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.
Why you'll crave it
I'm back with another recipe using everyone's favorite rice-shaped pasta! 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 will become your new summer favorite.
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 pasta that looks like grains of rice in a box 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 - whichever variety of little tomatoes looks freshest at the grocery store is your best bet. Grape, cherry, whatever!
- 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!
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.
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 with Chicken
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
Lynn Anderst says
This salad is so delicious! For some reason, I had a hard time finding orzo in my area, but I finally did! I was a little skeptical about the dressing. Did not want sweet to overpower, and it did not! I added chopped up Kalamata olives! Yum!!
I'm so happy you liked it, Lynn!!
This recipe was amazing. I wanted to try something new and I absolutely loved it.
Fantastic!! 🙂 Thanks for letting me know!
Really healthy salad for hot summer evenings. I used homegrown basil, arugula and tomatoes. I should have read reviews first. Definitely needs more dressing! I added Kalamata olives and dill. Better!
Yup you can definitely add more dressing according to your tastes. 🙂 Glad you enjoyed it!
Kate Nelson says
Fresh and delicious! Just wonderful. I followed the advice of some of the other reviewers and doubled the dressing recipe. *Chef's kiss*
Thank you so much, Kate!!
Enjoyed but definitely seeing more lemon juice & agree on adding more salt.
Yup, it's definitely easy to tweak it to your tastes. Glad you liked it!
OMG! I made this and I’m obsessed!! I went to Kroger to get the ingredients and it turns out that they actually had a lemon vinaigrette dressing that had all the ingredients for the dressing plus mustard. I used that in this recipe since I was short on time and it was delicious as well. I’m definitely making this again and it makes for a great meal prep
I'm so glad that you enjoyed it! That's handy about the dressing haha.
Kristen Bunch says
Ok - made this, and it was a hit! Here was my slightly altered version: green onions instead of red; add toasted pine nuts; add extra "squirt" of honey to cut the bitterness in the dressing; double dressing. EXCELLENT summer salad!
I'm so glad you enjoyed it!!
This was a perfect summer salad. We ate it as a main dish. Very good and light. I did make 50% more dressing, however which was perfect.
I'm so glad it was a hit!! Yup, definitely easy to tweak the dressing. Thanks for your review, Trudy! 🙂
I made this tonight and it was super tasty! I didn’t have a red onion so I added a little Dijon to the dressing to try to make up for the missing pizzaz. Really enjoyed it. Took the suggestion and mixed the arugula in when serving so I can enjoy over a few days. Thanks for sharing!
Awesome!! I'm so happy you liked it!
We made this for a large and inexpensive dinner on vacation in Hawaii and LOVED IT! Thank you!
That's awesome!! So glad you guys enjoyed it. 😀
Renee Fellows says
I made this recipe. I thought it was good! I life arugula so I ate some with it. My husband thought it was a side salad, so we’re have it with fish tonight. I used Banza rice instead of orzo for more protein.
I'm glad that you enjoyed it!!
Lori V says
Omg! This was excellent. Had as leftovers for a couple of days and forgot the arugula. Didn’t miss it actually. Soooo good. Will definitely make again.
I'm so happy you enjoyed it, Lori!! 🙂 Thanks for letting me know!
Great easy one dish recipe. I added a can of chick peas and tripled the dressing. I kept the arugula in a separate dish without dressing. I put 1/2 the dressing on the chicken, orzo and veggies and kept 1/2 for people to add with the arugula. Loved this dish and will make it again.
I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Louise!!
Excellent yummy fresh pasta salad. Quick and easy. Was a huge hit with everyone. Didnt change a thing. Will be making again for sure
Oops, I did change one thing. I almost doubled the amount of Lemon juice the recipe called for.
Yup, definitely a good idea to tweak ingredients to your liking. 🙂
Fantastic! So pleased you enjoyed it, Rachel!
My family loved this salad! Very light and summery. I substituted Dijon mustard for the garlic, used honey roasted rotisserie chicken, and feta instead of the Parmesan. They all agreed it was a keeper! Thanks for the great recipe!
Fantastic!! Sounds delicious. Thank you!
We all loved it. So fresh and so tasty.
Fantastic!! Thank you, Pia.
If you are meal prepping and don’t eat it right away do you reheat it or eat it cold?
It's not hot to begin with, so yeah it's great for meal prepping and eating cold. I recommend adding the arugula just prior to serving or leaving it out altogether if meal prepping (it's in the recipe notes).
If making ahead, what do you think about adding in the arugula just before serving?
I suggest that in the recipe notes, so yes lol. It'll definitely work. 🙂 Hope you enjoy the salad!
I absolutely devoured this! Such a perfect spring lunch! (I spaced on picking up cucumber at the market and it was still delicious)
I'm thrilled you enjoyed it, Frédérique 🙂
This is so good!!! Trying to cut out meat so ommited that and I changed it up a bit by only adding 1/4 cup parm, no cucumber or onion , subbed spinach for arugula, and used sundried tomatoes. It was amazing!!! Love all of your recipes!!
I'm so glad you enjoyed it!! Thank you!
My plan was to have this lovely salad for a dinner party outdoors yesterday. However, the weather disagreed & a cold plate didn't seem appropriate. Long story short, I doubled the dressing, omitted the cucumber & served this as a hot dish. It was a DELISH! It got raves & was truly tasty.
Thanks for yet another versatile crowd pleaser.
Ooh love that idea!! So glad you were able to pivot 🙂
I found the salad good but not fantastic. A little on the bland side as there was nothing the came forward …and I made it per the recipe. I would definitely add more lemon to the dressing. And feta instead of Parmesan cheese. Also some pitted black olives.
Really enjoyed this!!!
Excellent!! 🙂 Thanks for letting me know, Joy!
Loved this salad and will definitely make it again. I doubled the dressing, because I find pasta always soaks it right up. Added sliced kalamata olives. Soooooo good! Thanks for the recipe! We will enjoy this all summer.
I'm so glad you liked it, Donna!! Yup, the pasta definitely soaks it up.
Lindsey Yancey says
This is so yummy and so easy! Im out of parmesan so I substituted it with feta, and I’m happy with the outcome. Thank you for another recipe that hits it out of the park! XOXO
I'm so glad you liked it!! Thank you 🙂
Absolutely will make this for July 4th patty!! Looks so yummy!
Yay!! Let me know if you do!
I agree with the point of recipes needing to be fuss free during this season.
I'd love to try this as it seems an innovative way to present pasta with less effort.
My query is that is there any possibility to substitute Orzo with any other form of pasta?
Hi! I would normally say "yes", but my concern is that there may not be enough dressing if you do that. The orzo is pretty compact, and large pasta shapes may not work as well with the listed ingredient quantities. It is a pretty forgiving salad, though, so if you're willing to do a few tweaks (if needed), then I don't see why you couldn't give it a try. 🙂
You could try Acini de Pepe pasta. I find it to be a good substitute.
An absolute favorite! Already made this salad 3 times!!! Light and flavorful. Thanks for helping me look like a hero in the kitchen🥰
That's wonderful! Thanks so much for commenting. 🙂 XO