This Orzo Pasta Salad is packed with black beans, corn, and chopped red peppers and tossed in a balsamic vinaigrette. Perfect for a potluck or a week of lunches!
I've been making this cold orzo pasta salad recipe with black beans for over 25 years now. It was one of the first dishes I learned to cook, when I was a young college grad living with roommates for the first time. Easy, filling, and totally delicious. Still grateful to my former roommate Tiffany for introducing me to this one!
Why Make This Recipe
- Easy and Cheap: Takes barely longer to make than it takes to boil your pasta. And, with mostly canned vegetables, this is a very inexpensive meal.
- Great for Lunch: Black bean orzo salad is one of my favorite things to make for lunch as you can make it in advance, and eat it over several days. Plus, you don't need to heat it up!
- Perfect Potluck Meal: This black bean pasta salad is built for a crowd. Great for bringing to a potluck or a summer BBQ. Plus it's vegan and vegetarian, so it works for almost anyone who isn't gluten-free!
- Black Beans: You don’t need to use low-sodium black beans, but I prefer them because it allows me to choose my own level of salt to add to the salad. If you use regular black beans, you may want to dial back the garlic salt, and add more in at the end if you think the salad needs it.
- Corn: I highly recommend Green Giant steamed crisp corn—I’ve used it for years, and the corn is always crisp and never soggy. (Not being paid to say that, just really like that corn!)
- Orzo Pasta: This is an orzo pasta recipe, but you can use another type of small pasta in its place. Riso, Ditalini, or small elbow macaroni would be good substitutes. You could also swap in pearled barley, quinoa, or farro for an even healthier salad!
- Red Bell Pepper: I love the red bell pepper in this dish for both its color and flavor. You can replace it though with yellow or orange bell peppers or replace it with halved cherry tomatoes.
🥣 Step-by-Step Instructions
This orzo pasta salad recipe is super easy to make. First, bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Prep the other ingredients while waiting for water to boil: chop a red bell pepper into ½-inch chunks, and drain a rinse a can of black beans and a can of corn.
Add 8 ounces of orzo pasta and cook until just done, according to package instructions (around 9-10 minutes). While orzo is cooking, make the dressing by whisking together 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, ¾ teaspoon garlic salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper in a large bowl.
When orzo is finished cooking, drain it and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process and cool off the pasta before adding in the toppings. Pour the pasta into the large bowl with the dressing, and stir until all the dressing is incorporated.
Then stir in red pepper, corn, black beans, and ¼ cup chopped parsley. Season to taste with salt and black pepper—or extra garlic salt, if you prefer.
🧐 Recipe FAQs for Orzo Pasta Salad
Yes! This orzo recipe includes good-for-you vegetables and pulses and is fairly low in calories. And because orzo is a small pasta, the veggie to pasta ratio is higher than in many pasta salad recipes. That said, if you want to make this dish even healthier you can try using whole wheat orzo, which has a higher fiber content. Or, replace the orzo with a different grain, such as farro, quinoa, or barley.
This pasta salad will last 3-5 days, stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator. No need to heat it up when you’re ready to serve—just take it out and eat!
Yes, but it's not ideal. If you’re intending to make this ahead of time and freeze it, you’ll want to undercook the orzo by a minute or two until it’s just barely al dente. Pasta that has been frozen and then defrosted will be softer when you reheat it. And, I’d leave out the parsley as fresh herbs will brown when frozen. If you have extra (already cooked) orzo pasta salad that you want to freeze, you can try it—though the pasta may be slightly softer than ideal when you thaw it and reheat it. If you freeze it, try to eat it within a month because cooked pasta can dry out.
👩🍳 Expert Tips
In the summer, I love to use fresh corn in this dish. The easiest way to cook just a few ears of corn is to microwave them. For my favorite microwave technique, see my article on The 3 Best Ways to Cook Corn on the Cob.
One of the best things about this black bean orzo salad recipe is how versatile it is. You can switch out the types of vegetables you add in, depending on your tastes or what you have in the house. You can also bulk it up by adding feta cheese or goat cheese to the salad—that makes this dish even more filling as a vegetarian main.
Wondering what goes with orzo pasta salad? So many things! I love this as a BBQ side dish, as it's just fantastic next to grilled sausages, burgers, hot dogs, or grilled fish. It's also great next to a roast chicken. Or try sautéing shrimp and adding them on top of the black bean pasta salad. If you want to use this as a vegetarian main, I also love to serve this with a soup like this Carrot Ginger Soup or this Potato Leek Soup.
If you want a version of this recipe that doesn't include the pasta, you might check out my Black Bean and Corn Salad recipe. Or, for an appetizer version, how about this Black Bean Corn Salsa? Slightly different flavors but still that delicious combination of black beans and corn!
Other Delicious Pasta Salad Recipes
If you love pasta salad like I do, you might want to also try some of my other recipes:
If you try this Orzo Black Bean Salad recipe, I would love to hear from you! Leave a comment below—I read them all, and your feedback is invaluable to me. And please follow along on Instagram, Pinterest, and Facebook or subscribe to my newsletter. I'd love to inspire you with more delicious, healthy, and seasonal recipes!
- 1 red bell pepper
- 1 can corn (11 oz.)
- 1 can low-sodium black beans (15 oz.)
- 8 ounces orzo pasta
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- kosher salt, to taste
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon garlic salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.
- Prep the other ingredients while waiting for water to boil: chop red pepper into ½-inch chunks, and rinse black beans and corn.
- Add the orzo to the boiling water and cook until just done, according to package instructions (around 9-10 minutes).
- While orzo is cooking, make the dressing by whisking together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic salt, and pepper in a large bowl.
- When orzo is finished cooking, drain it and rinse with cold water. Then add to large bowl with the dressing and stir until all the dressing is incorporated.
- Stir in red pepper, corn, black beans, and parsley.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper—or extra garlic salt, if you prefer.
Make-Ahead Tips: This pasta salad will last 3-5 days, stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator. No need to heat it up when you’re ready to serve—just take it out and eat!
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 384Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 738mgCarbohydrates: 58gFiber: 11gSugar: 7gProtein: 13g
Nutrition information is provided as a general reference for users courtesy of the online nutrition calculator Nutritionix.