This 25 Minute Lemon Orzo Salad is a fresh and vibrant side dish that is easy to make and perfect for any occasion. Complete with a homemade lemon citrus dressing, this delicious dish will add zesty flavor to your table. Enjoy as a healthy side dish with your favorite main course!
Pasta salad is one of those dishes that never goes out of style! There are a million combinations of pasta, dressing, and add-ins that make each one special. Pasta salad is great for any occasion because they are easily customizable and can be served cold or warm.
This easy recipe for lemon orzo salad is a great way to kick off the warmer months! Orzo is a type of pasta that looks like small grains of rice and has a nice bite when cooked. You’ll also make an easy citrus dressing that features fresh orange and lemon zest that has a sweet and tangy kick.
Toss the salad with some fresh herbs and arugula for a beautiful presentation. This lemon orzo salad is a great side dish to serve with Roast Chicken, Fish Tacos, Grilled Steak, or any of your favorite spring or summer dishes!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- The citrus dressing is easy to make and gives you plenty of leftovers for later!
- Orzo is a fun pasta shape that pairs well with all of the fresh flavors.
- This pasta salad can be made from start to finish in just 25 minutes, making it a great option when you’re short on time.
- It’s decadent enough to bring to a party or enjoyed as a side dish to any main course.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Orzo Pasta – You can find this pasta in the grain section of the grocery store. It has a very similar shape to grains of rice and cooks quickly.
- Arugula – Adds a nutritious green and gives the salad a crunchy, peppery taste.
- Dried Cherries – Adds a tart sweetness to the salad that pairs well with the bright citrus flavors.
- Roasted Pistachios – Gives a hearty crunch to the salad along with its texture.
- Fresh Herbs – A mix of freshly chopped parsley, chives, and mint leaves work together to create a fresh herb flavor throughout the salad.
- Citrus Zest – You’ll need the zest and juice of one lemon and one orange to create a bright citrus flavor that adds acidity to the dressing.
- Champagne Vinegar – This adds a nice acidic flavor that helps to balance out the sweetness and salty flavor. You can also use white balsamic vinegar.
- Maple Syrup – Gives the dressing a naturally sweet deep maple flavor.
- Dijon Mustard – A hint of mustard gives any dressing a nice kick of tangy flavor.
- Olive Oil – This is the base of the dressing and helps to bring all the flavors together.
- Salt and Pepper – Balances and enhances all of the flavors in the dressing. Use to taste.
How To Make Lemon Orzo Pasta
Cook the orzo pasta: Add water to a large pot and bring to a rolling boil. Add the orzo and cook according to package directions, about 9-10 minutes.
Assemble the citrus dressing: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the citrus zest and juice, vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Whisk until all of the ingredients are combined and emulsified. Store dressing in the fridge in a sealed jar or container.
Drain orzo: Drain the cooked orzo in a colander to remove any excess liquid. Pour it into a bowl and ¼ cup of the dressing into the warm pasta and toss to coat. Let the orzo cool for five minutes.
Add remaining ingredients: Once the pasta is slightly cooled, toss in the arugula, cherries, pistachios, parsley, chives, and mint. Add more dressing to taste and toss to coat. Serve warm or cold. Enjoy!
- When cooking the orzo pasta, use the directions on the package, as some are different than others. Generally, the pasta will be fully cooked in 9-10 minutes.
- To emulsify the dressing you can use a whisk or an immersion blender. This will help to combine the ingredients and create a creamy dressing.
- For best results, make the dressing beforehand, so the flavors have time to settle and develop.
- This dressing recipe makes more than you need for the salad. Store the extra in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
- Let the orzo cool for at least 5 minutes before adding the rest of the ingredients, as warm pasta will wilt the arugula and herbs, making them mushy.
- Pasta: Instead of orzo, try using other shapes of pasta, including rotini, shells, or penne.
- Herbs: Feel free to get creative with the herby flavor of this salad by using a mix of your favorite herbs, including dill, basil, and lemon thyme.
- Greens: If you don’t have arugula on hand, feel free to use spinach or spring mix.
- Dried Fruit: You can substitute raisins, dried cranberries, or diced fresh fruit like apples, pears, and oranges.
- Nuts: Use other nuts such as almonds, walnuts, and pecans or omit them for a nut-free option.
Storing & Freezing
Storing: Leftover orzo salad can be stored in an airtight container and kept in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Freezing: This lemon orzo salad does not freeze well due to the arugula and herbs changing texture once thawed, so it’s best enjoyed fresh!
What does orzo translate to?
Orzo translates to “barley” in Italian, which refers to its barley-like shape and size. Though this pasta is made with wheat.
Can I make this pasta salad gluten-free?
Yes, you can use gluten-free orzo pasta to make this lemon orzo salad gluten-free. Be sure to check the rest of your ingredients to ensure they are certified gluten-free.
Can I prep this dish in advance?
Yes, you can assemble the lemon orzo salad a few hours in advance and store it in the fridge until ready to serve. The dressing can be made ahead of time for the best flavor results.
More Pasta Salad Recipes
- 30 Minute Pesto Pasta Salad
- Spring Pasta Salad with Asparagus and Peas
- Greek Chicken Pasta Salad
- Roasted Vegetable Orzo Salad
Thisis a fresh and vibrant side dish that is easy to make and perfect for any occasion. Complete with a homemade lemon citrus dressing, this delicious dish will add zesty flavor to your table.
For the Orzo
- 2 cups uncooked orzo
- 3 large handfuls arugula
- ½ cup dried cherries
- ¾ cup roasted pistachios
- ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves
- Zest and juice of 1 large lemon (about ¼ cup juice)
- Zest and juice of 1 large orange (about ¼ cup juice)
- ½ cup champagne vinegar (or white balsamic vinegar)
- 2 teaspoons maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ½ cup olive oil
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once boiling add the orzo and cook according to package directions for about 9-10 minutes.
While the orzo cooks, make the dressing. Whisk together the zests, vinegar, maple syrup, mustard, salt, pepper, and olive oil until emulsified. Set aside. NOTE: this makes a lot of dressing. Store the extra in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Once the orzo is done cooking, drain it and add it to a large bowl. Add a couple of tablespoons of the dressing to the warm orzo and toss until well coated. Let orzo cool for 5 minutes.
Add the arugula, cherries, pistachios, parsley, chives, and mint to the orzo. Drizzle over some more dressing and toss to coat. Store the remaining dressing in the fridge. Serve warm, room temperature, or cold!