Rainbow Orzo Salad

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.

Orzo Salad

I first made this orzo salad recipe at my mom’s house. When I dug through her fridge, I found crunchy veggies, summer herbs, and a big, juicy mango that I absolutely had to use. I caught sight of a box of orzo pasta and a can of chickpeas in her pantry, and I immediately thought – orzo salad! It would be hearty enough to serve for dinner, but light and refreshing for the heat wave that was happening that night. I tossed together crunchy cucumbers, red onion, fresh herbs, and mango and dished it up for my family. While we ate, they kept asking for this orzo salad recipe. Well, here it is!

Chickpeas, mango, herbs, and pine nuts

Orzo Salad Recipe Ingredients

I use these key ingredients to fill this orzo salad recipe with fun flavor and texture:

  • Whole wheat orzo is the base of this salad. If you can’t find whole wheat orzo, regular orzo will work in its place.
  • Garbanzo beans add protein and hearty texture.
  • Mango adds a sweet, juicy contrast to the crisp veggies.
  • Diced cucumber and red bell pepper add fresh, crunchy texture.
  • Red onion and garlic fill out the flavor and add extra crunch.
  • Fresh herbs and arugula add fresh flavor and 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.

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Orzo

Orzo Salad Recipe Variations

Like most salads, this one is flexible, so have fun using what you have on hand to make a salad you love! Here are a few of my favorite variations:

  • Add a sprinkle of cheese. Crumbled feta cheese or goat cheese would be delicious.
  • Make it gluten-free. Substitute quinoa or brown rice for the orzo, or use your favorite gluten-free pasta.
  • Try another summer fruit. Diced peaches would be lovely instead of the mango.
  • Switch the greens. Use spinach or soft baby greens instead of arugula.
  • Use different veggies. Halved cherry tomatoes or thinly sliced radishes would both be great additions.
  • Swap the nuts. Toasted sliced almonds would be just as good as pine nuts.
  • Roast your chickpeas. For extra crunch!

Let me know what variations you try!

Vegan Orzo salad recipe

Orzo Pasta Salad Serving Suggestions

This orzo pasta salad recipe is pretty filling on its own – chickpeas and hearty whole wheat orzo make it a complete meal. It actually tastes better the second day, so pack it ahead for a picnic or a weekday lunch.

It’s also a fantastic summer side dish! We love to serve it with classic picnic fare like corn on the cob, grilled veggies, and any of these hearty vegetarian main dishes:

Enjoy!

Orzo pasta salad on a plate

More Favorite Summer Salads

If you love this orzo salad recipe, try one of these delicious summer salads next:

And if you have leftover orzo, make stuffed peppers!


5.0 from 11 reviews

Rainbow Orzo Salad

 
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This orzo salad is one of my go-to dishes to bring to a picnic. It's even better on the second day, and it's a wonderful combination of the best fresh veggies and herbs summer has to offer.
Author:
Recipe type: Salad, side dish, main dish
Serves: 4 as a side
Ingredients
  • 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
for the dressing:
  • 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
Instructions
  1. In a large bowl, combine the red pepper, mango, cucumber, red onion, garlic, chickpeas, herbs, salt, and several grinds of fresh black pepper.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Add the orzo, dressing, and arugula to the salad and toss to coat. Season to taste and top with toasted pine nuts.
Notes
Serve a slightly bigger group by doubling the amount of orzo (and make extra dressing). This salad is also delicious with crumbled feta cheese on top.

Store leftovers in the fridge for up to 2 days. It's a great make-ahead salad for lunch the next day.

 

plate: Anthropologie Old Havana Dinner Plate

58 comments

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Rate this recipe (after making it):  

  1. Lynn
    10.27.2020

    Made this for lunch today as my body was craving something healthy. I could not find whole wheat orzo so I used regular. I used frozen mango chunks as the mangos in the market were rock hard. Well, that was much easier! I roasted the chick peas and used basil instead of cilantro since the plant in my backyard was coming to an end. I used white wine vinegar in the dressing instead of sherry. Absolutely delicious and beautiful to look at! Thank you for the inspiration!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.