Lemony Chicken Orzo Salad

orzo chicken salad with pepperoni and veggies in a bowl.

If you love pasta salad, this Lemony Chicken Orzo Salad will make it to your “top 5” list! This orzo pasta salad is bright and zingy with tangy bits of cured salami and mozzarella – it’s like the antipasto pasta!

When you think of pasta salad, you may think of that ho-hum, average mayonnaise-y elbow macaroni with celery and onions at a neighborhood potluck.  If that’s what you’re looking for you’ll have to go elsewhere because this orzo pasta salad recipe is anything but average. My lemony chicken orzo salad is full of surprises.

dry orzo pasta, zucchini, lemon, tomatoes and parsley.

This is a hearty, main course dish that’s perfect for the hot weather and since my car gauge read 92° this morning at 10 a.m., I figure a cold dish would be welcome for lunches and dinners this summer.

zucchini cut into matchsticks.

This orzo pasta salad recipe starts with matchsticks of zucchini (have you ever heard of a zucchini pasta salad?), ripe summer tomatoes and briny kalamata olives.

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bowl of chopped vegetables.

In my mind, pasta salad needs cheese.  Nothing overwhelming, but those little mozzarella balls add a touch of creaminess  — that and the lemon parmesan dressing… but we’ll get to that in a sec.

vegetables and salami with mozzarella cheese pearls.

Pasta salad with mozzarella is not that unusual, but the slices of dry aged salami give it a meaty little pop. The parmesan dressing is a lemon-forward vinaigrette with lemon zest and juice, plenty of garlic, dijon and olive oil with a few tablespoons of grated parmesan cheese whisked into the dressing.  It’s salty, tangy and vibrant without being too goopy for the chicken orzo salad.

vinaigrette and orzo salad.

Oh – and I mentioned the chicken right?  Two cooked chicken breasts — I’ll be honest, I just used the breasts from our rotisserie chicken a few nights ago and it was perfect. But baking a few chicken bone-in, skin on breasts in a 400° oven for 20-25 minutes will yield the same results — Just remove the skin and bones before dicing the chicken into chunks.

adding dressing to the salad.

Toss the chicken orzo salad with the lemony parmesan dressing, chopped parsley and basil.

tossing the salad to coat with dressing.

Give it a quick taste to adjust any seasonings and serve at room temperature, or cover and chill to serve later.  

Lemony Chicken and Orzo Salad in a serving bowl.
Lemony Chicken and Orzo Salad with a serving spoon and napkin.

This is a great salad for potlucks and picnics, and it holds up well for a few days in the fridge, so you could make a batch on a Sunday and take it for lunches the following week. 

Lemony chicken orzo salad on a gray plate with a fork.

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A serving bowl of orzo salad.
Print Pin
5 from 8 votes

Lemony Chicken and Orzo Salad

Use a store bought rotisserie chicken for an easy to assemble lunch or dinner!
Author: Lisa Lotts
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword bell peppers, meal prep, orzo, pasta salad, rotisserie chicken, salami
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Servings 6


  • 1 cup orzo pasta
  • 1 medium zucchini cut into matchsticks
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved red and yellow if available, halved
  • ½ cup red onion finely chopped
  • 1 peeled and seeded roasted bell pepper diced (use a jarred pepper or roast one yourself at 400° for 20 minutes or until blackened.)
  • 3 scallions thinly sliced
  • ½ cup kalamata olives seeded and halved
  • 1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese cut into 1/2″ cubes or use the BelGioso “pearls”
  • 4 ounces dry salami sliced into bite size rounds or cut into 1/2″ pieces
  • 3 cups chicken breast meat from a rotisserie chicken, cut into 1/2′” pieces
  • ¼ cup italian parsley chopped
  • 2 tablespoons basil cut into chiffonade

for the vinaigrette

  • 1 lemon zested and juiced (about 2 tablespoons juice)
  • 1 heaping teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 large clove garlic minced
  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water and bring to a boil. Cook the orzo until al dente — according to package directions. Strain the pasta through a colander and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside to cool while you prep the other ingredients.
  • In a large bowl, combine the zucchini, tomatoes, red onion, bell pepper, scallions, olives, scallions, cheese, salami, chicken and parsley. Add the cooled orzo.
  • Make the dressing in a small bowl by combining the lemon zest and juice, dijon mustard, garlic, vinegar, olive oil, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Whisk to combine.
  • Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Cut the basil into a chiffonade  and sprinkle over the salad just before serving. Serve chilled or at room temperature.


Calories: 471kcal | Carbohydrates: 26g | Protein: 30g | Fat: 27g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 79mg | Sodium: 1134mg | Potassium: 705mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1030IU | Vitamin C: 31.4mg | Calcium: 168mg | Iron: 1.7mg

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Salami, mozzarella, chicken and zucchini pasta salad with parmesan dressing, this chicken orzo salad is an easy orzo pasta salad recipe w/all the goodies! #easyorzosalad #orzosalad #pastasalad #rotisseriechicken #salami #zucchini #mozzarella #parmesandressing #lemonvinaigrette #bellpeppers #lunchsalad #dinnersalad #orzo #summerpastasalad


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  1. 5 stars
    This is totally my kind of summer salad and I love all the surprises you had there. Perfect recipe for these crazy summer days 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    You had me at lemon + chicken, that’s one of my favorite flavor combinations, especially during the summer. This dish looks absolutely incredible, pinning this one to try!

  3. 5 stars
    LOVE lemon, chicken, and pasta together! My kind of pasta salad!

  4. 5 stars
    I love orzo as an alternative to a pasta salad. This looks lovely and summery,

    1. Thank you Kimberly! Let me know how you like the salad!