This fresh and flavorful lemon orzo salad recipe is made with orzo pasta, feta cheese, tomatoes, onions, and cucumber then tossed in a simple homemade lemon vinaigrette.
The bright and tangy flavor is perfect for a healthy lunch idea and tastes great as a summer side dish for your next picnic, BBQ, or family gathering.
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But I am always looking to add new fresh and flavorful salads to the rotation, especially ones that can be made ahead of time for meal prep.
This lemon orzo salad is a winner! The orzo pasta salad base is excellent for meal prepping and the flavor actually improves as it sits.
I love having a bowl of this lemon orzo pasta salad as a lunch, but it's equally good served as a side with a soup or sandwich. I also love doubling the recipe and bringing to family gatherings. When I do, I am ALWAYS asked for the recipe!
This lemon orzo pasta with feta is made with just a few simple, healthy ingredients. To make it you will need.
- Orzo Pasta: Orzo pasta is small and rice shaped. When cooked to al dente texture, it is an excellent option for salads as it has a firm texture that stands up well to a salad dressing.
- Feta Cheese: Adds a salty but creamy flavor and texture to the salad.
- Cherry Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes add a sweet, bright flavor and a snap of texture with their skin along with a burst of freshness from their juicy center.
- Cucumber: Cucumbers give the salad a refreshing and cooling crunch.
- Red Onion: Just a bit of red onion adds an assertive and spicy crisp to the salad without being overpowering.
- Parsley: Parsley adds a pop of color and a touch of bright, fresh herbaceous flavor.
- Olive Oil: Olive oil is the base of the lemon vinaigrette and helps prevent the ingredients from sticking together.
- Crushed Garlic: The garlic is subtle in this recipe and blends right into the other flavors with a lingering finish that makes you want to take bite after bite.
- Lemon Juice: Adds a bright and vibrant fresh flavor to the salad.
- Honey: Adds a touch of sweetness that compliments the lemon.
- Salt and Pepper: The finishing touch that balances everything out.
Check the recipe card further down the page for the quantities.
I love this recipe exactly as written but you can make the following changes if needed.
- Orzo Pasta: In a pinch, you can make this salad with a different type of small pasta, just be sure to cook according to the package directions.
- Feta Cheese: Swap the feta for your favorite cheese.
- Cherry Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes can be replaced with any fresh, diced tomatoes or omitted entirely if that is your preference.
- Cucumber: Not a fan of cucumbers? Give peppers or celery a try if you want the crisp fresh flavor but don't have cucumbers on hand.
- Red Onion: Green onions are an excellent substitution.
- Parsley: I have made this salad with basil, cilantro, and all three fresh herbs in the past and they all taste great! You can use whichever fresh herbs you prefer.
- Olive Oil: Olive oil can be substituted with whichever oil you prefer.
- Crushed Garlic: Don't have a garlic press? You can mince the fresh garlic instead.
- Lemon Juice: Fresh lemon juice is always best, but in a pinch, you can use bottled lemon juice.
- Honey: Use agave syrup to add some sweetness.
Another one of my favorite things about this salad is the minimal cleanup! You don't need much to make this salad but having these tools will make things easier:
- Mixing Bowls: For prepping, mixing, and serving the salad. You will need a big one for the salad itself and a small one to prepare the dressing.
- Measuring Cups and Spoons: To measure out ideal quantities of the ingredients.
- Garlic Press
- Cutting Board and Knives: For prepping the vegetables.
- Whisk: For preparing the dressing.
How to Make Lemon Orzo Salad
Gather all your ingredients together and let's get started making this easy salad recipe. Detailed instructions are in the recipe card!
Step 1: Start by prepping your veggies.
When chopping the vegetables, imagine yourself enjoying the salad and think about what size you would prefer.
I personally like to slice the cherry tomatoes in half, quarter and slice the cucumber, and chop the red onion up pretty small. But you will enjoy this salad best if everything is cut to your preferred sizes!
Step 2: Make the Orzo
Rinse the pasta, add it to boiling water, and cook it to an al dente texture. For perfect al dente texture, follow packaging instructions but it is usually ready after boiling for 5-7 minutes.
PRO TIP: When cooking orzo for a pasta salad, it's important to rinse the pasta before cooking it. Rinsing it will help remove the starchy coating around the noodles.
Once the orzo is done boiling, rinse under cool water. This part is important because it will stop the pasta from cooking and maintain the ideal texture for a cold pasta salad.
After you rinse with cool water be sure to drain really, really well. I like to pick up the strainer and tilt it on all sides to make sure all the water is out.
When it's drained, place it in a large mixing bowl, add the vegetables to the bowl, and set aside.
Step 3: How to Make Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad Dressing
Making the dressing for this salad is so simple!
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon, honey, garlic, salt, and pepper.
PRO TIP: Like most dressings, it will settle as it sits. So when you are ready to add it to the salad, give it a nice good stir and then pour it.
Toss the salad thoroughly until everything is well combined and the dressing is completely incorporated.
How to Serve Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad
This salad can be served immediately after preparation but it actually gets better as it sits.
When I make it at home, I like to let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour before enjoying it.
This salad is an excellent lunch idea on its own but goes really well as a side for soup or a sandwich.
If you need to make some changes to this recipe, here are some variations you can try:
- Make it gluten-free: Use gluten-free orzo pasta to make a gluten-free orzo salad.
- Make it Vegan: Omit the feta and honey to make vegan orzo pasta salad.
- Veg it up: Add more of your favorite veggies for an extra nutrient-dense orzo salad. Try adding bell peppers, avocado, sliced zucchini, or chopped spinach.
- Add a protein: Try adding shredded chicken, tuna, or chickpeas for added protein.
You can enjoy this orzo pasta salad right away, or store it in the fridge where the flavors will really start to meld together.
When properly stored in the refrigerator this salad will keep for up to 4 days. Yum!
Orzo pasta salad does not work stored in the freezer.
Expert Tips and FAQS
I am so excited for you to try our family's favorite lemon orzo salad with feta! Remember these tips when you're making it:
- Rinse the orzo before cooking to remove the starchy layers of the noodles.
- Cook the pasta to al dente for perfect orzo pasta salad texture.
- Rinse with cold water after boiling to stop cooking.
- Make the dressing in a separate small bowl and whisk together before adding it to the salad.
You should rinse the orzo before cooking when it will be baked or served in a salad.
Mushy or slimy orzo is usually a result of the pasta being overcooked. To prevent this, cook pasta to an al dente temperature and be sure to rinse when finished boiling.
Yes, and in fact for this salad... you should! Cooking the orzo to al dente texture makes for an optimal cold orzo salad recipe.
For this recipe, cook orzo to al dente texture according to your package directions. In most cases, this means boiling for 5-7 minutes. When in doubt, remove a noodle and test for the desired doneness!
Personally, I wouldn't. This recipe is best enjoyed fresh or refrigerated. The noodles and salad would get mushy if frozen.
More Pasta Recipes You Will Love
Did you try this recipe? Please leave a star rating in the recipe card right below! You can also write a review in the comment section further down the page I always appreciate your feedback. And don’t forget to tag me @freshcoasteats in your photos on social media, I'd love to see your results!
Easy Lemon Orzo Salad
- 2 cups uncooked Orzo 12 ounces, rinsed
- 6 ounces feta
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes cut in half
- 1 cup cucumber chopped
- ½ cup red onion finely chopped
- ½ cup parsley chopped
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove crushed or pressed (about ½ teaspoon)
- 4 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- In a medium pot, cook orzo according to package directions, to al dente. (About 5-7 minutes)
- Drain orzo and rinse with cold water, then drain again.
- Place cooked orzo, feta, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion and parsley in a large bowl and set aside.
- In a small bowl, prepare the dressing by whisking together the olive oil, garlic, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper.
- Pour dressing over the orzo mixture and toss until everything is well mixed.
- You can serve the salad immediately, or chill it in the refrigerator for a few hours to allow the flavors to meld together.