Caprese Orzo Salad
Caprese Orzo Salad is a delicious main dish or side that takes less than 30 minutes to make and is packed with chopped chicken, fresh mozzarella, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and a delicious balsamic vinaigrette! Everything about this orzo salad is fresh and delicious!
Caprese refers to the island of Capri that is just off the coast of Napoli, Italy. If you’ve heard of caprese food, it’s commonly associated with the classic caprese salad which is a combination of fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It’s the type of flavor combination to make anyone say, “mamma mia!” Plus, it’s one of my family’s favorite things to eat! You’ll find this Italian salad combination in my Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad and Chicken Caprese Sandwich!
Why This Recipe Works
- Packed with fresh flavors. This fresh caprese salad with orzo is packed with delicious fresh ingredients and flavors! The fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella are deliciously combined with a sweet and salty balsamic vinaigrette dressing!
- Easy and light. This orzo caprese salad comes together in less than 30 minutes! It’s an easy caprese pasta salad recipe that is super light and fresh tasting too.
- Serve as a main or a side. The great thing about this caprese orzo salad is you can serve it as a main dish or it’s also a great side dish!
- Balsamic Vinegar: The balsamic vinegar provides a deliciously acidic and salty flavor to the vinaigrette. You can use any type of regular balsamic vinegar. I love Balsamic Vinegar di Modena.
- Honey: The honey provides a deliciously sweet element to balance the acidity from the vinegar.
- Orzo: Orzo is a type of pasta. It looks a lot like rice.
- Fresh Mozzarella Cheese: You want fresh mozzarella so you can cut it into pieces. Shredded mozzarella won’t work in this orzo caprese pasta salad recipe. You can use the blocks of mozzarella or the fresh mozzarella balls.
- Grape Tomatoes: Grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes will work well in this tomato orzo salad. Cut them into halves to make it easier to work and for the juicy tomatoes to add to the moistness of the caprese orzo pasta salad.
- Fresh Basil Leaves: Must be fresh basil! I promise you will love this salad much much more if you use fresh herbs. The fresh fragrant basil penetrates the caprese orzo salad with great flavor more than if you were to use dried basil.
- Cooked Chicken: You can use cubed cooked chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken if that is easier.
- Make the balsamic vinaigrette. Add the balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, honey, and salt and pepper to a bowl. Add the olive oil while whisking vigorously until combined.
- Cook the orzo pasta. Cook the pasta according to package directions. (Add the orzo to boiling salted water and cook for about 7 minutes.) When al dente or fully cooked, drain the hot water and cool the pasta down in cold water.
- Add the caprese orzo salad ingredients. Add the chilled cooked orzo to a bowl. Drizzle with the dressing. Add the chopped chicken, tomatoes, mozzarella and chopped fresh basil. Toss to combine. Serve immediately or chill and serve!
You can use chopped grilled chicken or shredded rotisserie chicken. For a simple option, you can use the Costco canned chicken. Drain prior to adding. PS my favorite is chopped grilled chicken!
For a vegetarian option you can simply omit the chicken or swap for chickpeas. Drain and rinse the chickpeas prior to adding. Note: chickpeas are not a part of the classic caprese ingredients of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil.
You can use fresh mozzarella pearls (small mozzarella balls) if you don’t want to worry about cutting the mozzarella.
Top with some red pepper flakes if you want a bit of a kick.
This caprese orzo salad is great for parties and potlucks because you can make a lot of elements ahead of time.
Make Ahead, Storing, and Freezing
This balsamic dressing can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight container or jar in the fridge for 1 week. Before using, whisk to combine.
For additional meal prep tips, you can chop the tomatoes ahead of time, the mozzarella ahead of time and cook the chicken ahead of time. Store each of these elements in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a day before using to make the salad.
Store any leftover orzo caprese salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 1 week.
I’m not a fan of freezing pasta because it gets mushy when frozen and thawed. Orzo is a smaller pasta so there’s a slight chance it won’t get super mushy if you want to try freezing it. My recommendation will always be to never freeze pasta.
Yes! Orzo can be served as a cold pasta salad or warm. This caprese orzo salad is best served when cold because of the fresh tomatoes and the fresh mozzarella. If the food is warm, the mozzarella cubes will get soft and melty.
Yes. Orzo is a short pasta that looks like rice but is often made of semolina flour.
Orzo originates from Italy, the home of pasta!
The orzo probably wasn’t cooked all the way. Dry orzo looks like long grains of rice (it’s also known as risoni which derives from the word riso meaning rice in Italian). When cooked, the orzo will still look like a grain of rice but it will be much fatter than when raw.
More Italian Recipes
- Roasted Grape Tomatoes
- Panzanella Toscana
- Grilled Tomato, Mozzarella, and Pesto Sandwich Recipe
- Tomato, Olive, and Artichoke Salad
- Pesto Pasta with Tomatoes
Caprese Orzo Salad
- 5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 teaspoons honey
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic - minced
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- salt and pepper - to taste
Caprese Orzo Salad
- 12 oz orzo pasta
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella - cut into bite size pieces
- 1 pint grape tomatoes - or cherry tomatoes, cut in half
- 1/2 cup fresh basil - chopped
- 1-2 cups cooked chicken - cubed
- Add the balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, honey, garlic, and salt and pepper to a bowl or jar. Slowly add the olive oil and vigorously whisk until combined. This dressing can be made in advanced and covered then stored in the fridge for 1 week. Before using whisk vigorously to combine.
- Cook orzo in salted water for 7 mins. When done, cool pasta in ice water to stop the cooking process.
- Drizzle some of the balsamic dressing over the orzo. Add mozzarella, tomatoes, cooked chicken, and chopped basil and toss to combine. Serve immediately or cover and store in the fridge to serve chilled.
- Will keep covered, in the fridge for 1 week.