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!
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.
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
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.
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.
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).
Keep scrolling to the recipe card for the complete list of ingredients and recipe instructions.
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.
Meanwhile, prepare the remainder of the ingredients; finely dicing the red onion, chopping the tomatoes and herbs, and rinsing the chickpeas.
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).
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.
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:
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
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.