Everyone loves this easy orzo pasta salad recipe with a simple lemon vinaigrette, cucumber, olives, artichokes, tomato and fresh herbs. Jump to the Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad with Cucumbers and Olives or read on to see our tips for making it.
This light and fresh orzo salad is inspired by this Lemon and Herb Couscous we shared a little while ago. This works as a side dish or main meal. Think about adding some grilled chicken, shrimp or tofu for some extra protein.
How to Make the Best Orzo Pasta Salad
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 — since it’s small it takes less than 10 minutes. While it cooks, get the rest of the salad ready. I like to make the lemon vinaigrette in the bottom of a big bowl so I can build the salad right on top of it.
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 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 finial 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. This time, we used lots of chopped fresh mint, 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.
If you loved this recipe, you should take a peek at a few more of our 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.
Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad with Cucumbers and Olives
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 of one or a combination of mint, dill, basil, parsley or cilantro.
You Will Need
1 1/2 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
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
Bring 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.
While 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.
Stir 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 Verywell Fit recipe calculator to calculate approximate values.