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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: 813 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

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
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Comments

  1. I’m a novice cook, but it turned out pretty tasty. The yogurt mixed with lemon and garlic turned out too strong so I used plain Greek yogurt. Not sure what I did wrong.

    1. Hi Brian,
      Happy Labor Day! Thanks so much for making this recipe and sharing your feedback! So glad it was enjoyed:) Was there anything you adjusted in the yogurt? xx

  2. 5 stars
    This recipe was fire. Pretty easy to toss together. I used dried herbs because I didn’t have any fresh ones and it tasted amazing. Great with the Israeli feta in brine from Trader Joe’s. The corn starch coating can come off while frying, but it was okay if I was gentle with the flipping.

    1. Hey Alise,
      Wonderful! Thanks so much for making this dish and sharing your feedback, I love to hear that it was enjoyed! xTieghan

  3. 4 stars
    Totally delicious and filling. I halved the recipe and it was plenty for two dinners (my husband never eats what I eat). Everything was spot on. I usually follow a recipe to a T the first time and make adjustments, if necessary, later. I feel no need to change anything. There was no problem with the feta crisping up…really have to make sure it is dry before dredging. I agree with one reviewer that it does take longer, but I rarely think the times allotted on most recipes are correct. My reason for 4 stars has nothing to do with taste or prep… it’s the incorrect nutrition info. 2 cans of chickpeas alone are around 800 calories…divided by 4 servings and it’s 200k/per — now add in the olive oil, orzo, feta, yogurt. Not a deal breaker to me, but some people may depend on these numbers. Thanks for another winner, Tieghan.

    1. Hi Dee Dee,
      Thanks so much for your feedback and trying this recipe out! I love to hear that it was a hit:) The nutrition info is based on our online calculator??‍♀️ Have the best weekend?

  4. 5 stars
    I didn’t think that the flavors would all go so perfectly well together; I even doubted it while I was cooking thinking, “Hmm, was she sure about that?” To my surprise, it was super delicious. I have never considering making fried feta curds! They were the highlight of the dish. My boyfriend loved it, too. Thank you!

    1. Hey Amanda,
      LOL love this! Thanks for your comment and trying the recipe:) I am so glad it was enjoyed! xxT

  5. 5 stars
    This recipe was much more time consuming than the estimated prep and cook times displayed, but I forgive that because it was sooo delicious!

    A few notes:
    – Plan on prep taking longer than 10 mins unless you’re much faster than I am at chopping things up
    – I don’t love summer squash so we subbed in asparagus instead and it was delicious.
    – We used fresh basil and fresh lemon thyme as our herbs and they worked really well.
    – 1/2 cup of tender herbs for garnish was overkill and not needed in my opinion. I would just set aside a little extra chopped basil to put on top.
    – Don’t overcook the feta. I couldn’t get the same sear as in the picture, but if I left it on too long the feta melted and stuck to the pan. Like someone who commented before, I had to get out another pan because the first batch of feta made such a mess. My second pan had a better non-stick coating and I flipped them much earlier. They came out much better!
    – I’d also recommend getting another pan out and cooking the chickpeas/veggies separately at the same time as the feta to speed things up. My orzo was finished much sooner than my chickpea/veggie mix and I ended up microwaving the orzo to warm it up right before serving.

    Despite it being a bit time consuming (it took me in total about an hour), I’ll be making this one again! The flavors were fresh, bright, and tangy. It was very filling and satisfying. My husband loved it too.

    1. Hi Hannah,
      Happy Wednesday! Thanks a lot for making this recipe and sharing your feedback, I love to hear that it was enjoyed:) Thanks for sharing your notes, sorry this took longer than expected!! xx

  6. 1 star
    I want to love this recipe, but unfortunately due to the difficulty I have to rate it a 1. First off, it does not take 30 mins at all. Second the corn starch does not stay in the feta and rather sticks to the pan, melting the cheese and leaving a hot mess in my pan to clean. Which leads me to the next point. After frying the cheese, you need to fry the chickpeas and zucchini. Well your cheese is cold after doing this which really defeats the purpose. I had to switch pans because the first one had so much cornstarch stuck on it, but it would be better to have 2 pans going to get this meal served hot all at the same time. Overall, too many steps, too much work, too much mess. This meal is more for 1-2 ppl and specific tools and maybe more cooking details sorry:(

    1. Hi Sandra,
      Thanks for giving the recipe a try and sharing your feedback, sorry to hear it was not enjoyed!! xx

  7. Good lord this was a delicious recipe! I substituted white beans for the garbanzos and cavatappi pasta instead of Orzo. And stuck with just basil for herbs.
    It’s got bright and sunny, sour, spice, savory and a variety of textures – crunch from the cheese, soft pasta, mash from the beans. What a dish!

    1. Hi Kelsey,
      Happy Friday!! I am thrilled that this recipe was a hit, thanks a bunch for trying it out! ☀️xxT