This simple Lemon Orzo Salad with lemon vinaigrette is loaded with fresh vegetables and makes a refreshing summer starter or main in under 30 minutes!
During hot summer days, there's nothing simpler and more refreshing than a bowl of salad. Especially when its loaded with fresh vegetables and drizzled with lemon flavors! Which is what this Lemon Orzo Salad is all about. Fresh ingredients, orzo pasta that requires minimal cooking time, an optional sprinkling of crumbled cheese, and a drizzle of refreshing lemon vinaigrette!
I love pasta salads because they can serve a variety of courses. Serve a small portion as a starter to lunch, dinner, or barbecue; or serve a larger portion as a main course portion. What's more, this lemon orzo pasta salad only requires minimal hands-on time and just 10 minutes of cooking time, because who wants to spend long hours in a kitchen in summer?
Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Simple, requiring just 10 minutes of cooking time and basic cooking techniques
- Can be made with a handful of fresh seasonal vegetables which are available to you
- Makes a great starter or main course
- Can be made ahead and packed for picnics, barbeques, or camping trips
- Is so refreshing, especially during warm days, with a flavorful citrusy dressing and optional cheese topping
- Can be adjusted for a vegan option
Ingredients and Variations
Orzo - Orzo pasta comes in a few variations and sizes and it really doesn't matter which one you use for this salad. If orzo is not available to you, it can be substituted with rice (please see FAQ section). You can also use other types of pasta suitable for salads, such as:
Please remember that orzo doubles in size once cooked so keep this in mind when weighing out the amount of orzo in this recipe (which may initially seem like a small amount).
Vegetables - For this recipe, I used cherry tomatoes, cucumber, purple onions, radish, and rocket leaves. However, feel free to use any fresh salad vegetables which are available to you and in season.
Cheese - This is optional, but I love a cheesy pasta salad! You can use crumbled feta or goats cheese. If you're going for a vegan option, use plant-based cheese or leave it out completely.
Olives - These are optional, but feel free to use whole, sliced, black, or green olives. Olives are a Mediterranean obsession when it comes to salads (and lots of other things, too).
Lemon - For the vinaigrette, you will need the zest and juice of 1 large lemon (approximately ⅓ cup of lemon juice).
Mustard - You will need ½ a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. If Dijon mustard is not available, you can also use stone-ground mustard. For vegan, use a vegan-friendly mustard (Dijon mustard is typically not vegan).
Honey - You can also use maple or agave syrup.
Garlic - You will need one clove of minced garlic.
Herbs and Spices - For this recipe, I used dried oregano. You can also use dried basil. You will also need salt and pepper.
Olive Oil - For the vinaigrette, I recommend using high-quality extra virgin olive oil.
How to Make Lemon Orzo Salad
- Boil orzo pasta in salted water according to package instructions (just like for other types of pasta).
- Once orzo is cooked, drain immediately and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Do not leave orzo in water as it will continue to absorb water.
- Slice cherry tomatoes in half, dice cucumber in quarters, slice onion into thin rings, and slice radish thinly. Toss in with pasta. Add arugula leaves and mix to combine.
- Prepare the vinaigrette: mix lemon juice, lemon zest, mustard, honey, garlic, and oregano in a bowl. Add olive oil and stir well to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
- Drizzle vinaigrette over pasta salad.
- Top with crumbled feta cheese and olives and serve! Chill salad if not serving immediately.
Can I Make this Salad Ahead?
Yes. This lemon orzo pasta salad keeps well when stored in an airtight container in a refrigerator for 4-5 days.
If not serving immediately, store in a refrigerator until serving. If the salad looks dry, mix in a tablespoon of olive oil before serving.
Can I use Other Types of Pasta?
Yes! You can use any type of pasta that is suitable for pasta salad, such as fusilli, farfalle, and penne pasta.
Can I Use Rice Instead Of Orzo?
Yes you can. Simply add the rice and cook according to package instructions.
Can I Use Other Vegetables and Toppings in this Salad?
Yes! Feel free to use whatever salad vegetables are in season, available, and to your liking.
You can also add more protein by adding grilled chicken, flaked smoked/cooked salmon, or ham/bacon.
You can also add beans, lentils, or pine nuts.
Can I make this Vegan?
Yes, this recipe can be easily adjusted to be vegan-friendly. For the salad itself, substitute feta cheese with vegan cheese, or eliminate it completely.
For the vinaigrette, use agave or maple syrup instead of honey and use vegan-friendly mustard (Dijon mustard is typically not vegan).
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Lemon Orzo Salad
- 140 g orzo (1 cup)
- 200 g cherry tomatoes or plum/grape tomatoes, halved (1¼ cup)
- ½ to ¾ cucumber diced
- 1 medium purple onion sliced in thin rings or diced
- 4 radish sliced
- 50 g arugula/rocket leaves (rucola) (2 cups)
- 100 g feta cheese crumbled (approx. ¾ cup)
- 8-12 whole olives
- 80 mL lemon juice (⅓ cup)
- 1 tsp. lemon zest
- ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
- 2 tsp. honey or maple syrup
- 1 clove garlic minced
- ½ tsp. dried oregano
- 80 mL extra virgin olive oil (⅓ cup)
- salt and pepper to taste
- Boil orzo in salted water according to package instructions. Drain and place in a large salad bowl.
- Dice cucumbers, slice cherry/grape tomatoes in half, slice onion (into rings or diced), and slice radish and add to orzo. Add arugula leaves and mix well to combine.
- Prepare the vinaigrette: Place lemon juice, zest, mustard, honey, minced garlic, and oregano in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Add olive oil and salt and pepper and stir to combine.
- Drizzle vinaigrette over salad and top with crumbled feta and whole olives.