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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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! Megan


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! Tegan


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 :) http://foodcreate.com


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


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