This easy orzo pasta salad recipe with a simple lemon vinaigrette, crisp cucumber, savory olives, tender artichokes, juicy tomatoes, and fragrant fresh herbs is a crowd-pleaser. It’s adaptable enough to be served as a side dish or enjoyed as the star of your meal.
Watch the Video
How to Make the Best Orzo Pasta Salad
Our lemon herb couscous salad inspired us to share this light and fresh orzo salad. This dish can serve as a side or a main course. For extra protein, consider adding grilled chicken, shrimp, or baked tofu.
I know it’s saying a lot to call this the best orzo salad, but every time we have served this to a crowd, it is the first thing to go! We’ve got a total winner here.
It couldn’t be simpler. Start by cooking the orzo; it takes less than 10 minutes since it’s so tiny. While it cooks, get the rest of the salad ready. I like making the lemon vinaigrette in the bottom of a big bowl and then building the salad right on top.
The dressing is dairy-free, which makes this pasta salad perfect for picnics or warm weather. It’s got a magical combination of olive oil, mustard, fresh lemon, and a touch of honey (or maple syrup) to balance everything out.
When the orzo is cooked, drain it, then throw it — still hot — straight into the vinaigrette. Since we add the pasta warm, it absorbs all the flavors of the lemony dressing.
The final step is to add your favorite vegetables and ingredients. We love cucumber and tomato, so that’s a must for us. We’re also partial to throwing in lots of fresh herbs. We used lots of chopped fresh mint in our photos, but you can play around with your favorite herbs. Parsley, cilantro, dill, and basil are all excellent options. In the photo above, you can see we added olives and artichokes. Both are excellent in the pasta salad.
More Fresh Salads
- Lemony Arugula Salad with Couscous, Cucumbers and Feta — This lemony arugula and couscous salad is crave-worthy. Once you make it, you’ll be itching to make it again.
- Mayo-Free Cilantro Lime Coleslaw — See how we make our mayonnaise-free coleslaw salad with a lime dressing, cilantro and a little spice from minced chili peppers.
- Easy Chickpea Salad with Lemon and Dill — Easy salad recipe with chickpeas, lemon, fresh dill, crisp cucumber and tomatoes that’s quick to make and can be made in advance.
- Chopped Tomato, Cucumber and Onion Salad — Serve this colorful salad with or over anything.
Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad
We love this light orzo pasta salad — it doubles as a side, can be the main event, or works well topped with grilled chicken or Adam’s favorite, shrimp! Use your favorite tender herbs in this — we love using one or a combination of mint, dill, basil, parsley, or cilantro.
Watch Us Make the Recipe
You Will Need
1 ½ cups (8 ounces) dried orzo pasta
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon honey or maple syrup
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
2 to 4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice, depending on taste
1 medium English cucumber, diced
1 large tomato, diced or 8 ounces halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs; use any combination of fresh parsley, cilantro, basil, dill or mint
1/2 cup pitted olives, halved
1 cup canned or jarred and drained artichoke hearts, chopped, see notes
1Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add orzo and cook until tender, 6 to 10 minutes (check box for actual cook time). Drain.
2While the orzo cooks, in a large bowl, whisk the oil, mustard, honey, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the drained orzo to the dressing and mix well.
3Stir in the cucumber, tomato, herbs, olives, and artichokes. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and/or pepper as needed. Enjoy warm or cover, then refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour.
Adam and Joanne's Tips
- If you cannot find orzo pasta, you may substitute with any small pasta shape, quinoa or couscous.
- Make-Ahead: This salad is delicious when eaten straight away, but you can also make the salad, cover it and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. This way all the flavors marry and mingle, making for an even more delicious salad. If you are planning to make a day or two ahead of time, keep the tomatoes separate until you’re ready to serve. This way they will remain crisp.
- If you use marinated artichokes sold in oil, you can substitute some of the olive oil called for in the recipe above with the oil in the jar.
- Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA Database to calculate approximate values.