the water, or even use vegetable stock) and bring to a boil. Then, carefully stir in the orzo, cover, and cook until al dente (around 7 minutes). Stir occasionally to avoid sticking. 
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the remainder of the ingredients; finely dicing the red onion, chopping the tomatoes and herbs, and rinsing the chickpeas. 
  3. When the orzo is ready, drain it and transfer it to a large bowl, tossing it lightly to begin to cool it down (10 minutes cooling time works well). 
  4. Then, mix in all the vegetables and herbs. Lastly, add the red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste (a little at a time). 

Optionally, allow it to rest and ‘marinate’ for 30 minutes before serving for a more developed flavor. Enjoy the chickpea orzo salad at room temperature for the best results. Adding the herbs right before serving can help to ensure they don’t wilt too early. 

How to Make-Ahead and Store?

As this orzo pasta salad is meant to be consumed at room temperature or chilled, you can prepare the cooked orzo in advance and store it in the fridge for 2-3 days. Then, when ready to serve, simply add in the remaining ingredients. 

Once prepared, enjoy the orzo chickpea salad within 2-4 days for the best flavor, storing leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge. Note that the herbs will wilt during this time, so you may want to add some extra before serving. You may also like an extra splash of vinegar to ‘brighten’ the flavors again. 

Make sure to toss the salad well, as the tomatoes will release juices for more of a fresh ‘marinade’ as it sits. I don’t recommend freezing the orzo salad due to its impact on the fresh vegetables. 

finished orzo chickpea salad in a white bowl with ingredients in a white background

How To Serve Mediterranean Orzo Salad?

This chickpea orzo salad is balanced enough to be enjoyed as a main meal. However, it also makes for a great side served with the protein of your choice, like tofu skewers or grilled tofu steaks, burgers, and other vegan grill-season classics. 

You can also serve it alongside other summer-ready sides like:

And more. Let us know in the comments how you’d enjoy this summer orzo pasta salad!

Top Recipe Tips and FAQs

  • To reduce raw onion ‘bite’: Soak the chopped onions in a bowl of cold water/ice water for 10 minutes before draining, patting dry, and adding to the orzo pasta salad. 
  • Don’t rinse the orzo: After cooking the orzo, don’t rinse it. The leftover starch will help the dressing adhere better.
  • To sweeten: If you find the dish a little too tart, add a little of your favorite sweetener (maple, agave, etc.) to taste. 
  • Allow the orzo to cool: If you add the dressing to the orzo salad while it’s too warm, it can absorb faster and yield a dry dish. More so, the heat will wilt your herbs a lot. 
  • Can I use dried herbs instead of fresh? Yes, though fresh is best for this simple orzo pasta salad. When using dried, adjust the amount accordingly.  
  • If you accidentally add too much vinegar: You can add a small pinch of baking soda to mellow the harsh acidic flavor. 

finished orzo chickpea salad in a white bowl with ingredients in a white background

More Summery Vegan Chickpea Recipe

You might also enjoy browsing through this collection of 59 Ways to Use a Can of Beans.

Photos by Alfonso Revilla

finished orzo chickpea salad in a white bowl with ingredients in a white background

Orzo Chickpea Salad

Shannon
This refreshing, light, and summery side salad is the perfect appetizer to compliment any meal! This pasta salad packs a ton of delicious flavor that everyone will enjoy
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Dinner, Lunch
Cuisine Italian
Servings 4 servings
Calories 298 kcal
METHOD Stovetop
DIET Vegan

Ingredients
  

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups orzo
  • 1 cup garbanzo beans, rinsed (canned or pre-cooked from scratch)
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup red onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil and mint leaves, chopped
  • 1/2-3/4 cups red wine vinaigrette
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions
 

  • Fill a large pot with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Stir in the orzo and cover until it is fully cooked but al dente, about 7 minutes. Be sure to stir while it's cooking so that it doesn't stick together.
  • Drain the water from the orzo and transfer it to a large bowl. Toss, and set aside until the orzo has begun to cool.
  • Toss in the chopped onion and herbs, cherry tomatoes, and garbanzo beans. Add red wine vinaigrette dressing little by little, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve at room temperature, or chill in the fridge beforehand. It is best to add your herbs at the time of serving so that they do not wilt.

Nutrition

Calories: 298kcalCarbohydrates: 58gProtein: 12gFat: 2gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gSodium: 14mgPotassium: 415mgFiber: 6gSugar: 6gVitamin A: 364IUVitamin C: 16mgCalcium: 48mgIron: 2mg
Keyword chickpeas, light lunch, orzo, pasta, pasta salad, salad, summer, tomatoes, vegan, vegetarian
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