Vegan Chickpea and Orzo Salad

Vegan chickpea and orzo salad is bursting with crunchy veggies and a tangy lemon dressing. It’s perfect for making ahead and eating throughout the week, after your Sunday farmer’s market trip.

A white bowl filled with vegan chickpea and orzo salad with lemon zest garnish.

Adapted from Kate Friedman | 5-Ingredient Vegan Cooking | Page Street Publishing, 2021

I chose fresh basil for this recipe, but don’t be afraid to experiment if your local farmers’ market has other herbs you like. In fact, this salad is a great way to utilize your haul from a Saturday morning veggie-stand binge.

The inclusion of both orzo pasta and chickpeas gives this salad robustness, while the red onion and English cucumber give it eye-appealing color. A zesty lemon juice dressing adds the final touch.–Kate Friedman

Vegan Chickpea and Orzo Salad FAQs

What is the difference between garden variety cucumbers and English cucumbers?

The cucumbers that most of us have in our gardens is called a slicing cucumber. They are generally shorter and more stout than the English cucumber, with larger seeds and a thicker skin.

The English version, on the other hand, is long and svelte, usually wrapped in plastic to protect its tender skin. The English cuke has fewer seeds, so there’s no need to be worried about removing those, while the garden cucumber can be chock full of seeds that can sometimes be bitter.

What can I use instead of orzo pasta?

If you can’t find orzo, look for ditalini – but really any small pasta will do the trick. Watch your boiling time because it’ll be dependent on the size of your pasta.

Can I make this salad gluten-free?

Yes. Simply swap in gluten-free orzo.

How long will this chickpea orzo salad keep?

The salad will keep well in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Vegan Chickpea and Orzo Salad

A white bowl filled with vegan chickpea and orzo salad with lemon zest garnish.
This hearty orzo chickpea salad is the perfect warm weather treat! It’s best served cold with fresh herbs. If you’re food prepping this salad, make the chickpeas and orzo pasta in advance. They’ll have time to cool before you put it all together.

Prep 25 mins
Cook 25 mins
Total 50 mins
Salad
American
6 servings
298 kcal
5 / 4 votes
Print RecipeBuy the 5-Ingredient Vegan Cooking cookbook

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Ingredients 

  • One (14-ounce) can chickpeas drained and rinsed
  • Salt
  • 1 cup dry orzo pasta
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice plus more for serving
  • 1/2 medium (4 oz) red onion finely chopped
  • 1 medium (12 oz) English cucumber diced
  • Handful cherry tomatoes halved (optional)
  • Handful pitted Kalamata olives (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil washed and torn
  • Fresh parsley and/or fresh dill (optional)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Lemon zest preferably organic

Directions
 

  • In a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the chickpeas with enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the chickpeas are tender, about 25 minutes. Drain and rinse the chickpeas with cold water and refrigerate until ready for use.

    TESTER TIP: Boiling the chickpeas does make them more tender and it will cause the skins to loosen. For a prettier presentation, remove and discard the skins after draining the chickpeas.

  • Bring a large saucepan of salted water to boil. Add the orzo and cook according to the package directions. Drain and pour into a medium bowl. Chill in the refrigerator until ready for use.
  • In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and lemon juice.
  • In a large bowl, combine the chilled orzo, chickpeas, red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, if using, and olives, if using. Drizzle over the dressing and toss to combine.
  • Top with basil and any other fresh herbs, if desired. Season to taste with salt, pepper, additional lemon juice, and lemon zest.
Print RecipeBuy the 5-Ingredient Vegan Cooking cookbook

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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 298kcal (15%)Carbohydrates: 41g (14%)Protein: 10g (20%)Fat: 11g (17%)Saturated Fat: 2g (13%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 2gMonounsaturated Fat: 7gSodium: 8mgPotassium: 365mg (10%)Fiber: 6g (25%)Sugar: 6g (7%)Vitamin A: 131IU (3%)Vitamin C: 5mg (6%)Calcium: 53mg (5%)Iron: 3mg (17%)

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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

She who must be obeyed was quite taken with it, and gave it a 10! This vegan chickpea and orzo salad was a relatively fast, easy, and very enjoyable salad to make. The red onion provides a nice little bite to contrast against the cool of the cucumber and the creaminess of the chickpeas.

A white bowl filled with vegan chickpea and orzo salad with lemon zest garnish.

It tasted great right off the stovetop, however, I gave it a chill for about an hour in the fridge. I served it with some grilled spiced shrimp on top.

This orzo chickpea salad is the perfect summer potluck dish. Vegans and omnivores of all ages will enjoy this fresh salad. I served this salad to accompany roasted asparagus for a light lunch. This salad would pair well with a chilled rosé or a non-alcoholic beverage such as an Arnold Palmer.

The quick preparation and easy-to-obtain ingredient list make this recipe a winner for potlucks, and it is a great base recipe for adding a protein like canned tuna or with additional ingredients such as tomatoes or black olives.

This vegan chickpea and orzo salad was appealing to me originally because of how versatile and flexible the recipe lends itself to being. I can see using this as a (delicious) jumping-off point for any number of occasions and combinations of flavors. It would make a wonderful side dish for a roast chicken or as part of a summer BBQ spread, but it also has enough of a balance of veggies, carbs, and protein to become a light meal.

You can prep it in advance and leave it to hang in the fridge for a few hours or throw it together at the last minute as the dish comes together quite quickly, especially once the pasta and chickpeas are cool. I can see adding or substituting any number of vegetables, protein (animal or plant-based), herbs, or carbs to suit individual preferences.

While my family loves this as written, I can see adding tomatoes, avocados, and a deeply toasted nut for crunch. I can tell I’ll be revisiting this all summer long.

As our days get warmer (and warmer) here in Florida, I’m looking for anything that doesn’t require heating the oven, so it looked like this vegan chickpea and orzo salad would fit the bill. It turned out to be a delicious and easy addition to the Memorial Day weekend spread.

I drained and rinsed the can of chickpeas and simmered them for the 25 minutes specified. After tasting one pea before and one after simmering, they were definitely more tender and had the added bonus of loosening the skins. I removed the skins that were barely hanging on and the ones that had come off completely, mainly so the salad didn’t look sloppy.

The peas and orzo were combined and chilled, next time I’ll add a little of the olive oil to keep the pasta from clumping. Upon tasting, the lemon seemed a little weak, so I added a little at a time until I had used the juice of the entire lemon, about 3 tablespoons, before I had the flavor I was looking for.

This salad would lend itself to the addition of just about any veggies, I see halved cherry tomatoes, chopped red bell peppers, cilantro, and/or corn being very nice in it. I served this with snapper and a cherry tomato salad (homegrown heirlooms with olive oil, salt, and pepper).

This vegan chickpea and orzo salad is refreshing, hearty, and delicious. Swapping the basil for a little crumbled goat cheese or feta, perhaps grating a little garlic into the dressing, would make it a perfect 10.

Originally published June 24, 2021

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I’ve come to really like the versatility of this salad. There are days when I have a different herb in my fridge than the recipe calls for or some days I just feel the need for chili flakes. Don’t have a tomato? No problem, sub in a sweet bell pepper. This recipe is wonderful as written but I’d add that it can be modified. Don’t hesitate to make it because you need to swap in an ingredient.

  2. 5 stars
    Angie, This orzo salad is superb! It’s incredibly bright, colorful and delicious. The addition of fresh dill takes the dish to another level. The only change made was adding roasted corn (it’s so abundant now, I tend to add it to everything!). The salad is perfect on its own or with a simple grilled protein like shrimp or chicken. We’ll be eating this all week long. Thanks!

    1. You’re welcome, Chrissy! I love the suggestion of adding roasted corn. Thanks so much for taking the time to comment.

  3. 5 stars
    What a flexible, delicious, healthy recipe. I pulled it all together and let it sit on the counter for a few hours to deepen the flavors. I subbed in ditalini because I couldn’t find my box of orzo.

    Taking the time to skin the chickpeas is essential. You could also sub in another white bean that doesn’t have a skin. (I do that with my hummus). I halved the extra virgin olive oil and found it to be plenty. Fresh basil from the garden finished it off perfectly. Thanks for sharing this recipe with us.

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