This Lemony Orzo Pasta Salad features fresh and tangy ingredients inspired by Mediterranean flavors. Feta cheese, briny kalamata olives, cucumbers, chickpeas, and more are tossed with a bright lemon vinaigrette that packs in some major deliciousness.
Eat your orzo salad as-is for a satisfying side dish, or add grilled chicken for a complete meal in one bowl!
As summer winds down, people are cramming in their last beach days and soft ice cream cones. Personally, I’m just trying to fit in as much pasta salad as possible.
I spend the entire summer experimenting with pasta salads– it’s probably 50% of my meals from May through August. They’re quick, easy, great for making ahead, and use up all of the seasonal produce without having to turn on the oven. I mean, what more could you ask for, right?
One of the pasta salad recipes that I had on repeat all summer is this Lemony Orzo Pasta Salad, which will be making a reappearance at my Labor Day get-together this weekend. It won’t be much of a party (we’re still social distancing, but have a couple of friends that we see regularly) but I’m going to cook and eat like we’re throwing a block party. I need to leave this summer with a bang, ok? And this Lemony Orzo Pasta Salad is exactly the way to do it.
WHAT MAKES THIS LEMONY ORZO PASTA SALAD SO GREAT?
I won’t pretend that I’m above chowing down on filling summer staples like cheese-draped burgers and mayo-slathered potato salad, but the biggest thing I love about this orzo pasta salad is that it’s bright and light and acidic, which keeps you from feeling like you have a boulder of food sitting in your stomach. It’s such a good way to balance out all of the other heavier cookout dishes, and you won’t feel like you’re missing out on the “guilty” ingredients because– despite being relatively refreshing and light– this recipe packs in some serious flavor.
I also have to say that I love the switch-up of using orzo. Yes, it’s still pasta (though it does look a bit rice-like, doesn’t it?) but the great thing about orzo is that you get the texture and satisfaction of pasta in teeny tiny pieces that cling to all your mix-in ingredients and really get thoroughly coated in the vinaigrette.
Speaking of the vinaigrette, you might want to bookmark this page just for that recipe, because it’s amazing. Fresh herbs and lemon juice make all the difference.
And of course we can’t forget the magic of the aforementioned mix-in ingredients:
- Chunks of feta cheese
- Halved cherry tomatoes
- Red onion
- Cucumber Wedges
- and Sliced Kalamata Olives!
The way all of those Mediterranean flavors meld together in this Lemony Orzo Pasta Salad… Well, all I can say is yum. You’re going to love it.
YOU CAN MAKE IT YOUR OWN
Now I know I just went on a whole spiel about all of the amazing ingredients in this Mediterranean pasta salad recipe, but you don’t have to stick to my script. In fact, I often change this recipe up based on what I have on hand. Raid that pantry! Scour that fridge! Use what you’ve got, or what you’re craving!
And if you’re considering making swaps, you might want to check out a similar pasta salad recipe of mine, Greek Pasta Salad with Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette. It’s got a lot of overlap in ingredients and flavors, so feel free to pull any ideas from there and apply them to this recipe!
MORE MIX-IN INSPIRATION
- No More Orzo: Got a different pasta you prefer? Forget the orzo and use swirly pastas or tubes, which both work wonderfully here.
- Add Extra Protein: Grilled chicken goes fantastically in this recipe and transforms the dish from “side” to “main course”.
- Ditch the Dressing: Like I said, I love this lemon and herb dressing, but that doesn’t mean you have to be married to it. Tzatziki is also awesome on pasta salads with Mediterranean ingredients like this one.
- Up the Veggies: If you really want to take advantage of the seasonal produce while it’s still just barely in season, load this recipe up with veggies. I particularly like what bell peppers can bring to the table!
MAKING THIS PASTA SALAD COULDN’T BE EASIER
All you have to do is:
- Prepare your pasta. Cook your orzo according to the package directions until it’s just shy of “al dente”. Then rinse it in cold water to stop the cooking process and prevent the pasta from sticking together.
- Make the dressing. Whisk together all of the lemon herb vinaigrette ingredients and season to taste.
- Toss everything together. Add the orzo and mix-in ingredients to a large bowl and pour that dressing on. Toss until everything is coated and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.
You can prepare this pasta salad up to 2 days ahead of time, and it will stay good in the fridge for about 5 days– making it great for meal prepping!
MORE DELICIOUS SUMMER SALADS
- Antipasto Tortellini Pasta Salad
- Warm Chorizo Potato Salad
- Smoky Shrimp Pasta Salad with Chipotle-Honey Vinaigrette
- German Potato Salad (Kartoffelsalat)
- Charred Broccoli Salad with Hot Honey Dressing
- Creamy Pesto Pasta Salad
- 16 ounces orzo pasta, cooked just shy of al dente
- 1 1/2 cups canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1 medium cucumber, sliced into wedges
- 1 1/2 cups kalamata olives, sliced
- 6 ounces feta cheese, cubed
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 3/4 cup finely diced red onion
For the Lemon Herb Vinaigrette
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons dijon mustard
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
- Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
- Prepare the Lemon Herb Vinaigrette by combining all of the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisking until well-combined. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, add the orzo, chickpeas, cucumber, kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, feta cheese, and red onion. Drizzle with the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Add more vinaigrette as needed.
- Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, at least one hour. Garnish with lemon wedges and fresh herbs, if desired