This easy lemon orzo pasta salad recipe is a perfect side dish for summer picnics, potlucks, and barbecues! Vegan, Vegetarian.
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Alright. I might be a teeeeeeeeensy bit obsessed with this lemon orzo pasta salad recipe. (And by a teensy bit, I mean all the way obsessed).
For one, this orzo salad is ultra-easy. We’re talking MAYBE fifteen minutes of active cooking time and just a handful of basic ingredients.
Fresh herbs? Check. Tomatoes? Check. Carbs? Check. Lickety-split lemon vinaigrette? DOUBLE CHECK.
For two, it’s bright and fresh and lemon-y and it just screams summertiiiiiiiime. Serve it immediately or chill and serve it cold if you need to make it a day ahead.
Also? VEGAN (just make sure your orzo is egg-free)! VEGETARIAN! DAIRY FREE!
This lemon orzo salad is a great blank-canvas recipe: it’s SO forgiving and easy to customize with whatever you have on hand.
Try a handful of diced peppers or cucumbers, grilled zucchini or squash, feta, goat cheese, or shredded parmesan (or no cheese at all!) You can also use grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes in place of the diced tomato if you like.
VIDEO: How to make lemon orzo pasta salad
An easy orzo pasta salad recipe with summer produce and a quick lemon dressing.
- 1 cup uncooked orzo pasta
- 1 large lemon
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 heaping cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 2 large tomatoes, diced
COOK THE ORZO PASTA:
- Cook orzo in very salty water until just barely al dente.
- Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water.
- Drain orzo and set aside.
MAKE THE DRESSING:
- While the orzo cooks, use a microplane to zest your lemon. Place zest into a large mixing bowl.
- Cut zested lemon in half and squeeze lemon juice into your mixing bowl. Be careful not to let any lemon seeds fall into the bowl!
- Add olive oil, salt, and pepper to bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside.
ASSEMBLE THE ORZO SALAD:
- Add reserved 1/2 cup pasta water to your lemon juice mixture and whisk to combine. The sauce will look watery, but don’t worry – the orzo will soak the liquid up as it cools!
- Add cooked, drained orzo to lemon juice mixture and stir to combine.
- Let orzo cool for 10-15 minutes.
- Add basil and tomatoes to orzo. Stir to combine. Taste and add salt or pepper as necessary.
- Serve immediately or transfer to an airtight container and chill until ready to serve. Top with an extra sprig of basil for garnish if you like.
Ingredients and Equipment. Use good quality olive oil for this recipe – there aren’t very many ingredients here, so using high-quality stuff is all the more important. We love using this orzo pasta. Zest your lemon with a good microplane. And don’t forget to taste and season as you go!
Additions and Substitutions. Add extra fresh herbs (we love parsley, chives, or cilantro!), grilled chicken, chopped mozzarella or mozzarella pearls, feta, goat cheese, or parmesan to this pasta salad. It’s also great with diced bell pepper, cucumber, or grilled zucchini and yellow squash. Use any kind of dried pasta you like in place of the orzo (this is tasty with elbows, cavatappi, or orecchiette!) Use halved cherry or grape tomatoes instead of diced tomatoes if you prefer. No lemons? Use 1/4 cup of bottled lemon juice instead.
Make-Ahead Tips and How to Serve: This orzo pasta salad will last 3-4 days in the fridge. If it looks dry, stir in a splash of olive oil to loosen it back up. For best results, wait to mix in the tomatoes and basil until just before you’re ready to serve. It’ll taste just fine after being refrigerated, but you get the biggest punch of flavor when the tomatoes and basil are ultra-fresh!
Keep this dish vegan by making sure your orzo is egg-free!
Keywords: Summer, potluck, vegan