Loaded with veggies like asparagus, spinach, and olives and a sprinkling of toasted almonds and feta, Lemon Orzo Salad is easy to pull together! Like my Lemon Garlic Orzo with Roasted Vegetables, this recipe is also finished with a lemony dressing. Make it for lunch, a quick dinner, potlucks or picnics. This lemon orzo recipe is vegetarian and easily vegan.
Lemon Orzo Salad for Lunch or Dinner
Whipping up salads that can stand up to days in the fridge is my kind of meal prep. Spring and summer-time means lots of salads and I’m not talking just the lettuce type, but hearty salads, like in my 10 Summer Vegetarian Salad Recipes collection, that stand in for the main course! Pasta salad packed with veggies is that kind of salad. Hearty, and nourishing while still indulging in a bit of pasta.
Made with asparagus, spinach, crunchy toasted almonds, olives and sweet bell pepper, this lemon orzo salad recipe is make ahead easy and make weekday lunches and weeknight dinners an absolute snap.
Why You’ll Love Lemon Orzo Salad
- Since this recipe is perfect for meal prep, lemon orzo salad can be portioned to individual lunch containers and stored in the refrigerator in lidded containers for up to four days.
- Lemon Orzo Salad is super simple to pull together.
- It’s packed with lemony flavor and crunchy veggies – so satisfying.
- It’s hearty, nourishing and filling.
What is Orzo?
Orzo is a small cut pasta about the size of long grain rice. It’s delicious in soup, salads, and casseroles to name a few. There are several ways to prepare it depending on the application. It can be boiled like any pasta, cooked like risotto, similar to my Creamy Orzo with Mushrooms, or pilaf.
For this Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad Recipe, the orzo is toasted first, then vegetable broth finishes the orzo to al dente. Toasting the orzo brings out its nutty flavor and adds a beautiful golden hue to the pasta.
Quick Guide: How to Make Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad
This pasta with asparagus and lemon comes together quick once the veggies are chopped and the toasted orzo and asparagus have cooled. The orzo and asparagus are cooked in one pan for easy clean up! In summary, here’s how to make it (see recipe card for details):
- First, to cook the orzo, toast it in a bit of olive oil until golden. Stir in vegetable broth and cook the orzo till al dente.
- Second, toast the almonds and chop the asparagus, bell pepper, spinach, olives, and chives.
- Third, just before the orzo is finished cooking, stir in the asparagus. It will gently steam while the orzo finishes cooking. Place in a large bowl and refrigerate.
- Fourth, make the dressing.
- Last, to the chilled orzo and asparagus, add the chopped bell peppers, chives, spinach, olives, feta cheese and toasted almonds. Pour the lemon garlic dressing over the ingredients and toss.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. This lemon orzo salad recipe stores in the fridge for at least four days!
Variations on Lemon Orzo Salad
This lemony orzo recipe is versatile enough to use what’s in the larder. Take a tour of what you have on hand, and perhaps you’ll find something new to toss in. Here are some variations I’ve tried with this recipe:
- Spinach is fabulous, but arugula offers a spicy contrast to this salad. A mix of the two is quite nice.
- I find Kalamata olives impart snappy, briny interest in this lemony salad. I’ve subbed sun dried tomatoes for Kalamata and love the results.
- Once my chives are spent in the herb patch, I go for green onions.
- This recipe calls for blanched almonds, but whole chopped almonds will work beautifully too.
- I love loads fresh parsley in this orzo salad recipe. Use more or less to your taste and, when in season, add a handful of fresh chopped basil.
- Shredded parmesan would make a nice stand in for the feta.
- For a heartier salad, add 1 1/2 C of cook chickpeas when tossing in all the other ingredients. It may need a splash or two more of lemon juice.
Love orzo? Give my Lemon-Garlic Orzo with Roasted Vegetables recipe a go! With over 500k social shares, you know its gotta be good!
- When cooling the pasta in the refrigerator, give it a stir a few times. This helps separate the pasta grains, and allows the pasta to cool more quickly.
- This orzo salad stores beautifully in the fridge for up to four days and is perfect for meal prep! Portion into individual containers for quick grab and go lunches.
- Freezer friendly? I’m afraid not. The fresh veggies would turn to mush and lose their crunch.
- Make it Dairy Free (vegan)! Simply leave the feta out to make this Lemon Orzo Salad vegan or sub with dairy free feta crumbles.
- To make this salad stretch even further, add 1 1/2 C of cooked chickpeas when mixing in the spinach.
- Chive flowers make a lovely addition to this salad. They are edible!
More Seasonal Salad Recipes to Love
- Summer Pesto Tortellini Salad
- Garbanzo Summer Salad with Creamy Dill Dressing
- Quinoa Tabbouleh Salad with Chickpeas
- Lemon-Dijon Asparagus and Pea Macaroni Salad
- Spinach Pecan Brown Rice Salad
Lemon Orzo Salad with Asparagus, Spinach and Feta Recipe
For the Salad:
- 1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 C (185g) Orzo Pasta
- 1 3/4 C (410g) Vegetable Broth
- 1 lb (430g) Fresh Asparagus ends snapped, cut into bite size pieces
- 1/2 C (70g) Almonds blanched or whole
- 1 1/2 C (215g) Yellow Bell Pepper medium dice
- 3 C (105g) Spinach packed, then chopped
- 3/4 C (110g) Kalamata Olives quartered
- 1/2 C (85g) Feta crumbled, I like sheep's milk feta
- 1/3 C (12g) Chives chopped fine, or use 3 green onions, chopped
- Fist-Full of Fresh Herbs such as Parsley and/or Basil curly or flat leaf, chopped fine
- 1/4 tsp Fine Sea Salt more to taste
- Fresh Ground Pepper to taste
For the Dressing:
- 3 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 4 Tbs Fresh Lemon Juice from about 2 lemons (add up to another teaspoon for even more lemony goodness!)
- 1 tsp Lemon Zest about one lemon
- 2 tsp Fresh Garlic microplained or finely chopped, from about 2 medium cloves
For the Salad:
- Cook the Orzo and Asparagus: In a large saute pan, heat the Olive Oil on medium heat until shimmering. Add the orzo and stir, coating the orzo thoroughly. Stir occasionally on medium low heat for about 3 minutes or until the orzo is toasty and golden. Add the vegetable broth. Be careful here because the broth will spit and sputter. Bring to a simmer, turn down the heat to low, cover and cook for 10 minutes, then stir in the asparagus. Relid and cook on low for another 4 or 5 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and the asparagus is tender crisp. Stir. Remove from heat, and transfer to a large bowl. Place in the refrigerator to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 350F (180C) and toast the almonds for about 8-9 minutes or until golden and fragrant. Set aside to cool. If using whole almonds, give em' a good rough chop. *Note: I use my toaster oven for this rather than heating up my big oven. The almonds can also be toasted on the stove top in a dry pan on medium heat. Toast for 2-4 minutes, depending on which variety of almond you use, and stir/toss frequently so that they toast evenly. Remove from heat and pan when fragrant and golden.
Make the Dressing:
- In a lidded jar, add the olive oil, lemon juice and zest and garlic. Shake until the ingredients are emulsified. Set aside.
To Assemble the Salad:
- To the chilled orzo and asparagus add the bell pepper, spinach, olives, feta, chives (or green onions), almonds, herbs, salt and fresh ground pepper. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss. Taste for seasoning adjustment.
- Store in the refrigerator until ready to share, or in individual meal prep containers for up to four days.
This was so delicious. FYI you forgot the crumbled goat cheese in the assembly of the salad.
Hooray! Thank you for your note Cheryl! Correction made (I appreciate it)!
The two of us enjoyed this as a side dish. Since I was planning on having it as a leftover for a couple of days, I decided to add the dressing to individual portions as they were served. I was concerned about the spinach being 2-3 days in the dressing. I plan on taking it to a pitch in this summer. I think it will be a welcome change to the standard pasta salad.
Hi Mary Lou! So happy to hear. Thank you for your note and rating!
I made this salad tonight. I like that it is nice and hearty and will hold up in the fridge for several days. I served it with a quick pickle mix of baby cucumbers and cherry tomatoes and also had steamed broccoli with it. I didn’t change much. I used red bell pepper instead of yellow and used kale instead of spinach. I added the kale to the asparagus and orzo while still warm so it would wilt slightly. I have already decided to make this salad for a potluck at the end of the month.
Hi Tara! Hooray for a reliable salad and that you’re taking it to a potluck! So happy to hear you’re enjoying the salad. Thank you for your note and sharing your tips!
What can I say — two of your recipes in one day — we are thankful. This was very satisfying for dinner. Made a few changes, of course. Had a big bag of English peas, so good. Toasted pine nuts. Your idea to toast the orzo was great! And added Dijon to the lemon and olive oil. At first it looked a bit wimpy, then came together and was fabulous. Please, keep them coming and
Big thanks, celesta
Hiii Celesta! Hooray! Two for two! Thank YOU for your note and giving the recipe a go! I love your addition of dijon – thank you for your tip :D
This is my all time favorite salad. I can’t say enough good things about it. I could eat this every day for lunch and never get tired of it. The first time I made it, I wasn’t sure about the dressing being enough but it is perfect.
This is wonderful! Second time around (always follow the recipe the first time) I used a baby spinach and arugula mix, and added some baby artichoke hearts that I quartered, either version is amazing! Keeping this one on the rotation for sure this summer!
Meal prepped this for lunches this week. I knew it would be good, but it’s GOOD. Added chickpeas. One batch made enough for 4 lunches. Making the second batch now. Try it! And thank you for the recipe!!
Hooray! So happy to hear Marissa. Thank you for your note!
This salad is one of the reasons I love summer. Thank you for all your wonderful recipes!
Hi Phyll! Thank you for your note and giving the recipe a go! So happy to hear you’re enjoying it!
This recipe just makes me happy! So sunny with a nod toward warmer days ahead! And – anything with orzo works!! Thanks for re-sharing this beauty, Traci!!
Loved it!!! Good and a little heartier with chicken added. Also broccoli adds a little more texture.
Laura | Tutti Dolci
I’m all about orzo salads and this looks fantastic for summer picnics!
Sarah @ Making Thyme for Health
Such a vibrant spring salad! I’m obsessed with all things lemon right now so I know I would love this. And two thumbs up for it holding up for days in the fridge!
Aysegul D Sanford
This is such a delicious summer salad that uses delicious veggies in the best way possible. Seriously, so good.
Thank you Ayse! I know you’d love it!
Excellent salad. The lemon is lovely. I think this would be good with Israeli couscous too. Will make an appearance at our cottage this summer, I’m sure. Thanks for another great recipe!
Hi Vivian! Thank you so much for coming back and leaving a note and your suggestion of Israeli couscous! I’m so happy to read it. An appearance at your cottage sounds lovely!
Geraldine | Green Valley Kitchen
I love orzo salads, Traci! It is one of my favorite pasta types and it works so well with this combination of flavors. Asparagus, spinach, nuts, olives and feta – savory and salty! This is the kind of salad that I make a big batch and have on hand all week – works well as a main meal, side salad or a grab and go lunch – just so good. And yes to cooking in vegetable broth for an extra flavor boost. Looking forward to trying this!
I know you’re a fan, Geraldine! It’s just lighter than most pasta – next to couscous! Savory and salty.. FTW and make once eat all week, it doesn’t get much better. I hope you’ll give it a go!
Liz @ Floating Kitchen
Oooh I love orzo in salads. And you know I love those chive blossoms, too! Perfect for Summer potlucks!
I look forward to chive blossoms SO much Liz! I have so many in bloom right now… but the bees are certainly enjoying them too. Isn’t orzo SO nice?
This salad will definitely be in my fridge for lunches and in the rotation for bringing to parties. For me it’s spot on as is but I appreciate the variations you suggest to accommodate taste preferences as those come up often! Orzo was a pasta I never had growing up but I love it in recipes now.
Isn’t orzo so nice? Same here, Jean. I didn’t know what it was until my late 30s!?!? And how is that!? I hope you enjoy the recipe, Jean!
Mary Ann | The Beach House Kitchen
I love pasta salads all year long Traci, but especially so during the summer. So easy to make for weekend guests and the perfect thing to have in the frige all week long. What a delicious combination of ingredients in this one. I love orzo pasta, and those kalamata olives are my favorite. Love that you kept the dressing nice and light. I’ll definitely be giving this salad a try. Happy weekend!
Year round FTW Mare! No doubt summer time calls for pasta salads… portable, easy and yes!! I’m so with you! I hope you and Tom enjoy it!
How much feta (I am using Violife vegan)? It looks delicious, and local asparagus is available now.
Good catch, Shrileen and thank you (fixed now!)! You’ll need 1/2 C. I’ll see if I can find Violife… ! Thank you for your tip.
This recipe is one of my all-time favorite of yours! Whether warmed and with veggie Italian sausage or chilled like this one, the flavors are spectacular, and the nutrition excites me beyond Beyond. Sooo satisfying! It’s hearty and delicious and something I could eat every week without tiring. Simple and easy and perfect. Thank you for sharing this wonderful creation!
I know you’re a fan, Jen! SO happy you like it. I knew you’d like the crunch! LOL!