Lemon Orzo Salad

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Lemon orzo salad is a cool refreshing side for light summer meals and potlucks. It features orzo, cherry tomatoes, olives, feta, pine nuts, fresh herbs, and a lemon vinaigrette. Make this easy pasta salad in 30 minutes.

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Lemon Orzo Salad in a large white serving bowl.

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🍋 Why We Love Lemon Orzo Salad

  • It’s made with fresh ingredients that are light, healthy and flavorful.
  • The lemony vinaigrette makes it bright and refreshing.
  • It’s a welcome change-up from a traditional pasta salad.
  • You can make it meal by adding veggies like zucchini, asparagus tips, peas or spinach. For protein, add small chunks of chicken breast from a store-bought rotisserie chicken, garlic butter steak bites, small cubes of pan fried ham with golden crisp edges, or chickpeas.
  • This lemon orzo salad comes together quickly with minimal effort.
Orzo salad with lemon in a large serving bowl with 2 silver serving spoons.

🛒 Ingredients

For the Lemon Vinaigrette

  • Lemon: For fresh tangy juice. It brightens the flavor, giving this yummy pasta salad a delightful summery taste.
  • Shallot: It gives our dressing a light, sweet and delicate flavor. We use it instead of onion to avoid an overpowering sharp onion taste, or an intense tangy bite.
  • Garlic: Adds a traditional taste to the vinaigrette. Instead of mincing it we grate it so it will incorporate smoothly into the dressing.
  • Dijon Mustard: Adds a bit of tang while helping to emulsify the vinaigrette. I prefer the type of dijon made with chardonnay.
  • Fresh Thyme: Adds a bit of freshness to the mixture. It has a minty, earthy flavor with a touch of savory/sweet.
  • Olive Oil: Provides structure for the vinaigrette. For the best flavor, use a good-quality olive oil. When prepping the dressing mixture, drizzle it in slowly to it can incorporate smoothly into the vinaigrette.
  • Fine Kosher Salt: After doing a taste test of the lemon vinaigrette, add a pinch of salt – only if needed. If you don’t have fine kosher salt on hand, use fine table salt instead.
Ingredients for lemon orzo salad recipe.

For the Orzo Salad

  • Orzo Pasta: Is a short-cut pasta that looks like large grains of rice. At the market, look for it in the pasta section. If you can’t find it, feel free to substitute with ditalini, star-shaped pastina, or orecchiette pasta.
  • Cherry Tomatoes: Contribute freshness with their sweet, juicy flavor. They also add a pop of beautiful color. I stick with bright-red tomatoes, but feel free to use a mix of small multi-color tomatoes.
  • Kalamata Olives: Rich and fruity, they add a bright briny flavor to the lemon orzo salad.
  • Feta Cheese: Salty and tangy, it contributes a creamy delicious taste and texture. But goat cheese and Cotija cheese work well too. For a vegan salad, use a vegan option like Violife “Just Like Feta.”
  • Toasted Pine Nuts: Soft and nutty, they add richness and crunchiness that greatly enhance the orzo pasta salad.
  • Freshly-ground Black Pepper (Optional): Adds an earthy rustic taste and aroma with a touch of heat.
  • Fresh Herbs: I favor (2 tablespoons) fresh basil and (1 teaspoon) fresh oregano for this pasta salad, but (2 tablespoons) Italian parsley and (1 teaspoon) thyme also works well. Or feel free to use your favorite combination of fresh herbs.
A serving of lemon orzo salad garnished with fresh oregano.

📖 Recipe Steps

RECIPE PREP: Salt a large pot of water until it tastes like the ocean. Bring it to a boil on stovetop. In the meantime, start prepping the dressing.

  1. Assemble the lemon vinaigrette. Add lemon juice, minced shallot, and grated garlic to a medium mixing bowl. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk in the dijon mustard and thyme. Slowly add in the olive oil, whisking constantly until the dressing is completely emulsified. Do a taste test. If needed, add a pinch of salt. Set the vinaigrette aside until ready to use.
  3. Add the orzo to the pot of boiling water. Cook it according to package directions – until al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander, then transfer it to a large bowl. Pour the lemon vinaigrette over the pasta. Toss to combine. Set the bowl aside for a few minutes to let the orzo shed heat. (We don’t want to melt the feta or wilt the fresh herbs.)
  4. Once the pasta is cool to the touch it’s time to assemble the lemon orzo salad. Add the cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, and pine nuts.
How to make lemon orzo salad, step by step.
  1. Toss to combine. If desired, you can add a few twists of freshly-ground black pepper. Garnish the dish with fresh herbs and it’s ready to serve. Store any leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate.
Mixing a lemony orzo pasta salad in a large bowl with 2 serving spoons.

🧑🏼‍🍳 Recipe FAQ

These are the most commonly-asked questions for making the tastiest lemon orzo salad, and the most helpful answers for recipe success.

How to cook orzo pasta al dente?

About 5 minutes of boiling time will deliver the right texture – a little bit firm with a bite. But always follow the instructions and cook time on the package, as these can slightly differ from brand to brand.

How to make lemon orzo salad in advance?

Cook the orzo. Transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate. Prep the lemon vinaigrette and transfer it to a jar and refrigerate. Prep the veggies and put them in a separate container in the fridge. When you’re ready to enjoy the pasta salad, simply toss the ingredients together.

Should orzo salad be served hot or cold?

It can be served either way. But during the hot summer months, it’s refreshing to enjoy this pasta salad cold.

How long will orzo salad last?

Lemon orzo salad will stay fresh for up to 5 days in the fridge – but after the first day, the texture of the tomatoes will no longer be firm.

A single serving of summer orzo salad in a white cup with a gold-and-white fork.

🥗 More Refreshing Salads

When the weather heats up, we’re all looking for light, healthy, refreshing meal options. These summer salads all fit the bill. Add them to your monthly meal-plan rotation. Take them to a summer potluck.

A bowl of lemon orzo pasta salad.

Rate This Recipe ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Flavor testers rated this the best-tasting lemon orzo salad. They enjoyed the bright lemon flavor and the delicious texture of the pasta and veggies. They loved how the herbs in the mixture added freshness and a pop of color.

If you agree this recipe’s a keeper, give it a 5-star rating in the comments. Then be a recipe hero. Share it with friends. 📌 Pin it to Pinterest.

Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

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Lemon Orzo Salad in a large white serving bowl.

Lemon Orzo Salad


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Description

Lemon orzo salad is cool and refreshing. It’s packed with delicious flavors, colors and textures. A wonderful summer side for potlucks and family dinners. Make it in just 30 minutes.


Ingredients

Units Scale

Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 1 lemon, juiced (about 3 tablespoons)
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 clove garlic, grated (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1/3 cup good-quality olive oil

Orzo Pasta Salad

  • 8 ounces orzo pasta
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
  • Optional: A few twists freshly-ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano

Instructions

RECIPE PREP: Salt a large pot of water until it tastes like the ocean. Bring it to a boil on stovetop. While you’re waiting for it to come to a boil, start prepping the lemon vinaigrette dressing.

Assemble Lemon Vinaigrette

  1. Add lemon juice, minced shallot, and grated garlic to a medium mixing bowl. Let it sit for 5 minutes.
  2. Whisk in the dijon mustard and thyme. Slowly add the olive oil, whisking constantly until the dressing is completely emulsified.
  3. Do a taste test. If needed, add a pinch of salt. Set the vinaigrette aside until ready to use.

Make the Orzo Pasta Salad

  1. Add the orzo to the pot of boiling water. Cook it according to package directions – until al dente. Drain the pasta in a colander, then transfer it to a large bowl.
  2. Pour the lemon vinaigrette over the pasta. Toss to combine. Set the bowl aside for a few minutes to let the orzo shed heat. (We don’t want to melt the feta or wilt the fresh herbs.)
  3. Once the pasta is cool to the touch, add the cherry tomatoes, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, and pine nuts. Toss to combine. If desired, add a few twists of freshly-ground black pepper. Garnish the dish with fresh herbs, and it’s ready to serve. Store leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate.

Notes

Want more veggies? Try adding roasted asparagus tips, peas, zucchini or spinach. 

Want some protein? Add small chunks of store-bought rotisserie chicken, small cubes of pan fried ham (with golden crisp edges), garlic butter steak bites, or chickpeas.

How to store leftovers: Transfer orzo salad to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days.

  • Prep Time: 15 Minutes
  • Cook Time: 15 Minutes
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Italian
Gold Line: Sprinkles of Inspiration | confettiandbliss.com

Lemon Orzo Salad 👉🏻 Join the Convo

Do you look forward to cool pasta salads during the hot summer months? Are you excited to make this orzo salad with lemon? Share your thoughts on this easy recipe in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

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13 Comments

  1. I had never been brave enough to attempt an orzo but this recipe made me feel brave enough to try and it turned out great! Highly recommend this recipe to everyone!