Throw this delicious salad together in 15 minutes. Use rice-shaped orzo pasta, chopped vegetables, and vibrant lemon-honey salad dressing. Have it for lunch or bring it to a beach picnic.
Orzo Pasta Salad Ingredients:
I picked ingredients that contribute to the lively, fun color of the whole salad, because you and I eat with our eyes, too!
It’s all stuff you can easily grab in your supermarket, farmers market or a specialty store. In L.A., I get my olives, Bulgarian feta cheese, and cucumbers from a small, but well-stocked Persian market.
- ORZO–Scroll down for more info and how to cook it.
- FETA CHEESE–pronounced FEHT-uh, it originated in Greece and the Balkan countries. It is traditionally made from sheep’s or goat’s milk, and sold in the shape of a small brick, sitting in a pool of brine. It has a salty, tangy flavor, and semi-hard texture. For this recipe, it’s better to get whole feta (not crumbled), so that you can cut it into cubes.
- OLIVES–they’re one of my favorite snacks, condiments, salad, and/or pasta sauce ingredients. I went with very small, pitted, black Niçoise olives and kept them whole. Get whatever olives you fancy—green, black, purple—but they should be plain (not stuffed with garlic, chilis, etc.), and pitted. Slice them if they’re too big.
- CUCUMBERS–Persian or English cucumbers are the best for this salad. They’re crispy and you don’t have to peel them.
- TOMATOES–there are now so many varieties and colors of the cherry tomato. I used the red, sugar plum grape kind, and cut it in half. Don’t use regular, big tomatoes for this—they would fall apart and get watery/mushy, when diced.
- BELL PEPPERS–they add a nice crunch. I went with an orange bell pepper, but pick your favorite color: red, yellow, green, or purple.
- RED ONION–I love the purple color and the sweetness. You can use a shallot, too.
- MINT–its fresh flavor adds a nice depth to the salad. The quantity is small and not overwhelmingly minty–just a hint. Any kind of fresh mint is good, but make sure the leaves are evenly colored and not wilting.
What’s Orzo and How Do You Cook It?
Orzo, which means barley in Italian, looks like basmati rice, but it’s pasta, and made from durum wheat. It is popular in the Middle East and you might spot it in soups, salads, or pilafs. It’s usually stocked with other types of pasta shapes.
You’ll cook it like any other pasta: in plenty of boiling, salty water.
Once it’s cooked al dente, strain it in a sieve and run under cold running water, to make it stop cooking from residual heat. Shake and tilt the sieve to make sure all the water runs out.
Your orzo is now ready for your salad. Here’s a visual:
The 15-Minute Orzo Pasta Salad Dressing
This is my universal, always-tasty, never-boring salad dressing that’s great on so many salads. Also, lemon zest is my answer to almost any cooking flavor improvement—add some and see the magic happen.
And freshly squeezed lemon juice mixed with honey is just divine. They balance each other and complement this salad so well.
Make double or triple the recipe, store it in the fridge for up to two weeks, and use it on other salads.
The easiest way to make the salad dressing is to dump all the ingredients in a small jar, close the lid tightly, and shake vigorously, so that it emulsifies. If you make double, the jar becomes your storage container 👍.
(You can also prep it in a small bowl and use a whisk, or fork).
How to Cook 15-Minute Orzo Pasta Salad?
Full disclosure: I’m pretty anal about all ingredients in this salad being very close in size. That way I get a taste of most of them in a single bite.
But it’s totally fine if you don’t feel like mincing, chopping and cutting everything down to a 1/4″ size—use whatever knife skills you have and it will still taste great.
Here’s my work flow:
- Start with boiling water, then add pasta, and cook til al dente—this takes about 8–10 minutes.
- Chop vegetables, mint, and feta while the pasta’s cooking. Place them in a bowl.
- Strain and rinse the pasta, add it to the vegetables.
- Prepare dressing and pour it all over the ingredients.
- Toss to combine and serve—all done in about 15 minutes.
Want more tasty recipes? Try these:
- My collection of vegetarian recipes, all cooked in less than 30 minutes.
- This classic Czech Potato Soup (Bramboračka) is one of my most popular recipes. Because it rocks!
- Have you ever tried Kolache (Koláče)? It’s a delicious brioche-dough Czech pastry.
- Quick & healthy: Chickpea Salad With Tomatoes and Cucumbers.
- Another great pasta recipe is the Easy Creamy Penne Alla Vodka
- Try my Czech grandma’s fluffy, tender Bohemian Pancakes.
- I love to snack on these Czech Potato Pancakes (Bramboráky).
- Discover how to use poppy seeds in a new way: Poppy Seed Bundt Cake
- Make this for breakfast: Easy Savory Oatmeal Bars
Did you make the 15-Minute Orzo Pasta Salad? What’s your favorite salad?
Tell me in the comments.Print
Quick salad made with tiny orzo pasta and Greek-inspired ingredients: tomatoes, cucumbers, olives, bell peppers, feta cheese, and fresh mint. Dressed with vibrant, lemon-honey salad dressing.
- 1 cup (170 g) dry orzo pasta
- 1½ cup (190 g) diced Persian or English cucumber (halved, quartered, 1/4″ dice; about 3 medium Persian cucumbers, or ½ English cucumber)
- 1 cup (140 g) cherry or sugar plum grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup (140 g) diced orange, yellow, red, or green bell pepper; stemmed (1/4” dice, about 1 pepper)
- 1 cup (130 g) diced whole feta cheese (1/4” dice)
- ¾ cup (85 g) small, pitted Niçoise olives
- ¼ cup (30 g) finely chopped, peeled red onion
- ¼ cup (5 g) finely chopped fresh mint (leaves only)
- Salad Dressing
- ¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest (about 1 medium lemon) – zest the lemon first, then cut in half, and juice
- 2 tablespoons (30 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon (15 ml) honey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- In a large, covered, pot, bring 2 quarts (2 liters) of water to a boil over high heat. Remove the lid, add 1 tablespoon of salt, and the orzo pasta. Cook until al dente, about 8–10 minutes.
- Strain the pasta in a sieve. Rinse under cold running water until no longer hot. Drain well, shaking out any excess water, and place in a large bowl.
- (To save time, you can prep the other ingredients while the pasta is cooking).
- Add the rest of the salad ingredients to the bowl with the cooked orzo.
- Prepare the salad dressing by combining the oil, lemon juice, honey, lemon zest, and salt in a small jar. Secure with a lid and vigorously shake, until the dressing emulsifies. (You can also whisk all ingredients in a small bowl until emulsified).
- Add all the dressing to the bowl and toss until combined.
- Serve the salad at room temperature—too cold, straight from the fridge will make the flavors dull.
- Store covered and refrigerated, for up to three days. Bring to a room temperature before serving.