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Big Batch Lemony Basil Orzo Pasta Salad

This healthy orzo salad recipe is FULL of bright, fresh, summery flavor… Gorgeous red and yellow cherry tomatoes, bright parsley, and vibrant basil, along with a dose of fresh lemon zest and juice marry together to make the perfect side dish to share at your next gathering!

orzo salad with a lemon vinaigrette dressing and lots of fresh veggies

Orzo Salad for A Crowd

If you make just one recipe for your next cookout, it has to be this orzo salad! It’s one of those go-to, back pocket recipes that you can always count on in a pinch. Just a few reasons why it’s one of my faves:

1| It makes a BIG batch, which is perfect for a crowd. But if you’re not feeding a crowd? It refrigerates well for several days. And trust me, you will have NO problem finishing it all off.

2| It’s packed full of fresh vibrant flavors that make it an ideal easy side dish or salad year round. But it’s especially delicious in summer when those juicy little cherry tomatoes are in peak season.

3| And finally, it can really stand up to the heat. When potato salads and macaroni salads filled with mayo are starting to appear a little suspect, this refreshing orzo salad is still hanging tough.

Don’t be surprised when you see guests heading back for seconds… and then even thirds. It’s THAT good! I certainly wouldn’t count on having any leftovers to take home.

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orzo salad recipes ingredients

Summery Orzo Pasta Salad

This lemony basil orzo pasta salad is perfect this time of year. It highlights all of the great summery flavors that you can buy fresh right now — gorgeous red and yellow cherry tomatoes, bright parsley, and vibrant basil, along with a healthy dose of fresh lemon zest and juice.

It’s the type of summer salad that only gets better as the flavors marry together while it chills. So it’s the perfect side to make earlier in the day for an evening gathering.

Not familiar with orzo? It looks very similar to rice, but it’s actually a rice-shaped pasta. Orzo means “barley” in Italian, referring to the small, barley-like shape. I’ve tried several kinds of orzo, and I always come back to the DeLallo brand. I can count on it to cook up perfectly al dente, without a trace of the mushiness I’ve found with some other brands. Kroger and Walmart carry it around here, and I always grab several packages when I see it on sale to keep on hand.

Speaking of cooking orzo pasta, I always follow the cooking instructions from the DeLallo package, which I’ve outlined in the recipe directions. I know a quarter cup of salt sounds like a ton, but it gives the orzo massive flavor, and most of the salt stays behind in the water. When you use this method, you really shouldn’t have to add much additional seasoning to the finished orzo salad.

orzo pasta salad packed with veggies

Orzo Salad Recipe

While I adore this orzo salad as is, you can also add a 4-oz. container of crumbled feta cheese for more of a Mediterranean orzo salad. Or even turn it into a main dish by adding some sliced grilled chicken breast on top, which would also make this a fabulous meal prep recipe. Either way, just make it ASAP — I promise you won’t be sorry you did!

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summery orzo salad recipe that makes a big batch for a crowd

Lemony Basil Orzo Salad

Yield: 12 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 9 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 24 minutes

This healthy orzo salad recipe is FULL of bright, fresh, summery flavor… Gorgeous red and yellow cherry tomatoes, bright parsley, and vibrant basil, along with a dose of fresh lemon zest and juice marry together to make the perfect side dish to share at your next gathering!

Ingredients

  • 1-lb. orzo pasta
  • 1/4 cup salt
  • zest of 2 large lemons
  • juice of 2 large lemons (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup roasted red peppers, chopped
  • 2 cups red and yellow grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup green onions, greens only sliced
  • 1/2 cup fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 pkg. (0.66-oz.) fresh basil, chopped

Instructions

  1. Bring 5 quarts of water to a rolling boil and add 1/4 cup salt. Add the orzo pasta to the water and stir. Bring the water back up to a boil. Stirring occasionally, cook for 9 minutes.
  2. While the orzo is cooking, zest and juice the lemons into a large mixing bowl, and whisk in the olive oil.
  3. When the orzo is done cooking, drain it (do not rinse), and toss it with the dressing while still hot.
  4. Allow the pasta and dressing to cool while you chop the rest of the ingredients.
  5. Fold in the red peppers, grape tomatoes, green onions, parsley and basil.
  6. Refrigerate for at least two hours. Serve cold.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 12 Serving Size: 3/4 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 200Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 2380mgCarbohydrates: 25gFiber: 3gSugar: 5gProtein: 4g

Nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.

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More Favorite Cookout Recipes

If you like this easy orzo for a crowd, you might also enjoy these other cookout recipes:

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Robin

Saturday 2nd of July 2022

Can you make this two days before a bbq? Or perhaps part of it two days before and then finish with herbs and tomatoes the morning of or day before the bbq? I’m trying to prep and make as much as I can ahead of time. Thanks!

Tara Kuczykowski

Sunday 3rd of July 2022

Hi Robin! Yes, you can definitely make the pasta part ahead. Like you mentioned, I would wait until the day you plan to serve it to stir the herbs and tomatoes in.

Gail Bohlman

Thursday 30th of June 2022

Love this salad but I love lemon! I added Asian cucumbers that I grew & topped with marinated grilled chicken. Served with French baguette bread and fresh grated parmesan to add. Great summer meal.

Tara Kuczykowski

Thursday 30th of June 2022

Oh my, that sounds amazing, Gail!! So happy you loved it — thanks for letting me know.

Lena

Sunday 12th of June 2022

Is your serving size 1 cup? Thanks

Tara Kuczykowski

Sunday 12th of June 2022

Hi Lena! A serving would be roughly 3/4 cup.

Diane

Saturday 18th of September 2021

I was looking for an orzo pasta salad like the one they make at Q39 in Kansas City. This is pretty close. Made this last night and took to a cookout/football party today. It’s all gone! It was delicious. Everyone loved it. I didn’t add enough salt to the water so I did end up having to add salt to the salad. My bad. I added a little pepper too. It is a keeper. Thank you.

Tara Kuczykowski

Sunday 19th of September 2021

Yay, so glad it was a hit, Diane!! I know it's a scary amount of salt to add to the cooking water, but it really does flavor the orzo so well that you shouldn't need to add any additional salt.

Alex Walters

Sunday 21st of June 2020

Approximately many basil leaves make up the package you use?

Tara Kuczykowski

Monday 22nd of June 2020

Hi Alex! I'd say around 10-12 medium to large size leaves. It probably works out to about 1/2 cup chopped, same as the parsley.

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