Lemon Basil Orzo Pasta Salad with Vegan Parmesan

It seems like this year is just flying by.

A bowl of orzo pasta salad with basil, lemon, and tomatoes, on a wood background, with orange and white text.

We got married, bought a house, went to Hawaii, visited my parents, I got a new job, and AJ has already put himself to work transforming our new house into a home. It’s been awesome!

But with everything that’s been going on, it seems like the time just got away from us. It’s already summer and the days will soon start getting shorter again. Crazy.

Top-down shot of a white colander of grape tomatoes surrounded by sprigs of fresh basil, on a brown wood surface.

The awesome thing about summer (or, one of the many awesome things) is the warm weather.

Now, I live in California where the coldest lows we have are in the 30s and the highest highs we have are in the low 90s – and those days are pretty rare. Normal weather around here is 60°F and sunny during the winter, and 75°F and sunny during the summer. Life’s rough…

Coarsely ground walnuts and nutritional yeast in a food processor, on an unfinished wood surface.

BUT! I really enjoy the warmer weather, when I can walk around in just a t-shirt and shorts all day, instead of wearing two jackets (because I’m a wimp in the cold).

And when it’s warm and sunny out, all I want to make for dinner is pasta salad.

Overhead shot of a bowl of orzo with basil, halved grape tomatoes, and lemon slices, on a folded light green cloth, on top of a light brown wood surface.

I’ve made quite a few pasta salads in my time, but never something as unique as this.

I’ve been loving the flavor of lemon lately, and thought it would pair so nicely with some fresh basil and tomatoes, Mediterranean-style.

A white bowl of orzo, cherry tomatoes, chopped basil, and lemon slices, on a moss green cloth on top of a wood surface.

I also had been wanting to try some ideas that I had for making a homemade vegan Parmesan ideas, so I looked for inspiration online. I decided to use walnuts instead of cashews to get a bit of nutty flavor, which I really love.

Three ears of grilled corn with the husks on in a rectangular ceramic baking dish, with a bowl of orzo pasta salad in the background, on an unfinished wood surface with exposed screws.

This pasta salad is delicious served either warm or cold, but I think I prefer it cold. I made it warm for dinner one night and loved it that way as well, then loved it doubly as chilled leftovers (but that’s how I usually feel about leftovers anyway).

Top-down shot of a white bowl of orzo pasta salad with cherry tomatoes, basil, and lemon slices, on a folded light green cloth, on top of an unfinished wood surface.

If you have the forethought to cook the pasta ahead of time, do it. You can even make it in your electric pressure cooker! If not, it’s still wonderful served warm (and you’ll eat it cold again later).

An ear of corn, pieces of bread, and a serving of orzo pasta salad with tomatoes, basil, and lemon slices, o a white plate, with a knife and a sprig of basil in the background, on a brown unfinished wood table.

We served this with some grilled corn and warm, crusty bread, and it was amazing, though maybe a bit starchy if you’re looking for a well-balanced meal. I’d suggest serving a green salad instead of the bread… but I have a difficult time saying no to fresh bread when it’s available.

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Closely cropped image of orzo pasta salad with halved cherry tomatoes, chopped basil, and slices of lemon, on a brown wood surface.

Vegan Lemon Basil Orzo Pasta Salad

  • Author: Raquel Smith
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 6 servings 1x


This pasta salad recipe is perfect for summer, with a vegan Parmesan made from walnuts and nutritional yeast.




  1. Cook orzo according to package directions. Drain in a colander, then return to cooking pot and add 2 tsp olive oil and stir to keep the noodles from sticking together. If you want to serve this salad cold, let pasta cool for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator.
  2. To make vegan parmesan, combine the walnuts, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, and sea salt in a food processor. Pulse for about 15 seconds to create a coarse meal. Try not to over-process.
  3. Slice cherry tomatoes in half and julienne the basil leaves. Zest one medium lemon.
  4. Combine the cooked pasta with the vegan Parmesan, tomatoes, basil, and lemon zest. Stir together. Add about 3 Tbsp olive oil and juice of 1/2 lemon. Taste and add more lemon juice if desired (I used a whole lemon). Add salt to taste, and serve.


Vegan Parmesan inspired by Minimalist Baker.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Category: Pasta Salad
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Side Dishes

Keywords: orzo, lemon, basil, vegan, summer

What’s on your menu for dinner tonight? Share your summertime favorites that feature fresh produce with us in the comments below, and don’t forget to give this recipe a five-star rating if you loved it!

And if pasta salad is your thing, don’t forget to check out some of these tasty recipes:

Photos by Raquel Smith, © Ask the Experts, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. See our TOS for more details. Originally published on June 8, 2015. Last updated: May 19, 2023 at 14:17 pm. With additional writing and editing by Allison Sidhu.

Nutritional information derived from a database of known generic and branded foods and ingredients and was not compiled by a registered dietitian or submitted for lab testing. It should be viewed as an approximation.

About Raquel Smith

Raquel is a whole foods enthusiast, an avid mountain biker, and a dog lover. She works by day at Food Blogger Pro and formerly maintained her food blog "My California Roots" (now merged into Foodal).

10 thoughts on “Lemon Basil Orzo Pasta Salad with Vegan Parmesan”

  1. Love orzo pasta salads! This looks divine – love the tomato and basil. Vegan parmesan sounds amazing too!

  2. Mmmm… I love orzo! This looks fab. I also love that you paired it up with some grilled corn. Yummy!

  3. Oh this is one of my FAVORITE ways to eat orzo, as a take on caprese salad. Your rendition sounds absolutely delicious and summer fresh. Cannot wait to give it a whirl and enjoy a delicious bowl of pasta salad!

  4. This was incredible! I’m definitely making the walnut “parm” again. I only had dried basil and fresh spinach, but I can’t wait to try it again with fresh basil. I also added onions, diced tomatoes, and green peas. Definitely going to check out your other recipes now!


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