This healthy Greek Orzo Pasta Salad is incredibly easy make and ready in 25 minutes or less! It’s filled with bright flavors, fresh ingredients and finished with a creamy hummus dressing (NO MAYO)! It will quickly become a summertime favorite that you’ll make over and over again! (Healthy, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan-option)
This orzo salad works as a light lunch with pita bread! Or, serve it at a barbecue with potato salad, bacon pea macaroni salad and pulled pork, or as a weeknight side dish with easy beer chicken! Continue to read on for tips! And, don’t miss the step by step photos and recipe video showing you exactly how to make this creamy Greek salad!
Update: This post was originally published in July 2019. I made updates to the post below to include more information about orzo pasta salad. Plus, I added a step by step video to show you how easy this recipe is to prepare!
Warm weather means lots and lots of salads! While I do love a traditional leafy green salad, pasta salads are also an essential summer staple. And, this orzo salad is the perfect way to celebrate summer! It’s bright, healthy, easy to make and always a hit at a party!
Greek orzo pasta salad recipe: overview
This Greek pasta salad is refreshing, full of texture and packed with flavor!
This orzo salad recipe is loaded with tender orzo pasta, plump chickpeas, juicy tomatoes, cool cucumbers, pungent red onions, rich kalamata olives, crumbled feta cheese and aromatic fresh basil! Tossed with a silky, creamy hummus-based dressing and garnished with zesty fresh lemon, this pasta salad is anything but boring or bland!
It’s easy to make, can be prepared in advance and can be served cold or at room temperature! It’s the perfect packable lunch, healthy weeknight dinner and makes a delicious side for summer picnics, potlucks and outdoor barbecues! Basically, this is a pasta salad for any and every occasion!
The secrets to a better mayo-free Greek pasta salad
- Season pasta while warm: Drain cooked orzo and quickly rinse it with cool water to stop the pasta from cooking. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl and toss it with olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Then, set the pasta aside to cool completely. Warm pasta absorbs flavor more effectively than cold pasta! This quick and easy step ensures the base of your salad – cooked pasta – is rich, zippy and savory in flavor! Even before you begin adding any mix-ins or dressing!
- Use hummus: The trick to creamy orzo salad without adding any mayo? A hummus-based dressing! Thick hummus offers tons of creamy texture and rich flavor! It also keeps the pasta salad light and healthy!
What is Greek pasta salad?
Greek pasta salad, also referred to as Mediterranean pasta salad, is an easy salad dish typically served cold as a side. However, it can also be served as an appetizer or main course. It’s made with a colorful combination of tender orzo pasta, crisp vegetables, and fresh herbs tossed with a Greek or Mediterranean dressing.
This flavorful pasta salad is a simple to prepare, packable, customizable and can be made in advance! It’s perfect as a side dish or vegetarian main! Serve it for lunches, light dinners, picnics, potlucks, barbecues and more!
What is orzo?
Although orzo resembles a long grain rice, it’s not a grain. It is actually a short-cut variety of pasta. It also goes by the name ‘risoni‘. Orzo is readily available dried and you can find it in the pasta aisle of most major grocery stores.
Orzo is cooked similarly to most pastas – on the stove top in salted boiling water.
What’s in Greek pasta salad?
The exact ingredients in a Greek orzo salad can vary greatly from recipe to recipe. This easy recipe is made up of orzo, feta cheese and chickpeas as well as variety of fresh vegetables, herbs and a creamy mayo-free dressing.
There are numerous ways to customize your salad! Feel free to switch out the veggies with your favorites or add whatever mix-ins you have on hand and love!
Ingredients you need to make orzo salad
- Orzo Pasta: Make sure you cook the orzo to al dente according to the package directions. If you can’t find orzo, you can use any variety of small, dried pasta you love!
- Chickpeas: Plump chickpeas provide a nutty, savory flavor. You can substitute white beans if you’d like!
- Tomatoes: Cherry or grape tomatoes add pops of juicy freshness!
- Cucumber: Seedless cucumbers give the salad a cool, crispness! I prefer seedless cucumbers to make things easy. However, you can use a regular cucumber – just make sure you remove and discard the seeds prior to adding them to the salad!
- Red Onion: Finely diced red onion offers a pungent, sharp flavor. You can substitute shallots for a more delicate and less abrasive flavor.
- Kalamata Olives: Beautiful kalamata olives provide a fruity, almost wine-like flavor.
- Crumbled Feta: Every salad needs a touch of decadence! Feta is a nice treat with a salty, tangy, creamy flavor! If you are vegan, simply omit the feta or substitute a vegan cheese of your choice!
- Fresh Herbs: Fresh herbs are an absolute must for a burst of fresh flavor! I like to use basil, oregano and/or parsley in this pasta salad. Make sure you add any fresh herbs right before serving.
- Seasonings: Olive Oil, Kosher Salt and Ground Black Pepper provide tons of flavor!
- Lemon Juice: Fresh lemon juice is a must for the best, zippy taste!
Do you want to make a few substitutions or additions to this recipe? No problem! This Greek orzo recipe is flexible and so easy to customize! Get creative in the kitchen – try eliminating any ingredients you don’t have on hand or simply don’t like and try replacing them with ones you love! Below are a few easy ideas to help get you started!
Other ingredients you can add to Greek orzo salad
- Nuts: Pine nuts or almonds are excellent for crunch!
- Sun-dried Tomatoes: Sun-dried tomatoes work well for intense sweet-tart, rich flavor!
- Red Peppers: Roasted red peppers provide smoky-sweet taste!
- Artichoke Hearts: A no-brainer if you love Greek salads!
- Corn: Sweet kernels of corn offer pops of buttery flavor!
- Greens: Arugula or spinach melds great with pasta salads!
- Protein: Cooked shredded chicken, sliced steak, flaked salmon, canned tuna, chopped salami or diced pepperoni will make this salad eat like a meal!
How to cook Greek orzo pasta salad?
This fresh salad is incredibly easy to make! This easy recipe requires just 5 simple steps and can be prepared in 25 minutes or less!
(Scroll down for the detailed measurements and instructions in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.)
- Cook the orzo. Cook the pasta until al dente according to package directions. Drain and quickly rinse the orzo with cold water. Drain again and shake the colander to remove as much water as possible. Transfer the pasta to a large bowl.
- Season the orzo. Drizzle the cooked orzo with olive oil and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.
- Make the dressing. In a small bowl or food processor, combine hummus, lemon juice, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and oregano. Whisk or pulse until combined.
- Toss all of the ingredients. Add fresh vegetables and herbs to the bowl of orzo. Toss to combine. Drizzle with desired amount of dressing and toss again.
- Season according to taste. Don’t forget to taste the pasta salad and season with salt, pepper and lemon juice if needed! Always cook and season a dish according to your tastes.
- Serve! Serve at room temperature or cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
How to make Greek pasta salad step by step photos:
Tips for serving Greek pasta salad
Are you looking for exciting ways to serve your orzo salad? Below are a few delicious ways to serve and enjoy this recipe!
How to serve Mediterranean pasta salad?
Like other kinds of pasta salads, you can serve this salad cold or at room temperature as a side dish or a lighter vegetarian main meal.
What to serve with Greek orzo salad?
This colorful orzo salad is a great side dish for summer picnics, potlucks and backyard barbecues! Or, it is perfect on its own as a light lunch or vegetarian dinner!
6 delicious dishes to serve with orzo
- Salad: Pair it with Greek salad.
- Sandwich: Serve alongside Greek sandwiches or Gyros.
- Chicken: Add grilled chicken or rotisserie chicken to make it a complete meal!
- Seafood: Mix in grilled shrimp, flaked salmon, lump crab or canned tuna for a healthy main meal!
- Lamb: Dish it up alongside lamb kebabs.
- Pork: Pulled pork and pasta salad goes hand in hand!
Tips for storing Greek orzo pasta salad
Food safety is of the upmost importance when it comes to storing your leftovers! Therefore, make sure you follow the simple tips below to help ensure you are properly storing and freezing your orzo!
Can I make Greek pasta salad in advance?
Pasta salad actually tastes best if made a few hours in advance! You can prepare this salad up to 24 hours in advance. However, you should wait until serving to add the tomatoes, cucumbers and fresh herbs.
If you would like to make the orzo salad ahead of time to enjoy throughout the week, store the actual salad separate from the dressing. Portion out the salad into individual servings. Add the dressing when you are ready to enjoy the salad!
How long will it last?
Leftover pasta salad should be stored in an airtight container. Properly stored, salad will keep for up to 5 days.
Can the salad be frozen?
Yes, Greek pasta salad can be frozen! However, there are a few extra steps and precautions you need to follow.
To freeze pasta salad:
- Cook pasta to al dente: Make sure you only cook the pasta until just al dente!
- Rinse with cold water: You must rinse the cooked pasta with cold water to stop the cooking process!
- Reserve fresh herbs and water-based vegetables: Do not add tomatoes, cucumbers or fresh herbs to the pasta salad. You must wait until serving to add them.
- Store separately: Store the pasta salad and dressing in separate airtight, freezer-safe resealable bags or containers.
- Defrost: Thaw the pasta salad and dressing overnight in the refrigerator. Make sure they are completely defrosted before mixing them together.
- Enjoy: Do not refreeze the pasta salad. Enjoy it on the day you thaw it.
If you are a fan of Greek flavors, you are going to LOVE this creamy orzo pasta salad! Fresh and full of flavors, this recipe will become a family favorite!
Until next week, friends, cheers, to perfect pasta salad!
Looking for more easy Greek food?
If you love this dish, try one of these delicious Greek recipes next:
Greek Marinated Chickpea Salad – Recipe Tin Eats
The best Greek Pasta Salad recipe plus step by step video👇
Greek Orzo Pasta Salad
- Large Pot
- Mixing Bowl
- Food Processor (optional)
- 1 ¼ Cup uncooked Orzo Pasta - (about 10 ounces)
- 6-8 ounces Feta Cheese – cubed or crumbled
- 1 (14.5 ounce) Can Chickpeas – drained, rinsed and dried (You can substitute cooked chicken)
- 10 ounces Grape Tomatoes - halved
- 1 Seedless Cucumber – small diced
- 1/2 large Red Onion – finely diced
- ½ heaping Cup Pitted Kalamata Olives – halved or sliced
- 1/3 Cup Basil Leaves – torn or chiffonade (you can substitute Parsley)
- Kosher Salt & Ground Black Pepper
- 2/3 Cup Hummus
- 5 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil - DIVIDED
- 4 TBS freshly squeezed Lemon Juice - DIVIDED (about 2 lemons)
- 1 TBS Red Wine Vinegar
- 1 clove Garlic – minced
- ½ tsp Greek Seasoning - (or Dried Mediterranean OR Dried regular oregano)
- Water – as needed to thin dressing (OPTIONAL)
- Optional Add-ins: Pine nuts, Sun-dried Tomatoes, Roasted Red Peppers, Artichoke Hearts, Arugula, Spinach, Lemon Zest, Fresh Oregano or Parsley
- Cook the orzo: Add 3 1/2 quarts of water to a large pot. Bring water to a boil. Season water generously with salt. Cook the orzo according to package directions until al dente. Drain and rinse the orzo with cold water for 15 seconds to stop the cooking process. Drain again and gently shake the colander to remove as much water as possible. Immediately transfer the cooked orzo to a large bowl. (SEE NOTES)
- Season the orzo: While the orzo is still warm, drizzle it with 4 tablespoons of oil and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice. Season with 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and scant 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Toss until thoroughly coated. Set aside to cool completely. (SEE NOTES)
- Make the dressing: In a small bowl, combine the hummus with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice, vinegar, garlic and oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk until smooth. OPTIONAL: For a thinner dressing, whisk in cool water (1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is achieved).
- Assemble the salad: Add the feta, chickpeas, tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, olives and basil to the bowl with the orzo. Toss to combine. Drizzle with desired amount of dressing and gently toss to combine.
- Serve: Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper. Serve at room temperature or cold. Enjoy!
- Orzo: Make sure you drizzle the orzo with oil and lemon juice while the pasta is still warm so it soaks up the flavor!
- Prep: While the seasoned orzo is cooling on the counter, prep all the vegetables. Since the hummus dressing is creamy, you do not want the orzo to be hot when you toss it with the dressing.
- Red Onion: If you don’t like the harsh bite of red onion, run the diced onions under cool water before adding them to the salad. The water will remove the harsh flavor. Just make sure you thoroughly drain the onions before adding them to the salad!
- Lemon Juice: For the best flavor, make sure you use fresh squeezed lemon juice in this recipe! The bottle variety of lemon juice is lackluster in flavor.
- Salt: Do not season the assembled pasta salad with too much salt until you are ready to serve. Since salt will draw moisture out of the cucumbers and tomatoes, adding too much will cause the pasta salad to become watery.
- To make in advance: This pasta salad actually tastes best if made a few hours in advance! You can make this salad up to a day in advance, however I wait to add the tomatoes and cucumbers until just before serving as they will cause the pasta salad to become watery.
- Leftover Pasta Salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
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