Orzo Super Salad Recipe

An orzo salad packed with nutritious ingredients - asparagus, almonds, feta, sprouts, broccoli, cucumber, and a zesty lemon dressing.

Orzo Super Salad

I thought we could chat a bit about orzo salads today. Do you see one at just about every potluck or group picnic you go to? Or is it just me? Whether or not you like orzo salads, you have to respect them to a certain extent. I mean, after surviving the perils of transport, they often assume their position on whatever table beckons, and then endure hour upon hour exposed to the elements. A tough job for any salad. Inspired by a bag of whole wheat orzo I had on-hand, I decided to take a stab at a new version. One that is less pasta-centric than most, made from ingredients that can handle a ride around town on the back of a ten-speed or scooter. One that can handle some time at the beach or park. I used the whole wheat orzo as the base and then packed in as much super-nutritious goodness as I could - almonds, avocado, cucumbers, sprouts, asparagus, feta and baby broccoli.

Orzo Salad Recipe

And I have to tell you, it turned out great. A little crunch from the almonds, cucumber, and asparagus. A little creaminess from the feta and avocado. A bit of zip from the lemony dressing. And so much green!

I'm sure this isn't the last orzo salad I'll make this year. I'm thinking that the next one will likely be with slow-roasted tomatoes, once the summer crops arrive. But I'm always open to suggestions and ideas.

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Orzo Super Salad Recipe

If you are going to transport this to an outdoor picnic or potluck, place all of the ingredients, layered, in a big bowl or container. Toss the avocado gently with a bit of lemon juice ahead of time - so it doesn't brown. Make sure there are a few inches of head room in the container, and you'll need some sort of lid. Carry the dressing in a separate jar. When you are ready to serve the salad, gently toss the ingredients with the dressing using your hands, or leave the lid on the container and gently shake/tumble it - not ideal but it works. You can double or triple this recipe to serve more of a crowd. To make it vegan, you know the drill, skip the feta. And GF-ers, you can swap in a gluten-free grain/rice (for the orzo) and make a grain salad out of this instead.

1 cup dried (whole wheat) orzo pasta
8 - 10 medium asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch segments
1/2 a medium head of broccoli (or broccolini), cut into small trees
small handful of cilantro(or mint if you prefer), chopped

1 small clove of garlic, mashed with a big pinch of salt and chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

a small handful of sprouts
1/3 cup almonds, toasted
1/2 small cucumber, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 medium avocado, sliced into small pieces
1/4 cup feta, crumbled

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt generously and boil the orzo per package instructions. Avoid over-boiling, you want your orzo to be cooked through, but maintain structure. About 30 seconds before the orzo is finished cooking stir the asparagus and broccoli into the orzo pot. Cook for the final 30 seconds, drain and run under a bit of cold water. Just long enough to stop the cooking.

In the meantime, whisk together the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and more salt (if needed) into the dressing. Set aside.

When you are ready to serve the salad toss the orzo, asparagus, broccoli, and cilantro with about half the dressing. Add more dressing if needed, and toss well. Now add the sprouts, almonds, cucumber, avocado, and feta. Very gently toss a couple of times to distribute those ingredients throughout the salad and serve.

Serves 4.

Prep time: 10 minutes

If you make this recipe, I'd love to see it - tag it #101cookbooks on Instagram!

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Made this the night before & brought it to a party with friends yesterday - it was great & got rave reviews! I substituted millet for the orzo because I just wanted to use some up, and it went over really well.


hi, heidi - i recently discovered your blog and just love it! i have found so many recipes on here and from your cookbook that are absolutely delicious - i really love how you play with flavor and textural combinations. my favorites so far are the chipotle white beans and beluga lentil crostini, and now, this delicious salad! made it last night using leftover quinoa from heather's quinoa (also delish!). thanks for making eating well easy and exciting!


I love orzo too, but haven't been able to find a whole wheat variety. Rice wine vinegar looks like it would work here too.


those look good there making me hungrey


This is DELICIOUS! I made it tonight and LOVE it. THANKS!


gotta ask about the second photo - looks like a microscope photo from a biology text. Please do tell! Thanks for the recipe. Orzo is one of those ingredients that I forget about using - and it's so great in the summer, not so heavy.


Heidi, your photos are always so gorgeously inspired- reminds me of how I attempt to organize my flower beds :) With contrast, color, vibrancy- your recipes have brought endless delight and inspiration to my everyday eatlife, thank you for your expansive and intuitive encouragement!

Dana Cowan

Thank you for providing a great recipe for me to use up the orzo sitting in my cupboard...

Mixing Bowl Mama

Made it! Deeeeelicious! Thanks for the recipe!

Linda K

Great idea! We don't use orzo nearly enough and it's so versatile.


I was wondering what camera and set up you use to take your food pictures. Your food looks so beautiful and I know how hard it is to photograph food well. I adore all of your recipes and love reading your new posts! HS: Hi Ali, thanks for the nice note. I did a post years ago featuring some photography tips - it is in need of an update, but here is the link.

Ali Carter

Looks delicious, as usual. I've been trying to find Papadini lentil bean pasta orzo, which is gluten free... Does anyone know where to find it online?


I love orzo salads...love love love them. And I'm loving all this green in yours!! Great recipe!


It's time for me to get into summer salads and this is a great place to start. Whole wheat pasta is another thing I feel guilty about not using a lot yet. Now I've got a new lease on whole wheat pasta. Thanks!

StreamingGourmet (Amy Wilson)

So LULLY! We are having a huge family picnic and I am totally bringing an orzo salad. I do mine with grilled veggies - asparagus, red onion, red and yellow peppers [because i am above green] and the basic red onion and garlic. Toss with a balsamic vinaigrette and shrimp. Oh, and sweet delicious basil. I love to use the sweet marinated red peppers at the good grocery stores. Man, I love a good olive bar. I sometimes I add a lil cilantro too - the greatest flavor in the world. Remember when we were in MN and found culantro? MAN! I would love to have access to that. I can't believe I don't have unlimited access to that living in CA! Have you read anything on the Flavor Bible? It's on my amazon wishlist.

Talula Chung

In the spirit of orzo salad, here is another! The restaurant Macaroni Grill has an orzo salad (Spinach-orzo) on their menu that I adapt and make at home. I think you’d appreciate the mix of flavors: Orzo Spinach Sun-dried tomatoes Black olives Pine nuts Capers All topped off with a lemon-berry vinaigrette (I find a raspberry vinaigrette and squeeze my own fresh lemon on top) and shaved parmesan or pecorino romano cheese. Delicious! The restaurant dish also includes the following ingredients that I don’t use: Grilled chicken Regular tomatoes (I think the sun dried ones are enough) The strong flavors of the lemon, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and capers really pair well with the more subtle spinach and orzo. If you have the ingredients lying around and you happen to try it, I hope you enjoy it!

Home Skillet

can't wait to try this!! thanks for all the great recipes!

Antonio's mom

This looks fabulous! I've never even gotten close to considering using orzo for salad. Love it mixed with sauteed vegies drizzled with garlic/basil infused olive oil, but haven't thought of serving orzo cold. Thanks to you, I will from now on. Just love what you do with food! P.S. - Yesterday for lunch I made your Curried Apple Couscous which I serve with an apple glazed tofu (I'm playing with the glaze, working on getting it how I want...it's still a work-in-progress, but I'm close). As soon as I finished cleaning up, I sat down & did the calculations to increase this dish to serve 50...it's just one of your recipes going to my daughter's schol. hall kitchen to share with her hall mates. (I'm thinking that the Orzo Salad will be there too) Thank you!


Small comment - the email introduction had me thoroughly confused. "orzo" is Italian for barley, and also for a roasted-barley coffee substitute hot drink. So, I thought I'd found a new salad in the direction of bulgar wheat or something like that. What I'm assuming is called "orzo" in the USA is called "pastina" here (lit. small pasta), and it's generally used for soup or for infants. I can just imagine my Italian friends' reaction if I used it for a salad... well, I'll give it a try at home! You can lead an Italian to a new food experience, but it ain't always so simple to make them try it!

Emily in Italy

How is feta super-nutritious? Or even standard nutritious, for that matter. HS: I don't think there is anything wrong with a little cheese. Particularly in the context of an otherwise balanced way of eating. And you can certainly leave the feta out if you like!


Looks yummy, but how would it be without the almonds? Kinda thinking pine nuts might be a good substitution texture-wise, but it really doesn't help those of us with tree nut allergies. Any other substitution ideas? HS: Pine nuts would be a great substitute (if you aren't allergic), what about pumpkin seeds (toasted)?


This sounds great, I am not typically a huge fan of pasta salads because it always seems to just be pasta, a little extra something and dressing...I'd prefer the less pasta-centric versions.


What an undeniable salad! So healthy I can hardly stand it...will definitely be making it for lunch next week!

Laura [What I Like]

I know what I'll be making for my family up at the cottage this weekend!

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen)

I know what I'll be making for my family up at the cottage this weekend!

Meghan (Making Love In The Kitchen)

Sounds absolutely divine! Cannot wait to make this at home. Your website is beyond fantastic, thank you for such a fantastic site!


The sprouts look so good. Did you sprout them yourself and what have you sprouted? I can't buy anything that looks this good in Dubai so would like to make my own. I like the prevalence of lemon in your recipes. I know people have cravings for chilli (I do) but I also often have to have a lemon fix. My kitchen is not complete without a bowl of lemons handy.


i bet this would be delicious with couscous if you wanted something other than pasta.


Love the combination of ingredients (and I really love the serving bowl!) -- lately, I've been addicted to broccolini.


tried it tonight with what i had on hand...no cilantro, used italian parsely instead. had almonds but forgot to add them. amazing still. other than that, made as written. lovely, especially for a non pasta eater like me :-D


Your food makes me want to be a better person. XO

Ali and Evan

"Do you see one at just about every potluck or group picnic you go to? Or is it just me? " this so made me laugh... we just had our department picnic today, and sure enough, there was an orzo salad there!


This looks fabulous! I love orzo and always have. I love the tricoloured orzo too ...so colourful. My top three ways to serve orzo salad: - with a cilantro pumpkin seed pesto with some lime/lemon juice and a touch of ginger. Then I just add a bunch of grilled veggies and wilt some spinach in. Yum! - with grape tomatoes, shallots, cucumber and this North African dressing - with a dash of truffle oil and a mixture of oyster, portobello and enoki mushrooms grilled or sautéed beforehand Keep up the fabulous posts!


Instead of adding salt to the dressing try a dash of miso paste and fresh grated ginger. Awesome recipe ! thanks for the posting!!!


This looks Delicious...


This sounds like a good jumping off point. We're trying to eat less meat these days and this looks filing enough to not miss it! I think we may put some sun dried tomatoes in there =) going to use some little wheat pasta things if i can't find orzo, shells etc...


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