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Light and flavorful, this pesto orzo salad is filled with fresh ingredients and is the perfect make ahead dish for the family or gatherings. It is a fail-proof meal and can be customized to your liking with whatever ingredients you have on hand.

An overhead shot of orzo salad for mom and toddler.
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Pesto Orzo Salad

Orzo is one of our beloved pantry staples as it cooks up fast and lends itself beautifully to so many easy weeknight meals!

In fact, two of the most popular family dinner recipes on this blog happen to be the one pot creamy chicken orzo and poached cod.

While orzo works well in hot dishes, it also makes for a great addition to cold pasta salads! If you haven’t tried doing so yet, this pesto orzo salad will WOW you in the best way possible.

It is super quick and easy to prepare with just a handful of ingredients and can be made in advance, which is always a bonus for busy families!

And here are more kid-friendly dinner ideas.

Ingredients

  • Orzo pasta – this is my favorite type for this salad but you can use any other small pasta shape.
  • Pesto sauce – use store-bought or homemade pesto! I’ve included some of my favorites recipes below.
  • Vegetables – Feel free to add whatever you have on hand! juicy cherry tomatoes or sun-dried tomatoes, cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion, green onions, zucchini, corn, carrots, broccoli, baby spinach….they will all be delicious.
  • Fresh mozzarella – Use mozzarella pearls or tear regular mozzarella into small pieces. And here are the best cheeses for babies and toddlers.
  • Lemon juice – a must ingredient in my opinion! It truly brightens up the entire salad.

Step-by-Step Instructions

Cooked orzo in a glass bowl on the left and all the ingredients added on the right.
  1. Cook orzo according to package directions, about 6-7 minutes, until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the cooked orzo with pesto, vegetables, cheese, and lemon juice.

Homemade Pesto Recipes

Blended ricotta pesto in a food processor.

Here are some easy and unique pestos to try!

Variations

An overhead shot of pesto orzo salad with a wooden spoon.
  • Add protein – will make the salad more filling so you can enjoy as a main dish. Refer to the serving suggestions section for specific examples.
  • Switch up the pasta – Try with small pasta shapes, such as pearl couscous, macaroni, ditalini, and small shells. Quinoa will be delicious too!
  • Experiment with vegetables – this is a great way to use up any random bits you may have in the fridge.
  • Cheese – I recommend sticking to mozzarella for babies. But for older kids and adults, try with feta cheese, parmesan cheese, goat cheese, cheddar, or whatever you fancy!

Tips for Success

  • If you want to use cooked vegetables, especially if intending to serve to your baby, cook them in the same pot with orzo. Depending on how soft you want the vegetables to be, I recommend adding towards the end of the cooking time and draining along with the pasta.
  • Rinse the orzo in cold water after boiling if intending to enjoy as cold pasta salad.
  • If you are in the mood for a warm salad, skip the rinse but do drizzle some extra virgin olive oil to prevent sticking.
  • Adjust to taste – you have full control over how much pesto and other ingredients you want to add. This is a very flexible recipe so make it your own!

Serving Suggestions

Deconstructed pesto orzo pasta salad with cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, orzo, and salmon.

Add some protein to make this easy pasta salad more filling. Some suggestions include:

Pasta salads are generally liked by kids, as they are a familiar and comforting food. So this may be a great way to introduce new vegetables and flavors to picky eaters, as they can be combined with other ingredients in a way that is appealing and approachable.

However, if your child has a difficult time with mixed foods (very common for toddlers!), you can serve deconstructed as pictured.

Notice the tiny piece of salmon for exposure. That’s because my daughter is learning to like it and seeing too much can be very intimidating. However, its tiny presence is powerful as it counts as exposure.

toddler pushing bowl away

Is your toddler becoming picky?

Arm yourself with these strategies that will transform your mealtimes!

Make Ahead Tips

You can cook the orzo up to 3 days in advance. Most pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

You can also use any frozen pesto you may have on hand. Simply thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

Storage

Once assembled, transfer the orzo salad to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.

If you like to maintain the crunch from the vegetables, store them separately.

I recommend adding a bit more pesto and fresh lemon juice to freshen up the leftover salad.

Did you make this recipe? Leave a rating below and let me know how you liked the recipe! Your feedback means so much to me!

5 from 5 votes

Pesto Orzo Salad

Light and flavorful, this pesto orzo salad is filled with fresh ingredients and is the perfect make ahead dish for the family or gatherings.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4
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Just enter your email and get it sent to your inbox! Plus you’ll get new recipes from us every week!

Ingredients 

  • 8 ounces orzo, cooked
  • 1/4-1/3 cup pesto, store-bought or homemade
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved (or quartered for young kids)
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (can also add zest for extra zing)
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella

Optional

  • Protein of choice – chicken, tofu, beans, salmon, etc.

Instructions 

  • Cook orzo according to package directions, about 6-7 minutes, until al dente. Drain and rinse under cold water.
  • In a large bowl, combine the cooked orzo with pesto, vegetables, cheese, and lemon juice.
  • Enjoy warm or cold by refrigerating for at least 30 minutes.

Notes

  • Add protein – will make the salad more filling so you can enjoy as a main dish. Refer to the serving suggestions section for specific examples.
  • Switch up the pasta – Try with small pasta shapes, such as pearl couscous, macaroni, ditalini, and small shells. Quinoa will be delicious too!
  • Experiment with vegetables – this is a great way to use up any random bits you may have in the fridge.
  • Cheese – I recommend sticking to mozzarella for babies. But for older kids and adults, try with feta cheese, parmesan cheese, goat cheese, cheddar, or whatever you fancy!

Nutrition

Calories: 366kcal | Carbohydrates: 46g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 13g | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 710IU | Calcium: 189mg | Iron: 1mg
Like this recipe? Rate and comment below!

About Min

Thank you so much for stopping by! I am Min, a Registered Dietitian, a Christ follower, a wife, and a mom to our two miracle babies! Currently, I’m having a ton of fun feeding their tummies and sharing our baby led weaning journey! Follow me on Instagram if interested in seeing daily menu as well as tips and tricks.

5 from 5 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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