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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: 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

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

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Comments

    1. Hey Aletha,
      Thanks so much for your comment and sharing your feedback! I love to hear that this recipe was a hit and thanks for making it! xTieghan

  1. I also had issues w/ the feta sticking. Do you think I could air fry it instead? If so, what temp and time would you recommend?

    1. Hi Lena,
      Thanks for giving the recipe a try, sorry to hear your feta was sticking. I’ve not tried this recipe in the air fryer, but I bet it would work well for you! Let me know if you give it a try! xTieghan

  2. 5 stars
    Pretty sure I’ve commented before but I just keep coming back to this recipe! A real spring/summer go-to for me. I use whatever vegetable I have on hand, and often will swap out chickpea banza “rice” (it’s not really nice, basically an orzo) forther the orzo and omit the chickpeas. Either way, soooo delicious! For anyone having trouble with the Feta crumble, can’t stress the importance of a nice sharp nice enough! Just a bit in the freezer helps too.

    1. Hey Ashley,
      Awesome!! I love to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks so much for making it!! Have a great week:) xxT

  3. This is a great recipe for my family of four, with 2 teenagers. They simply love it and ask for it. I use haloumi instead of feta, beacause the kids are great fans of that.

    1. Hey Andrea,
      Awesome!! I love to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks so much for giving it a go! Have the best week:) xT

  4. Made this tonight and it was delicious!! One of my favorites yet. I did have trouble with crisping up the feta, any tips?
    Basically, the part that crisped up would just slide off the slice and clump up. And so id try again, but then the block got so melty I didn’t really have slices anymore.
    Was still tasty but wanted to know if you had insight/tips

    1. Hey Mandy,
      Fantastic!! I am thrilled to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks for making it! Sorry to hear about the feta. I am not sure why the crispy part was sliding off the slice of feta? I would have to see that. Maybe you needed thicker slices? Have the best weekend:) xT

  5. 5 stars
    Tieghan, We made this dish for the second time in the past month or so, and we love it. The combination of flavors and textures is amazing! But, both times we’ve had no luck cutting the feta into nice, even, non-crumbling slices. Is there a trick to this? Freezing the feta block, perhaps, or a specific brand of feta? My husband, a retired surgeon, said to tell you that he did use a very sharp knife this last time , but to no avail.
    By the way, we both think that you are brilliant, and we love your recipes!
    Many thanks,
    Lynn

    1. Hey Lynn,
      Wonderful!! Love to hear that this recipe was a hit, thanks a lot for giving it a go:) It definitely does crumble a bit, I like Murray’s brand of feta, give that a try and let me know if that helps. xTieghan

  6. 5 stars
    this recipe is SO GOOD! It feels indulgent yet healthy at the same time! We made it as written (even though I don’t like zucchini and my bf doesn’t like yogurt) and we both ate ALL of it!! So so good. Wish the feta could last in the fridge so I could meal prep it because this would make the perfect lunch! Thanks!

  7. Hi Tieghan,
    My husband and I love this recipe. It has been on our rotation for at least a year now and we are still excited every time we eat it! Thank you!!

    1. Hi Allison,
      Wonderful! I love to hear that this recipe was enjoyed, thanks for giving it a try! Happy Holidays!🎄🎁 xTieghan

  8. 4 stars
    love love love this recipe, my only issue i’ve had with the multiple times i’ve made it is that the feta always seems to stick to my cast iron immediately instead of frying up like the image & video even when i add the correct amount of oil to the skillet beforehand. any tips?

    1. Hey Kylie,
      Thank you so very much for giving this recipe a try, I love to hear that it was enjoyed! Make sure to add your feta to the skillet once the oil has heated. Happy Holidays!🎄🎁

    1. Hey Anakin,
      Wonderful! Love to hear that this recipe was a hit, thanks for making it! Have the best week:) xTieghan

    1. Hey Sara,
      Yes, that should be just fine to use. I hope you love the recipe, please let me know if you give it a try! xTieghan

  9. 5 stars
    The flavors are great so the end result was scrumptious. But 10 minutes prep time may be a goal for me as it took that long for me to gather the ingredients. Once the prep was done, it was just the 30 minutes to cook and the end result were terrific. I’ll definitely make it again.