Make this fresh, fun orzo salad recipe for your next picnic! With lots of fresh herbs, juicy mango, and crisp veggies, it's summer food at its finest.
A few weeks ago we spent some time in Chicago visiting my family. In between some pretty indulgent meals (we finally got to the Girl & the Goat!), I did most of the cooking. At each meal, my mom and my sister would ask: “So is this recipe on the site?”
And, um, well, no. They never are… mostly because I find it liberating to cook in someone else’s kitchen with no camera in sight. There are no notes to be taken, and certainly no recipes to follow. I love digging through the fridge to see what’s there and what ingredients could potentially go together. This colorful orzo salad was especially refreshing for the heat wave that happened to be going on. Crunchy cucumbers, red onions, fresh herbs, and sweet mango… summer was made for big juicy salads like this.
So mom, here’s the recipe! Or, a least, a similar version of it…
Orzo Salad Recipe Ingredients
I used these key ingredients to make this dish a fun, fresh summer salad:
- Whole wheat orzo is the base of this salad. If you can’t find whole wheat orzo, regular orzo will work in its place.
- Chickpeas add protein and hearty texture.
- Mango makes for sweet, juicy bites.
- Diced cucumber and red pepper add fresh, crunchy texture.
- Red onion and garlic fill out the flavor and add extra crunch.
- Fresh herbs and arugula bring unique summery flavors and add lots and lots of green.
- Pine nuts finish it with a toasty crunch.
- Tahini makes the creamy, dairy-free base of the dressing, while lemon juice & sherry vinegar brighten it up. I also add cumin and sweet paprika for a little spice.
Orzo Salad Recipe Variations
Like most salads, this one is flexible. The recipe listed is vegan, but I topped it with crumbled feta when I made it for my family. If you have other summer veggies on hand, try adding them. Halved cherry tomatoes or thinly sliced radishes would be great additions. Spinach or soft baby greens could sub in for the arugula, and toasted sliced almonds would be just as good as pine nuts. For a fun twist, roast your chickpeas to add extra crunch. Have fun using what you have on hand to make a salad you love!
Orzo Pasta Salad Serving Suggestions
It’s also plenty filling on it’s own – chickpeas and hearty whole wheat orzo make it a complete meal. It would be especially great for picnics and make-ahead lunches. (It’s one of those that actually tastes better the second day).
If you love this orzo salad recipe…
Rainbow Orzo Salad
- 1 red pepper, diced
- 1 ripe mango, cubed
- 1 small cucumber, chopped (1½ cups)
- ½ small red onion, diced (1/3 cup)
- 1 small garlic clove, minced
- 1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- ½ chopped fresh herbs (mint, basil, and/or cilantro)
- ½ cup uncooked orzo
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- 1 packed cup arugula
- ¼ cup toasted pine nuts
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon sherry or white wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
- 2 tablespoons water
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, more to taste
- freshly ground black pepper
- In a large bowl, combine the red pepper, mango, cucumber, red onion, garlic, chickpeas, herbs, salt, and several grinds of fresh black pepper.
- Cook the orzo according to the package directions or until al dente. Drain, gently rinse, toss with a little olive oil oil and set aside to cool to room temp before adding to the salad.
- Make the dressing. In a small bowl, stir together the tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, cumin, sweet paprika, salt and pepper. Add a few tablespoons of water until it's a drizzle-able consistency.
- Add the orzo, dressing, and arugula to the salad and toss to coat. Season to taste and top with toasted pine nuts.
Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 2 days. It's a great make-ahead salad for lunch the next day.