This Spinach Orzo Chicken Salad with Goat Cheese is light, fresh and perfect for an easy weeknight dinner! It’s also a great side dish to bring to your next barbecue or picnic!
This recipe and photos have been updated since the original post on 6/13/2014
Orzo is hands down my favorite pasta. It’s small, has a nice texture and I never feel as stuffed when I eat it versus other pasta. It’s also great because it doesn’t overwhelm the dish let’s all of the other ingredients shine. This Spinach Orzo Chicken Salad with Goat Cheese is a favorite of both my husband and myself.
It works great as a main dish thanks to the chicken or you can also serve it as a side dish. I love bringing it as a side dish when we get together with family and friends. Generally if I’m serving it as a side dish I’ll omit the chicken. Don’t worry, none of the flavor is lost if you choose to do that.
Ingredients Needed to Make Spinach Orzo Chicken Salad with Goat Cheese
- Roasted red peppers
- Cooked chicken breasts
- Cherry tomatoes
- Goat cheese
- Green onion
- Champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar and olive oil
- Dijon mustard
- Honey or maple syrup
How to Make the Orzo Salad
- Cook the orzo and rinse it under cold water. I don’t recommend rinsing pasta unless you’re making a cold pasta salad. Add the orzo to a large serving bowl.
- To the orzo, add the roasted red peppers, green onion, chicken, spinach, cherry tomatoes and basil.
- In a small bowl whisk together the vinegar, dijon, honey, olive oil, salt and pepper, then pour it over the salad. Toss together until everything is coated.
- Add in the goat cheese crumbles and gently stir them into the salad. I do this last to keep the cheese from losing it’s crumbly texture.
At this point you can serve the salad immediately or refrigerate until you’re ready to serve it. I like to make this salad the day I plan to serve it, but if you want to make it a day ahead of time, wait until just before serving to add in the vinaigrette.
Orzo Chicken Salad Ingredient Substitutions
Orzo – Orzo may be replaced with Israeli couscous, macaroni, ditalini or any other small shaped pasta.
Roasted Red Peppers – A regular red bell pepper can be substituted for the roasted peppers, however you won’t have that smoky flavor that sweet smoky flavor if you choose to go this route.
Goat Cheese – If you don’t like goat cheese substitute with feta, fresh mozzarella balls or ricotta salata.
Chicken – Cooked chicken breasts can be substituted with rotisserie chicken, turkey breast or omit it for a vegetarian salad.
Spinach – Baby kale or arugula are good substitutions for the spinach. If you choose to do this be aware that both greens have a slightly bitter and peppery taste.
Orzo Salad Serving Suggestions
Below are main dish recommendations if you plan to serve this as a side dish rather than a main dish salad. I also recommend omitting the chicken if you’re planning to serve it as a side dish.
- Broccoli Goat Cheese Stuffed Chicken
- BBQ Chicken
- Sweet and Spicy Grilled Chicken and Pineapple Skewers
- Grilled Shrimp Skewers
- Chipotle Maple Grilled Salmon
- 1 cup uncooked orzo
- 1 cooked chicken breast, diced
- 3 cups baby spinach, chopped
- 1/2 cup roasted red pepper, diced
- 1/4 cup sliced green onion
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
- 2 ounces crumbled goat cheese
- 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar, white wine or red wine vinegar as an alternate
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
- Cook the orzo according to the package directions omitting any oil it calls for. Rinse and drain the cooked orzo in cold water and put it in a large serving bowl. Add in the remaining salad ingredients and toss together.
- In a small bowl combine all of the vinaigrette ingredients, whisk together, then pour over the salad. Stir until everything is coated in the vinaigrette. Taste for seasoning, then serve.
If you can't find whole wheat orzo you can use regular orzo in it's place.
Recipe was slightly adapted from Cooking Light
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 245Total Fat: 9gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 32mgSodium: 211mgCarbohydrates: 26gFiber: 2gSugar: 7gProtein: 16g