Chicken, Cranberry, Pecan and Orzo Salad with a Lemon Vinaigrette

This pasta salad is packed with so many ingredients that every bite is an adventure. Perfect for a summer BBQ, church pot luck, and even a holiday family dinner!

Orzo pasta is a wonderful vehicle to build a salad around. Its small size makes you think you may be having rice but it is tender and delicious! The salad is brought together by the orzo pasta and chunks of cooked chicken.

This orzo salad is packed with so much hearty goodness. There is a nuttiness with the pecans and pumpkin seeds, a sweetness with the dried cranberries and  a zing with the lemon zest.

Orzo pasta with chicken, pecans and cranberries mixed together.

Ingredient Notes

  • Orzo Pasta – This pasta is small and almost resembles grains of rice.
  • Chicken – I like to use store-bought rotisserie chicken for this salad.
  • Dried Cranberries – this will provide a sweet tang in each bite and works so well with all the other ingredients.
  • Pecans – this nutty crunch is perfect for this salad. You could also use almonds or walnuts.
  • Pumpkin Seeds – also called pempitas, these are one of my favourite seeds to add to recipes and they are amazing in this salad and go very well with the cranberries.
  • Green Onions – The crisp texture of the sliced scallions give the salad a welcome zing.
  • Lemon Vinaigrette Ingredients – this is a homemade dressing with olive oil, honey, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper.

Expert Tip: While orzo pasta is excellent for this recipe, feel free to use a different type of pasta if you prefer. Other kinds of pasta that are great for salads include, fusilli, penne, elbow macaroni, farfalle/bowtie, and more!

Salad on a plate in front of a large white bowl filled with salad.

How To Make Pasta Salad

Preparing this orzo pasta salad is very simple. First, cook the pasta according to the directions on the package. Rinse the pasta and let it cool to room temperature. Then toss the pasta with the diced chicken, pecans, cranberries, pumpkin seeds and green onions.

In a separate bowl, whisk all the ingredients for the lemon vinaigrette until well incorporated. Pour the vinaigrette into the bowl with the pasta salad and toss to combine.

This salad is ready to serve immediately, or it can be placed in the fridge for a bit to let it marinate. If placing in the fridge, make sure to cover the salad with lid or plastic wrap.

Expert Tip: This pasta salad is perfect for making ahead. Assemble the pasta in the morning or even the night before and keep in the fridge until needed. I find that giving the salad time to marinate enhances the flavour of every bite!

Pasta salad on a white plate in front of a full bowl of salad.

Other Salad Recipes

If you like this orzo pasta salad and looking for some more ideas then check out these recipes!

Chicken, Cranberry, Pecan and Orzo Salad with a Lemon Vinaigrette

Pasta salad on a small square plate.
5 out of 5
2 reviews
A hearty and healthy pasta salad recipe with orzo, chicken, pecans, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, scallions with a lemon vinaigrette using lemon juice, zest and olive oil.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 8 people


Salad Ingredients

  • 2 cups orzo pasta , uncooked
  • 1 cup cooked chicken breast , diced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 cup pecans , roughly chopped
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
  • 3/4 cup green onions , sliced

Lemon Vinaigrette Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 tbsp honey
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper


  • Cook orzo pasta in a pot of boiling water until tender, about 8 minutes. Cool the pasta completely before making the salad.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the orzo pasta, chicken, cranberries, pecans, pumpkin seeds and sliced green onions.
  • In a separate bowl, make the vinaigrette by whisking together the oil, honey, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and pepper.
  • Pour the vinaigrette on the salad and toss until the evenly coated.


Per serving:

Calories: 490kcalCarbohydrates: 53gProtein: 14gFat: 27gSaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 15mgSodium: 164mgFiber: 4gSugar: 22g

Nutrition Disclaimer

This recipe was originally published in April 2012.


Did you try this recipe?

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Recipe Rating


  • 1st time I am actually doing more cooking than ever want to eat more healthier1st time I am actually doing more cooking than ever want to eat more healthier

    • Reply
  • Hey this is my favorite salad, but i never tried it with lemon vinaigrette. Next time i will make with your recipe! Thanks and cheers! 🙂

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  • This has everything I like in a salad. Looks nice and refreshing and I bet the other teachers ate it up!

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  • MMM!!!!! This looks so yummy! I love the pumpkin seeds in here. Can’t wait to try this one.

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  • I love chicken with salads with a fruit and nut component especially components I have in the house, including the cooked chicken. Looks perfect to me!

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  • Thanks for all the kind things that were said about teachers. I know we all had a bad teacher or two in our days, but most teachers really do care about their students and their job is a lot more than just a paycheque! I know it’s that way for me!

    Now, about the salad, it’s a fantastic tradition that my department head, Karin, started. The food is always amazing and on top of that, it is good to have one lunch a week that we try to keep “sacred” so we can connect in our department. So often we are meeting students for extra help, marking, setting up for the next class, etc. Thanks to “salad day” we have a real bright spot mid-week.

    Finally, about my salad provider . . . he is totally the bomb and I don’t know what I would do without him. Love you, babe!

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  • The teachers must just buzz with excitement when Janna brings in her salad each week. I love what you’ve created…it looks fabulous!

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  • Let hear it for salad day. This is a winning salad. I love to eat salad but I really love it when someone else makes it.

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  • C’est certain que je vais essayer cette recette,elle a l’air excellente!

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  • Good for you helping your wife out and making salads for her potlucks. You’re a good hubby!! This salad look great… light and still satisfying!! I say you deserve an A+ from your wife. 🙂

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  • This is so my kind of salad, Steve. I love everything that you added. Orzo is one of my favorites!

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  • Love it, Steve. The plating is particularly alluring in that oblong white bowl. The pristine white really highlights the colors and lightness of your dish. Incredibly appetizing (as I’ve come to expect from you!)

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    • Thanks Viviane! You are too kind! I hope you are having a wonderful day

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  • Not a salad person? You sure could have fooled me with this wonderful creation! You did a great job pulling the elements together, the flavors are so complimentary. Also, nice range of texture in each bite. The Wed salad days does get you to thinking outside the box, since you are not big on eating salad in the first place. Well done.

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    • LOL Tina. Well, my not being a salad person doesn’t mean I cannot make them. It’s just that I don’t eat them much. Yet, this one did taste quite awesome. Thanks for your positive spin – hope you have a great day Tina!

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  • I love orzo salads! They are so easily adaptable. The cranberries sold me on this recipe 🙂

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    • Thanks Anna. Yes, orzo is great for making salads. You can build so many wonderful creations with orzo as the base ingredient.

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  • Oh, YUM! I love orzo and your flavor combination is incredible!

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  • This salad sounds deliciously satisfying…would be great for lunch or dinner! Your wife is a lucky lady to have you cook for her, and her students are lucky to have such a dedicated teacher!

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    • Thanks Bonnie! And yes, those students are lucky!

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  • That looks so good!! I love summer salads and this would be great!!

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  • You’re welcome! Though it was fairly self serving of me cause I want to make this lol

    And I’ve done the same thing with lemon and lime… I guess it’s a common gaffe lol

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  • Kudos to your wife for what she does. I have the highest admiration for teachers 🙂
    And kudos to you for this salad, Steve. It looks wonderful! Question though- you have lemon listed in the name, directions and description, but lime in the recipe itself… while I am sure that BOTH would be amazing, I’m curious which you used yourself? Cause this is a definite try for me and I want to get it right 🙂

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    • Thanks Janet! I am glad you caught that. It is lemon. It is funny that I have written lemon and lime wrong on a few different recipes in the past and I always mss it in the editing process. It’s funny, I guess they look so similar I do not notice it is wrong. It is fixed now though!

      • Reply

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