Tender orzo pasta is combined with fresh vegetables and a flavorful Greek dressing to make this delicious pasta salad. Greek Orzo Pasta Salad can be a perfect side dish or a hearty full meal. This orzo recipe is perfect as a party dish or as a no-heat lunch for work or school.
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Easy Greek Orzo Salad Recipe
This summer I’ve really been craving lots of fresh veggies and pasta. But it’s also so very hot here in Texas, so the answer is always pasta salad.
Sometimes I’d rather mix it up and add in flavors from cuisines like Italian or Greek food, and this Greek Orzo Pasta Salad really fits the bill. With crispy vegetables, tender orzo, briny olives, and a homemade Green vinaigrette, this hits the spot.
This great recipe works well as a side dish for meals like Greek turkey burgers. It also works stunningly well as a main dish, especially topped with grilled chicken or fish. (I can’t wait to try it with this lemon butter salmon soon!)
I love how customizable it is, as you can make it vegan and dairy-free by omitting the cheese or gluten-free by switching up the pasta.
It stores well in the fridge, so it doubles as a great no-heat lunch to take to work or school, too.
Why You’ll Love This Orzo Salad Recipe
Here’s why I’m pretty sure you will fall in love with this easy pasta salad:
- It’s customizable. Omit the feta to make it dairy-free. Use gluten-free pasta to make it gluten-free.
- You can prepare it in advance, which is great for both parties, or meal prep for the week.
- This salad works well as a side dish or a main dish. For a meal, top it with chicken like these grilled chicken kabobs.
- It’s light, fresh, and easy to make but doesn’t compromise on flavor. With basic ingredients, a few minutes, and little effort you have a great cold pasta salad.
What is Orzo?
Orzo is a type of pasta from Italy. It is an oval, rice-shaped pasta, also known as “pastina” in Italy, meaning “little pasta.” It’s also called “risi,” because it looks like rice.
It works well for pasta dishes like this garlic lemon butter shrimp pasta, as well as soups such as this chicken noodle soup, casseroles like this chicken broccoli casserole, and salads like this berry orzo mason jar salad.
Orzo pairs well with Mediterranean dishes, and its small size works particularly well when you need a smaller noodle, like for pasta salad.
Orzo Pasta Salad Ingredients
Here’s what you will need for the salad itself.
- orzo - You can use any type of small-shaped pasta, such as ditalini, mini farfalle (bowties), orecchiette, or even macaroni. For a gluten-free orzo pasta salad, use gluten-free pasta made with rice flour, chickpea flour, or something similar.
- kalamata olives - Kalamata olives are my favorite for this recipe because of the intense flavor they bring to the recipe. Black olives will work instead, or you can omit them altogether if you’re not an olive fan. However, I still recommend adding some of the olive brine to the recipe as it will lend some excellent flavor. If your olives aren’t pitted, make sure you use an olive pitter (affiliate link) to remove the hard pits.
- English cucumber - You can use Persian crisp cucumber instead. If using a standard American cucumber, make sure to peel and remove the seeds. The key is to use crispy cucumbers to have that crunch.
- cherry tomatoes - Grape tomatoes will also work. Alternatively, you could cut a large tomato into chunks.
- orange bell pepper - Orange ones add a hint of extra color which I love. A red or yellow bell pepper will be the best alternative if you can’t find orange because they have a similar sweet flavor. I don't recommend green bell pepper because it has a bit of a different flavor and isn't as sweet.
- crumbled feta - For a vegan or dairy-free pasta salad, you can omit the tangy feta cheese. Goat cheese or mozzarella pearls would work instead.
- red onion - If you aren't a fan of the strong taste of red onion, you can substitute shallot.
Greek Salad Dressing Ingredients
This recipe uses a yummy homemade Greek dressing to coat the noodles and veggies. Here’s what you will need for that:
- red wine vinegar - If you don’t have red wine vinegar on hand you can substitute it for another type of vinegar. White wine vinegar, rice vinegar, and apple cider vinegar can be used instead.
- lemon juice - Lemon will be best, but feel free to use lime or orange if it’s all you have on hand. Fresh juice is best too, but I won’t pretend I don’t keep the bottled concentrate in the fridge for convenience. You can even add a little lemon zest for an even brighter citrus flavor.
- olive oil - Olive oil is classic for Greek food, but you can also use avocado oil in this recipe for a lighter option.
- garlic powder - Don’t skimp on this flavorful addition!
- oregano - Oregano adds a classic Greek flavor to this dressing, but you can also use this Greek seasoning.
- salt - Coarse sea salt and coarse kosher salt are my recommendations to keep on hand in your kitchen.
How to Make Greek Orzo Pasta Salad Recipe
Here’s how to make this orzo salad with feta:
First, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. (Don’t skimp on the salt — you should use a big pinch.)
Once it reaches a rolling boil, add the orzo and stir. Boil for about 10 minutes. Don’t overcook. You want the texture to still be al dente.
Drain the orzo and run under cold water to stop the cooking and cool the pasta down.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked orzo with the olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, and feta (if using). Stir everything together.
Then, you’ll make the dressing. In a separate, small bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients and whisk together.
Drizzle the dressing over the salad and mix until it is fully coated. Serve cold.
Tips & Tricks
Don’t overcook the orzo. You want to keep it firm, AKA al dente so that the pasta salad isn’t soggy. (This is important for lots of pasta dishes, even warm ones like this parmesan orzo dish.)
Start out with a large bowl, you want the room to be able to mix the salad.
If the pasta salad dries out a little in the fridge, you can add a little more dressing. You can also just add a splash of vinegar and extra virgin olive oil instead.
You can also add some fresh herbs like fresh mint, fresh parsley, and fresh dill to your pasta salad if you’d like it to have some green color. Both are very Greek flavors.
Careful with the salt. Salt is needed for the pasta, but beyond that, you don’t need much. The olives and feta have a stronger salty flavor. The olive brine will also add some saltiness.
Freshly squeezed lemon juice works best, but if all you have is the concentrate, that will totally work.
Can this be prepared in advance?
Yes! You can prepare this up to 2 days in advance. I would recommend waiting to add the feta until the day of serving.
You should also reserve some of the dressing to add later — this will help liven it back up, as it tends to dry out a little in the fridge.
How to store leftover pasta salad
You'll want to store this leftover orzo salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You may need to either reserve some of the dressing or give it a splash of oil and vinegar before serving as it may dry out a little over time in the refrigerator.
Recipes to Pair with Greek Orzo Pasta Salad
You can serve this pasta salad in so many ways! Here are a few of my favorite ways:
Buy a rotisserie chicken and shred it up. Or make something simple like Lemon Pepper Chicken. Plate it on top of this Greek pasta salad for a hearty meal with extra protein.
I also love making meatballs. You can serve them on top or on the side. These Greek meatballs (called Keftedes) are made with beef and pork, but you can absolutely use another protein. In fact, we love chicken meatballs or turkey meatballs.
If I’m serving this as a side for summer picnics or summer cookouts, I usually try to have one other summery salad on the menu, like this corn salad.
Other Greek-Inspired Recipes
If you love Greek food, try one of these amazing recipes:
- Greek Tortellini Pasta Salad
- Marinated Grilled Chicken
- Blueberry Feta Salad
- Tzaziki Sauce
- Homemade Hummus
- Greek Chicken Bowls
Greek Orzo Pasta Salad
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
- Once it reaches a rolling boil, add the orzo and stir. Boil for about 10 minutes. Don't overcook. You want the texture to still be al dente.
- Drain the orzo and run under cold water to stop the cooking and cool the pasta.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the cooked orzo with the remaining salad ingredients. Mix to combine.
- In a separate, small bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients and whisk together.
- Drizzle the dressing over the salad and mix until it is fully coated. Serve cold.
Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy. It should only be used for estimation purposes and is not a guarantee of any kind. Nutritional information varies widely between brands and types of ingredients used. It is recommended that you calculate the nutritional information based on your own ingredients and brands used. Sweetly Splendid, LLC makes no guarantees as to the exact nutrition information.