This orzo pesto salad recipe is packed with veggies, fresh mozzarella, and tossed in homemade nut-free basil pesto. Serve it for dinner, lunch, or as a side for a summer cookout!
The best pesto orzo salad
Summer is my favorite season! Not just because of the warm weather, but because of all the delicious recipes. I love grilled peach salads, pasta salads, grilled burgers, veggie burgers, and berry cobblers.
That’s why I am so excited to share this delicious, fresh, and healthy orzo pesto salad with you! It’s bright, refreshing, and packed with flavor.
The cooked orzo is tossed in a homemade pesto made without pine nuts and is topped with cucumber, bell pepper, sweet cherry tomatoes, and mini mozzarella balls.
This recipe makes for the perfect side dish, meal prep lunch, or weeknight dinner. Everyone will love it, even kids!
Why you’ll love this healthy recipe
- Ready in under 10 minutes.
- Healthy dinner, lunch, or side dish.
- Tossed in a homemade nut-free pesto that takes 5 minutes to make.
- Make ahead of time for a party or cookout.
- It can be made gluten free and dairy free.
- Packed with fresh and crunchy summer vegetables.
This orzo salad is tossed in a bright and flavorful basil pesto and is served with chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, and bell pepper. Here is a list of ingredients so you are prepared:
- 1 batch of Nut Free Basil Pesto
- Orzo: The main ingredient! Orzo is short-cut pasta that is shaped like a large grain of rice. It’s super delicious and is perfect for pasta salads.
- Cucumber: For a fresh crunch. I love adding cucumber to my orzo salads because they are super refreshing.
- Cherry Tomatoes: For a sweet, juicy pop of flavor.
- Bell Pepper: For a cool and sweet refreshing crunch. I used yellow bell pepper, but feel free to substitute it with a red or orange one. I don’t recommend using green bell pepper since they can be bitter.
- Mini Pearl Mozzarella Balls: This adds the best creamy note to this fresh and healthy orzo salad. I love mozzarella cheese, especially in the summer!
Kitchen tools required
You only need a few kitchen utensils to make this basil pesto orzo salad. Here is a list:
- Mixing Bowl
- Cooking Pot
- Pasta Strainer
- Measuring Tools: 1/2 cup and 1 cup.
How to make pesto orzo salad
This refreshing orzo salad comes together in three steps in under 10 minutes. You’ll start by cooking the orzo, then you’ll prepare the basil pesto, and finally, you’ll toss everything together. Here are step-by-step directions:
First, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add orzo. Cook al-dente according to the package instructions. I like to reduce the cooking time by 1 – 2 minutes. Then, strain and run under cold water to stop it from cooking further. Set to the side.
Then, add in 1 batch of this pesto without pine nuts. Alternatively, you can add ½ – ⅔ cups of store-bought pesto.
Finally, in a large bowl, toss the cooked orzo, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell pepper, and mini pearl mozzarella balls. Drizzle the pesto over the salad and toss to coat. Enjoy!
Orzo salad tips
Cook the orzo al-dente. The orzo will continue to cook after we remove it from the heat and strain it. Cooking it al dente keeps the orzo tender after it cools.
Let the orzo cool before you add the pesto and veggies. If you toss hot orzo with the fresh cucumber, tomatoes, and bell pepper, they’ll get soft and wilt. I recommend draining the cooked orzo and running it under cold water to cool. Make sure to dry it off before adding the pesto.
Make it ahead of time. You can make this pesto orzo salad recipe up to one day in advance if you are planning on serving it at a party or grill out. I always save a little pesto to the side and toss it with the salad right before serving for maximum freshness.
Pesto orzo salad serving suggestions
This pesto orzo salad recipe is a perfect healthy side dish for summer grilling and cookouts. Pair it with other summer sides like strawberry salad or cornbread. If you need a main dish, try making one of these recipes:
- Grilled Turkey Burgers
- No-Bean Veggie Burger
- Grilled Honey Soy Chicken Thigh Skewers
- Air Fryer BBQ Chicken Breast
- Cilantro Lime Chicken Burgers
- Cauliflower Tacos with Cilantro Yogurt Crema
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I make it dairy free?
To make this orzo salad dairy-free, substitute the mini mozzarella balls with your favorite dairy-free alternative, or just leave them off.
Is orzo gluten free?
Orzo is not typically gluten-free. If you are gluten free, I recommend substituting the orzo with Banza rice or with this grain-free cassava orzo. It tastes and looks like orzo but is 100% gluten free.
Can I use store bought pesto?
I love making homemade pesto because it is healthier and tastes fresher. However, you can certainly use 1/2 cup to 2/3 cups of store-bought pesto if needed.
Is this recipe healthy?
Yes, this pesto orzo salad is certainly healthy. Firstly, it is packed with vegetables that offer many health benefits and vitamins. Secondly, we use homemade, nut-free pesto made from 6 simple ingredients. Thirdly, it is balanced with carbs, fiber, protein, and healthy fat.
How long does it keep?
Pesto orzo salad keeps in the fridge for up to 5 days.
How to store leftovers:
Store leftovers in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
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Did you make this recipe?
If you make this recipe, be sure to comment and rate it down below. Also, don’t forget to tag me @healthfulblondie on Instagram and use the hashtag #healthfulblondie so I can see your delicious creation and share it with my followers!
Orzo Pesto Salad
- 1 batch basil pesto
- 1 ½ cups uncooked orzo
- 1 medium English cucumber, cut into quarter moons
- 2 cups sweet cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 1 cup mini pearl mozzarella balls, drained
- Make Orzo: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add orzo. Cook al-dente according to the package instructions. I like to reduce the cooking time by 1 – 2 minutes. Then, strain and run under cold water to stop it from cooking further. Set to the side.
- Add Pesto: Add in 1 batch of this pesto without pine nuts. Alternatively, you can add ½ – ⅔ cups of store-bought pesto.
- Assemble Salad: In a large bowl, toss the cooked orzo, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell pepper, and mini pearl mozzarella balls. Drizzle the pesto over the salad and toss to coat. Enjoy!
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