A short list of ingredients comes together with ease for this wholesome, vegetarian salad that can be enjoyed warm or cold.
Easy meal alert! (We all need them, right?)
This flavor-packed salad is super simple to prepare with minimal ingredients. Ripe for customization based on what you like and have on hand (I’ve included specifics in the recipe notes), this dish can be served warm or cold and works with gluten-free orzo and higher protein alternatives like chickpea orzo (Banza is an example).
For added flavor, the ingredients are combined while the orzo is still hot, so the dressing really soaks into the orzo, and the spinach and cheese soften slightly.
I’ve made this salad with a variety of add-ins, from sun-dried tomatoes to artichokes, but the following combination is my family’s personal favorite. Feta and Kalamata olives supply a briny, salty note while fresh tomatoes provide natural sweetness and appealing color.
The use of spinach instead of mixed salad greens means that this salad holds up well as leftovers, making a convenient day-after lunch. Because this salad lends itself to substitutions, however, you may absolutely experiment with what you enjoy and have on hand.
The addition of chicken makes this a satisfying, complete meal. Salmon is lovely as well. As I type, I’m wondering why I’ve never used tuna for a pantry-friendly addition.
A roll, garlic bread, or a handful of crostini on the side offers a nice extra. When enjoying as a meatless main dish, I increase the chickpeas, using the full can.
We often eat this salad warm, but I love that it can also be enjoyed cold or at room temperature. In the colder months, I like to warm the leftovers in the microwave. Because it can be prepared in advance, the salad is also a great choice when needing a dish to take to a potluck or a friend who could use a helping hand.
If choosing Parchment Packet Chicken for a quick, cleanup-free way to bolster the salad (other complementary proteins are mentioned in the recipe card), Greek seasoning provides supporting flavor with ease. Penzy’s makes a good one, as does McCormick. If using the latter, the chicken benefits from an extra pinch of salt.
When tossed with the warm orzo, the spinach and feta soften slightly. The warm orzo also soaks up more of the vinaigrette, locking in extra flavor.
A simple homemade vinaigrette or a store-bought favorite makes this salad as quick and easy as it is deliciously satisfying. Serve as a light lunch, a side with dinner, or a main dish with the addition of chicken, salmon, or extra chickpeas.
If you make this recipe, please comment and give it a 5-star review if you deem worthy. The feedback is always appreciated! 💛
Mediterranean Orzo Salad
Prep Time:10 minutes
Cook Time:15 minutes
Total Time:25 minutes
Yield:2-3 main dish or 4-6 side dish servings
A short list of ingredients comes together with ease for this wholesome, vegetarian salad that can be enjoyed warm or cold. The base recipe is delicious as is, but the list of optional add-ins shows how flexible it is as well.
Cook the orzo: Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the orzo and boil until tender, about 11 minutes from when the water returns to a boil. Check a minute or two early so as not to overcook – or give an extra minute or two, if needed. When done, drain the orzo very well.
While the orzo is cooking, place the spinach in a large bowl. When done, add the well-drained but still hot orzo to the bowl, followed by the chickpeas, olives, and feta. Pour the vinaigrette over top, and then toss to evenly coat the ingredients. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat. Serve with an additional drizzle of vinaigrette, if desired.
* I use about 3½ ounces of spinach. For easy measuring, figure 1 ounce = 1 lightly packed cup = 1 big handful. You may also adjust the proportions of this salad, as desired, making it more of a green salad or more of a pasta salad.
Chicken: You can stir in 1 large chicken breast, chopped (leftover grilled or rotisserie is great; for ease I like Parchment Packet Chicken baked with Greek seasoning). Or top plated portions with chicken breast, sliced, using a half to a whole breast per serving, depending on appetite.
Cucumber – about 1 cup, chopped
Red onion or scallions – 3 to 4 tablespoons minced red onion or 2 thinly sliced scallions
Red pepper – For the sake of color, this makes a nice alternative to the tomatoes. I like about ½ a red bell pepper, very thinly sliced. Alternatively, you could use roasted red peppers.
Sun dried tomatoes (about ¼ cup, chopped – I use jarred tomatoes in oil, well drained. Could use the dry variety that needs to be soaked in hot water. In this case, scoop a ladleful when the orzo is cooking and soak 5 minutes before draining well.)
Artichokes – one small (~6-ounce) jar marinated hearts, well drained and quartered.