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This Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Orzo is the rich and creamy pasta dish you didn’t know you needed! Fresh veggies, tender orzo, and a cashew cream sauce combined into a cheesy, dairy-free dish that’s as addicting as it sounds. Have this vegan orzo dish on the table in no time!
Table of Contents
Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Soup is one of our all-time favorite recipes and flavor combinations. There’s just something so nostalgic and cozy about it. After putting a twist on the classic soup with our 30-Minute Broccoli Cheddar Stuffed Potatoes and Cheesy Broccoli Rice Casserole, we knew we wanted to find another way to enjoy the flavor combination.
This one-pot meal is as perfect as it gets! It’s everything we love about Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Soup but in a hot, al dente pasta dish. Give it a try for meal prep or chilly days when you need something warm and comforting for dinner. You really can’t go wrong serving this vegan orzo for any occasion.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Dairy-free butter: We chose to sauté the aromatics in dairy-free butter instead of oil for a boost of savory flavor. If you are out of vegan butter, a neutral cooking oil like olive oil or avocado oil would work well in its place.
- Aromatics: A simple blend of sautéed garlic and onion creates a flavorful foundation for the creamy vegan orzo and starts this dish off right!
- Carrots: Freshly julienned carrots blend seamlessly into the vegan orzo, add a boost of nutrition and subtle sweetness, and are the perfect accompaniment for broccoli.
- Orzo: This pasta is often confused with rice, but is in fact a rice-shaped pasta! It is often located in the grocery store next to the other pasta and can usually be found in a gluten-free variety, as needed.
- Broccoli: Fresh or frozen broccoli florets will work in this vegan orzo recipe. If using frozen, make sure to cook through until warmed through and tender.
- Broth: We like to use vegan chicken broth as it adds the most flavor, but vegetable broth, but is a great alternative.
- Vegan cheddar cheese: Both vegan cheddar cheese shreds and cheese slices can work. If using cheese slices, chop the slices into smaller strips to help them melt faster.
- Cashews: Homemade cashew cream helps make this vegan broccoli cheddar orzo extra creamy without any dairy. For best results, use raw cashews. Or, if nut-free, replace the cashews 1:1 with raw shelled sunflower seeds.
- Lemon juice: A squeeze of fresh lemon juice balances the creaminess in the cashews and makes the vegan orzo cream sauce light and delicious!
- Breadcrumbs: Optional, but toasted breadcrumbs are the perfect finishing touch on this cheesy pasta dish!
How to Make Vegan Broccoli Cheddar Orzo
- Soften the cashews. Place the raw cashews in a heat-proof bowl and pour boiling hot water overtop. Set aside to soak for at least 20 minutes, or overnight.
- Prepare the breadcrumbs. In a medium-sized pan over medium heat, melt the vegan butter. Once melted, add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Add the breadcrumbs and sauté for another 4-5 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are golden brown.
- Season the breadcrumbs. Add the salt, Italian seasoning, and freshly cracked black pepper. Stir through and remove the breadcrumbs from the heat. Set aside until ready to serve.
- Make the cashew cream sauce. Drain the cashews and transfer them to a high-speed blender along with the water and lemon juice. Blend on high until smooth and set aside.
- Sauté the onions. In a large Dutch oven, melt 2 tablespoons of vegan butter over medium heat. Once melted, add the diced onion and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Sauté until the onions are softened and browned, about 6-7 minutes.
- Add the remaining ingredients. Add in the garlic, carrots, paprika, and thyme. Sauté for another 2 minutes. Then, add the short-cut pasta, broth, and remaining salt.
- Bring to a boil. Bring the orzo mixture to a boil, then lower the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the broccoli. Add the broccoli florets and stir to combine. Cover again and simmer for another 5 minutes, or until the orzo has absorbed the liquid and is al dente.
- Stir in the cashew cream and vegan cheddar cheese. Combine until the cheese is melted and creamy.
- Serve. Season this vegan orzo with additional black pepper and salt to taste, then top with toasted breadcrumbs. Serve immediately while warm and cheese. Enjoy!
This creamy vegan orzo is hearty and delicious enough to be enjoyed on its own, but can also be served with your favorite plant-based protein or simple side dishes.
Yes, if you are gluten-free, this orzo dish can be made gluten-free with a few simple substitutes. Use gluten-free breadcrumbs and replace the durum wheat-based orzo with a gluten-free pasta made from brown rice or corn.
Orzo and rice, while similar, have their differences in flavor and texture. For example, orzo is slightly chewier and is not as light and fluffy as jasmine rice. It’s also a bit more nutty in flavor compared to neutral-tasting rice.
In addition to breadcrumbs, this broccoli cheddar orzo can be served with fresh herbs like fresh parsley or chives, vegan parmesan cheese, nutritional yeast, additional cheese shreds, and/or croutons! Don’t be afraid to make this dish your own.
The cashew cream is much thicker than your typical store-bought milk and would be difficult to replace. Even full-fat coconut milk is not as rich and thick as cashew cream. For best results, we highly recommend cashew cream, or if nut-free, sunflower seed cream!
Similar to other pasta recipes, this leftover vegan orzo will keep for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator. We haven’t tested freezing this recipe, but we wouldn’t recommend it if it can be avoided. Pastas, including orzo pasta, don’t freeze particularly well and the cashew cream sauce is likely to separate upon thawing.
For the best creamy orzo, we recommend enjoying it fresh!