Orzo Vegan Pasta with Basil & Veggies

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This colorful Orzo Vegan Pasta Salad is nutritious, and filling and can be made in about 20 minutes. It’s loaded with green peas, tomatoes, basil, and a simple balsamic dijon dressing that is absolutely delicious!

black serving bowl filled with orzo pasta salad topped with tomatoes and basil with a wooden spoon resting on side.

This easy vegan pasta salad is always a huge hit in my Food for Life classes. Class participants are consistently amazed at how easy this recipe is to make and the burst of tangy flavor created by the dressing made with only balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and maple syrup (optional). Other terrific recipe options are this Easy Vegan Pasta Salad that can be ready in about 20 minutes and Dairy-Free Macaroni Salad.

overhead photo of orzo pasta with tomatoes, green peas, and basil in white bowl with balsamic vinegar sauce

You will love this orzo pasta salad because it’s…

  • Light
  • Filling
  • Packed with nutrients
  • Simple to make
  • Super flavorful
  • Healthy
  • Delicious

What exactly is orzo?

Many people have never heard of orzo and often ask if it’s a grain, rice, or pasta. The simple answer is that orzo is pasta that has an oval shape and looks a lot to me like slivered almonds.

It is made with flour and is not naturally gluten-free, though there are some gluten-free options available. Personally, I purchase the whole wheat version because my family is not avoiding gluten.

Orzo is commonly used to toss into healthy soup recipes to add texture and heartiness. It’s also widely used in pasta salads with veggies.

saucepan with cooked orzo pasta in water and a wooden spoon

How to cook orzo pasta

The recipe card at the bottom of the page has the full list of ingredients with measurements and instructions.

Orzo pasta is super simple to make and cooks on the stovetop just like rice in minutes.

  • Begin by heating water in a large saucepan or pot until it boils.
  • Stir in the pasta and pinch of salt (optional) and cover the pot to bring the water back to a boil.
  • Remove the lid once it is boiling and stir to prevent sticking.
  • Cook for approximately 9 minutes stirring occasionally.
  • Continually check past for an al dente texture. You don’t want to overcook it.
  • Drain in a colander and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking process.
  • Now it’s ready to be used in this recipe and others.
white colander with freshly cooked whole wheat orzo pasta

While the orzo is cooking, defrost the frozen green peas by placing them in a strainer or colander and running warm water over them. Set them to the side.

green peas in metal strainer over white bowl

Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and mince fresh basil if using it. Dried basil is also a good choice for this recipe. I sometimes add a combination of both dried and fresh basil.

cutting board with cherry tomatoes slice in half with basil

I am often asked which knives I use personally, and I have to say that it is Victorinox. They are the same company that makes Swiss Army Knives and the quality is excellent.

Next, you’ll want to whisk up the simple dressing that only takes about a minute.

Oil-free pasta dressing

The easy oil-free 3-2-1 vegan salad dressing used with this dish requires only three ingredients–balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, maple syrup–to be whisked together in a small bowl.

balsamic vinegar, dijion mustard, and maple syrup in white bowls with whisk

If you prefer, the maple syrup can be left out completely, but I think it really adds the perfect flavor to this pasta salad.

large black bowl with cooked orzo pasta, tomatoes, green peas, and spices

In a large bowl, add the balsamic dressing to the cooked orzo, tomatoes, green peas, spices, and basil. Mix together well and toss in a few pine nuts or sesame seeds and a little salt and pepper. Serve immediately or chill first.

two white bowls with orzo vegan pasta salad

*Originally published March 2016.

This recipe is adapted from the Physicians Committee, Food for Life: Kickstart Your Health.

If you love light summer salads like this one, be sure to try our vegan pasta primavera too!

Tips for making orzo vegan pasta salad

  • Dressing- Dark balsamic makes the dish a little darker, so use white balsamic if you prefer it to be lighter in color.
  • Tomatoes- If you don’t have cherry tomatoes, diced fresh tomatoes or even canned tomatoes will work.
  • Gluten Free- To make this dish gluten-free, you will need to use gluten-free orzo pasta.
  • Pasta- Be sure not to overcook the pasta because it will become mushy.
  • Peas- Though cooked green peas can be used, I highly recommend using the frozen variety for the texture and color.
white bowl filled with vegan orzo pasta salad with veggies

Other plant-based pasta dishes:

For those of you new to the whole food plant-based lifestyle, we’ve created a FREE 7-Day Plant-Based Menu Planner to help you get started!

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orzo pasta with tomatoes, green peas, and basil in large black bowl with wooden spoon
4.91 from 11 votes

Orzo Pasta with Basil & Veggies

This colorful orzo pasta salad is nutritious, filling, and can be made in about 20 minutes. It's loaded with green peas, tomatoes, basil, and a simple balsamic dijon sauce that is absolutely delicious!
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients 

Orzo Pasta

  • 8 oz orzo pasta I use whole wheat
  • 1-1/2 cups cherry tomatoes sliced
  • 1 cup frozen green peas thawed
  • 1 tablespoon basil fresh or dry
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds or pinenuts optional
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Dressing

  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar white or dark
  • 2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup optional

Instructions

Orzo Pasta

  • Cook orzo pasta according to package directions by boiling in water on the stovetop for approximately 9-minutes. Drain and run under cool water in a colander to stop the cooking process.
  • While the orzo is cooking, defrost the frozen green peas by placing them in a colander and running warm water over them. Set them to the side.
  • Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and mince fresh basil if using it. Dried basil is also a good choice for this recipe. I sometimes add a combination of both dried and fresh basil.
  • Next, you'll want to whisk up the simple dressing that only takes about a minute.
  • In a large bowl, add the balsamic dressing to the cooked orzo, tomatoes, green peas, spices, and basil. Mix together well and toss in a few pine nuts or sesame seeds and a little salt and pepper. Serve immediately or chill first.

Balsamic Dressing

  • Whisk together balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and maple syrup in a small bowl.

Video

Notes

Detailed instructions, in-process photos, and my personal helpful tips can be found in the article above.
PRO TIPS:
  • Dressing- Dark balsamic makes the dish a little darker, so use white balsamic if you prefer it to be lighter in color.
  • Tomatoes- If you don't have cherry tomatoes, diced fresh tomatoes or even canned tomatoes will work.
  • Gluten Free- To make this dish gluten-free, you will need to use gluten-free orzo pasta.
  • Pasta- Be sure not to overcook the pasta because it will become mushy.
  • Peas- Though cooked green peas can be used, I highly recommend using the frozen variety for the texture and color.

Nutrition

Calories: 224kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 9.2g | Fat: 3.1g | Fiber: 2.6g

Disclaimer

To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.

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About Terri Edwards

Hi guys! I am the content creator behind EatPlant-Based and a licensed Food for Life instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. I am passionate about sharing healthy recipes and tips to empower others to get healthy.  I’m so glad you’re here! Read More…

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