Pesto rice salad is a refreshing Mediterranean dish perfect to make ahead and enjoy on one of those lazy warm days. This salad is a perfect weeknight light meal or a side for your favorite mains. It is easy, quick, and so flavorful!

Pesto rice salad is a delicious and versatile dish that combines cooked rice with pesto and a variety of other ingredients like tomatoes, canned tuna, and corn.

It can be served as a side dish or a main course, depending on the accompanying ingredients. Pesto rice salad is easy to make and can be customized to suit individual tastes and preferences.

Italians love rice salads. They prepare them in so many ways, from the traditional insalata di riso to some vegan options with grilled vegetables. Truth is, there are so many ways of making rice salad, and the one I am sharing with you is only one of them.

Pesto rice salad on a bowl with some ingredients scattered around.

Summer is the perfect time to eat rice salads. The vegetables in season make this dish amazingly rich in Mediterranean flavors.

Also, this pesto and rice salad is perfect to bring to potlucks or picnics because is always served at room temperature. And the vinegar helps to prevent raw veggies, especially tomatoes, from going bad.

Ingredients

  • Rice: Use rice that holds well its shape and texture after being boiled, such as Carnaroli, Vialone Nano rice, or Parboiled.
  • Pesto: I used a small jar of store-bought pesto alla Genovese, if you want to give a twist to this recipe, try our pesto rosso recipe or use arugula pesto.
  • Tuna: Use canned tuna packed in olive oil, or if you want to cut down the calories, use tuna packed in water.
  • Tomatoes: I used cherry tomatoes, but any red, firm tomatoes will work fine if cut into small pieces.
  • Corn: For a sweet touch, this ingredient is optional.
  • Basil: This fresh herb gives an amazing lemony and fresh touch.
  • Dressing: You will need extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, salt, and black pepper to make the dressing.

How To Make Pesto Rice Salad

  • Boil the rice over high heat al dente following the package instructions.
  • Place the rice in a large mixing bowl, add the pesto, salt, and pepper, and mix to coat evenly. Let it cool completely.
  • Discard the oil in the canned tuna and add the meat to the bowl.
  • Add the cherry tomatoes and corn kernels.
  • Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, and some vinegar (add first 1 spoon, then adjust to taste).
  • Tear basil with your fingers and add to the salad. Mix everything for one minute, adjust with salt to taste, and serve.

Tips & Notes

Here are a few tips to make your pesto and rice salad outstanding!

  • The best rice to use for a pesto rice salad is a medium to short-grain rice that has a slightly sticky texture when cooked. This type of rice helps the salad hold together and absorb the flavors of the dressing and other ingredients.
  • Ultimately, the choice of rice will depend on your personal preference and the texture you desire in your salad. You can also use other types of rice, such as brown rice or wild rice, for a more nutritious and wholesome option.
  • Al dente means your rice grains need to be tender outside but a little bit hard in the center. So when you let sit the rice it will finish its cooking process.
  • I like using classic pesto over other dressings because you get lots of flavors from basil, pine nuts, garlic, and parmigiano! You can also make homemade pesto in a food processor or blender. I love also swapping the classic condiment with pesto rosso for a change.

How To Store

Storing rice salads properly can help maintain their freshness, texture, and flavor. Here are some tips to store this pesto rice salad effectively:

  • Cool the salad: Before storing, allow the rice salad to cool down to room temperature. This will help prevent the growth of bacteria and ensure that the salad doesn’t become soggy from the steam generated by warm rice.
  • Use an airtight container: Transfer the rice salad to an airtight container to keep it fresh and prevent the absorption of any odors from other items in the refrigerator.
  • Store in the refrigerator: This pesto rice salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Keep the container on a middle shelf for consistent temperature control.
  • Avoid freezing: I don’t recommend freezing this pesto and rice salad, as the texture of the rice can become mushy and the ingredients may lose their freshness when thawed. However, if you must freeze it, make sure to store it in an airtight, freezer-safe container and consume it within 1 month.
  • Check before consuming: Before eating a stored pesto and rice salad, check for any signs of spoilage, such as off-odors, sliminess, or mold. If you notice any of these signs, discard the salad.

Remember that the shelf life of a pesto rice salad may vary depending on the ingredients used. Salads with perishable ingredients like tuna or seafood, meat, or dairy products may have a shorter shelf life.

FAQ

What is pesto salad made of

Pesto salad is a dish that incorporates pesto sauce as a primary flavor component, combined with various ingredients such as vegetables, pasta, grains, or proteins. The key ingredient is the pesto sauce, which is traditionally made from fresh basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan cheese, and olive oil, blended together into a smooth, green sauce.

How much pesto should I use?

I recommend using 1 cup basil pesto for every 4-5 cups of cooked rice. If you want to make less, add first 1 tablespoon of pesto then taste and adjust if needed.

More Italian Salads Recipes

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Pesto rice salad recipe.

Pesto Rice Salad With Tuna

4 servings
Pesto rice salad with tuna is a summer Mediterranean dish made with rice, basil pesto, canned tuna, cherry tomatoes, and sweet corn. This salad is fresh, savory, and perfect to serve as a main or side any day of the week!
prep 10 minutes
cook 18 minutes
total 28 minutes

Equipment

  • 1 large mixing bowl

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup rice for salads (read notes)
  • 5 oz canned tuna (1 can, drained)
  • ½ cup pesto
  • 1 ½ cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 ¼ cup sweet corn (1 can, drained)
  • 2 Tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Vinegar
  • ¼ cup Basil leaves
  • Salt & pepper (to taste)

Instructions
 

  • Cook the rice al dente according to the package instructions.
  • Place cooked rice in a large bowl and add the pesto, salt, and pepper. Mix well and allow to cool down completely.
  • Add canned tuna to the bowl along with cherry tomatoes and corn.
  • Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and vinegar. Add basil tearing the leaves with your hands, mix, and adjust salt to taste.
  • Serve or store in the fridge until needed.

Notes

  • The best rice to use for this pesto rice salad is a medium to short-grain rice that has a slightly sticky texture when cooked such as Carnaroli, Vialone Nano rice, or Parboiled.
  • You can also use other types of rice, such as brown rice or wild rice, for a more nutritious and wholesome option.
  • Al dente means your rice grains need to be tender outside but a little bit hard in the center.
  • This pesto rice salad can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days in an airtight container.
Nutrition Information
Serving: 1 serving | Calories: 443kcal | Carbohydrates: 53g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 20g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 5g | Cholesterol: 15mg | Sodium: 668mg | Potassium: 329mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1124IU | Vitamin C: 16mg | Calcium: 72mg | Iron: 2mg
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Maricruz Avalos Flores is a Mexican cook and photographer living in Italy where she shares authentic Mexican & Italian recipes that can be easily made at home using easy-to-find ingredients.

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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    Pesto Rice Salad with Tuna is our go-to picnic dish! Since it’s quick and easy to do, it saves us time when preparing for our picnic. I made one for our picnic yesterday and they all loved it!