This light and easy to make lemon orzo salad is the perfect make-ahead pasta salad. Made with a tangy and slightly sweet lemon vinaigrette, this side dish is full of fresh produce like cucumbers and cherry tomatoes and packed with bold, yet simple flavors.
This is one of my Side Dish recipes I know you’ll want to keep on hand!
We’re rocketing towards summer and with that comes potlucks and cookouts.
One of my favorite things to bring to those is a pasta salad. It’s always a crowd-pleaser, and it’s great to make ahead of time!
Except with this recipe, there’s no boring ingredients or generic bottled dressing… crisp cucumbers and red onion, juicy cherry tomatoes, salty feta cheese, and a simple 4 ingredient honey lemon vinaigrette.
While I absolutely love my Ultimate Pasta Salad, this lemon orzo salad may be my new favorite summer side dish!
How to make lemon orzo pasta salad?
This is just an overview; the full ingredients and directions are in the recipe card toward the bottom of this post.
- Cook orzo. Each brand of pasta may have different cooking times, so check the packaging.
- Rinse. Run the drained orzo under cold water, then leave in the colander to drain.
- Make dressing. You can do this in a small mixing bowl, or in the big one you want to keep the salad in.
- Toss. Toss everything together and either serve immediately or cover and refrigerate.
I highly recommend not skipping the rinsing pasta step. Rinsing the pasta serves a couple purposes. First, it stops the cooking process, and keeps the orzo from getting mushy. Secondly, it cools the pasta enough so that you can serve this recipe right away if you’d like.
Variations of this recipe
- Garlic – feel free to add more garlic if you’d like. I’m of the firm belief that you measure garlic amounts with your soul, and who am I to tell you how much to add?
- Herbs – to keep things light and fresh, I use fresh parsley, but you can swap some of it for fresh basil and/or oregano.
- Mustard – try adding about a teaspoon of dijon mustard to the dressing for a fun twist.
- Cheese – instead of feta, halloumi or goat cheese are great alternatives.
- More dressing – just as with the garlic, you can certainly make more of the honey lemon vinaigrette if you’d like.
- Veggies – if you’d like to add different veggies to your salad, please feel free. Olives, peppers, and capers are some of our favorites.
Even though it looks like a large grain of rice, orzo is actually a pasta. It has a high protein content, and is great in salads and soups, like this Lemon Orzo Chicken Soup recipe.
While I haven’t tested it, I think this orzo salad could be made with some other grains, such as quinoa, bulgur, barley, or farro. The dressing to grain ratio may be different, so keep that in mind when modifying the recipe.
Making orzo salad ahead of time
Even though you can serve this recipe right away, it actually gets better after chilling for a bit.
So feel free to make this recipe entirely ahead of time, and keep it covered in the refrigerator.
This salad should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and enjoyed within 4 days.
Give it a good stir before serving.
You don’t have to have a garlic press for this recipe, but if you do have one, it comes in handy! If you’re in the market for a great one, this version is awesome. Not only does it come apart for easy cleaning, you don’t even have to peel the cloves!
Did you make this? Be sure to leave a review below and tag me @the_chunky_chef on Facebook and Instagram!
- 2 cups dried orzo pasta approximately 12 oz
- 1 cup chopped cherry tomatoes sliced in half (or quartered if they're large)
- 1 cup chopped cucumbers I like to use the mini cucumbers and slice them in rounds
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 1/3 – 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 6 oz crumbled feta cheese
Honey lemon vinaigrette
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large clove garlic pressed, grated, or very finely minced
- 4 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp honey
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt generously, and boil orzo pasta according to the package directions for al dente.
- Drain in a colander, then rinse with cold water. Keep draining in the colander.
- Add drained orzo to a large mixing bowl, then top with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, parsley, and feta. Set aside.
- In a small mixing bowl, add the dressing ingredients, then whisk well to combine.
- Pour the dressing over the salad in the large mixing bowl, and use a large spoon or rubber spatula to toss everything together until well mixed.
- Serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days.
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- I’ve estimated this recipe serves 8, but feel free to divide it into as many servings as you’d like.
The Chunky Chef is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is an estimate. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, we recommend running the ingredients through whichever online nutritional calculator you prefer. Calories can vary quite a bit depending on which brands were used.