Lemon Orzo Salad
Published Jul 03, 2023, Updated Aug 02, 2023
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This easy lemon orzo salad is loaded with fresh veggies and herbs and tossed in a simple lemon dressing. It comes together in 20 minutes and makes for the perfect side dish or light lunch.
Light, refreshing and packed with lemon flavor, this lemon orzo salad recipe is the perfect side dish for your upcoming summer gatherings.
With a combination of tender orzo pasta, crisp cucumbers, sweet peas and tangy feta cheese this salad is sure to become a new summer favorite.
What is Orzo?
Orzo looks kind of like rice, but it’s actually pasta! It is made from wheat so steer clear if you have a gluten intolerance or allergy. You can cook it like rice (where the orzo absorbs the liquid) or more like pasta where you boil the orzo and drain the extra liquid after cooking. It can be eaten hot or cold and is a super versatile ingredient!
Orzo, being a type of pasta, offers a good source of carbohydrates for energy, and when made from whole grains, it can also provide dietary fiber and essential nutrients like B vitamins and iron.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Quick and Easy: With minimal ingredients, this salad comes together in no time.
- Versatile: Perfect as a side dish for a summer potluck or BBQ, but can also be eaten for lunch or dinner. Add your favorite protein to make it a full meal!
- Refreshing: The lemon, cucumber and fresh herbs give this salad a refreshing taste.
- Great for meal prep: Make it ahead of time for meal prep. The flavors get even better as it sits!
- Crowd-pleaser: The delightful mix of flavors and textures is sure to impress at any gathering.
- orzo pasta – orzo is a small, rice-shaped pasta that’s ideal for salads. It cooks quickly and soaks up flavors beautifully. I like to buy whole wheat orzo because it contains more fiber than regular orzo.
- frozen peas – thawed frozen peas add a nice sweetness and texture to the salad. They’re also a great source of fiber and protein.
- cucumber – fresh cucumber brings a crunchy texture and refreshing taste. Feel free to use a regular cucumber or english cucumber.
- curly parsley – freshly chopped parsley adds a touch of green and a mild, herby flavor. You can also use flat-leaf parsley if preferred.
- feta cheese – the crumbled feta adds a tangy, salty dimension that pairs perfectly with the lemon.
- lemon juice – fresh lemon juice is key to making this salad zingy and vibrant. It’s always recommended to use fresh lemons for the best flavor.
- olive oil – olive oil adds richness, healthy fats and helps to bring all the flavors together.
- sea salt & ground pepper – for seasoning.
How to Make
Cook orzo: Bring a pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the orzo and cook according to the package directions until al dente and just tender, about 8-10 minutes. Drain, and rinse under cold water until the pasta cools to room temp. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl.
Make dressing: While orzo cooks, whisk lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a small bowl to make the dressing.
Combine: Add peas, cucumber, parsley and feta cheese to the orzo. Toss to combine. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss again to mix well.
Serve: Serve immediately or chill in the fridge before serving.
Substitions & Notes
The beauty of this lemon orzo pasta salad is that it’s totally customizable. You can make various substitutions or add in other ingredients depending on what you have on hand or your personal preferences. Here are some substitutions and notes:
- Don’t have orzo on hand? Swap it with farro, quinoa or another small pasta shape like farfalle or fusilli.
- Want to use a different oil? Go for it! My personal favorite for salads is extra virgin olive oil, but avocado oil would be a good substitute.
- Want to use different veggies? No problem! Feel free to use whatever vegetables you have on hand. Some good additions would be cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, red bell pepper, red onion, garlic, kalamata olives, broccoli or zucchini. You could also add in some chopped greens like baby spinach, kale or arugula.
- Swap the parsley: Another fresh herb like fresh basil, dill or mint would all be delicious in this salad.
- Swap the feta: If you need this salad to be dairy-free, skip the feta cheese or use a vegan feta cheese option. Or if you’re not a fan of feta cheese swap it with goat cheese or another creamy cheese of choice.
- Add protein: To make this salad more hearty, you can add shredded chicken, grilled chicken, salmon or shrimp. For a vegetarian or vegan option add chickpeas, white beans or chopped nuts like almonds, pine nuts, pecans or walnuts.
- Add a vinaigrette: I love how light this salad is thanks to just using lemon juice and olive oil as a dressing, but if you want to amp up the flavor in this salad feel free to serve it with a different dressing. Some ideas: balsamic vinaigrette, lemon vinaigrette or red wine vinaigrette.
How to Serve
Honestly, this lemon orzo salad pairs well with just about anything! It’s delicious on its own as a side but is also the perfect side for summer cookouts and potlucks. Here are some pairing ideas:
- Maple Turmeric Chicken – top this salad with maple turmeric chicken for some protein and flavor. This apple cider vinegar chicken would also be a delicious option.
- Blackened Salmon – the creamy and refreshing orzo salad is the perfect way to balance out the spice from the salmon.
- Turkey Burger – make these delicious turkey burgers as your main and serve this salad alongside it!
How to Store Lemon Orzo Salad
This salad can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. It’s best to give it a good stir before serving if it’s been sitting for a while, as the dressing can settle at the bottom. This salad can also be made in advance, making it perfect for meal prep or for taking to your next potluck.
Popular Salads to Try
- Ranch Pasta Salad
- Creamy Cucumber Salad
- Easy Quinoa Salad
- Greek Pasta Salad
- Curried Cauliflower Salad
- Blueberry Corn Chicken Salad
- Healthy Pasta Salad
- Pesto Pasta Salad
- Chicken Fajita Pasta Salad
- Asparagus Salad
- Easy Cucumber Salad
- Fattoush Salad
- Easy Spinach Salad
- Classic Broccoli Salad
- Greek Salad
- Healthy Potato Salad
- Sunflower Crunch Salad
- Poppy Seed Chicken Pasta Salad
- Kale and Cabbage Pad Thai Salad
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Lemon Orzo Salad
- 1 ½ cup dried uncooked orzo pasta
- 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
- ½ cucumber, chopped
- ⅓ cup fresh curly parsley, chopped
- ⅓ cup crumbled feta cheese
- 3 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- Bring a saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add orzo and cook according to the package directions until just tender, about 8-10 minutes. Drain, and rinse under cold water until the pasta cools to room temp. Drain well and transfer to a large bowl.
- While orzo is cooking whisk lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper together in a small bowl.
- Add the peas, cucumber, parsley and feta cheese to the orzo and toss to combine.
- Pour dressing over salad and toss to combine.
- Serve immediately or chill in the fridge until ready to serve.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.