Easy Mediterranean orzo salad recipe with feta, loads of crunchy vegetables, fresh herbs, and a tangy Greek dressing. Make this healthy pasta salad for your next picnic or prepare it ahead for dinner! It’s even better the next day.
Orzo: So many ways to use this tiny pasta!
Orzo is a tiny pasta that looks like rice, and it’s one of my go-to pantry staples because it takes very little effort to cook and can be served hot or cold! It’s honestly one of my favorite types of pasta. I toast it up with some sun-dried tomatoes for a quick side, bake it with Greek-style chicken, or throw it in a lemony soup when I’m looking for something comforting.
And if we’re talking favorite pasta salad for a summer cookout, it’s orzo salad for the win. This Mediterranean orzo salad recipe with feta, loads of crunchy veggies, and tangy Greek-style dressing is loaded with flavor and goes with nearly any protein of your choice (I like it a lot with souvlaki). And because it keeps well, it’s the perfect make-ahead dish for a picnic or to pack for lunch.
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Orzo salad recipe ingredients
These are familiar ingredients that you may find in a Greek orzo salad. Together, they deliver some big bold flavors that I enjoy year-round. Here is what’s in it:
- Tomatoes: I like using small tomatoes here like grape tomatoes or cherry tomatoes. Even though they’re small, it’s a good idea to slice them in half so that they release their juices and add flavor to the salad.
- Chopped vegetables: Green onions (use both the white and green parts for a more dynamic flavor), green bell pepper with the seeds removed, and cucumber. I recommend only using a cucumber if you’re serving immediately. The water content of the cucumber will not sit well in the fridge if you’re making this salad ahead.
- Herbs: I use fresh parsley and dill. They add an earthy flavor that brightens the dish. Dill is grassy with a licorice-like taste and parsley has lots of herbaceous notes.
- Kalamata olives and capers: These add texture and a nice briny tang.
- Crumbled feta: Use a little or a lot, but a few crumbles of salty feta will seal the deal on this pasta salad!
The healthy, bright salad dressing is a close version of my go-to ladolemono dressing. All you need is some good extra virgin olive oil, lots of fresh lemon juice, minced garlic, and a dash of dried oregano.
Simply combine the ingredients in a small bowl, season with a good pinch of kosher salt and black pepper, and whisk to combine. Or, throw all the dressing ingredients in a Mason jar and shake vigorously!
And if you don’t use all the salad dressing, it will keep in a tight-lid container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks! (But I try to use mine within a week.)
How to make orzo salad
Very little effort required to make this quick pasta salad! Start by cooking the orzo pasta in salted boiling water until al dente. (Mine took about 8 minutes, but follow package instructions.)
While the tiny pasta cooks, chop up the vegetables and herbs. And when the pasta is ready, drain and allow it to cool a little bit.
Combine the chopped vegetables, fresh herbs, olives, and capers in a large bowl. Add the drained orzo pasta and stir gently.
Grab your prepared salad dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and oregano, and pour it over the orzo salad. Toss until all the salad elements are well-coated in the dressing. (Note that, depending on your taste, you may not use all the dressing). Top with chunks of creamy feta cheese, cover, and refrigerate for a while before serving.
Orzo pasta salad tips for success
While this pasta salad recipe is fairly fuss-free, I have a few tips that make all the difference in flavor!
- For best flavor, dress the orzo while still somewhat warm. Once the pasta is cooked, drain it well and let it cool briefly. But don’t let it cool completely – it’s good if the pasta is still a little bit warm when you toss the salad together. Somewhat warm pasta will drink up the lemony dressing and absorb the flavors well.
- Chop the tomatoes and vegetables into small chunks of similar size. The smaller bites will distribute better in the pasta and will create the perfect texture.
- Use fresh herbs. When it comes to parsley, use some of the stems as well as the leaves – they pack huge flavor. . If you need to, you can use dried herbs. Keep in mind that dried dill maintains flavor well while dried parsley is much more muted and best used as a garnish. If you’re swapping dry herbs for fresh, the general rule of thumb is to use ⅓ the amount called for in the recipe.
- Use some lemon zest in the dressing for even more zippy lemony flavor.
- Allow the salad to rest in the fridge for about an hour before serving. This will allow the flavors to meld. If you don’t have a whole hour, even a few minutes will help.
My favorite thing about this is how versatile it is. I serve this Greek orzo salad year-round paired with other Greek recipes. But it’s the perfect side dish with grilled meats like lamb burgers or yogurt-marinated grilled chicken breast. And it’s also great with seafood like seared scallops, trout, salmon, or a fancy but oh-so-easy whole roasted branzino.
Leftovers and storage
If properly stored in the fridge in a tightly closed container, this Mediterranean orzo salad will last 3 to 5 days. Keep in mind that if you sprinkle it with feta cheese, you’ll want to refrigerate any leftovers within an hour of serving.
More orzo recipes
Mediterranean Orzo Salad
- 1 ½ cup dry orzo pasta
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 green onions, trimmed and chopped (both white and green parts)
- ½ green bell pepper, seeds removed, chopped
- 1 cup packed chopped fresh parsley, about 1 ½ ounces
- ½ cup packed chopped fresh dill, about 0.5 ounces
- ¼ cup sliced pitted kalamata olives, about 1 ounce
- 2 teaspoons capers
- Feta cheese, to your liking
For the Dressing
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 teaspoon oregano
- Cook the orzo pasta according package instructions (mine took about 8 minutes). Drain and cool briefly.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the grape tomatoes, green onions, bell peppers, parsley, dill, olives and capers (hold the feta for now). Add the orzo pasta.
- Make the dressing. In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, oregano and a good pinch of kosher salt and black pepper. Whisk to combine.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and toss until well combined and the orzo pasta is well coated with the dressing.
- Top with pieces of creamy feta cheese. Cover and refrigerate for a bit before serving.
- For best flavor, mix the orzo salad while the pasta is still somewhat warm so it will absorb as much of the dressing flavors as possible. Cover and refrigerate for a bit (up to an hour) before serving to allow flavors to meld.
- Serving suggestions: This Mediterranean orzo salad pairs well with a variety of dishes, from lamb and chicken to scallops and salmon.
- How to store leftovers: Leftover orzo salad will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 2 to 3 days. If sprinkled with feta, be sure to refrigerate leftovers within an hour of serving.
- Visit our online shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oils and spices.
*This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2020 and has recently been updated with new information and media of readers' benefit.