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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.


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


  • 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!


The crispy feta was adapted from The New York Times
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  1. 5 stars
    Just in case anyone is tempted to try this with plant-based feta…


    Plant-based feta apparently has a melting point that’s somewhere between butter and ice. Learn from my mistakes–you REALLY don’t want to try grilling this stuff.

    But that’s how I learned that this recipe is lovely with crispy tofu. Slice it about 1/2″ thick, give it a bit of salt, pepper, and smoked paprika, toss it in the cornstarch you have left over because it doesn’t stick all that well to plant-based feta (which, remember, you should never, EVER try to pan-sear), and give it about 2-3 minutes per side over medium heat. Then resume the recipe as indicated, and finish it off with dairy feta crumbles. The texture of the chickpeas and the brightness of the sauce were perfect, and orzo is a starch that I always forget to pull out of the cupboard, but love it when I do. 🙂

    1. Hey Leanne,
      Thanks so much for trying this recipe and sharing your notes. I have never worked with plant based feta, but I’m sure it will help others to know that it definitely doesn’t work! So great that tofu has worked well for you! Thanks again! xT

  2. 5 stars
    This was delicious. I served individually with the yogurt sauce directly on the plates and built from there with the feta and chickpea/veggie mix. Top with lots of the fresh herbs. Yummy!

  3. This dish is delicious and has made its way into regular rotation in my household/recipes. Thank you for the recipe.

    *Side note: This works well with feta crumbles layered on top instead of the fried feta when in a bind or if you just don’t want to fry the sliced feta.