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This lemon orzo salad recipe is a fresh, healthy, and colorful summer salad that’s a breeze to make! It’s ready in about 30 minutes.

Try this Easy Italian Pasta Salad for another quick summer salad recipe.

lemon orzo salad in a white bowl

Why you’ll love it

Orzo is extremely popular lately, so I’m thrilled to bring you even more recipes with it. You loved this Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup, so I’ve come up with this irresistible orzo salad with chicken and fresh vegetables and a quick lemon honey vinaigrette that’s simple to make.

This bright lemon orzo pasta salad is easily customizable and lends itself to substitutions or additions. My mantra has always been that summer recipes like salads should be fuss-free. Who wants to be in the kitchen for hours when you can be outside on the patio with a glass of prosecco?

What you’ll need

For the salad

  • Orzo – you’ll find this small rice-shaped pasta in the dry pasta aisle
  • Cucumbers – I prefer using mini (Persian) cucumbers, but if you can’t find them, half a regular English one works just fine
  • Tomatoes – use grape, cherry, or any little tomato variety
  • Onion – red onion is the ideal kind for salads since it’s less sharp than other varieties and packs a crunch
  • Arugula – for some green goodness, but it’s optional if you’d like this salad for meal prep
  • Chicken – I just bought a rotisserie chicken for ease, but if you’ve got a leftover Roast Chicken, that’s great too
  • Parmesan – I can’t resist giving this pasta salad a little bit of a cheesy dimension
  • Basil – fresh basil perfectly complements and enhances all the flavors

For the dressing

  • Lemon – we’re using both freshly squeezed lemon juice and the zest for ultimate brightness. I like to use my Microplane to effortlessly zest it.
  • Olive oil – to balance out the acidity and add body
  • Honey – for a hint of sweetness
  • Garlic – use even more if you’re a big fan of garlic! I like to use this garlic press to mince it since you don’t even need to peel the cloves.
  • Salt & pepper – as with any pasta salad, it’s important to be generous

Make ahead tip

If you want to make this salad ahead of time or for meal prep, I suggest leaving out the arugula. That way, it’ll last in the fridge a few days no problem. Just mix in the arugula when you’re ready to enjoy it!

lemon orzo pasta salad with chicken in a glass prep bowl

How to make lemon orzo salad

This is an overview, and full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.

  • Boil a salted pot of water, and cook the orzo al dente. Rinse with cool water, drain, and transfer the pasta to a large bowl.
  • Prep and chop all the salad ingredients and add to the bowl.
  • Add the dressing ingredients to a jar or small bowl and mix thoroughly. Toss the salad with the dressing, and enjoy!

Substitutions and variations

  • I used a rotisserie chicken for this recipe, but you can definitely quickly cook some chicken if you have some. Try pan frying it with your favorite seasoning, and it’ll be delicious.
  • Need to make this vegetarian? Simply omit the chicken.
  • Feel free to throw in any fresh herbs you may have in the garden!
  • If you don’t like arugula, try swapping it for spinach.
  • I think that Kalamata olives and/or capers would go great in here if you’re a fan.

What to serve with orzo salad

  • It makes a fantastic lighter main course, so it’s perfect on its own or with a slice of crusty bread.
  • You can also leave out the chicken, and then it makes a perfect complement for seafood recipes such as my Easy Pan Seared Salmon Recipe or these Tequila Lime Shrimp.

Leftovers and storage

  • As mentioned above, this orzo salad will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days no problem if you leave out the arugula.
  • If this salad has been sitting out in the sun for any amount of time, I’d eat it right away or discard it for food safety reasons.
lemon orzo salad close-up

Are you an orzo fan? Leave me a comment below if you have any questions or if you’ve made this orzo salad. As always, tag me #saltandlavender on Instagram if you’ve made one of my recipes. 🙂

lemon orzo salad close-up
4.89 from 26 votes

Lemon Orzo Salad with Chicken

This lemon orzo salad recipe is a fresh, healthy, and colorful summer salad that's a breeze to make! It's ready in about 30 minutes.
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 15 minutes
Total: 30 minutes
Servings: 6

Ingredients 

  • 1 cup uncooked orzo
  • 2 mini cucumbers (or 1/2 English cucumber) chopped
  • 1 cup little tomatoes (grape/cherry/etc.) cut into quarters
  • 2 tablespoons red onion chopped
  • 2 cups (loosely packed) fresh arugula optional
  • 2 cups cooked/rotisserie chicken
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil sliced thin

Dressing:

  • 1.5 tablespoons lemon juice + zest of 1 lemon
  • 2.5 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions 

  • Boil a salted pot of water and cook the orzo al dente according to package directions. Once it's done, rinse it with cool water and let it drain thoroughly. Transfer to a large bowl.
  • Meanwhile, prep all the salad ingredients and add them to the bowl. If you're not going to eat the salad right away, I suggest skipping the arugula.
  • Add the dressing ingredients to a jar or small bowl, and whisk/shake until well combined.
  • Toss the salad with the dressing. Add more lemon/oil if needed. I also add plenty of salt & pepper – there's a lot of pasta in here, so you need to salt it well so it doesn't taste bland.

Notes

  • This recipe makes quite a lot of pasta salad. If served with nothing else, this could serve 4 adults. You can easily get 6+ servings out of this. If you know you’re going to have leftovers, I suggest either leaving out the arugula or only tossing it with the portion of the salad you’ll be eating right away. Without arugula, this salad will last in the fridge for a few days no problem.
  • Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.

Nutrition

Calories: 270kcal, Carbohydrates: 22g, Protein: 19g, Fat: 12g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Cholesterol: 42mg, Sodium: 167mg, Potassium: 256mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 491IU, Vitamin C: 5mg, Calcium: 116mg, Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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Hi! I’m Natasha.

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84 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Made this tonight and it was so good!! It was also very easy to and quick to make. I will definitely be making it again. Thank you so much for sharing it!!

  2. 5 stars
    I doubled the recipe and brought to a tennis luncheon. Everyone raved about it and asked for recipe. For sure a crowd pleaser!

  3. 5 stars
    This salad turned out really nice. We enjoyed it as a meal in itself. I slightly changed the recipe because I don’t care for cucumbers and tomatoes. Instead, I used sun dried tomatoes and added capers and pine nuts, and doubled the amount of fresh basil.

    I placed the orzo salad on top of the arugala so that I can have it for another couple days without it getting soggy. Also left out the honey in the dressing, and added another clove of garlic.

    Delish! Will be making this one again!

  4. 5 stars
    didn’t really follow the directions as far as portions go. Just eyeballed it getting equal parts red and purple and green. Threw in a butt ton of chicken that was sitting around. What really put this up a notch was the lemon and the lemon zest. Do not….for the sake of the meek and unadventurous….skimp on the lemon or the basil. Go ahead. Eyeball the EVOO and honey and make it lemony. When you do it will set you apart from the ordinary with a killer salad that will see bowls empty after the meal and the uninitiated thinking you’re a culinary God.
    Seriously. This is a really good meal.

  5. 5 stars
    I was so happy to pick the veggies this morning from my little garden and make this delicious salad. I surprised my daughter with lunch today and she absolutely loved it. This is definitely a keeper!

  6. 5 stars
    OMG! This is mind blowing. I am Singaporean and been eating plain salad that is lifeless, structureless and sad hahaha. Tasted Orzo the very first time and it this is the real star to the bite. Made the same recipe but ran out of cucumber & replaced it with zucchinni instead. (Lovely) The structure of this dish combines everything, love the raw onions and garlic that gave the punch, and the queen of crunchiness tops it all. Thank you for the recipe and definitely coming back for more.

    1. I’m thrilled you enjoyed it, Sandra!! πŸ˜€ Thanks for taking the the to write me a review! πŸ˜€

  7. 5 stars
    I adore the lemon chicken orzo soup!! Make it often!! I cannot wait to make this it’s sounds yummy with crusty bread!!!I

  8. 5 stars
    This is SO good. Just as written. I didn’t use the optional arugula. I did eat some leftover over a bed of romaine. But, the salad itself is perfect. Thank you SO much for sharing. I will be eating this regularly.