My Mediterranean orzo salad with shrimp is a healthy pasta salad meant for easy nights, warmer temperatures, and hungry folks. It’s a little splash of sunshine for your table!
my orzo salad with shrimp is a Mediterranean feast in a bowl
I admit it, I’m a little cuckoo about orzo lately, it’s my new favorite way to do pasta salad. With this one I’m paying homage to its Mediterranean heritage and adding in a little extra protein so I’m happy having it for dinner. Any meal that gets all the food groups together in one bowl is a success in my book. There’s no side dish required, except maybe a crusty loaf of whatever bread you love (focaccia would be great.) This is perfection on a warm night.
have you met my other Mediterranean orzo salads?
Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Tuna ~ canned tuna makes this one incredibly convenient.
Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Creamy Lemon Dressing ~ chickpeas provide the plant based protein in this version.
You know I’m going to do salmon next 😉
what’s in it (and substitution suggestions)
- orzo ~ you can cook it ahead of time, I douse it while it’s still warm with olive oil to keep it fluffy, and lemon juice and zest for flavor. What I love so much about this simple pasta shape is that it maintains a nice chewy texture and can’t overwhelm a salad like some pasta does.
- shrimp ~ go with small or large, your call. I love to leave the tails on, just because it’s pretty, but you can chop it if you prefer. Substitute grilled chicken, diced salami, tuna, salmon, or chickpeas.
- baby arugula ~ adding fresh greens to a pasta salad is genius, I give it a chop or two so it will mix in better. Baby spinach or a nice fresh spring mix would work, too.
- red onion ~ every salad needs an onion presence, and this is my favorite.
- bell pepper ~ any color you love.
- Kalamata olives give great flavor, but you could use regular black olives if you have to. Green olives? Why not!
- feta cheese ~ save a little for garnish, it makes the salad pop. Always go for the block of cheese over the crumbles, and always opt for imported sheep’s milk feta, there’s a huge difference. You can substitute goat cheese, but be aware that goat cheese is soft and will sort of melt into your salad as you toss it.
- cherry tomatoes ~ I always add these at the last minute, they don’t do well in the refrigerator.
- fresh mint ~ if you don’t love mint, use basil or dill.
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- olive oil and champagne vinegar combine for an uber simple dressing.
how to build flavor into your orzo salad
It starts with cooking the orzo. Right after you drain it, toss with extra virgin olive oil, some lemon zest, and a little lemon juice. Those flavor will absorb right into the pasta and the oil will keep it from clumping.
Toss your shrimp with olive oil and a couple of minced cloves of garlic before dropping in a hot skillet. I’ll hit it with some lemon juice just as it finishes cooking.
Fresh mint or basil adds huge flavor to every bite.
Olive oil and vinegar make up a simple dressing. If you use a bold extra virgin oil the flavor will really come through. The vinegar adds an essential element of acidity.
make ahead and storage info
This salad keeps well and can be made a day ahead. Be sure to give it a fresh toss before serving, and you may want to add a bit more dressing if it seems like it has been absorbed overnight. Do not add the tomatoes until the last minute because they’ll get mushy in the refrigerator.
more good-for-you Mediterranean recipes
- Mediterranean Sheet Pan Salmon
- Mediterranean Bean Salad
- Greek Meatballs in Lemon Sauce
- French Potato Salad
- Chopped Italian Salad Recipe
- Mediterranean Cauliflower Couscous Salad
- Mediterranean Pasta Salad with Tuna
Mediterranean Orzo Salad with Shrimp
- 1 1/2 cups raw orzo
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice, divided
- 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
- 1/2 lb raw shrimp, I used 16/20 sized shrimp
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup Kalamata olives, sliced in half
- 1 cup yellow bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 small red onion, slivered
- 2 cups baby arugula, rough chopped
- 2 Tbsp fresh mint, minced (substitute basil)
- 1/2 cup feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, cut in wedges
- salt and fresh cracked black pepper
- 4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp champagne vinegar (or other mild white vinegar)
- Cook the orzo in plenty of well salted water according to package instructions. Toss your freshly cooked orzo with the lemon zest, juice, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Put into a large salad bowl.
- Toss the shrimp with 1 tablespoon olive oil and the minced garlic. Saute in a skillet until the shrimp curls and turns opaque. This won't take long, so don't over cook! Hit the pan with a squeeze of lemon juice at the end. Add to the bowl with the orzo.
- Whisk together the olive oil and vinegar for the dressing. Note: feel free to make extra dressing if you like your salads on the 'juicy' side.
- Add the olives, bell pepper, onions, arugula, mint, feta cheese, and cherry tomatoes to the bowl with the orzo and shrimp.
- Toss everything with the dressing. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately, or chill until ready to serve. Note: if you are making this ahead, wait until serving time to add the tomatoes.
Questions and Reviews
Oh boy this was delicious! I never thought of using orzo in pasta salad – what a great idea! I had a container of mini Boursin balls so I used those (although they really were too soft, I’ll definitely use feta next time) and I forgot the olives. However it was very tasty despite those missteps, and I’ll be making this again soon.