Pesto Orzo Salad with Feta Cheese

This pesto orzo salad is the perfect side dish the next time you need something light and delicious. Cherry tomatoes, kalamata olives and feta cheese make this pasta salad vibrant and full of flavor. Serve on a bed of greens with whatever protein you like for a complete and nutritious meal idea.

Pesto orzo salad plated three different ways: with baked salmon, with chicken and on its own in a bowl.

Why You’ll Love This Orzo Pasta with Pesto Salad

  • It’s the perfect fresh and flavorful side dish to any protein (like chicken breast, salmon, or tuna!).
  • You can prep a big batch and store in the fridge for a simple meal prep.
  • It requires super minimal cooking, especially if you use store-bought pesto.
  • It’s easy and fool-proof! Even if your ingredients or measurements are off by a little bit, it will still turn out great.

Ingredients for Pesto Orzo Salad

Ingredients for pesto orzo salad on a marble cutting board: orzo, pesto, kalamata olives, cucumber, tomato, red onion, and feta cheese.

Orzo

Orzo is like rice’s pasta cousin. It’s a short-cut pasta perfect for pasta salads! It’s small orzo shape makes it perfect for grabbing on to the creamy pesto. You can swap out for any other pasta, too.

Cucumber

You can use any cucumbers, but I prefer English cucumbers or mini cucumbers because they have less seeds and tend to be sweeter.

Red onion

You can swap red onion for any onion that’s sweet enough to be eaten raw, like Vidalia sweet onions. Not an onion fan? This recipe is still delicious without!

Cherry tomatoes

You can add any chopped tomatoes, but cherry tomatoes add a perfect sweetness to balance the salty flavors from olives, feta and pesto.

Kalamata olives & feta cheese

Is there a better flavor combination out there? Kalamata olives and feta cheese add a flavorful salty punch to this pasta salad that works perfectly with the basil flavors in the pesto.

Pesto

You can use homemade or store-bought pesto. One of my favorite things about pesto is that it’s so flavorful that you don’t need a ton of it. It’s a great addition to sandwiches, eggs, or any other pasta salad dish.

Pro tip: When your basil plants are out of control in the summer, make a bunch of pesto for your freezer and have it ready to go all year long!

Pesto orzo salad ingredients in a bowl, not yet mixed

How to make pesto orzo salad

  1. Cook orzo according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop pasta from cooking and to keep from sticking together.
  2. Dice cucumber and onion, halve tomatoes and quarter olives, cube cheese if needed.
  3. Add cooled orzo pasta, vegetables, pesto and cheese to a large bowl and stir gently to combine.

Variations

Swap the pasta

If you’re not an orzo fan (or you don’t have any on hand) you can make this pesto salad using any pasta that you have. Bowties and rotini are both great for grabbing onto the pesto.

Make it vegan

Choose a plant-based pesto and pass on the feta cheese to easily make this recipe vegan-friendly.

High protein additions

Add cubed chicken, canned salmon, chickpeas or tuna for an easy one-dish balanced orzo pesto salad.

Add more fiber

Choose a legume based pasta or add diced broccoli, diced bell peppers or roasted eggplant for more fiber and nutrients

Serve warm or cold

Mix up with warm cooked orzo and serve immediately during the colder months, or cool it down and serve cold when you need a fresh summer side!

A graphic with text: orzo pesto pasta salad and picture of plated pesto orzo pasta salad.

Love this recipe as much as I do? Make sure to tag me @the.balanced.nutritionist on Instagram!

A clear bowl of pesto orzo salad.

Pesto Orzo Salad with Feta Cheese

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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups Orzo
  • 1/2 cup Pesto
  • 1 small English cucumber diced (about 1 heaping cup)
  • 1/2 cup red onion diced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved or quartered
  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives quartered
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese cubed or crumbled

Instructions

  • Cook orzo according to package instructions. Drain and rinse with cold water to stop pasta from cooking and to keep from sticking together.
  • Dice cucumber and onion, halve tomatoes and quarter olives. Cube or crumble cheese if needed.
  • Add orzo pasta, vegetables, pesto and cheese to a large bowl and stir gently to combine.
Course: Side Dish

Nutrition

Calories: 207kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 7mg | Sodium: 291mg | Potassium: 267mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 684IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 79mg | Iron: 1mg

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It's me, Jamie!

I’m a Registered Dietitian dedicated to helping you break free of the all-or-nothing dieting with balanced and realistic healthy eating.

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Meet Jamie

I’m a Registered Dietitian and I’ve been exactly where you are, right now. The all or nothing dieting, the constant food guilt, the scale obsession, absolutely no balance with food…. Sound familiar?