This gorgeous dish of Grilled Vegetables and Halloumi with Orzo makes the perfect summertime meal for a weeknight or for a backyard event with friends. Be sure to go overboard with the vegetables, leftovers will make the most fabulous lunches.
Oh what beautiful summer vegetables are at the markets right now: yellow squash, zucchini, eggplants, earthy mushrooms, tomatoes, sweet bell peppers, garlic, fresh herbs, and so many more! When you bring home a bounty there is only one thing to do: grill them all.
Grilling intensifies the vegetable’s natural sweetness and imparts a subtle smoky flavour. In mere minutes, when the vegetables cook over live fire, they caramelize beautifully on the outside and soften perfectly on the inside. While they are still warm off the grill, drizzle with your favourite sauce or dressing so they soak it all up. Drooling yet? Good good.
Grilled Vegetables And Halloumi with Orzo Recipe
This huge colourful platter of grilled vegetables is a sight to behold and a cinch to prepare. You can serve the soft grilled vegetables as a spectacular side dish, but why stop there? Paired with salty halloumi, optional sausage or chicken, a quick-cook pasta, and a fabulous dressing, it becomes the kind of meal summer was made for: unfussy, decadent, and hearty without being heavy.
What I love most about this recipe is how extremely adaptable it is. Use your favourite vegetables, or the ones most readily available where you live. Serve it warm or cold, it’s delicious both ways. It can be the centrepiece of your next backyard dinner with friends, or a weeks-worth of fabulous lunches. With minimal effort and loaded with flavour, never have you seen vegetables disappear so quickly.
Ingredients And Substitutions
This dish has 3 main components: The grilled veggies, halloumi, and optional sausage; the pasta; the dressing. Feel free to customize any of it to what you have on hand or your preferences.
I used fresh vegetables that I had from the farmers market, but feel free to skip, or add any according to your preference or what’s available.
- Cherry tomatoes – So delicious when lightly charred and smoky. If possible, buy cherry tomatoes still on the vine which makes it very easy to grill them. If you can’t find the ones still on the vine, you may need a grilling basket, or cast iron skillet (placed on the grill), to grill the loose ones.
- Eggplant – I absolutely love grilled eggplant and soon there will be so many varieties available at the markets. The smaller the sweeter, and less bitter, they are so go for those.
- Mushrooms – I used cremini mushrooms. Try and find larger ones which makes it easier to grill. Portobello mushrooms would also be wonderful.
- Yellow and orange bell peppers – Green and red peppers would also be great.
- Zucchini and yellow squash – So good when grilled that I’ve made this dish many times with just grilled zucchini.
- Halloumi cheese – Deliciously salty halloumi cheese becomes even more flavourful when gilled or pan-fried. I would like to tell you can leave the halloumi out, but I love it so much I think it’s what makes me make this dish again and again without ever tiring of it. Read more about this insanely addictive cheese down below.
- Optional sausage or chicken – To make it a heartier dish I sometimes add some grilled chicken sausage, or chicken cutlets. You can absolutely leave it out to make it a vegetarian meal, or use a plant based sausage, or even grilled tofu.
For the pasta:
This recipe is all about the grilled vegetables so less pasta and tons of vegetables is how this dish rolls. I used orzo because it cooks quickly (and it’s yummy!) but you can use any short pasta you like here. Or make it gluten-free and use quinoa, brown rice, or a gluten-free pasta instead.
For the dressing:
To elevate this dish you’ll need an outstanding sauce or dressing. The one I offer here is probably my favourite dressing of all time. It’s tangy from vinegar and lots of lemon zest and juice, a tad sweet from maple syrup, and super flavourful from shallots, garlic, and zingy grainy mustard. Olive oil to finish makes it the best dressing you’ll want to pour over everything.
Here, the dressing is used for flavouring the orzo and for drizzling over the grilled vegetables. So, so good.
What is Halloumi And How Do You Grill It?
While this recipe is all about the gorgeous grilled vegetables, the real star of the show is the halloumi. A Cypriot brined cheese that is salty and firm. It is traditionally made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk though today, cow’s milk is often used. Because it is a relatively low-fat cheese, it has a high melting point which makes it perfect for grilling. When eaten raw, halloumi can be a little rubbery but when it hits a hot grill or pan, it sears and colours quickly becoming soft on the inside with a beautifully crisp exterior.
To grill halloumi, you simply cut it into 1/2-inch slabs and brush lightly with oil. Place the slabs of cheese directly on a hot grill or pan and cook undisturbed for 1-2 minutes or until grill marks appear. Flip and cook for 1-2 more minutes. When making this recipe, I like to grill the cheese before the veggies so I can keep an eye on it.
Halloumi has become very popular and is now easily found in most well-stocked supermarkets. Some brands sell halloumi pre-sliced but it is most commonly sold in vacuum-packed, brick-form.
How To Prepare and Grill Vegetables
Grilling vegetables is a quick, easy way to throw a healthy meal together. Plus, it will save you from turning on the oven on a hot summer day. I like to assemble a grilled vegetable platter by arranging slices of each vegetable, overlapping slightly, in groups or rows. Served with grains, and/or a protein, it makes for a hearty and delicious meal. But you can absolutely chop them up and use them in sandwiches, salads, or as a side dish.
Choose any combination of vegetables you like (try and include lots of colourful ones) and follow the directions in the guide below for grilling them:
1. Cut the larger vegetables down, leave the smaller ones whole
Cut the vegetables as large as possible so they have more surface area. This will give the vegetables more grill marks and make it easier to move them around the grill. For each veggie, aim for a size that is small enough to cook quickly, but big enough to keep from falling apart while cooking. Slice large tomatoes in half, seed and quarter bell peppers, slice eggplants, zucchini and yellow squash into 1/4-inch thick diagonal slices or rounds, remove the stems off of mushrooms and leave whole. Asparagus and scallions should also be grilled whole.
2. Pre-cook root vegetables
Carrots, baby potatoes, or sweet potatoes are a great addition to a grilled veggie platter. Just be sure to par-boil them in salted water (about 5 minutes for carrots, and 8-10 for potatoes). When tender, proceed with seasoning and grilling.
3. Brush the vegetables with oil
Once sliced, lightly brush the vegetables with oil. This will prevent the vegetables from sticking to the grate and also help with getting them deeply coloured and caramelized. Ditto for the halloumi cheese.
4. Hold off on the salt
Most vegetables contain a lot of water. When you salt them, they will weep moisture which will make them lose their potential to char properly. So make sure to salt the grilled vegetables right after they come off the flame.
5. Clean and oil the grill grates
To prevent the vegetables form sticking and falling apart, make sure the grates are clean and well-oiled.
6. Flip once to get the best grill marks
Place the veggies directly on the grill, over medium-high heat. Cook, without disturbing, until grill marks appear.
7. Remove the veggies as soon as they’re slightly charred and tender
Don’t allow them to over-cook or they will become very soggy and lose their caramelization. Softer veggies like zucchini and eggplant will take about 4-6 minutes total so watch them closely. Heartier vegetables such as bell peppers and thick-cut onions, may take up to 10 minutes.
8. Use a grill pan or basket for smaller vegetables
Some vegetables, like cherry tomatoes or button mushrooms, are too small to grill loosely on the grate. Use a basket or a grill pan set directly on the grates. If you don’t have a grill, you can use a grill pan on the stovetop.
Make The Grilled Vegetables with Halloumi And Orzo
This dish can be served two different ways. You can chop the grilled vegetables and halloumi up and mix them through with the pasta and dressing. Or, as I have done, layer the grilled vegetables and halloumi over the orzo. The nice thing about the latter is that everyone can grab their favourite veggie and leave behind what they don’t like. Plus, it makes a prettier presentation, too.
- To start, combine all the dressing ingredients in a glass jar or small bowl and whisk until smooth and emulsified.
- Cook the orzo in large pot of salted boiling water according to the instructions on the package. Rinse it under cold running water until it no longer feels warm. Drain completely and toss with 1/3 of the dressing. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, preheat the grill to high. If grilling sausage or chicken, grill those first and set aside.
- Spray, or brush, the vegetables and halloumi with olive oil and season with black pepper, to taste.
- Cook the halloumi cheese first; place directly on oiled, clean grates. Cover the grill and cook for 2 to 3 minutes without disturbing. Flip and cook another 2 minutes or until char marks appear. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Grill vegetables directly on the grill (use a basket for small vegetables). Cover the grill and cook undisturbed for 3 to 4 minutes (or 2 to 3 minutes longer for heartier vegetables). Flip and cook another 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly charred and tender.
- Transfer the veggies to a large cutting board, season with salt, and allow to cool slightly. Once the vegetables have cooled, cut the sausage (if using), eggplant, and mushrooms into 2-inch pieces leaving the rest of the veggies and halloumi cheese intact. Place the orzo on a large platter and top with the grilled vegetables, sausage (if using), and halloumi cheese. Drizzle everything with a little more dressing, garnish with fresh chopped herbs and serve. Alternatively, chop all the grilled veggies, sausage (if using), and halloumi cheese into 2-inch pieces and place in a large serving bowl. Add the orzo, a little more dressing, and fresh chopped herbs and toss gently to combine.
Tip: I don’t love using oil sprays but they do come in handy for grilling. I like to use this brand which is additive-free.
Make Ahead And Store
This recipe for grilled vegetables and halloumi with orzo is a great dish to make ahead of time or bring to a party as it holds very well and tastes even better with time: as it sits, the orzo, vegetables, and cheese soak up the flavours of the dressing.
Make ahead: Grill all the veggies, sausage (if using) and cheese. Once cooled, store in a large, or a few medium-sized, container and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Cook the orzo, rinse with cold water and drain, drizzle with a little olive oil and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Make the dressing and store covered with a tight lid for up to 5 easy in the refrigerator.
When ready to use, follow recipe instructions for assembling the dish.
To store: This dish will last in the fridge for four to five days. Serve cold or reheat gently in a microwave or in a skillet on the stovetop. making it great for meal prep.
More Favourite Grilling Recipes
Grilled Vegetables and Halloumi with Orzo
For the orzo
- 450g (about 3 cups) orzo pasta or any small shape pasta
- Kosher salt
- 1/2 cup fresh chopped herbs such as basil, oregano, or thyme for serving
For the dressing
- 1 small shallot finely diced
- 1 garlic clove minced
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons grainy dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- 1/3 cup extra-vigin olive oil
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound sweet or hot Italian chicken sausage (optional) or plant-based sausage
- Extra-virgin olive oil or cooking spray
- 250g Halloumi cheese sliced 1/2-inch thick
- 8 ounces cherry tomatoes preferably still on the vine
- 2 to 3 bell peppers quartered, stems and seeds removed
- 2 to 3 zucchini and/or summer squash sliced diagonally 1/4-inch thick
- 1 medium eggplant sliced diagonally 1/4-inch thick
- 8 ounces cremini mushrooms stems removed
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Cook the orzo in large pot of salted boiling water according to the instructions on the package. Drain. Rinse under cold running water and drain again. Transfer to a bowl and toss with 1/3 of the dressing. Set aside.
- Make the dressing by combining the shallot, garlic, vinegar, mustard, maple syrup, lemon zest and juice in a glass jar or bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Season with a 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper each, and set aside.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high. Grill the sausages, if using, turning frequently, until browned and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool slightly.
- Meanwhile, spray, or brush, the halloumi and vegetables with olive oil and season with black pepper, to taste.
- Cook the halloumi and cherry tomatoes first. Place directly on the grate, cover the grill and cook for 2 to 3 minutes without disturbing. Flip and cook another 2 minutes or until grill marks appear. Transfer to a plate and set aside.
- Grill the rest of vegetables directly on the grill (use a basket for small vegetables). Cover the grill and cook undisturbed for 3 to 4 minutes (or 2 to 3 minutes longer for heartier vegetables). Flip and cook another 3 to 4 minutes or until lightly charred and tender. Transfer the veggies to a large cutting board as they cook, season with salt to taste, and allow to cool slightly.
- Once the vegetables have cooled, cut the sausage (if using), eggplant, and mushrooms into 2-inch pieces leaving the rest of the veggies and halloumi cheese intact.
- Place the orzo on a large platter and top with the grilled vegetables, sausage (if using), and halloumi cheese. Drizzle everything with a little more dressing, garnish generously with fresh chopped herbs and serve.
- Alternatively, serve this dish salad-style: Chop all the grilled veggies, sausage (if using), and halloumi cheese into 2-inch pieces and place in a large serving bowl. Add the orzo, a little more dressing, and fresh chopped herbs and toss gently to combine.