This easy lemon orzo salad is the perfect side dish for any summer get-together. It's packed with fresh veggies, topped with creamy feta cheese and fresh herbs, and coated in a zesty lemon dressing
One of our favorite things about cooking in the warmer months is pulling out all of the classic pasta salads. To us, the perfect salad is packed with good, quality ingredients and fresh produce, is light, refreshing, and flavorful.
Not a pasta salad, but still a great summer side dish is this antipasto salad that has pepperoni, salami, and fresh mozzarella cheese.
Why this Lemon Orzo Salad Recipe Works
- Family favorite: Fresh, cold pasta salad is always a hit this time of year. This is one of those recipes the entire family will enjoy.
- Simple salad: This is a great recipe for meal prepping in advance.
- Perfect side dish or main course: Throw it together in the morning and have it for an easy lunch, dinner, or snack throughout the day. Save this one for the next time you're asked to bring a side dish!
- Nutritious: It's packed with healthy fats and fresh summer vegetables. Add all the veggies and lean protein you want!
Grab These Ingredients
Here are the simple ingredients for this Lemon Orzo Salad. Most are pantry staples and easy (and affordable) to find in the grocery store. Jump down to the recipe card for exact measurements.
- Orzo: We like Dellalo gluten-free orzo, but any orzo or small cut pasta will work.
- Red onion: Adds a pop of color and extra crunch.
- Feta: Use crumbled goat cheese or feta cheese.
- Grape tomatoes: Add a little sweetness to the dish. Sweet cherry tomatoes will work as well.
- English cucumber: The crunchy cucumber is the perfect complement to the tender pasta and juicy tomatoes.
- Fresh herbs: Basil and parsley for topping.
Lemon Basil Vinaigrette
- Basil leaves: Adds a sweet and peppery taste.
- Extra virgin olive oil: You can also use avocado oil.
- Pine nuts: These are optional, but add a subtle nutty flavor
- Honey: Maple syrup can also be used as the sweetener for this dressing.
- Garlic: Using fresh garlic cloves is best to give this dish plenty of garlic flavor. Add more or less to taste.
- Red wine vinegar: Adds acidity and balance to the dressing
- Lemon juice: Fresh lemon juice or from the bottle will both work
- Kosher salt: If you don't have kosher salt, you can substitute it with sea salt or pink Himalayan salt.
- Red pepper flakes: A little goes a long way in adding some spice.
There are plenty of great alternatives for switching up this salad:
- Add your favorite fresh vegetables: Crunchy asparagus or red bell pepper, roasted summer squash or zucchini, and avocado are some of my favorite add-ins.
- Opt out of orzo: Use any short pasta or other pasta shapes, whole grain pasta, Israeli couscous, farro, or even quinoa.
- Pack on the protein: Add rotisserie chicken or grilled chicken, grilled steak, salmon, or garbanzo beans for extra protein.
- Swap in a homemade Italian dressing: Like this herb vinaigrette made with red wine vinaigrette, a drizzle of olive oil, fresh herbs, honey, and dijon.
- Make it a Greek pasta salad: Top it with a zingy Greek dressing of lemon juice, red wine vinegar, olive oil, oregano, dijon, garlic, salt, and pepper. Top with feta, tomato slices, kalamata olives, and garbanzo beans.
How to Make Lemon Orzo Salad
The full printable recipe is below, but let’s walk through the steps with some photos and a video so you have a clear idea of what to expect. This Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad recipe is really easy and these step-by-step instructions will make sure it turns out every time.
VIDEO: Watch How to Make It
Make the orzo pasta according to the package instructions. Drain it and allow it to cool.
While the orzo cooks, chop the cucumber, tomato, and red onion.
Add all of the ingredients for the lemon basil vinaigrette to a food processor or high-speed blender.
Blend on high until smooth and all of the basil and pine nuts are broken down.
Pour the cooked orzo into a large bowl and pour half of the dressing on top. Toss to coat the orzo in the simple lemon vinaigrette.
Add the feta, chopped veggies, and extra dressing and give it all a good stir.
Garnish with fresh basil, parsley, and lemon slices or lemon zest. Serve it cold or at room temperature.
Pasta Cooking Tips
Follow these quick tips for the best results for your pasta every time:
- Use a large pot of salted boiling water to cook the orzo. Starchy, salty pasta water evenly seasons the noodles. Use a tablespoon of kosher salt, table salt, or sea salt for every gallon of water, no matter the type of pasta.
- You can run a little cold water over the pasta to stop it from cooking while it rests in the strainer. (The only time you should rinse your pasta is when you're serving it cold.)
- If you want to cook the pasta al dente, check it 2-3 minutes short of the pasta cooking time. It should be tender pasta with a firm bite and a fleck of white when you bite into the center.
- Avoid overcooking the orzo as it can lead to a mushy texture. Monitor the cooking time closely.
It's not necessary to rinse orzo before cooking. Unlike some other types of pasta, orzo doesn't release a significant amount of starch during cooking. So rinsing it won't affect the texture or cooking process as significantly as it would with other pasta varieties.
When properly stored in the refrigerator, orzo salad can typically last for about 3 to 5 days.
Orzo means "barley" and was originally made from barley flour. It's a small, rice-shaped pasta that does not have a specific country of origin, but is commonly found in Mediterranean cuisine like Greek, Italian, and Middle Eastern dishes.
Orzo is able to be used in a wide range of dishes, especially compared to other pasta or rice. It's commonly used in soups and stews, pastas and salads, pilafs and rice dishes, casseroles, and risottos.
Meal Prep and Storing Tips
This delicious salad is the perfect dish for meal prepping. Make the dressing ahead of time or make the salad over the weekend and have it for lunches or an easy snack throughout the week.
Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. (Trust us when we say it's just as good the next day... and the next.)
If you make this recipe, I’d love for you to give it a star rating ★ below. You can also tag me on Instagram so I can see it!
More Easy Pasta Salad Recipes
Lemon Orzo Salad
- 12 ounces dry uncooked orzo
- ½ red onion cut into small pieces
- 1 block feta or goat cheese crumbled
- 10 ounces grape or cherry tomatoes halved
- 1 English cucumber sliced and halved
- Fresh basil and parsley for topping
Lemon Basil Vinaigrette
- 1 ½ cups fresh basil leaves
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts optional
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Make the orzo pasta according to the package directions.
- While it's cooking, chop the cucumber, tomato, and red onion. Set aside.
- Add all of the ingredients for the lemon basil vinaigrette into the bowl of a food processor or high-speed blender. Blend on high until smooth and all of the basil and pine nuts are broken down.
- Drain the cooked orzo and rinse it with cold water. Transfer it to a large bowl and pour half of the dressing on top. Toss to coat the orzo in the dressing. Add the remaining ingredients and the second half of the dressing and toss again.
- Garnish with fresh basil, parsley, and lemon slices.