Loaded with veggies like asparagus, spinach, and olives and a sprinkling of toasted almonds and feta, Lemon Orzo Salad is easy to pull together! Finished with a lemony dressing, make it for lunch, a quick dinner, potlucks or picnics. vegetarian + easily vegan
Whipping up salads that can stand up to days in the fridge is my kind of meal prep. Summer-time means lots of salads and I’m not talking just the lettuce type, but hearty salads 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.
Packed 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 we 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.
- This salad is 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 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.
How to Make this Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad Recipe:
This recipe comes together quick once the veggies are chopped and the toasted orzo and asparagus are cooled. The orzo and asparagus are cooked in one pan for easy clean up!
- 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: In a lidded jar add the lemon zest and lemon juice, olive oil and minced garlic. Shaaaake it up!
- 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 with Feta stores in the fridge for at least four days!
Variations on Lemon Orzo Salad:
- I love packing this salad with greens. Spinach is fabulous, but arugula can be included instead.
- 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. 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.
A Few Recipe Notes:
- 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 Vegan! Simply leave the cheese out to make this Lemon Orzo Salad vegan.
- 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 Summer Salad Recipes to Love:
- 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
For the Salad:
- 1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 C (185g) Orzo Pasta
- 1 3/4 C (410g) Vegetable Broth
- 1 lb (430g) Asparagus ends snapped, cut into bit 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
- 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, 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.