This lemon pepper orzo is my new favorite weeknight meal! The orzo is toasted until golden brown, cooked until tender then topped with lots of spicy black pepper and crunchy pan-fried chickpeas. Pretty simple, healthy ingredients and easy to make. Plus, this lemon pepper orzo recipe also happens to be vegan so everyone can enjoy!
I’m kind of going through an orzo phase right now… This lemon pepper orzo with chickpeas is so good. The toasty orzo goes so well with the tart lemon and spicy black pepper. And those crispy chickpeas on top are way too hard to stop eating.
How to make Toasted Lemon Pepper Orzo with Chickpeas
First thing you want to do is get started on those crispy chickpeas. Once you’ve drained and rinsed the canned chickpeas, lay them out onto a few sheets of paper towel. Gently roll and pat them dry. This step is pretty important because it ensures the chickpeas get super crispy in the pan.
Once they’re all dried off, add a couple tablespoons of oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add in the chickpeas and cook for about five minutes, stirring once or twice. After they’ve begun to crisp up, add in some oregano, rosemary and salt. Continue to cook the chickpeas for another 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. You’ll know they’re done the outside has turned a deep golden brown.
To make clean up easier, you can wait until the chickpeas finish cooking and just wipe out the skillet and move on to the orzo. Or, you could get the orzo started in another pan while the chickpeas are cooking. I prefer to multitask because it saves lots of time and the orzo is ready at the same time as the chickpeas.
To make toasted lemon pepper orzo, the first thing you want to do is toast the orzo. All you do is heat a couple tablespoons of oil to a skillet over medium heat and add in the orzo. Cook the pasta until golden brown and fragrant, stirring around a few times. It should take about 7 minutes or so. Make sure your heat doesn’t creep up to high or the orzo will burn!
Once the orzo is nice and toasty, you can add in the garlic and give that a quick toast as well. About two minutes. Now, pour in the vegetable stock and add in the lemon peel, salt and honey. If you’re vegan, you can substitute honey for an equal amount of granulated sugar. Bring to a boil and cook like you would a normal pot of pasta, stirring the orzo to prevent sticking. This should take about 10 minutes for the orzo to absorb all the liquid. Taste a grain. If the orzo is still a little crunchy and has already absorbed all the liquid, add another 1/4 cup of stock and continue cooking.
Now that the orzo is done cooking, stir in a few (or many) good grinds of black pepper. Stir in the pitted green olives, lemon zest and juice. Divide the lemon pepper orzo among bowls and top with crispy chickpeas, chopped parsley and crumbled feta (or tofu feta!). Serve and enjoy!
More Healthy Dinner Recipes to Try:
- Roasted cauliflower curry with black pepper
- Italian stuffed peppers with sun dried tomatoes and pesto
- Fluffy baked rice with chickpeas and crispy tofu feta