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Smoky Mediterranean Orzo Salad on white platter

My Smoky Mediterranean Orzo Salad is packed with tangy and bold flavours to please most everyone. Serve warm or at room temperature for a hearty, attention-grabbing side dish. Or, with one or two additions, transform this easy-going pasta salad into a filling main dish.

Basically this is a sassy tweak of the picnic and potluck staple, pasta salad. Very sassy. Vegan, too.Smoky Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Banish the mayo!

Long a staple of the supermarket chilled food aisle, pasta salad is not known for being the healthiest choice. Invariably coated in a mayonnaisey glop, it is often pretty dreadful, with a weird unidentifiable tang and artificial sweetness that really shouldn’t be there. It all feels a little slimy, too.

Maybe I’ve just been unlucky with commercial pasta salad. But honestly, it is the very last thing I would pick up as a quick side dish.

In recent years, however – at least here in the UK – pasta salad has undergone a quiet revolution. Not only is the mayo mostly banished to the sin bin of culinary history, there are actual vegetables in it. And different types of pasta!

I still don’t buy pasta salad. But I wholly endorse the efforts made by the recipe developers at Marks & Spencer, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose for coming up with pasta salads that actually sound delicious. If I saw a pack or two in your grocery trolley I would inwardly congratulate you on your good taste.

I hope you think this pasta salad sounds delicious, too.

Orzo Pasta Salad with vegetables and herbsWhat is in this Smoky Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad?

The key ingredient is orzo. A small, rice-shaped pasta shape, orzo is delicious in lighter-style dishes like this. It cooks very quickly – seven or eight minutes – and adds a silky element to soups and pasta bakes. I just love it. It is not easy to get a wholemeal version of orzo, but grab it if you see it. We are just boiling it as per pasta, but there are other cooking options if you have some left in your pack. Oh, and if you need this to be gluten-free just use any small-shaped suitable pasta, or brown basmati rice.

Eggplant – cut into cubes, slicked with olive oil and roasted with a few skin-on garlic cloves. If you can’t do eggplants, roast zucchini or peppers. Or do these as well as the eggplant.

Smoked sun-dried tomatoes – okay, this is a bit niche. In the UK you can buy jars of Belazu Smoked Tomatoes at Sainsburys, Tesco and Waitrose. A jar of these tangy-sweet, soft tomatoes in oil can be used to enliven a pasta sauce, to go with chickpea flour pancakes (soccas) or other savory pancakes or crepes, in soups, green salads, dips, bean salads and plenty more. You won’t waste the jar. Trust me.

Preserved lemon – in oil or in brine, just mince finely and chuck them in. Here is my own recipe for preserved lemons.

Artichoke hearts – as above, they can be preserved in oil or in a light brine or water. In oil is best though.

Kalamata olives – just a few, for their incredible pop of umami

Fresh mint and parsley – adds brightness and freshness. And flavor, of course

Lemon – of course

Habanero chilli – I know this is a bit off-piste but if you like these fruity-hot chilli peppers, mince half a small one and add it. I did so because I had some leftover from something else and thought, “hot damn, this is good!”

Mediterranean Pasta SaladVariations to your Smoky Mediterranean Orzo Salad

add one or more of the following:

Use giant wholemeal (Israeli) couscous instead of orzo

Roasted red pepper

Roasted cauliflower

Thin slivers of raw broccoli

Feta cheese or goat’s cheese

Slices of hard-boiled egg (served with/on rather than mixed in)

Cooked runner beans or green beans (sliced)

Cooked legumes or beans, such as chickpeas or borlotti

Sautéed or thinly-sliced raw zucchini

Fresh cherry tomatoes

Toasted seeds, such as pine nuts

Chopped cucumber

Add Dijon mustard to the dressing in place of the chilli (it’s nice to have some kind of “bite”)

Black garlic in place of the roasted garlic

Fresh, minced garlic

Shredded kale or baby spinach leaves (sautéed or raw)

Rocket/arugula or other favorite sharp greens

Smoky Mediterranean Orzo SaladWhat you do

Oh, it is soooo easy.

  • Chop the eggplant into cubes and toss them and some garlic cloves with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes.
  • While the eggplant is cooking, boil the orzo pasta for about seven minutes and chop the antipasti bits – artichoke hearts, smoked tomatoes, preserved lemon and Kalamata olives.
  • When the eggplant and garlic are cooked and soft, squeeze the garlic from its paper skin and into a jug with some oil (from the tomatoes and/or artichokes), lemon juice, pepper and perhaps the suggested minced habanero chilli. Mash in the garlic and beat this dressing very well.
  • Then it is a matter of tossing in the cooked and cooled orzo, the vegetables, garlicky dressing, chopped herbs and any extra add-ins, like feta cheese or chickpeas. It’s good to let the flavours meld for half an hour at room temperature, but isn’t necessary.

As you can see, this is a very easy side dish recipe that is very easily made into a main dish. Enjoy it warm, room temperature or even cold. It’s also lunch box-friendly.

Whether on PinterestInstagramFacebookTwitter or of course here on the blog, I love to see what you do with my recipes, and I welcome your comments, star ratings, tweaks and suggestions on my Smoky Mediterranean Orzo Salad, and any of my other 600+ recipes. 

**Also, if you’ve made/intend to make this recipe, please do consider rating it as it will make this recipe more visible on search engines. To do so, click the appropriate star underneath the small photo on the recipe card, below. Thank you so much!**

Orzo Salad with Vegetables

Smoky Mediterranean Orzo Salad on white platter
5 from 5 votes

Smoky Mediterranean Orzo Salad

Packed with loads of bold and tangy flavour, this Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad will please almost everyone. Below I give you a wee menu of options to take it from hearty side salad to protein-packed lunch or dinner salad.

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Greek, Mediterranean, vegan
Keyword orzo, pasta, salad
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 40 minutes
Servings 6 servings
Calories 239 kcal
Author kellie anderson


  • 1 medium eggplant cubed into bite-sized pieces - 1-inch cubes
  • 4 garlic cloves in their skins
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil plus more if liked
  • 200 g orzo pasta
  • 10 smoked tomatoes in oil sliced; OR non-smoked, sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil
  • 1 small preserved lemon minced
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh mint
  • 3 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • 6 artichoke hearts in oil sliced
  • 1/2 habanero chilli pepper deseed and chopped - optional
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1 small lemon juiced
  • 8 Kalamata olives de-stoned and sliced


  1. Preheat your oven to 180C fan/200C/400F.

  2. Toss the chopped eggplant and the garlic cloves in one tablespoon of the olive oil. Lay them in an even layer on a baking tray and roast until the eggplant is soft and lightly browned - about 30 minutes, stirring all after 20 minutes.

  3. While the eggplant and garlic are roasting, boil the orzo according to package directions. Or, about seven minutes if there are no instructions. Drain and rinse with cool water, then set aside.

  4. Add the remaining oil to a jug or cup, along with one tablespoon of oil from the tomatoes. Also add the lemon juice, some pepper, minced habanero chilli if using (it's adds a lovely, fruity-hot taste); squeeze in the roasted garlic (pinch one end of the garlic off, and then squeeze). Mash the garlic with a fork, then beat everything until amalgamated.

  5. Add the cooked orzo to a serving bowl, followed by the chopped smoked tomatoes, the eggplant, artichoke heart slices, chopped herbs and sliced Kalamata olives. Pour over the dressing, toss, and serve.

Recipe Notes

Make it a meal! Add in sauteed prawns/shrimp, grilled tofu, cooked beans or legumes (like chickpeas or borlotti).

Variations: add one or more of the following

Roasted red pepper 

Roasted cauliflower

Thin slivers of raw broccoli

Feta cheese or goat's cheese

Chickpeas or borlotti beans

Cooked runner beans or green beans (sliced)

Sauteed or thinly-sliced raw zucchini

Fresh cherry tomatoes

Toasted seeds, such as pine nuts

Chopped cucumber

Add Dijon mustard to the dressing in place of the chilli (it's nice to have some kind of "bite")

Black garlic in place of the roasted garlic

Fresh, minced garlic

Nutrition Facts
Smoky Mediterranean Orzo Salad
Amount Per Serving
Calories 239 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 265mg12%
Potassium 371mg11%
Carbohydrates 35g12%
Fiber 5g21%
Sugar 5g6%
Protein 6g12%
Calcium 40mg4%
Vitamin C 29mg35%
Vitamin A 727IU15%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Pin now. Make soon!Mediterranean Orzo Salad - smoky and tangy!





8 thoughts on “Smoky Mediterranean Orzo Salad

  1. Mr A says:

    Best pasta salad ever!!!!

  2. Looks so good!

  3. Janice says:

    I love orzo and this looks fantastic.

  4. This is just gorgeous! I love anything with smoky flavours, and orzo for some reason tugs at my heart strings. This looks perfect for packed lunches too, so it’s definitely going on my must-make list!

  5. this sounds delicious – I find grain salads challenging as the grain seems to swamp the vegies but there seem to be better recipes about like this one. I love the idea of preserved lemons but have not had them in my fridge for ages after a jar that was unused far too long. But I would much prefer a version of this without preserved lemon to a supermarket pasta salad – though I don’t tend to buy them as they rarely look very appetising.

  6. Sally says:

    This shouts flavour with its gorgeous bright appearance. Anything with preserved lemons for me please… in fact a reminder to make another jar of them.

  7. This looks so tempting and in fact Ive never actually cooked orzo before so thank you, sounds great!

  8. Rachel says:

    Fresh comfort food xx

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