This chilled pesto orzo salad is packed with flavor and is ready in under 30 minutes! Delivering fresh simple ingredients, this pesto orzo can also be customized to suit your tastes. It’s the perfect pasta salad to feed a crowd and is ideal for potlucks, picnics, barbeques, and weekday lunches alongside a light protein dish.
Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta that’s perfect for cold pasta salads as it perfectly absorbs the flavors of whatever sauce you top it with. Not only can you eat an orzo pest salad cold, but it can also be enjoyed warm or at room temperature.
It keeps fresh for a few days, which is great for meal prep and packing up leftovers for lunch the next day. Or, if you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself reaching into the fridge for a spoonful now and again too!
Because it’s made with a handful of simple ingredients, you most likely can make it on a whim. Using store-bought pesto is a great substitute for a homemade sauce if that’s what you need to make your life a little easier.
To serve it, pair it with your favorite dinner-time recipe and enjoy it as an easy side dish.
Why you’ll love this recipe for pesto orzo
- Quick and easy – Using the instant pot to make the orzo and a store-bought pesto makes this meal super quick to prepare as it cuts down on prep and clean up. A big bonus for me! Of course, making your own pesto is never a bad idea!
- Customizable – It couldn’t be easier to switch up the ingredients in this orzo pesto salad; use parmesan instead of feta, throw in walnuts instead of pine nuts, or use parsley instead of basil. Or layer in the veggies by adding some bell peppers, grape tomatoes, or baby spinach.
- Meal prep friendly – Orzo holds its shape and flavor well so it is ideal for meal prepping. Go ahead and prepare it over the weekend and enjoy it all week long.
- Perfect for feeding a crowd – Pesto and orzo are the ideal combination and a real crowd-pleaser. If you are expecting a large group you can easily double the recipe.
Ingredients for this recipe
- Orzo – Make this instant pot orzo and use it for this pesto orzo recipe. If you don’t have a pressure cooker you can use the stovetop method instead. Prepare this small pasta al dente, so it still has a bit of a bite to it. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a mushy salad. You can also use any short-shaped pasta if you don’t have any orzo.
- Jarred pesto – Use your favorite store-bought pesto. Add as much or as little as you like based on your taste preference. If you have a fresh pesto recipe you want to use, go for it. This article gives a great rundown of the best store-bought pesto sauces on the market.
- Feta cheese – Crumbled feta adds some saltiness and tang to the orzo with pesto.
- Pine nuts – Pine nuts add some crunch. Toast them beforehand for a more intense flavor. For a nut-free salad use pumpkin seeds.
- Basil – Chopped fresh basil adds some color and loads of flavor. If you don’t have basil, parley is also a great option.
- Olive oil – Extra virgin olive oil is best but any type will work.
Step 1 – Prepare the orzo according to package directions. I recommend cooking in the Instant Pot for a wonderful creamy texture! Stove-top cooking works well too.
Step 2 -When the orzo is done cooking, transfer to a large serving bowl and toss it with olive oil so the grains don’t stick together. Let the orzo cool either on the kitchen counter or in the fridge.
Step 3: Once the orzo has cooled to room temperature, toss it with the pesto, add in the pine nuts, and gently stir in the feta and basil.
Step 4: Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately or allow to chill in the fridge overnight. Store refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
Recipe tips & tricks
- For a gluten-free pesto orzo recipe, try Barilla chickpea orzo. It has a great texture and is also high in protein, at 12 grams per serving.
- Throw in with shredded chicken or chicken sausage to add some protein and make it a main course salad like this apple chicken sausage recipe with orzo or add your favorite white beans for a vegetarian salad.
- Add more fresh veggies and stir in fresh or frozen peas, chopped artichokes, diced red onion, sun-dried tomatoes, or juicy cherry tomatoes.
- Up the flavor by mixing in sundried tomatoes or kalamata olives.
- Switch the cheese and instead of feta use goat cheese or parmesan cheese. You can also keep it dairy-free (if your pesto doesn’t contain dairy), by using nutritional yeast instead.
- Squeeze in some fresh lemon juice for a more vibrant and zesty flavor like in this lemon orzo salad.
- If you have the time, make up a batch of homemade pesto instead of using store-bought.
I just know you’ll love this pesto orzo salad as much as I do. If you want to go the extra mile and make a homemade pesto, here’s a quick overview. Combine pine nuts, fresh basil leaves, grated parmesan, garlic, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a food processor. Pulse until it’s reached your desired consistency. If you have any left, use it as a spread on sandwiches as a salad dressing or in this pesto butter salmon or these pesto chicken zucchini rolls.
Looking for more salad options:
- Healthy Fall Pasta Salad
- Southern Macaroni Salad
- Beet Quinoa Salad With Maple Vinaigrette
- Smoked Salmon Breakfast Salad
- Nourishing Fiesta Salad Recipe
Chilled Pesto Orzo Salad
- 1 Pressure Cooker
- 3 cups Cooked and chilled orzo
- 1 tablespoon Olive oil
- 6 ounces Pesto sauce adjust quantity based on taste preference
- 3 ounces Feta cheese fat-free preferred
- 3 tablespoon Pine nuts
- ½ cup Fresh basil chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cook orzo pasta according to package directions. When done cooking, drain and stir in olive oil to prevent sticking. Let cool to room temperature.3 cups Cooked and chilled orzo, 1 tablespoon Olive oil
- Stir in pesto sauce, adjusting quantity based on taste preference.6 ounces Pesto sauce
- Stir in feta, pine nuts and basil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Chill for at least 30 minutes and then serve.3 ounces Feta cheese, 3 tablespoon Pine nuts, ½ cup Fresh basil, salt and pepper to taste
- Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator.