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

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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!
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:
Sun-dried tomatoes
Black olives
Pine nuts
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 😀


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…


This looks delicious! I’m going to make it tomorrow night. Love the site. I’m trying to reduce the amount of animal proteins I consume and this site is an excellent source of recipes. Thanks!

Greg F

I really love Orzo. I think it’s underutilized, so thank you for making special note of it here.
But I must add one addition. Because I witnessed an Orzo trick in a kitchen I worked in years ago, and I feel it is my duty to pass it onto anyone who makes or eats or likes this wondrously textured pasta.
“Toast” orzo in a saute pan with a wee bit of butter or vegetable oil over low heat until it browns like pine nuts. Then cook as you would if it were raw. It’s like adding nuttiness without using nuts!

shuna fish lydon

Orzo? I’m glad a few reviewers have mentioned getting it online, since I just don’t remember seeing it in front of me when I shop (but maybe I either wasn’t looking for it or I don’t shop at the right stores). I’ll have to look around, since I DO love pasta salads, especially when a little pasta is mixed in with a LOT of veggies.


i usually toss whole wheat orzo with feta and grape tomatoes i’ve roasted with shallots. a delicious side dish on its own, or a good base for add-ins.


This looks great. I love a good orzo dish. Another nice option is to throw in some oil cured olives, tomatoes, and tarragon (or any other favorite herb).
I also really like fruit added to something like this – apples, strawberries, etc.
Or you could do a fruit salad with lots of herbs in it.
Happy Summer!


Another meal that I would be so at home with.
Orzo is often overlooked or forgotten, but sometimes it’s just the right grain for the dish. Whole wheat all the better.


The flavor and texture combination in this sounds wonderful! I love to add all sorts of fresh herbs to my orzo salads. A combination of mint and basil is one of my favorites. I’m going to make an orzo dish tonight with saffron and fennel.

Cookin' Canuck

LOVE whole wheat orzo–always have it on hand! This looks like a fab combo—will try soon!

Season to Taste

I love your blog, I love your recipes and the pictures are so beautiful! But I like visiting your blog also because I always find something new, even ingredients and different kinds of food that we can’t find in Italy. In fact I haven’t understand what orzo pasta is, orzo is the Italian for barley (I think) but maybe I’m wrong 😀 Anyway it looks really good and I’m very curious to try it…if I find it!!! Bye Sabrina
HS: thanks for the nice note Sabrina! You could certainly substitute a grain like barley or farro – but orzo is actually a pasta that happens to look like a grain (of rice) – hence the name orzo.


Wow, this looks refreshing and delicious! Just one question though, what would you recommend to replace the feta with to make the salad vegan?
HS: Hi WC, you can simply leave it out. The salad will still be good. That being said, I do like the creaminess the feta adds – and that salty tang. You could certainly make the dressing a bit creamier by pureeing it with some avocado. I’d resist the urge to substitute one of those soy-based vegan substitutes – i.e. cheese, yogurt, sour cream, etc. Maybe a pinch or two of nutritional yeast would bring that bit of tang into play…

Wheeler's Crew

Love the salad – Is it alfafa sprouts that you have used?
Also can I use alfafa sprouts in any of my salads ? – I have eaten these types till now and would love to start including them in my diet….
HS: Yes, those were alfalfa sprouts, but you might substitute other sprouts if you like. And yes – you can toss them into lots of salads, sandwiches, soups, etc. Some of the markets here have quite a range available.


No orzo salads making the rounds in my city either … tho’ buffet tables are heavily into farro salads – featuring fiddleheads, wild leeks, or rapini!
But Californians are the trendsetters, so thanks for the heads up! Now I have the opportunity to start a trend, and orzo salads will be all over Toronto by summer 2010!
I’ll buy some whole wheat orzo at Whole Foods this weekend, but Heidi – please post another orzo recipe before the end of the summer to help me use it all up!

Primordial Soup

I want to say that I love your recipes, and I love getting your emails. I always look forward to them before I go grocery shopping!
Anyways, I made this salad and it was fantastic! With it I served grilled salmon with a light-chunky peach glaze. I am from Utah and peaches are everywhere! There was no refined sugar added, just peaches, grapefruit and some a little honey. My husband also put a little Dijon mustard with his. It wasn’t that bad!
But where I was going with this was, the colors were beautiful. And the varieties of flavors were excellent!


Thank you so much for posting your recipes with the “print recipe” feature. It makes it so easy. There are other sites where I have difficulty getting it to print JUST the recipe!
For vegans trying to avoid oil please keep suggesting alternatives to your vegetarian recipes.


LOVE Orzo — it’s one of my favorite pastas — just boil it up and throw anything on it, butter, sauce, pesto, or throw it in a stir fry or soup — very versatile! I normally use ditalini for pasta salad (or elbow), but am willing to try with my buddy orzo! Thanks for the ideas!


what perfect timing! have some sugar snaps from the farmer’s market that I need to use along with some other small bits of veggies but may put in a bit of goat cheese as I love how it makes things creamy/tangy at the same time. I think I will be adapting this to many things this summer. THANKS!


This is a great contrast Almonds, cucumber, and aspargus, feta making it appealing to both the eye and palate. I love it so easy to prepare and satisfying to eat.
Thanks for sharing such wonderful Salad~
Come and Visit 🙂


Thanks for another wonderful post Heidi. I think your pictures of food are so beautiful. I cannot wait to try the recipe for Orzo salad!


I love a good orzo salad, and this one looks spectacular. I’m jealous, however, of the fact that you had a bag of whole-wheat orzo just lying around, available for the deliciousness. I’ve looked in every grocery store in my area and the higher-end ones in larger cities (when I get to them), and thus far I have found exactly NO whole-wheat orzo. I’m to the point of seriously considering learning how to make it myself. Heidi, if you have a good source for the stuff – especially if it’s online – I would love to hear about it.
(Not so by the way: first time I’ve commented, but far from the first time I’ve read. I enjoy this blog very much; it’s one of the best vegetarian ones out there [and probably one of the best period – I just tend to concentrate on the veggie ones, as they suit my dietary preferences most closely].)
HS: Thanks Queue! My other thought was that this salad would be nice with a simple cheese (or spinach/cheese) tortellini. So if you can’t find an orzo you like – perhaps try that?


I love your version of the orzo salad.
I make one all the time from Cooking Light.
Basically, its cooked orzo, drained and cooled.
Put that in a bowl, chop up fresh spinach, drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, zest of one lemon plus juice of one lemon, pine nuts and feta cheese and just stir it all up for a cool salad! It’s so good!
My whole family likes asparagus, so I have to make your version. Thanks for sharing the recipe!


I cant say it enough- LOVE your blog! I recommend it at least once a week to someone. That said- I stumbled upon a cookbook at a yard sale and i was pleasantly surprised. Its The Deaf Smith Country Cookbook. This is an arrowhead mills cookbook from 1973 and its filled with natural foods and baked goods sweetened with maple syrup and such. This cookbook was well ahead of the times when it was published and i think its a must have for anyone who cooks with a healthy approach. I’ve decided that Super Natural Cooking is the perfect wedding present of the year. Thanks for the inspiration!


This looks fantastic! More Orzo recipes please!


This is a salad I could eat for breakfast! I tend to avoid orzo because I haven’t found a whole wheat version, but saw recently on another blog that Whole Foods has it in their bulk foods section.
(p.s. Just received Super Natural Cooking last week. Love it! Great photos, excellent info and recipes!)

Sharon Landon

you are a goddess Heidi!


Reminds me of the Leon Original Superfood Salad with some variations (they use quinoa and peas vs. orzo and asparagus). Can’t wait to try both and compare.


I love the idea of less pasta! I usually love as much pasta as possible but less orzo could really lighten this up… looks delicious!


WOW!!! Heidi, this looks great! I’m going to try and make it… yuuumm, I can’t wait 🙂 thanks!


very nice


Best orzo pasta i’ve ever had was with different colored sliced tomatoes, red onion, feta, dill, and sun dried tomatoes, mixed all together with white wine vinegar and olive oil! amazing! ate at least a serving a week throughout college! Cucumbers optional! it was always a hit! This looks good too!
Thanks Heidi


I love the picture of the cucumber!


I can say with all honesty I have never seen an orzo salad at a potluck, But then again I am from the south and we take things like turnip greens and cornbread. But I do like orzo very much, and I adore fresh veggies, and this looks marvelous! I am actually attending a potluck Sunday at church, so this may be my offering. A good salad is always welcome. Thanks, Heidi!


You know, I usually skip orzo because I’ve never seen a whole wheat version! I’ll have to look for that. Thanks for the great recipe, as always.

Michelle @ Find Your Balance

This is super gorgeous and comes at a perfect time – TWO bbqs this weekend. 🙂
Thanks so much!

Maggie @ EatBoutique.com

Mmm… this looks fantastic and healthy as usual which is great!

Tabitha (From Single to Married)

I’ve never seen whole wheat orzo. I just made an orzo pasta salad for our last family picnic. You’re right; pasta salad is easy to make and easy to transport, which are both important considerations when you’re planning a picnic.

Jackie @ PhamFatale.com

You’re right–orzo is ubiquitous, and for good reason. I really cannot resist anything with avocados in it. Good call.

The Leftoverist

Looks fantastic. I think the goat cheese probably really brings all the flavors together well! My BF transported a pizza he made to my parents house on the back of his scooter and it didn’t fit in the back compartment, so he rode it all the way there uncovered and exposed to the elements! Somehow it made it and it was good. I am sure you are more careful with your orzo!

Morta Di Fame

yum, what a great idea to add all those yummy veggies…and sprouts! my favorite. my favorite orzo salad is with garbanzo beans, green onions, feta, dill, lemon juice and olive oil. yum!


Beautiful photos! I love all the white. Nice reminder to use up that box of whole-wheat orzo in my cupboard.


I’m pretty sure that at least half of the people at the potlucks I go to don’t even know what orzo is, haha. Maybe I’ll make this for the next potluck and find out 🙂


That has to be one of the most refreshing summery salad. of all pasta salads, orzo is my favorite, mostly becoz of the size & it does not overshadow the the other things that go with it.


Creative, beautiful dish! We love creating orzo dishes too – thanks for the idea!


Looks excellent. I like that you’re making it less pasta-y.
Hrm. Perhaps I haven’t been to that many potlucks recently, but I RARELY see orzo salads. Of course I’m avoiding gluten lately so I guess I shouldn’t have it anyway….hehe.
Lovely eye candy though…

Hannah Handpainted

Orzo is my favorite summer pasta for some reason. My favorite way to prepare it is tossed with a wide selection of grilled vegetables (whatever I get from my CSA that week) that I chop up small. Just a tiny drizzle of cream (I’m a little decadent that way) and some Parmigiano and my taste buds are singing!
HS: I love the idea of a splash of cream w/ a warm orzo salad. It’s nice that you don’t actually need much cream at all to get a bit of decadence. What about a bit of cream infused with some lemon zest? Along with your Parmigiano and some fresh herbs – sounds delicious.

Michele Morris

I’ve seen beautiful orzo salads over the years and always meant to make one, I just never got around to it. This looks like it will be the perfect recipe to break that trend!

Sarah (Coffee Beans and Curry Leaves)

Looks wonderful! Funny, because I just made my first-ever orzo salad, but I served it hot and “cooked” tomatoes in citrus juice for it. Sure wish I could have found whole wheat orzo!

Matt (No Meat Athlete)

Orzo is probably my favorite grain-like non-grain, and this salad looks like the perfect solution to the perpetual question of what to bring to a picnic or potluck. I think I’m going to make something with orzo tonight to get into the spirit!

Claudia at Weird Vegetables

Great flavors here! The cilantro, avo, lemon, feta! Love this.

The Duo Dishes

This looks fantastic! I love pasta salads but they are often too heavy.


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