Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing

A bowl of orzo salad with plate, napkin, and fork

Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing is a bright pasta salad made with pantry and fridge staples.  If you’re looking for a healthy way to jump start spring, you’ve found it!

mediterranean orzo salad with creamy lemon dressing

If you haven’t gotten a chance to escape to anywhere warm this winter, I feel your pain. But I’ve got a way you can grab a little bit of Mediterranean sunshine, even if the weather isn’t cooperating. Make a big bowl of this simple pasta salad; you probably won’t even need to make a trip to the store. I threw it together with what I already had on hand. And it gets even better as it sits in the fridge, so that warm sunny feeling lasts and lasts.

what is orzo?

Orzo looks like rice, but it’s actually a small, rice shaped pasta. It’s a type of Italian ‘pastina‘ or tiny pasta, that are used primarily in soups.

A good quality orzo stays nice and firm with a chewy texture after cooking, which is surprising, considering its size. It has a lovely silky texture that makes it an interesting alternative to rice.

I sometimes use orzo in pasta salads because it’s more delicate than chunkier pasta shapes, and feels less heavy and filling.

ingredients for Mediterranean orzo salad in a glass bowl

ingredients for orzo salad

This salad has a Mediteranean Greek/Italian theme, but that’s based on what I had in my kitchen. Omit or add where you need or want to.

  • orzo ~ rice shaped little pasta that makes a unique texture for this pasta salad
  • artichoke hearts ~ I chop them finely with my alligator chopper
  • pimento ~ I always keep a jar on hand
  • jalapeño ~ not necessarily Mediterranean but I had one and I love the little kick it gives this salad
  • red onion ~ an absolute must in pasta salads, it adds a much needed bite
  • black olives
  • chickpeas ~ I prefer chickpeas to other canned beans in pasta salad because they’re firm, not mushy
  • yellow bell pepper
  • feta cheese
  • sun dried tomatoes
  • peperoncini

a glass bowl of Mediterranean orzo salad with spoon

a creamy lemon dressing ties this pasta salad all together

You could almost say it’s all about the dressing, that’s how important this finishing touch is to a pasta salad. The pasta drinks it in, and it becomes an integral part of the salad’s personality. There’s no vinegar, so no harsh flavor, just the bright acidity of fresh lemon juice in a one to one relationship with olive oil. The honey and mustard in the dressing allow it to emulsify into a creamy consistency which is particularly nice with the orzo.

creamy lemon dressing with immersion blender

chef’s tips for orzo salad

  • As with all pasta salads I like to slightly under cook the pasta so it will stay nice and firm even as it absorbs the dressing as it sits in the refrigerator. Oh, and don’t forget to salt that cooking water, it’s a wonderful chance to season the pasta itself and your salad will be the better for it.
  • Because the orzo is so tiny I like to chop the add-ins nice and finely, too. My alligator chopper is the best tool for this, it does everything so quickly and evenly. I use the small grid for some things and the larger grid for others. I love this tool so much I wrote a whole post about it!
  • Make a meal out of this salad by adding hard cooked eggs and some good quality tuna packed in olive oil. We did that and it was amazing.
  • Remember that salads in general are very forgiving, and, unlike baking recipes, are meant to be adjusted. I added specific amounts in the recipe but that’s only a rough guideline.  You really shouldn’t need to measure your ingredients, just eyeball them and go with what you love.

A bowl of orzo salad with plate, napkin, and fork

pasta salads for the win

A bowl of orzo salad with plate, napkin, and fork
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5 from 9 votes

Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing

Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing is a bright and fresh pasta salad made with pantry and fridge staples.  If you're looking for a healthy way to jump start spring, you've found it!
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mediterranean
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Yield 8 servings
Calories 204kcal
Author Sue Moran

Equipment

  • alligator chopper (optional)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 lb orzo pasta, cooked in pleanty of salted water until al dente, and briefly rinsed in cold water.
  • 1/3 cup canned artichoke hearts, drained and diced
  • 1/4 cup pimento, finely diced (or the contents of a small jar)
  • 1/3 cup diced red onion
  • 1/4 cup finely diced jalapeño pepper
  • 1/4 cup black olives, chopped
  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas
  • 1/3 cup diced yellow bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup marinated sun dried tomatoes, chopped or thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup peperoncini peppers, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced feta cheese

creamy lemon dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil (I use this wonderful lemon olive oil)
  • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp creamy dijon mustard
  • salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions

  • Put all the cooked pasta in a large bowl. It's ok if it's still warm.
    cooked orzo pasta in a glass bowl
  • Add the rest of the salad ingredients to the bowl.
    Ingredients for a Mediterranean orzo salad
  • To make the dressing, put the ingredients in a small bowl or cup and use an immersion blender to blend into a creamy consistency. A wide mouth canning jar works perfectly for this. Taste and adjust if needed. Note: an immersion blender works best when you blend in a jar just a bit larger than the head of the blender.
    creamy lemon dressing with immersion blender
  • Toss the salad with enough dressing to moisten everything, but not drench it.
    Tossed orzo salad, with lemons
  • Refrigerate the salad until chilled. When ready to serve, toss with more dressing and season with salt and pepper if needed.

Cook's notes

 
  • My alligator chopper does a quick job of perfectly dicing my ingredients into small, same sized pieces, which makes my salad not only pretty, but easy to eat.

Nutrition

Calories: 204kcal | Carbohydrates: 28g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 158mg | Potassium: 143mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 222IU | Vitamin C: 23mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 1mg
The nutritional information for recipes on this site is provided as a courtesy and although theviewfromgreatisland.com tries to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures are only estimates.

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3 Comments

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  • Reply
    Michele Barrette
    May 20, 2021 at 5:46 pm

    5 stars
    Made this today. Yum! If you can let the salad set for a few hours to let the flavors blend—particularly the saltiness of the feta, I’d recommend. I upped some of Ingredients: chickpeas and feta.

  • Reply
    Patricia
    April 3, 2021 at 6:16 am

    I LOVE that you provide an estimate of nutrition values. Thank you VERY much. For this orzo mediterranean salad, could you tell me what size a serving is (it says 8 servings, but is that a cup each or ??) Is the nutrition estimate based on the salad as mixed with dressing or just the veggies? Thank you! Keep up your great work. I’m looking forward to trying this recipe and using my new alligator chopper.

    • Reply
      Sue Moran
      April 3, 2021 at 6:48 am

      A serving is approximately a cup, and yes, the nutrition includes the dressing. Enjoy that chopper 🙂

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