Vegan Orzo Pasta Salad Recipe

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This recipe for Vegan Orzo Pasta Salad is the perfect go-to meal if you’re on a vegan diet. It’s healthy, easy to make, and takes less than 30 minutes!

A pasta salad is a picnic staple, but traditional versions are packed with mayonnaise and cream cheese. This vegan orzo salad doesn’t have either of those things, and it’s incredibly tasty—no one will miss the eggs or dairy! Plus it can be made in just 25 minutes so you can have this delicious lunch or dinner on the table in less than half an hour.

This quick and easy pasta salad is a great dish on hot days. Make it in advance to let the flavors come together. It tastes even better after the flavors mingle for a day or two!

vegan orzo pasta salad in a red bowl

What is orzo?

Orzo is a type of rice-shaped pasta that is used primarily for soups.

In Italy, it is most often served in soup, but it’s also delicious with oil and lemon juice as a side dish or even on its own. It can be eaten hot or cold.

The word “orzo” means barley in Italian, which explains the shape of this pasta that looks like small pieces of rice.

Is orzo pasta vegan?

Orzo is nearly always vegan-friendly because it doesn’t contain eggs or dairy. Just check the ingredients label if you’re unsure. At its most basic, orzo pasta is made with flour, water, and salt. It’s great for a plant-based diet!

You can substitute any vegan pasta you’d like in this recipe, though.

Ingredients for Vegan Orzo Salad

  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 large (or 2 medium) tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1½ c. orzo pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 T. capers
  • 1 T. caper liquid
  • 1 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 T. fresh parsley, chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
vertical image of the vegan orzo pasta salad in a red bowl

How do you make vegan orzo pasta salad?

A vegan orzo pasta salad is a take on an Italian dish, but it is made entirely from plant-based ingredients.

This vegan orzo pasta salad begins with cooking the garlic and tomatoes in a bit of olive oil while you’ve got your pasta cooking. Once the orzo pasta is ready, the rest of the ingredients are added. This includes the cooked orzo pasta (or any other type of short-cut pasta), capers, caper liquid, lemon juice, fresh thyme leaves, fresh parsley, and finally salt and pepper to taste.

All the ingredients should be mixed in a bowl and then stored in the fridge for at least one hour before serving to allow all of the flavors to mix together. Ideally, make it a day or two ahead of time to let the flavors really mingle.

This vegan orzo pasta salad can be served cold as a side dish or can be used as a main dish.

How do you boil orzo?

Orzo can be boiled in the same way as you would cook regular pasta.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil and add salt (1 Tbsp per 4 quarts of water). Once your water is boiling, add 1 pound of orzo pasta. Allow it to boil for 7-10 minutes or until al dente.

Can you overcook orzo?

Yes, you can. Remove it from heat as soon as the pasta is al dente, which means that there should be a slight resistance when you bite into it with your teeth.

Overcooked orzo becomes mushy, which is neither appealing nor appetizing.

If you’re using a saucepan to cook the orzo rather than a big pot, it’s more difficult to judge how much water is needed and how long it takes for the pasta to get done. Monitor its progress closely!

vegan orzo salad on a plate

Should orzo be rinsed?

Orzo should not be rinsed before cooking. It’s similar to other types of pasta in that it absorbs the water around it and becomes mushy if water is added shortly before cooking.

However, since this is an orzo salad (aka a pasta salad), you should rinse your cooked orzo pasta with cold water to prevent further cooking. Rinse your pasta just after you’ve drained the boiling water from it; you can usually do this by pouring cold running water over the hot pasta and soaking it for a minute. This will stop the orzo from cooking any further; otherwise, it will continue to cook in its own hot water for as long as you leave it.

Is there a substitute for orzo pasta?

If you can’t find orzo pasta, you can substitute it with another small-sized pasta such as orecchiette (small shells) or acini de pepe. Small elbow macaroni could also work.

Is there a gluten-free substitute for orzo?

Yes. You can find gluten free orzo in many stores in health food or special diet aisles. Alternatively, try out quinoa fusilli pasta, lentil penne pasta, or gluten-free rice pasta for a delicious option that’s perfect for any meal!

Make this recipe for orzo pasta salad!

Yield: 4 servings

Vegan Orzo Pasta Salad

Vegan Orzo Pasta Salad

This quick and easy vegan orzo pasta salad is a great dish on hot days. It comes together in about 25 minutes. Make it in advance to let the flavors come together. It tastes even better after the flavors mingle for a day or two!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Resting Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 T. extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 large tomato, seeded and chopped
  • 1½ c. orzo pasta, cooked according to package directions
  • 2 T. capers
  • 1 T. caper liquid
  • 1 T. fresh lemon juice
  • 1 T. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 T. fresh parsley, chopped
  • Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

Instructions

      1. Add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and 3 cloves of minced garlic to a skillet set over medium heat. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or just until the garlic starts to brown.
      2. Add tomatoes to the skillet and cook for 2-3 minutes, or until they become soft. Remove from heat and set aside.
      3. Mix cooked orzo, capers and liquid, lemon juice, thyme and parsley together with the warm tomato & garlic mixture in a large bowl. Season to taste with sea salt and black pepper. Stir to combine.
      4. Cover and refrigerate for at least one hour. Overnight is even better. Stir before serving chilled with grilled tofu, your favorite meat substitute, or any favorite entrée of choice.

Notes

The capers will naturally add saltiness to the dish. Taste before adding additional salt.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 147Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 6gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 229mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 2gSugar: 2gProtein: 3g

These nutritional calculations might not be accurate. Please speak with a licensed nutritionist to assist you.

Did you make this recipe?

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How long does this orzo salad recipe last in the fridge?

Once the orzo pasta salad has been chilled, it can last for several days in a sealed container. This is because all of the ingredients are naturally preserved by the lemon juice in the dressing. It’s ready to eat any time you’d like to take a bite!

This pasta salad is one of our favorite potluck recipes. Share your favorite vegan dish to take to a gathering!

More Pasta Salad Recipes

Here are some of our other favorite non-vegan pasta salad recipes:

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