Zucchini Orzo Salad with Pepperoncini Dressing

5 from 22 votes
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Zucchini Orzo Salad with toasted walnuts, herbs, and a zesty Pepperoncini Dressing. Enjoy this summer orzo salad warm or at room temperature for an easy, delicious side dish. Zucchini orzo salad in a brown serving bowl topped with Parmesan and herbs

It’s peak zucchini season and I’m looking for all the ways to enjoy this versatile veggie.

Whether you’re stuffing zucchini, making it into fritters, or enjoying it in pasta, you truly can’t go wrong this time of year.

This zucchini orzo salad hits all the marks for a nutritious, speedy summer salad.

It’s hearty, filled with fresh herbs, and deliciously zesty from the pepperoncini dressing. Not to mention rich in heart-healthy fats from the walnuts and olive oil

It’s also satiating enough to enjoy on its own, yet versatile enough to pair with just any protein: white fish, shrimp, chicken, or white beans.

While it’s best served warm or at room temperature, you can certainly enjoy it chilled for weekday work lunches.

How to Make Zucchini Orzo Salad

Orzo may look similar to rice, however it’s actually a type of short-cut pasta.

Because of its petite size, orzo cooks in lightning speed, which makes it a great alternative to rice for a fast weeknight dinner.

Additionally, this type of grain seems to be a universal favorite among adults and kiddos. I love the way the orzo noodles cook to an almost creamy, risotto-like texture.

The IngredientsRecipe ingredients in separate bowls on a gray work surface

  • Orzo: You can find regular and whole-wheat orzo in the pasta aisle. Orzo is lower in fiber and certain B vitamins than brown rice, however if you can find whole-grain, it will help even out the playing field. 
  • Zucchini: You need two medium zucchinis, which I prefer slicing into half moons. If the zucchini is rounder in size, feel free to slice it into smaller pieces for more even cooking.
  • Pepperoncinis: Look for pickled, sliced pepperoncini peppers in the pickle and jarred olive section. These are very mild in heat, and will just add a nice briny bite to the salad.
  • Walnuts: Toasting the walnuts brings out their rich, nutty flavor. Alternatively, you can use finely chopped pistachios.
  • Scallions: Use both the white and green parts of scallions for a jolt of onion-y flavor.
  • Lemon Juice: For a bright, fresh finish.
  • Parsley: Either parsley or basil will lend bright top notes to the pepperoncini dressing.
  • Coriander: Ground coriander is citrus-y and nutty – a beautiful complementary spice to zucchini. Alternatively, you can use cumin.
  • Parmesan: For a savory, salty edge, add grated or shaved Parmesan cheese. If making the salad vegan, feel free to omit.

Salad spoons tossing zucchini orzo salad to mix ingredients

The Directions

Step 1: Boil Orzo

Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente.

Step 2: Toast Walnuts

In a large skillet over medium heat, heat walnuts until browned and fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 2 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.

Step 3: Sauté Zucchini

To the same skillet, add 2 Tbsp. olive oil. One hot, add zucchini and cook, stirring only occasionally, until browned, about 6 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and remove skillet from heat.Sliced zucchini being sauteed in a white skillet

Step 4: Prepare Pepperoncini Dressing

Finely chop walnuts and add to a medium bowl. Add remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, pepperoncinis, scallions, parsley, garlic, and remaining 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper; stir to combine.Pepperoncini Dressing being stirred in a small white mixing bowl

Step 5: Combine all Orzo Salad Ingredients

Drain orzo and add to a large bowl. Add sautéed zucchini and pepperoncini dressing and toss to combine. Stir in Parmesan cheese and serve warm or closer to room temperature.Orzo, zucchini, and Pepperoncini Dressing being combined in a brown mixing bowl

Serving Suggestions:

This summer orzo salad pairs well with just about any protein or grilled entree. For example:

  • Fish or Shrimp: A mild white fish, such as halibut or grouper, offer a delicate, buttery flavor that pairs perfectly with this salad. Sautéed shrimp or scallops are also great options.
  • Chicken: Roasted chicken, grilled chicken breast, or shredded rotisserie chicken are great lean protein options.
  • White beans: For a vegetarian option, stir in small white beans (navy beans) or chickpeas for a punch of plant-based protein. 

Make-Ahead and Storage Tips:

  • Make-Ahead: Prepare the dressing up to 1 day ahead (without the walnuts) and keep refrigerated. Stir in walnuts right before assembling the salad.
  • Store: This salad will last up to 4 days refrigerated, however it will dry out slightly. I like to stir in extra olive oil and a little lemon juice prior to serving. You can enjoy it warmed, chilled, or closer to room temperature.
  • Reheat: If you prefer this salad warm, just nook it in the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds.

Styled summer orzo salad in a serving bowl

More Easy Recipes Using Orzo:

Lemon Artichoke Orzo Salad

One Skillet Lemon Pepper Shrimp and Orzo

Pesto Salmon with Roasted Tomato Orzo

One Pot Harissa Shrimp and Feta Orzo

If you give this summer orzo salad a try, snap a pic and tag #dishingouthealth on Instagram so I can see your beautiful creations. I also really appreciate readers taking the time to leave a rating and review!

Lastly, follow along on Facebook and Pinterest for the latest recipe updates

5 from 22 votes

Zucchini Orzo Salad with Pepperoncini Dressing

Zucchini Orzo Salad with toasted walnuts, herbs, and a zesty Pepperoncini Dressing. Enjoy this summer orzo salad warm or at room temperature for an easy, delicious side dish. 
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 6

Equipment

  • Medium pot
  • Large skillet
  • Mixing bowls

Ingredients  

  • 1 cup dry orzo pasta
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium zucchinis, halved lengthwise and sliced into half moons
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt, divided
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sliced pickled pepperoncini, roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
  • 2 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/4 tsp. ground coriander (or cumin)
  • 1/4 cup grated or shaved Parmesan cheese
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Instructions 

  • Bring a pot of generously salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook until al dente. 
  • Meanwhile, heat walnuts in a large skillet over medium heat until browned and fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board.
    To the same skillet, add 2 Tbsp. olive oil. One hot, add zucchini and cook, stirring only occasionally, until browned, about 6 to 7 minutes. Season with 1/4 tsp. salt and remove pan from heat.
  • Finely chop walnuts and add to a medium bowl. Add remaining 1/4 cup olive oil, lemon juice, pepperoncinis, scallions, parsley, garlic, coriander, and remaining 1/4 tsp. each salt and pepper; stir to combine.
    Drain orzo and add to a large bowl. Add sautéed zucchini and pepperoncini dressing; toss to combine. Stir in Parmesan cheese, taste and season with a pinch more salt, if needed, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes

  • Make-Ahead: Prepare the dressing up to 1 day ahead (without the walnuts) and keep refrigerated. Stir in walnuts right before assembling the salad.
  • Store: Salad will keep up to 4 days refrigerated, however it will dry out slightly. Stir in extra olive oil and a little lemon juice prior to serving. You can enjoy it warmed, chilled, or closer to room temperature.
  • Reheat: If you prefer this salad warm, just nook it in the microwave for 30 to 45 seconds.

Nutrition

Serving: 0.66cup | Calories: 300kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 6g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 533mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 2g

I calculate these values by hand to ensure accuracy, however expect up to a 10% variable depending on food brands.

If you love this recipe, please leave a star rating and review below!
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Recipe Rating




22 Comments

  1. Amelia says:

    5 stars
    Flavoursome, easy and entirely delicious!

  2. Jacki marks says:

    5 stars
    Delicious and easy to make!

  3. Dana Busby says:

    5 stars
    This is a fantastic side. It was a hit with my family–kids included (ages 8 and 10).