Quick, easy & delicious, this Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs is an incredible, back-pocket, grain-free pasta that’s packed with protein and veggies! It comes together in around 30 minutes and the orzo salad can be made ahead of time!
Can the Mediterranean Orzo Salad Be Prepared Ahead of Time?
One reason I really like this dish is because the Mediterranean Orzo Salad can be prepared ahead of time and enjoyed warm or cold. It’s great for meal prep and perfect for the warmer months when you don’t necessarily want something piping hot. You can serve it as a side dish for summertime cookouts or bring it to a picnic!
The pan-roasted chicken thighs, on the other hand, are best served hot. The good news is they only take around 20 minutes to cook and are super simple!
What Do You Serve the Orzo Salad With?
I chose to serve the orzo salad with some simple, yet delicious, Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs, but the options are endless. Feel free to serve the Mediterranean Orzo Salad with your favourite protein or an extra serving of veggies. Any kind of grilled meat, chicken or seafood would be great here. Whether it’s steak, lamb chops, chicken breast, shrimp or fish, you really can’t go wrong. Hard-boiled eggs are another fantastic option!
What You Need for The Orzo Salad
- Orzo Pasta: Contrary to appearance and popular belief, orzo is a shape of pasta and not a type of rice. I use Jovial Cassava Orzo, which is made with cassava flour. It’s grain-free, gluten-free and delicious! It’s available on Amazon, many local grocery stores, and in Canada, on NaturaMarket.ca.
- Vegetables: Think of the veggies used here as a starting point. You can definitely switch things up, experiment with different combinations and add other things you like. For example, try adding grilled asparagus or zucchini. You could also throw in some marinated artichoke hearts. You’re the boss, applesauce.
- Olives: I like Kalamata olives for their colour, flavour and texture here. Other types of olives would also work though. You could use Castelvetrano, stuffed manzanilla, or Niçoise olives. Just look for ones jarred or canned with minimal, all-natural ingredients.
- Capers Packed in Brine: similar to the olives, capers pack a salty, briny punch that goes great with the orzo. They’re strong in flavour so a little goes a long way.
- Fresh Herbs: Finely chopped parsley and dill go great here! Keep in mind, if using my Big Fat Greek Salad Dressing (recipe can be found in my cookbook), or a store-bought Greek vinaigrette, it will have dried herbs in it, so try not to double up on things. In other words, if your dressing has dried oregano, you probably don’t want to use fresh oregano in the salad because it will be overpowering.
- Greek Salad Dressing: A Greek-style salad dressing pairs perfectly with the ingredients. As mentioned above, you can use my homemade Big Fat Greek Salad Dressing (recipe can be found in my cookbook) or your favourite store-bought one.
- Feta Cheese: Feta cheese contains dairy and is not considered a Paleo-friendly ingredient. Personally, I can tolerate it in small quantities and enjoy it on occasion. I include it here as an optional ingredient. It can be omitted to keep things Paleo and dairy-free. The salad will still taste delicious!
More Protein-Packed Salads
- Whole30 Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken
- Chicken Cobb Salad
- Grilled Chicken Niçoise
- Whole30 Summer Chicken Salad with Cilantro Vinaigrette
- Classic Wedge Salad with Whole30 Ranch Dressing
- Everything But the Bagel Salad
- Grilled Chicken Greek Salad with Coconut Tzaziki
Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Pan-Roasted Chicken Thighs – Paleo, Gluten-Free
For the Chicken:
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon granulated onion
- 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
- ½ teaspoon freshly-cracked black pepper
- 4 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
For the Orzo Salad:
- 1 box Jovial Cassava Orzo Pasta
- 2 Persian cucumbers – diced
- ½ red bell pepper – diced
- ½ small red onion – diced
- 4 ounces cherry tomatoes – halved
- ¼ cup sliced kalamata olives – pitted
- ¼ cup thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
- 2 tablespoons capers packed in brine – drained
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese optional – omit for Paleo
- ½ cup Big Fat Greek Salad Dressing recipe in The Primal Gourmet Cookbook, or substitute store-bought dressing of choice
For the Chicken:
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- In a small bowl, combine the salt, paprika, granulated onion, granulated garlic and black pepper. Rinse chicken thighs under cold water and pat very dry with paper towel. Evenly season both sides of each thigh with the spice mixture.
- Preheat a cast-iron or stainless-steel skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add avocado oil and heat until shimmering. Place the chicken skin side-down and cook until golden brown, around 5 minutes. Flip the thighs and transfer the pan to the oven. Roast 10-12 minutes or until the thickest part of the chicken registers 165F on a digital meat thermometer. Remove from oven and tent with foil to keep warm.
For the Orzo Salad:
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season with 2 teaspoons kosher salt and cook the orzo according to package instructions. Drain in a colander or sieve and rinse with cold water. Set aside and let drain fully.
- In a large bowl, combine the cucumber, bell pepper, onion, cherry tomatoes, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, capers, dill and parsley. Add the drained orzo and drizzle salad dressing overtop. Toss well to coat and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with the feta cheese and top with the chicken thighs. Serve immediately.