I think my favorite ingredient so far this year is watercress. Aside from being off the wall good for you, I love how it looks. A peeve of mine is giant salad leaves, so I’m crushing on the little things like microgreens and baby greens. I also think they have much more flavor than fully grown leaves.

A tasty fresh chicken orzo salad with orzo pasta and a balsamic dressing

This salad is a complete loosey goosey recipe. What I mean is, you’ll never kill it if you add a little more or less of any of the ingredients. Nobody likes a salad drenched in dressing though, so add it by the teaspoon and toss it with your own hands (as opposed to someone else’s?) I always like to use my hands whenever I can while I’m cooking, especially in baking. I think the end result is always better and it just feels right. Am I wrong in thinking touch and taste are much more important senses to have than sight? Maybe I’ll try making a recipe blindfolded as an experiment some day and see what happens.

A healthy watercress orzo salad with pine nuts, olives, cheese and grilled chicken

What about the orzo? It is pasta, and not rice. It makes for a great filler so you can add it to soups and stews, and it cooks fast. For this salad I recommend rinsing the orzo once you drain it and drizzle with some olive oil. This will wash of the starch that makes your pasta stick together once it cools. Usually you’d want to keep that starch because it helps your pasta sauce stick to the pasta. But for a salad, we don’t want sticky pasta.

Serve this family style, drizzling more balsamic dressing over it once you place it on the platter, and keep an eye out for those baby greens!

A healthy watercress orzo salad with pine nuts, olives, cheese and grilled chicken

Take a look at some more orzo salad recipes.

Two Peas and Their Pod- Orzo Salad with Chickpeas and Cucumbers

The Lemon Bowl- Orzo Salad with Yogurt Dill Vinaigrette

The Wanderlust Kitchen- Mediterranean Orzo Salad


A tasty fresh chicken salad with orzo pasta and a balsamic dressing

Grilled Chicken and Orzo Salad

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes
Author: Gerry Speirs
Orzo pasta with baby watercress , grilled chicken, olives, red onion and Cotija cheese. Tossed in a balsamic olive oil dressing.
Print Recipe


For The Dressing

  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 cloves large garlic
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked orzo cooled
  • 1 leaves large bunch of fresh watercress
  • 1/2 cup kalamata olives cut in half
  • 3/4 cup sliced red onion
  • 1/4 cup sliced green onion
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 1/2 cup Cotija Cheese crumbled
  • 1 large grilled chicken breast
  • Salt and black pepper


  • Add the balsamic vinegar, garlic cloves, salt, pepper and olive oil to a blender.
  • Blend for 30 seconds and set aside.
  • Take the cooled orzo and place in a large bowl.
  • Chop the leafy part of the watercress from the stems and add to the bowl.
  • Add the kalamata olives and red onion.
  • Drizzle some of the dressing over the salad and gently toss.
  • Lay the salad onto a large platter and sprinkle the green onions, pine nuts and cheese on top.
  • Season with salt and cracked black pepper.
  • Slice the chicken breast on a diagonal and serve alongside the salad.


You can probably buy chicken breast already grilled at your local delicatessen, or grill your own and let it cool before slicing.
It's best to cook the orzo ahead of time so that it's properly cooled. After draining it, rinse it with cold water and drizzle a little olive oil over it to prevent it sticking. Store in the fridge.
Don't worry if you add more to this salad than the recipe states, it's very forgiving and great for family style dinners.