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Lighten up with this refreshing Cucumber Lemon Orzo Salad. Made with fresh herbs, Persian cucumbers, and toasted pine nuts, this salad is then tossed with a lemon garlic dressing. Made in 20 minutes!
With only a few days left of school, it’s safe to say that summer is just around the corner! And with the arrival of summer, we turn our attention towards lighter, fresher foods. I do love the soups and stews of winter, but nothing gets me excited like a good old summer salad. I, for one, could not be more excited!
One of the most satisfying parts of summertime meals is picking the herbs and vegetables right out of my own garden. This Lemon Orzo Salad uses a combination of herbs and vegetables that are super simple to grow at home. But, don’t fret if you’re not a gardener. All these ingredients can be found at your neighborhood grocery store making this a delicious AND simple summer salad.
Let’s kick off summer eating and take a look at this vegan orzo salad.
Recommended Ingredients & Equipment
Ingredients & Substitutions
- Orzo Pasta – While orzo looks like rice, it is, in fact, a short cut pasta made from wheat. You can substitute any type of pasta. If you are going to use another kind of pasta, I recommend anything that is small such as elbow pasta or small shells.
- Olive Oil
- Lemon Juice
- Cucumbers – I recommend Persian or English cucumbers but any type will work. You could also swap out the cucumbers for fresh asparagus.
- Herbs – You will need fresh parsley and mint.
- Pine Nuts – These can be omitted for a nut free version.
Variations – For more veggies, feel free to add kalamata olives, cherry tomatoes, and/or red onions.
Check out the full list of my recommended kitchen tools and gadgets.
How to make Lemon Orzo Salad
Step One – Cook the Orzo
Orzo can be prepared either like rice or pasta. Similar to rice, you can cook it in water until the water has absorbed or even use a risotto or pilaf method to prepare it. Otherwise, you can also boil orzo with water as you would pasta. The pasta method is the one I recommend for this recipe.
Tips and Tricks
- Let your water boil before adding to orzo. If you add the orzo in the water too early, it will stick to the bottom of the pot.
- Stir the orzo frequently to avoid clumping.
- Cook orzo for about 9 minutes until the pasta is al dente.
- Strain the pasta through a fine mesh strainer. Once the water has drained off, immediately toss the pasta in olive oil or a salad dressing to prevent the orzo from continuing to cook. This also reduces orzo clumping.
- Orzo can be served hot or cold. For this salad, I recommend placing it in the refrigerator after tossing it with the lemon dressing to cool it down before adding the herbs and vegetables.
Step Two – Make the Dressing
While the orzo is cooking, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic. This should be ready to toss with the orzo as soon as the orzo is cooked. Once the lemon dressing is mixed, set it aside.
Optional: For extra lemony flavor, you can add the zest of 1 lemon to the dressing.
Strain the orzo through a fine mesh strainer then immediately mix it with the lemon dressing. Place it in the refrigerator to cool while you prepare the rest of the vegetables.
Step Three – Prepare the Veggies
While the orzo cools, you can prepare everything else for the salad.
- Cut the cucumbers into small pieces. I use Persian Cucumbers for this recipe which are naturally smaller but if you can only find a large cucumber, consider quartering them before slicing.
- Cut and mince the arugula and herbs.
- Toast the pine nuts (if they aren’t already toasted)
Once the vegetables are prepared, toss them together with the orzo. Return the salad to the refrigerator and let it chill for at least 30 more minutes before serving.
Serving and Storing
Serving – Let this salad chill for at least 30 minutes before serving. This salad is best if it can be made several hours in advance, allowing the flavors to soak all the way into the pasta. Serve this lemon orzo salad as a light lunch or part of a larger dinner. It pairs well with a Lemon Pepper Cauliflower Steaks or these 4-Ingredient Portobello Steaks.
Storing – Store uneaten salad in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, this salad will work with other kinds of pasta if you prefer. If you are going to use another kind of pasta, I recommend anything that is small such as elbow pasta or small shells.
Because orzo is pasta, it is traditionally made with wheat. However, you can buy gluten-free orzo or substitute any other gluten-free pasta for this recipe. While rice would also work for this recipe, I don’t recommend using it.
More Pasta Salad Recipes
- Classic Pasta Salad with Red Wine Vinaigrette
- Vegan Macaroni Salad
- Vegan Pasta Primavera
- Mediterranean Pasta Salad
Cucumber Lemon Orzo Salad
- Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, and garlic in a small bowl and set aside.
- Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Cook orzo in the boiling water for 9 minutes, stirring occasionally. Strain the orzo well and transfer it to a large bowl. Toss with olive oil/lemon juice mixture and place in the refrigerator to cool.
- Prepare the vegetables and herbs.
- Toss the cucumbers, arugula, herbs, and pine nuts with the orzo. Add salt and pepper and return to the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve with fresh lemon wedges and freshly ground pepper.