Summer orzo salad is a refreshingly light pasta salad that simply must be added to your list of summer side dishes. It’s got crunchy cucumber, juicy cherry tomatoes, and tender orzo pasta with a tangy, made from scratch dill and celery seed vinaigrette for a simple but versatile dish.
In the time it takes to boil water and cook the pasta you can chop the cucumber and tomatoes, and whip up the vinaigrette. It’s homemade made easy.
How to Make Orzo Salad
Making orzo salad is like making most any pasta salad. Boil the pasta according to the package directions, then mix it with your own blend of raw, blanched, or cooked vegetables. The main difference is that this pasta salad uses orzo pasta, which is a small, oblong shaped pasta that looks similar to a grain of rice.
While the cooking instructions for most pastas are pretty straight forward, there are two important things to remember when working with orzo.
- If the orzo sits too long after you drain it, it will become gummy and clump together, which is not what we want in a pasta salad. To avoid this, mix the pasta with the vinaigrette right after you drain it, while it’s still warm. Then let the dressed pasta cool before adding the rest of the vegetables.
- Instead of a standard strainer, use a fine mesh style sieve or strainer. Most standard pasta strainers have holes that are slightly larger than a piece of orzo. If you try to drain your pasta in one of these, you risk losing a lot of it down the drain.
Tips for Quicker Recipe Prep
For me, nothing spoils an “easy” recipe faster than seeing the pile of dishes it leaves behind. For a recipe to truly be easy, it should include as few dishes as possible. Here are my favorite tips for minimizing the mess while cooking from scratch.
- Instead of using separate mixing bowls for the vinaigrette and the final pasta salad, use one large mixing bowl. Make the vinaigrette first, then build the rest of the dish on top of it in the same bowl.
- Instead of measuring everything by cups, measure using a scale. Place your large mixing bowl on a kitchen scale and press the tare button to zero it out. Add the first ingredient by weight, then zero out the scale again before adding the next ingredient. Not only does this give you more precise measurements, it means you have fewer measuring cups or measuring spoons to clean at the end.
- While the scale works for larger items, they often aren’t precise enough to pick up things measured by teaspoons or smaller. When only a volume measurement will do measure the dry ingredients first, then the wet ones. Make sure your measuring spoons are dishwasher safe and consider owning multiples of the sizes you use most often.
Additions to Make Summer Orzo Salad into a Meal
When starting with such a simple pasta salad there are many ways you can switch it up to make it more uniquely yours. Here are some of my favorite substitutions and additions to transform this side dish into a main meal.
Add more veggies! Avocado, fresh corn, sweet onion, and chopped baby spinach are some of my favorite additions for this salad. While there is nothing wrong with the original recipe, you can’t go wrong by adding more vegetables to this (or any) pasta salad.
Add protein! This easy summer side dish starts out vegetarian, but that doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Grilled shrimp, leftover steak or pork, rotisserie chicken, air fryer salmon, or a can of chickpeas. With a pasta salad this simple, the flavor profiles will go with so many different types of protein. I wouldn’t necessarily toss it with a heavily seasoned or sauced protein choice, but you aren’t super limited by what you can chop up and add or serve on the side. Need some more inspiration? Try it with this Grilled Maple Mustard Chicken.
Add cheese! If you want to turn this summer orzo into a Greek orzo salad add crumbled feta. If feta doesn’t make your tastebuds sing try a crumbled goat cheese or a cubed sharp cheddar. Like any classic pasta salad, the addition of cheese is always a good idea.
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Summer Orzo Salad Recipe
Summer orzo salad is a light refreshing side dish perfect for the hot days of summer. Crunchy cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and orzo pasta tossed with a tangy, made from scratch vinaigrette dressing. Perfect for your next BBQ or potluck get together with family and friends. Make it a side dish or make it a meal.
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- 4 ounces orzo pasta, 2/3 cup
- 3 ounces cherry tomatoes, 1/2 cup whole
- 4 ounces cucumber, about 1/2 a medium cucumber
- 1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp dried dill
- 1/4 tsp celery seed
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3/8 tsp ground black pepper
- Cook orzo according to the directions on the package.
- Measure all the vinaigrette ingredients into a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
- Slice cherry tomatoes into quarters. Peel (optional) and dice cucumber.
- Once cooked and drained, add the orzo pasta to the vinaigrette and toss to combine. Allow orzo to cool, then add chopped vegetables and stir to combine.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 117Total Fat: 5gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 312mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 2g
Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix and is for general information purposes only. For the most accurate information, calculate using your select brands and exact measurements.