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White bowl filled with a mixed zucchini orzo salad with sliced almonds, herbs and a wedge of lemon.

Zucchini Orzo Salad

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  • Author: Catherine Perez
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Stove Top
  • Cuisine: American
  • Diet: Vegan


This zucchini orzo salad is tossed with fresh herbs and a seared lemon garlic dressing. Bright and warming, this cozy pasta salad is the perfect summer meal.


  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced into coins
  • 12 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 shallot, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp lemon pepper
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup dry orzo
  • 1, 15 oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 cup almond slices
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Seared Lemon Dressing

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Optional Breadcrumb Topping

  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup almond slices


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil then cook the orzo according to package until al dente. Drain the pasta well then transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Heat a large skillet with a tablespoon of oil. When hot add the zucchini and spread them out in the pan in a single layer. Allow the zucchini to cook undisturbed for 3 minutes or until the bottoms become golden brown, then flip and repeat for an additional 2-3 minutes. Transfer the slices to the bowl of orzo.
  3. To the same pan, add extra oil if needed then add the shallot, sliced garlic, coriander, lemon pepper, and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle with a pinch of salt and sauté until the shallots are softened and the garlic is golden then transfer to the bowl of orzo along with the chickpeas, almond slices, parsley, and basil.
  4. Zest your lemon and grate your garlic over a cutting board then transfer to a jar and add the vinegar and mustard. Cut the lemon in half and place cut side in the same heated skillet for 4-5 minutes or until the bottoms of the lemons have caramelized then remove from heat.
  5. Juice your lemon overtop the lemon zest mixture then add the maple syrup, and a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Seal the jar then shake vigorously until the dressing emulsifies.
  6. Pour the dressing over the orzo then toss to combine. Adjust salt and pepper to taste and serve. For a little extra crunch, toast up some breadcrumbs and almonds in a skillet stirring frequently for 3 to 5 minutes or until golden then serve your orzo topped with the toasted crumbs.


Salt your boiling water for the orzo generously. This will help properly season the orzo, which will give more flavor to the salad.

Don’t rinse your orzo. After cooking the orzo, just drain it well and add straight to your mixing bowl with the remaining ingredients and dressing. Keeping it warm will allow it to absorb more flavor from the dressing.

For a good sear on your zucchini, cook it undisturbed for a few minutes. Make sure to spread your zucchini out in an even layer and avoid overcrowding the pan. Cooking it this way will help it to naturally caramelize and prevent it from getting super mushy.

To manage nut allergies, swap the almonds for pepitas. They are a great seed packed with protein and loaded with magnesium and zinc.