This Lemon Orzo Salad is made with fresh produce like tomatoes, zucchini and basil, and the lemons make it light and refreshing. It's healthy and a perfect make-ahead lunch recipe, so what are you waiting for? Dig in!
I love a good pasta salad, and this lemon orzo salad is right up there with my Mediterranean pasta salad in terms of favorites. It's a recipe I created back in 2017 and one that I continue to make to this day. If you're a fan of lemony pasta, I promise you'll love this recipe!
Why this salad is the best
- It's an easy and delicious way to utilize summer produce like tomatoes, zucchini and fresh basil
- It's delicious hot OR cold (yes really), so choose your preference and eat up!
- You can enjoy it fresh or as leftovers the next day and it's just as tasty
Orzo: Even though it resembles long grain rice, orzo is a part of the pasta family, and I find it to be a nice change of pace from my usual pasta. With that said, you should be able to easily find it in the Italian food aisle at the grocery store.
Vegetables: This recipe calls for tomatoes, zucchini, and basil, but if you're looking for one or more substitutions, you could try: peas, spinach and/or asparagus. Another note: though I used grape tomatoes (they're my favorite!), ANY kind of tomatoes will work.
Feta cheese: I love adding feta cheese to salads (like my favorite chickpea salad), but two notes: 1) it's optional, and 2) you can sub goat cheese if you can't find feta.
- Cook the orzo until it's al dente. What does this mean? It means you want to cook it so that it has a bite to it. I like to think of it as cooking the orzo so that it's not too soft, which should only take 5 minutes or so.
- While the orzo cooks, prep the lemon "dressing". Whisk the lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil, water, salt, and pepper together in a large bowl, then set it aside.
- Slice the veggies. I cut the tomatoes in half, and the zucchini into fourths so that they're smaller in size, which is ideal for this salad.
- Add the pasta to the bowl with the lemon juice. Once it's done cooking, drain it as you normally would, then transfer it to the big bowl of lemon juice and let it sit for 10 minutes. This will allow the pasta to soak up the lemon/olive oil/water, which will prevent the pasta from getting too dry, and add a ton of flavor to it as well.
- Combine everything and eat up! The final step is to add the tomatoes, zucchini, basil, and feta cheese to the bowl, then to stir everything together.
Can you make this salad ahead of time?
Sure can! Everything holds up really well in the refrigerator, so just make the salad as you normally would, then place it in the refrigerator. But, I'd wait to add the cheese until right before you're going to eat it.
How long will this last in the refrigerator?
This pasta will last one week when stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. The good news is that, unlike other pasta recipes, this one won't dry up in the refrigerator. It'll be good as new for a solid week, which is perfect for enjoying leftovers.
Can you freeze orzo?
Personally, I wouldn't. The texture will be off, and it just won't taste as fresh, and the best part of this salad is that it's FRESH. So, do yourself a favor and enjoy it the day of or the following day.
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Lemon Orzo Salad
- 1 1/2 cups orzo
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1/2 cup water
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 cup grape tomatoes sliced
- 1/2 cup zucchini sliced
- 1/4 cup basil chopped
- 2 tablespoon feta cheese
- Cook pasta as you normally would, until it's al dente.
- While the pasta is cooking, combine lemon juice, olive oil, lemon zest, water, salt, and pepper in a bowl and set aside. Then, slice the tomatoes, zucchini and basil and set aside.
- Once pasta is cooked, drain it, then transfer it to the bowl with the lemon juice and let it set for 10 minutes. In that time, the pasta will soak up the lemon juice, olive oil and water, which is good because we don't want it to be dry.
- Then, add in the tomatoes, zucchini, basil, and feta cheese and stir to combine. Enjoy as-is, or add extra feta and/or black pepper on top!
UPDATE NOTE: This recipe was originally published in 2017. It was updated in May 2020 with new photos and text.