Topped with a delicious homemade vinaigrette, this bright and colorful orzo salad is so fresh plus loaded with fantastic flavor. Such a healthy and filling side dish recipe or light lunch for summer!
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Orzo Salad Recipe
This orzo salad is so tasty and such an easy side dish to whip up quickly. It has become one of my favorite pasta salad recipes and a dish that guests love. It’s so fresh, vibrant and has all of those classic Mediterranean flavors that taste so delicious.
I adapted this recipe from Giada’s cookbook. The main thing that I changed was that I only made half of the dressing, used less onion and added more tomatoes.
If you have extra orzo, try out my chicken orzo soup next.
What is Orzo?
Orzo is a short-cut cooked pasta that looks relatively similar to rice, although it’s a little bit bigger in size. It works amazingly in pasta salads because the smaller pieces of pasta absorb the flavors really well. It doesn’t need to cook long, only about 7 minutes or so. I like mine cooked a little past al dente, so that it remains tender without getting mushy.
- Chicken broth: You can also use vegetable broth if preferred.
- Orzo: If you can’t find orzo any other small pasta works.
- Garbanzo beans: Also known as chickpeas, white beans would also work great.
- Grape tomatoes: Or cherry tomatoes.
- Red onion: Adds savory taste.
- Fresh basil: Gives a fresh, herby taste.
Simple Vinaigrette Dressing
Along with the fresh veggies and herbs, the homemade salad dressing gives this orzo salad it’s delicious flavor. It’s an easy vinaigrette, super customizable and easy to tweak to your tastes by adding in Italian seasoning or dijon mustard.
In a small bowl or Mason jar, combine:
- Olive oil: I like extra virgin olive oil.
- Red wine vinegar: You could also try balsamic vinegar or apple cider vinegar.
- Lemon juice: Fresh lemon juice will add best taste.
- Honey: Maple syrup might work but will change taste slightly.
- Salt and pepper: To taste.
How to Make Orzo Salad
This orzo pasta salad is so simple to make in only a few steps!
- Make orzo. Heat the broth in a large pot over high heat then add orzo and cover slightly with a lid. Cook for 7 minutes, or until cooked. Drain and allow to cool completely.
- Make dressing. Whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper for the dressing. Add more salt and pepper, to taste.
- Combine salad: Toss the orzo with the beans, tomatoes, onion, basil and enough vinaigrette to coat. If serving later in the day, reserve some of the dressing to toss into the orzo pasta right before serving.
- Serve. Immediately serve your orzo salad or refrigerate until ready to serve.
Tips and Variations
- Fresh herbs: Add fresh mint leaves for even more flavor or use fresh parsley instead of basil.
- Extras: Add extras like feta cheese, sliced kalamata olives, bell peppers, cucumbers, arugula or spinach.
- Add protein: Add chopped grilled chicken or shrimp to bulk it up even more.
- Other pasta or grain: You could always swap the orzo for cooked quinoa, rotini, penne or make a couscous salad.
- Different salad dressing: You can also use a homemade Italian dressing or Greek salad dressing. Either would taste delicious in this orzo salad!
- Additional flavor: Cook orzo in chicken broth (instead of water) to give the pasta an extra boost of flavor.
- Let pasta cool. Rinse pasta with cold water and let cool. You don’t want the veggies to wilt from pasta that’s still warm!
Yes! You can easily make this dish the night before or morning of if preferred. Prepare as directed, but make sure to reserve some of the vinaigrette to toss into the salad right before serving. This keeps it from drying out. Then cover and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Yes! Although it looks similar in shape to rice, it is made from a whole grain, white flour or semolina.
To avoid mushy orzo, cook it for around 7 minutes.
How to Store Leftovers
Store leftovers of this pasta salad in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. The orzo will soak up the dressing as it site, add a splash of dressing to rehydrate it if it has gone dry.
More Favorite Pasta Salad Recipes
- 4 cups chicken broth , or vegetable broth
- 1 to 1 ½ cups orzo , uncooked
- 15 ounce can garbanzo beans , drained and rinsed
- 1 pint grape tomatoes , halved
- ½ cup chopped red onion
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil
- Heat the broth in a large pot over high heat. Add the orzo and cover slightly with a lid. Cook for 7 minutes, or until cooked. Drain and allow to cool completely.
- Whisk together (or shake in a jar) the olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper for the dressing. Add more salt and pepper, to taste.
- Toss the orzo with the beans, tomatoes, onion, basil and enough vinaigrette to coat. If serving later in the day, reserve some of the dressing to toss into the orzo pasta right before serving. Refrigerate orzo salad until ready to serve.
Nutrition provided is an estimate. It will vary based on specific ingredients used.
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