This classic orzo pasta salad is a colorful mix of fresh chopped veggies with tender orzo pasta and coated in a flavorful homemade lemon-dijon vinaigrette.

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Large bowl of prepared orzo pasta salad.

About Orzo Pasta Salad

Pasta salads come in all sorts of varieties, but one of my absolute favorites is orzo pasta salad.

Because not only does it have tender orzo and a classic-style vinaigrette, but it’s ideal for preparing in advance and travels well, making it a great pick for potlucks or parties. It’s one of my favorite dishes to bring (or prepare for my own house parties) when we’re in need of a tasty side dish.

What is orzo salad?

I’ve seen this pasta salad mixed with tons of different dressing and flavors, but in the end, they all share three key components:

  • Orzo pasta. This is a small-cut pasta, shaped like a large grain of rice.
  • A light dressing. Typically this is a vinaigrette, but I’ve also seen creamy dressings used.
  • Fresh cut veggies with a Greek or Italian flair (like artichoke hearts, olives, etc).
Top down view of a bowl full of orzo pasta salad.

What’s the difference between orzo and rice?

While orzo and rice have a similar shape, size, and even some ingredients, they do still have their own characteristics. For example, rice tends to have a certain “firmness” even once cooked, while orzo is merely rice-shaped pasta and will be just like pasta once cooked (softer, bendable, etc).

So, basically, both orzo and rice are oval-shaped and mild-tasting, making them “similar enough” to be interchangeable – so long as you’re okay with both of those differences in your dish.

And if you’re making an ingredient swap, you’ll need to take into consideration cooking time, especially if the rice or orzo is cooked within the dish and not prepared separately to be mixed in later. Not all substitutions work, and depending on the type or brand of orzo or rice, the differences in cook time may be off enough that it would be better to stick with the intended ingredient.

Can you make orzo pasta salad in advance?

Yes, you totally can!

In fact, this pasta salad will taste better if given the chance to marinate for a few hours, especially overnight.

How long is this pasta salad good for?

Once prepared, orzo pasta salad can be stored in a sealed container in the refrigerator for up to three days.

Can you freeze orzo pasta salad?

Bad news here, guys. I personally can’t recommend freezing pasta salad. It can be done, but you might get wildly different results depending on when you freeze it, how it’s packaged, etc. And even if you do everything correctly, freezing and thawing will ultimately remove a bit of water from all ingredients, which could greatly impact the texture of the salad.

However, if you’re dead set on freezing a pasta salad for later, check out this article for a complete guide: Tips to Freezing Pasta Salads.

Notes & tips for this pasta salad

  • If you don’t already have one, you’ll need an extra large bowl to mix all of the ingredients together.
  • Red onions can pack a bit of a bite, so if you’re looking for a milder flavor, try soaking the onions first. To do this, submerge the red onion in a bowl of ice cold water and let it soak for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain the onions, pat them dry, and then use in the recipe as directed. 
Close up of orzo pasta salad, showing off the tomatoes, orzo, and seasoning.

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How to make orzo pasta salad

This next part is only a photo tutorial of the recipe steps. If you’re looking for the full recipe measurements and instructions, scroll down to Recipe Details.

Step 1 – In a small bowl, add the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, lemon zest, honey, salt, and pepper. Whisk the ingredients together until incorporated, then set the bowl aside.

Step 2 – Prepare orzo per package instructions, rinse with cold water, then place in a large mixing bowl. 

Step 3 – Next, add the cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, artichoke hearts, olives, and basil to the bowl with the pasta. Drizzle the prepared dressing on top, then use a spatula to gently toss to mix and coat all of the ingredients.

Step 4 – Serve and enjoy!

Recipe Details

Large bowl of prepared orzo pasta salad.
4.34 from 12 votes

Orzo Pasta Salad

15 mins prep + 1 hr Chilling Time
224 kcal
Yields: 8 servings
This classic orzo pasta salad is a colorful mix of fresh chopped veggies with tender orzo pasta and coated in a flavorful homemade lemon-dijon vinaigrette.

Ingredients 

  • 1 1/2 cup orzo pasta, uncooked
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 seeded and chopped cucumber
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 cup chopped artichoke hearts, canned or jarred and drained
  • 1/2 cup pitted and sliced black olives
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

Instructions

  • In a large saucepan, cook orzo per package instructions. Drain pasta and rinse with cold water, then set aside.
    1 1/2 cup orzo pasta
  • In a 13 quart mixing bowl or similar sizemixing bowl, whisk together extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, lemon zest, honey, salt, and pepper.
    1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 teaspoon honey, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Add cooked pasta, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, artichoke hearts, olives, and basil to the bowl, then use a spatula to thoroughly toss and mix ingredients together.
    1 seeded and chopped cucumber, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 1 cup chopped red onion, 1 cup chopped artichoke hearts, 1/2 cup pitted and sliced black olives, 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
  • Cover bowl and chill pasta salad for at least 1 hour.
  • Serve immediately.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 224kcal | Carbohydrates: 27g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 11g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 384mg | Potassium: 198mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 482IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 32mg | Iron: 1mg

I do my best to provide nutrition information, but please keep in mind that I’m not a certified nutritionist. Any nutritional information discussed or disclosed in this post should only be seen as my best amateur estimates of the correct values.

Author: Chrisy

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1 comment

    • Joyce gassin

    Loved how light and tastefully this was. It’s on my list of summer must haves!!