This recipe for Orzo Salad with Oil-Free Pesto is a complete meal with protein, heathy fats, grains, and lots of veggies. The oil-free pesto is very versatile. Try adding it to baked tofu or cauliflower, or use it as a spread for sandwiches.
A perfect summer salad that's quick, easy and budget-friendly. The creamy oil-free pesto adds a delicious tang and brings all the ingredients together for a satisfying dinner.
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🥗 Why This Recipe is Fabulous
- The oil-free pesto is made with the liquid from canned chickpeas (aquafaba), which mimics the creamy texture of oil when blended.
- Chickpeas add fiber and plant-based protein to this salad for a complete meal.
- Walnuts add heart healthy fats to the pesto.
- The pesto is rich in vitamin B12 from the nutritional yeast, which adds a cheesy flavor.
- This salad recipe is quick and easy to make.
📖 How to Make This Recipe
This pesto pairs well with a wide variety of dishes. It's delicious with baked tofu, roasted cauliflower, or as a spread for sandwiches. Refrigerate any leftovers for up to 2 days.
To make the pesto, drain a can of chickpeas and reserve some of the liquid from the can. Add the liquid, nutritional yeast, garlic, lemon juice, basil, spinach, and walnuts to a high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Blending can make the pesto warm. Place it in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes, or until it reaches room temperature.
Roasted chickpeas add a delicious crunch to the salad. Rubbing the chickpeas between layers of a tea towel removes the skins so they get even crispier in the oven. This step is optional but worth doing if you have the time.
Roast the chickpeas for the salad until they are golden and crispy. Broil for an additional 2 to 3 minutes for even crispier chickpeas. Set aside to cool before adding them to the salad.
Cook the orzo. Drain and run under cold water. (Pasta should only be run under cold water if it is going to be used in a salad.)
Let the chickpeas, orzo and pesto cool to room temperature before mixing them all together. Add the salad ingredients to a large bowl and mix to combine. Add the desired amount of pesto.
Aquafaba is the slightly viscous liquid in a can of chickpeas. (This is not the same as the liquid in any other can of beans.) When whipped, it creates a foam, making it an excellent vegan egg substitute. It's full of starch, making it a great binder in baked goods. It also gives them a light and fluffy texture.
Blending the aquafaba with the other pesto ingredients gives this pesto a light and creamy quality.
You can substitute the nutritional yeast for vegan or non-vegan parmesan. You won't get the added benefit of the fortified B12 from the nutritional yeast, but you will still get the same cheesy flavor.
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Orzo Salad with Oil-Free Pesto
- 4 ounces orzo (¼ 16-ounce packet)
- 15 ounces chickpeas canned, drained and rinsed (reserving ⅓ cup of the can liquid-aquafaba)
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 3 small carrots cut into ½-inch rounds
- 2 cups salad leaves
For the oil-free pesto:
- ⅓ cup can liquid (aquafaba)
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves
- 2 cups spinach leaves
- ⅓ cup walnuts raw
- ½ cup nutritional yeast
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus more to taste
- 2 garlic cloves
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 450ºF.
- Cook the orzo according to the directions on the packet until al dente. Rinse the pasta under cold water to cool before making the salad.
- Optional: Rub the chickpeas between two dish towels to remove as many of the skins as possible.
- Roast the chickpeas: Place the chickpeas onto a large, non-stick rimmed baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes. Change the oven setting to broil and cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until crispy and browned. Transfer the chickpeas to a large bowl. Set aside to cool.
- Make the pesto: Meanwhile, add the aquafaba, basil, spinach, walnuts, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and garlic to a high-speed blender. Blend on high until smooth. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pesto to a medium bowl and place in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes, or until the pesto is at room temperature.
- Make the salad: Place the orzo, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and salad leaves into the bowl with the roasted chickpeas. Add the desired amount of pesto and mix to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Adjust lemon juice to taste.
- Roasting is optional.
- Rubbing the chickpeas to remove the skins gets them extra crispy in the oven.
- Refrigerate any remaining pesto in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
This information is provided as a courtesy and is an ESTIMATE only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased can change the nutritional information in any given recipe.