This plate of Crispy Lemon Feta with Spiced Chickpeas and Basil Orzo is a great easy meatless dinner for any night of the week. Crispy pan-fried feta cheese paired with spiced chickpeas and zucchini and severed over a creamy garlic lemon yogurt and buttery basil orzo. When you’re in need of an easy, colorful, and fresh dinner…make this vegetarian dish. Every bite is layered with delicious spring flavors. And the feta? It’s salty, crispy, and keeps everyone coming back for seconds.

overhead photo of Crispy Lemon Feta with Spiced Chickpeas and Basil Orzo

Leave it to me to come up with a dinner recipe that highlights cheese as it’s “main”. Are you surprised? I would hope not. You all know how much I love cheese…this recipe is just more proof of that.

This is hands down my new favorite vegetarian dinner. It focuses heavily on the feta cheese plus a whole bundle of pantry staples too. Ok, jumping straight into the details today because I have many words to share about this crispy lemon feta with spiced chickpeas.

overhead prep photo of Feta cheese before frying

The Inspiration.

I wanted to create a vegetarian dinner that felt new and exciting. I racked my brain forever to come up with something fun. But in the end, I was just landing on dishes that I’d either already created and shared, or just sounded too boring to pursue.

The one thing I have not done is crispy tofu. Why you ask? Simply because I’m really not a fan of tofu. To be honest, it totally weirds me out. Something about the bright white color and the texture…it’s just not for me. But a crispy tofu with rice always looks so good. And then this got me thinking. What kind of looks like tofu and can be crisped in a skillet?

First, I thought of Halloumi cheese and yes, halloumi cheese is so delicious. But I didn’t have any in the fridge and I did not want anyone going to the store.

What did I have in the fridge? Feta cheese. So much feta cheese. And then the light bulb in my head went off. Why not just make crispy pan-fried feta cheese slices and serve them over orzo and call it dinner? It sounded delicious, so I went for it. I wrote a few notes down, decided to add chickpeas for heartiness and protein, and zucchini for some green color.

I wasn’t sure how it would all come together, but I knew it was going to be delicious…

And yes, this is delicious…crispy feta cheese plus buttery orzo. Nothing not to love.

overhead photo of Spiced Chickpeas and zucchini in skillet

Before you do anything, make the orzo.

This orzo is easy and has just three ingredients, butter, orzo, and basil. Just boil the orzo, toss with butter, then add plenty of freshly chopped basil. I love the buttery orzo paired with the light and summery basil. It’s simple, but mouth watering.

I have to say that this orzo was inspired by little miss Asher who could easily survive on pasta or rice. Two other foods she loves? Butter and basil. Put the three together and you have Asher’s dream bowl of food. Especially when a very generous sprinkle of flaky sea salt is added…basic, but in the best way.

overhead photo of Crispy Lemon Feta with Spiced Chickpeas and Basil Orzo

Now, make the feta.

The crispy feta cheese is a lot easier to make than you might think. You need a block of feta cheese and some cornstarch. Just slice the feta and then toss in the cornstarch. The cornstarch is what gets the feta nice and crispy on the edges.

Next, pan-fry the cheese in olive oil. It crisps up quickly, so watch closely. Once the feta is crisped. Remove it from the skillet to a plate. You want to keep the feta cripsy, so this step is key.

Once the feta has been removed from the skillet, toss in the chickpeas and zucchini. Cook these together until crispy. Add some fresh thyme, lemon, a pinch of salt, and red pepper flakes…to your taste. And done, that’s the feta and the chickpeas.

At this point, the orzo should be done and it’s time to serve. Well, almost. First, stir together some Greek yogurt with a little garlic and lemon. I love a sauce with just about everything. This is the perfect creamy sauce to pair with rice and crispy cheese. You have three textures that are all made better when paired together.

Swirl the yogurt into a shallow bowl. Add the basil orzo, then the feta, chickpeas, and zucchini. Top the dish off with plenty of fresh herbs. I love using a mix of fresh dill, basil, and mint. Oh, and then, a pinch of flaky sea salt too.

And that’s it. Dinner in thirty minutes, made with pantry staples, feta cheese, and lots of fresh herbs. And even though this recipe is simple, it’s still so delicious. The feta is crisp on the outside, but soft and slightly melted inside. The chickpeas are crispy, spicy, and salty. The zucchini are sweet and flavored with fresh thyme. And the orzo is buttery, basily, and so very good.

Put it all together? Pretty close to perfect. My ideal meal any night of the week…easy, filling, a touch indulgent, but yet healthy too.

overhead close up photo of Crispy Lemon Feta with Spiced Chickpeas and Basil Orzo

Looking for other vegetarian dinners? Here are some tried and true favorites. 

Cauliflower Gnocchi with Crispy Zucchini and creamy Whipped Goat Cheese 

Artichoke and Broccoli Pesto Brie Panini with Thyme Honey

Lemon Butter Cheese Ravioli with Garlic Basil Breadcrumbs

Lastly, if you make this crispy lemon feta with spiced chickpeas and basil orzo, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!

Watch the How To Video:

Crispy Lemon Feta with Spiced Chickpeas and Basil Orzo

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories Per Serving: 272 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.

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Ingredients

Basil Orzo

  • 1 cup dry orzo pasta
  • 1 tablespoon salted butter
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped, plus more for serving

Lemon Feta and Chickpeas

  • 1 (8 ounce) block feta cheese, patted dry, and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 (16 ounce) cans chickpeas drained and patted dry
  • 3 cloves sliced garlic and 1 clove grated garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt
  • 2 zucchini or yellow summer squash, thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried thyme)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoons raw sesame seed
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup mixed tender herbs, such as mint, dill, and or cilantro

Instructions

  • 1. Cook the orzo according to package directions, until al dente. Drain and toss with butter, basil, and a pinch of salt.
    2. Meanwhile, make the feta. Add the cornstarch to a shallow bowl. Add the feta slices and toss to coat all sides. Heat a large, high sided skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons oil. Arrange the feta in a single layer and cook until golden, about 1 minute per side. Remove the feta from the skillet to a plate.
    3. To the skillet, add the remaining 1/4 cup oil, the chickpeas, 3 cloves sliced garlic, the paprika, and a pinch of red pepper and salt. Cook, stirring occasionally until the chickpeas are crisping, about 5 minutes. Add the zucchini, thyme, lemon zest, and sesame seeds. Cook another 5 minutes, until the zucchini is crisped on the edges. Remove from the heat.
    4. In a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, lemon juice, 1 clove grated garlic, and a pinch of salt.
    5. To serve, spread the yogurt in the bottom of a shallow bowl. Add the orzo, crispy feta, and chickpeas overtop. Serve topped with fresh herbs. Enjoy!

Notes

The crispy feta was adapted from The New York Times

overhead horizontal photo of Crispy Lemon Feta with Spiced Chickpeas and Basil Orzo

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Comments

  1. This recipe is delicious! I doubled it for my family and we have leftovers. (I will say, the prep took me at least an hour, not 10 minutes!)
    I appreciated the past reviews, which said to be sure that the cheese is sliced a bit thicker (1/2″) and to also be sure the pan is very hot before adding. It worked perfectly for me and the crispy feta was delicious! I did end up roasting the summer squash (next time, I’ll try zucchini) with olive oil on a cookie sheet in the oven, instead of adding it to the pan. The yogurt sauce is perfect with this dish and adds such a nice flavor. I omitted the sesame seeds (couldn’t find my container!) and red pepper (someone doesn’t like spice!) but I may try adding both next time. I made sure the chickpeas were very dry before adding them to the pan and once cooked, they had a nice consistency and weren’t mushy. All of the flavors of this recipe are amazing and work so well together.
    I have added this to my collection of favorites. Thank you!

    1. Hey Rachel,
      Awesome! I am so glad you enjoyed this recipe, thanks so much for making it! Thanks for sharing what worked well for you. Have a great weekend:) xTieghan

    2. 4 stars
      I had the same problem as others. Used a well-seasoned cast iron, enough oil, pan was hot. And the cheese stuck! I was able to salvage it, but it took way longer to cook. But in the end, it was delicious!!

      1. Thanks for giving the recipe a try Jessica, sorry you had issues with the feta sticking! xTieghan

  2. One last comment—not sure why it’s called LEMON FETA in the recipe title. Both ingredients are in the recipe , but the feta is not lemony… just sayin

  3. One last comment—not sure why it’s called LEMON FETA in the recipe title.
    The lemon juice is used in the yogurt and some zest with the zucchini–but had nothing to do with the feta.

  4. This recipe is SO unique! I am mostly vegan so I used a “butter” olive oil ( it really has a buttery flavour. Instead of yogurt I used Vegenaise with lemon vinegar .
    I did use feta because I couldn’t think of anything that would taste the same as that!

    I like sesame seeds, but didn’t really feel they were integral to the recipe.

    1. Hey Wanda,
      Fantastic! I am so glad you enjoyed this recipe, thanks so much for making it! Happy Friday:) xTieghan

  5. I made this because I love all the components of this recipe but, my feta did not brown at all in the pan. It just stuck and all the cornstarch coating just came right off. I used cast iron. Not sure if that’s why. I’m usually a good cook but not sure what happened. The pan was certainly hot enough.

    1. Hey Kathleen,
      So sorry to hear this, I also use cast iron so that shouldn’t be the issue. Did you have enough oil in the pan? xTieghan

    2. I had no trouble browning the feta in a cast iron skillet. I was worried when I saw your comment, but mine worked perfectly!

    3. I used cast iron and had no trouble at all. It browned perfectly. I was worried when I saw your comment, but mine came out ok!

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