Get your taste buds ready with a flavor burst with this quick, easy and delicious, Mediterranean Orzo Pesto Salad! Made with plump, juicy cherry tomatoes, briny black olives, tender orzo pasta, red oinons, feta cheese, cucumber and pesto, this salad is always a crowd-pleaser!
Pesto orzo salad with feta
One of the quickest and easiest salad recipes to make, this salad is always a favorite at potlucks. It's also delicious with chopped grilled chicken neatly placed on top of the salad for added protein. And, whether you're making it with store-bought pesto or have the time and ingredients to make the pesto homemade, it turns out perfectly every time!
Like my pesto chicken pasta salad and caprese pesto pasta salad, pesto is one of the main ingredients for the dressing. Making homemade pesto is really easy and although I've used store-bought in this salad, when I have fresh basil, I always opt for the homemade version. If you haven't tried making homemade pesto before, it's super easy. Try it next time you have fresh basil in abundance!
Why you'll love this salad
- this mediterranean orzo pesto salad is the perfect combination of fresh and savory flavors.
- perfect for a summer picnic, potluck or as a quick and easy weeknight dinner. It's a crowd-pleaser that's always sure to impress family and friends. Print the recipe because they will be asking for it!
- quick and easy to make and it's versatile and can be adapted to the ingredients that you have on hand.
What ingredients go in orzo pesto salad?
- English cucumber
- Grape tomatoes (cherry tomatoes) - these small, bite-sized tomatoes are ideal for pasta salads, or you can use any type of tomatoe, chopped into bite-sized pieces.
- Red onion
- Feta Cheese- if you're out of feta cheese or looking for a substitute, check out our list of the best substitutes for feta cheese.
- Store-bought or homemade pesto - either one will work perfectly, depending what you have on hand.
- Black olives - our favorite is black kalamata olives and you can also substitute green olives.
- Fresh basil leaves
What is orzo?
Orzo is a type of pasta that is shaped like rice grains. It can typically be found in the pasta section in the grocery store.
Step by step instructions
You can find a full recipe card with instructions at the bottom of this page. I've included some step by step photos with basic instructions below.
How to cook orzo
In a large pot of boiling water, cook orzo according ot package directions, until al dente.
Drain the cooked pasta in a sieve and rinse under cold water. Transfer to a large bowl.
Rinsing the pasta in cold water will stop the cooking pasta and ensure that the orzo does not continue to cook after it's removed from the heat.
Use a sieve with fine holes so that the orzo doesn't slip through the holes on a traditional strainer.
In a medium mixing bowl, stir together pesto and mayonnaise.
To the bowl with the orzo, add the chopped tomatoes, olives, onion, cucumber and crumbled feta cheese.
You may want to set aside a few cherry tomatoes and some of the feta cheese to garnish the salad, if serving in a large bowl.
Add the pesto dressing and chopped basil , tossing to coat all of the vegetables and orzo.
Store orzo pesto salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.
I do not recommend freezing this salad.
To make Caprese pesto salad, subsitute the feta cheese with mozzarella pearls.
Add in 14 ounces artichokes in water (drained)
Substitute the red onion for sweet onion or green onions (scallions).
To add lemon flavor to the dressing, stir in the zest and juice from ½ of a lemon for brightness and acidity.
You could easily add grilled chicken or shrimp for added protein.
Yes, this salad can be made a few hours ahead of time and stored in the fridge until ready to serve. However, if you plan to make it more than a few hours in advance, it's best to keep the dressing separate until just before serving to prevent the salad from becoming too soggy.
Yes, you can substitute feta with other types of cheese, such as goat cheese, blue cheese, or Parmesan. Just keep in mind that different cheeses will have different flavors and textures, so it may alter the overall taste of the salad.
Orzo can be served hot or cold, depending on personal preference and the recipe being used. In the case of a cold orzo salad like the orzo pesto salad, it is served cold or at room temperature. However, orzo can also be served hot as a side dish or added to soups and stews.