Lemon orzo salad is tangy and bright, with tons of fresh lemon flavor from both lemon zest and lemon juice. The lemon flavor in this salad is complemented with fresh parsley, tomato, red onion and feta cheese. You can make this easy summery side dish with only 8 ingredients!
Are you a lemon lover like me? I am a little bit obsessed with lemon, as you can see from my recipes for lemon butter chicken, lemon herb roasted asparagus, and berry lemonade! Lemon is such a light and bright flavor, and it perks up anything you add it to.
This lemon orzo salad is no different; it's packed with tons of tangy lemon flavor, from both fresh lemon juice and lemon zest. That makes this orzo salad a refreshing, yet satisfying side dish that's perfectly suited for summer barbecues, picnics, and potlucks!
And, this easy orzo salad can be made in only about 25 minutes, with only 8 ingredients!
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- Lemons: you will need both the juice and zest from the lemons. I highly recommend squeezing the lemon juice fresh since it makes up the main flavor of the salad.
- Olive oil: I like to use extra-virgin olive oil because it is so flavorful, but if you don't have extra-virgin olive oil, you can also use regular olive oil.
- Grape tomatoes: if you don't have grape tomatoes, you can substitute cherry tomatoes cut into quarters, rather than halves.
Step by step photos
1. The first step is to put a large pot of water on the stove to boil. Once the water boils, add a generous pinch of salt and cook the orzo according to the package directions. While you're waiting for the water to boil, and while the pasta is cooking, you can do the rest of the prep for the recipe.
First, chop the parsley and red onion. Be sure to rinse and dry the parsley beforehand since it can be a little sandy.
2. Then, cut each grape tomato in half. Set the veggies aside for now.
3. Now you can make the lemon dressing. Before you squeeze the lemon juice, you have to zest the lemons. (Zesting the whole lemons is much easier than trying to get the zest from cut, squeezed lemons!)
You will need fine zest so it blends well into the salad. For fine zest, I like using this Microplane (affiliate link). It's easy to use and makes tons of fine zest very quickly!
4. Now you can cut the lemons and squeeze out the juice. We need a half cup, so this will probably take between 2 - 3 lemons. I like to squeeze the lemons over my hand to catch the seeds.
5. Then grab a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, and kosher salt to the bowl. Whisk everything together. I'm using my favorite mini whisk here! (Affiliate link.)
6. Once the orzo has finished cooking, drain it and rinse it under cold water to quickly cool it down. Drain it very well and then add the orzo to the bowl with the dressing.
7. And now you can add in the other vegetables that you have already prepped: the chopped parsley, chopped red onion, and halved tomatoes.
8. Mix all the ingredients together so the dressing evenly coats the pasta and vegetables.
9. Finally, crumble the feta cheese into the salad (or just add the cheese in if you bought pre-crumbled feta). Stir the salad again, gently, to avoid breaking up the cheese too much.
At this point you can taste the salad and adjust the seasoning if needed by sprinkling in more salt and/or lemon juice.
Tips and tricks
- You can serve this orzo salad right away, but it will taste even better if you cover it and let it sit in the fridge for an hour or two to let all the flavors meld together.
- If you don't like feta cheese, some other good substitutions would be crumbled goat cheese or small balls of fresh mozzarella cheese.
- The lemon flavor in the dressing is bold - it's perfect for anyone who loves that bright tangy flavor! But, if you prefer a more subtle flavor, you can always reduce the amount of lemon, taste the finished salad, and add more to taste.
- You will likely need about 2 - 3 lemons to gather enough juice for the dressing. But, sometimes you get a lemon that turns out to be a "lemon" (ha, see what I did there!). And by "lemon," I mean one that doesn't have much juice inside. So, I always buy an extra lemon when shopping, just in case!
- When zesting the lemons, make sure to take only the yellow part; the white pith underneath is very bitter!
This orzo salad is bright and cheerful, so it would be great with any summery dish. Try it with grilled chicken, hamburgers, or kebabs. This would also make a great item to take on a picnic, served with sandwiches or wraps.
Yes you can make this salad a little bit ahead of time; in fact, it tastes even better if you let it sit in the fridge for a couple hours before serving.
But, as the salad sits in the fridge, the pasta continues to absorb the moisture in the dressing, making the texture of the salad drier. For that reason, the salad tastes the best when made the day of serving.
However, leftover orzo salad will keep in the fridge, covered tightly, for 3 - 4 days.
The only thing in this lemon orzo salad that's not vegan is the feta cheese. So, if you want to make a vegan version of this salad, you can easily just omit the cheese. Or, you can swap in a vegan cheese; maybe check out this delicious looking recipe for vegan feta cheese made with tofu!
If you don't want to go with vegan cheese but want something else to round out the salad, I would recommend adding a can of drained and rinsed chick peas or white beans.
If you’ve tried this recipe, please leave a star rating and/or review in the comments section below, I would love to hear from you! You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. And sign up for my weekly newsletter to get recipes delivered straight to you!Print
Lemon Orzo Salad
This lemon orzo salad is an easy side dish that you can make with only 8 ingredients! It's full of bright lemony flavor from lemon juice and lemon zest. This is a great summer side for barbecues and picnics!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 8 servings 1x
- Category: side dish
- Method: mix, boil
- Cuisine: American
- 12 ounces (340 g) orzo pasta
- ⅔ cup (80 g) chopped red onion (about ½ medium red onion)
- 1 cup (36 g) chopped parsley
- 1 ½ cups (225 g) grape tomatoes (see note 1)
- ⅔ cup (156 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup (118 ml) lemon juice (from about 2 - 3 lemons, see note 2)
- 2 teaspoons (4 g) finely grated lemon zest (from about 2 lemons)
- 2 teaspoons (6 g) kosher salt (see note 3)
- 8 ounces (227 g) feta cheese
- Set a large pot of water to boil on the stove. While the pasta water is coming to a boil (and while the pasta is cooking), continue with the remaining steps:
- Prep the vegetables: chop the onion and parsley, and cut the grape tomatoes in half.
- Make the lemon dressing: finely zest the lemons and measure out 2 teaspoons of the zest. Place the lemon zest into a large bowl. Cut the lemons in half and squeeze out ½ cup (118 ml) of juice. Add the juice to the bowl. Add the extra-virgin olive oil and kosher salt to the bowl. Whisk the dressing together, set aside.
- When the pasta water begins to boil, add a large pinch of salt. Then, add the pasta and stir. Cook according to the package directions.
- Drain the pasta into a colander and rinse it well under cold water. Shake off any excess moisture from the pasta.
- Add the drained, rinsed pasta to the bowl with the lemon dressing.
- Add the chopped onion, parsley, and tomatoes to the bowl. Stir the ingredients together to combine them evenly with the dressing.
- Crumble the feta cheese into the bowl and gently stir to combine.
- Taste the salad and sprinkle in more kosher salt and/or lemon juice if desired.
- Serve immediately, or, for best flavor, cover the orzo salad and refrigerate for 1 - 2 hours.
You can also substitute cherry tomatoes for the grape tomatoes. If using cherry tomatoes, cut each one into quarters rather than halves.
The lemon flavor in the dressing is bold, perfect for anyone who loves tangy flavor! But, if you prefer a more subtle lemon flavor, you can reduce the amount of lemon in the dressing. Then, when you taste the finished salad you can add more to taste.
I used Diamond Crystal Kosher salt for this recipe, which is lighter and flakier than Morton Kosher salt. To substitute Morton Kosher salt or regular table salt, use only 1 ¼ teaspoons in the dressing. Or, go by the weight measurement (6 g).
If the orzo is ready before all of the remaining steps are finished, drain the pasta, rinse it well under cold water, and set it aside until ready to use.
This salad tastes the best when eaten the day it is made. However, any leftovers can be stored in the fridge, tightly covered, and will last for 3 - 4 days.
The nutrition information below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator; the nutrition counts of your dish will vary based on the brand and exact amounts of ingredients used. This nutrition estimate should not be considered a substitute for professional medical, health, or nutritional advice. See our full disclosure policy.
- Serving Size: ⅛ recipe
- Calories: 376
- Sugar: 3.8 g
- Sodium: 660 mg
- Fat: 21.8 g
- Saturated Fat: 5 g
- Carbohydrates: 35.9 g
- Fiber: 2.4 g
- Protein: 10.2 g
- Cholesterol: 10 mg
Keywords: orzo salad, lemon orzo salad
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