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Orzo Pasta Salad with Asparagus

4.67 from 12 votes

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Easy Mediterranean orzo pasta salad with lemon, asparagus and feta. A perfect make-ahead lunch salad or potluck dish!

A serving bowl of orzo pasta salad with asparagus, chickpeas and pinenuts.
A vibrant and delicious orzo pasta salad with vegetables, feta cheese and lemon vinaigrette.

Whenever you need an easy dish to bring to a potluck or want a make-ahead lunch during the week, this orzo pasta salad recipe is here for you!

We’re all trying to add more healthy bang-for-the-buck ingredients to the plate. Enter orzo salad.

This salad has a lot going on, with a nice balance of orzo pasta, vegetables, fresh herbs and creamy feta cheese, combined with a lemony cumin-spiced vinaigrette dressing.

Ingredients you need to make orzo pasta salad:

This recipe plays up the Greek flavor profile of orzo easy to find pantry ingredients from the grocery store:

  • Orzo pasta
  • Chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
  • Olive oil
  • Dill, parsley or fresh basil
  • Green onion or red onion
  • Cucumber
  • Lemon juice or red wine vinegar
  • Cumin
  • Feta cheese
Photo showing ingredients for making orzo pasta salad, with cucumber chunks, chickpeas, asparagus, dill and lemon wedges on a plate.
Simple Mediterranean-style ingredients make a quick and tasty pasta salad.

All about orzo

It makes sense that orzo pasta is so versatile and easy to like. Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta made of durum wheat. It’s one of a variety of tiny pasta shapes, or “pastina”.

When I was a baby, my mother would make orzo with butter or add the pasta to simple chicken broth or tomato soup.

  • Fun Fact: The word “orzo” is the Italian word for barley, a grain often used as a substitute for rice and pasta in parts of northern Italy.
  • Because it looks so much like grains of rice, Italian orzo pasta is called risoni.
  • Unlike rice, there’s no need to rinse orzo before cooking.
  • Look for orzo in the pasta aisle next to other small pasta shapes.
A salad bowl full of orzo pasta salad and wooden servers.

Orzo vs rice nutrition:

Overall, orzo is the winner nutritionally compared to white rice. One cup of orzo contains almost three times more potassium and twice the amount of fiber of one cup of white rice. It has slightly more calories and zero cholesterol.

While it’s technically a type of pasta often used in soups and side dishes, I like to use orzo as if it were a hearty whole grain like farro or brown rice.

In this recipe, I suggest you toast the pasta before cooking. Mixed in a large bowl with lots of vegetables, the flavor is delectable — you have to try it!

Assembling orzo pasta salad:

When asparagus is out of season or not available, you can substitute 2 cups of another vegetable, like sweet peas, snap peas or small broccoli florets in the salad.

Serving orzo pasta salad

  • Serve the salad as a side dish for grilled chicken or seafood.
  • Enjoy orzo salad cold or a room temperature — it tastes delicious either way.

Make ahead and storage tips for orzo salad

  • This salad keeps well up to 2 days in the refrigerator.
  • Spruce up leftovers by adding a bit more lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.

More healthy one-dish meals:

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A serving bowl of orzo pasta salad with asparagus, chickpeas and pinenuts.

Orzo Pasta Salad with Asparagus, Lemon and Chickpeas

Karen Tedesco
A fresh and lemony orzo pasta salad full of greens and flavor. This recipe is a perfect make-ahead meal for lunch boxes and potlucks!
Print Pin
4.67 from 12 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Salad
Cuisine Mediterranean
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients

Salad dressing:

  • Grated zest of 1 lemon
  • ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • Black pepper from a peppermill

Salad:

  • ¾ cup (112.5 g) orzo pasta
  • ½ pound (225 g) asparagus, woody ends trimmed; slice into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 (425 g) 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill, parsley or cilantro, or a combination
  • cup (50 g) feta cheese, crumbled
  • 2 green onions, finely sliced or ½ red onion
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, chopped
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • 2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted * see note below

Instructions 

Vinaigrette dressing:

  • Whisk the lemon zest, juice, garlic, olive oil, cumin, salt, and a good 10 grinds of pepper in a bowl. Alternatively, shake the dressing in a mason jar. (Dressing will keep refrigerated 3-5 days).

Orzo salad:

  • Place a dry 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Add the orzo and toast until golden brown and nutty-smelling, about 10 minutes, tossing the pan frequently. Remove from the heat.
  • Bring 3 quarts salted water to a boil and cook the orzo until al dente, according to package directions. Add the asparagus during the last 2 or 3 minutes of cooking. Drain in a colander, then immediately run under cold running water for about 30 seconds. Drain well and transfer to a large serving bowl.
  • Add the chickpeas, herbs, feta, green onions, cucumber, arugula and pine nuts to the bowl and gently toss together. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt, lemon or olive oil if needed. Serve at room temperature.

Karen’s Notes and Tips

  • The pasta salad keeps well up to 2 days. Serve at room temperature for the best flavor.
  • Spruce up leftovers by adding a bit more lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper.
  • To toast pine nuts, heat them in a small skillet for about 5 minutes over medium heat until they turn lightly golden. Keep an eye on them, because they can go from toasted to burned very quickly.

Nutrition

Calories: 171kcal | Carbohydrates: 18g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 9g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 293mg | Potassium: 227mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 695IU | Vitamin C: 6mg | Calcium: 79mg | Iron: 2mg
Did you make this recipe? Mention @Familystylefood or tag #familystylefood on Instagram

Hey, I’m Karen

Creator of Familystyle Food

I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about making cooking fun and doable, with easy to follow tested recipes and incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.

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12 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This salad was so so yummy! I made it on Sunday night for lunches to bring to work, but my roommates and I haven’t been able to stop picking and I’m worried there might not be any left! Thanks so much for another great, easy recipe.

  2. Carl Lauro says:

    5 stars
    Just finished preparing this amazing salad. Never knew Orzo could be toasted…what a dif! Many of my favorite flavors in one bowl! Thank you!

  3. I love everything about this orzo salad, from all the fresh ingredients to that feta cheese, I could seriously eat this everyday, thank you for the recipe 🙂

    1. Albert – thanks so much! This is a great recipe to indulge in – pretty healthy, but also satisfying 😉

  4. I love this recipe! I am a vegetarian student with limited funds and I got all of the ingredients that we needed for this recipe for $8! I brought it to a barbecue and got great reviews. Thanks for the great food!

    1. I hope you inspire all your friends, Leah 😉
      So glad you liked it.

  5. How much orzo does this recipe call for?

    1. Molly – thanks for pointing out that omission! It’s 3/4 cup orzo, recipe corrected above.

  6. I can’t believe more people don’t comment about your recipes. I love them. Real food to liven things up and make use of what you’ve got on hand (for the most part).

  7. That looks delicious–right up my alley for a quick and delicious lunch. Thanks for the great idea!