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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.

How much did you LOVE this recipe?

Please leave a comment below or share a photo on Instagram with the hashtag #unsophisticook!

Greek orzo salad filled with fresh veggies, feta cheese, and kalamata olives

Greek Orzo Salad

If you love orzo salad recipes, I think you’ll also adore this Greek orzo salad! Dressed in the same lemony vinaigrette, it’s filled with cherry tomatoes, roasted red peppers, cucumber, feta cheese, and Kalamata olives with a punch of fresh parsley and mint.


Did you make this recipe?
Tag @unsophisticook on Instagram and hashtag it #unsophisticook.

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

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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.

Jourdan

Saturday 6th of June 2020

This looks amazing! Any ideas for substituting to make it gluten free?

Tara Kuczykowski

Monday 8th of June 2020

Hi Jourdan! I'm not super well versed in what makes a recipe gluten free, but I do know that Delallo makes a gluten-free orzo pasta that would be perfect for this. Here's the link to it on Amazon: https://amzn.to/2APMjzX or I'm sure they have a product locator on their website.

Laurie Rigdon

Tuesday 16th of April 2019

I'm making this for our Teacher "Salad" Luncheon and wondered if you can prepare the night before? Just worried that it might get soggy. Thanks!

Tara Kuczykowski

Tuesday 16th of April 2019

Oh, how fun! You can definitely prepare this orzo salad the night before. If you decide to add feta cheese, like I mentioned in the post, I would probably wait and stir that in the next morning before you leave. But everything else will still be delicious!

Dominique

Friday 17th of August 2018

This was crazy delicious! Next time I’ll make double so I can keep some for myself! It was gone in a flash! Thank you for sharing!

Tara @ Unsophisticook

Saturday 18th of August 2018

Thanks for coming back to share a review, Dominique -- so glad to hear you enjoyed it!

Megan

Thursday 2nd of August 2018

This salad is so delicious! The first time I made it with the 1/4 cup of salt but stupidly made it in a smaller pot so there was less water. The pasta came out tasting pretty salty so I rinsed it a bit but there was nothing I could do since I was serving it that night so I added in the rest of the ingredients and hoped for the best. It was SO good! The rest of the ingredients really balanced it out and it was the perfect amount of seasoning for a really flavourful pasta salad. Second time around I used a bigger pot and slightly less than 1/4 cup of salt (just because I feel guilty if I don't at least attempt to lighten things up a bit) and it's still fantastic! So I now make it that way all the time and I've made this recipe at least 5 times in the last couple months. It's great to keep in the fridge for a few days and use it as a last minute side dish, especially in the summer when cold salads are so great. I also sprinkle about 1/2 - 3/4 of a cup over my garden salads that I take for lunch and it makes the salad more enjoyable and I don't need dressing. Delicious! Thanks so much for a great recipe :)

Tara @ Unsophisticook

Thursday 2nd of August 2018

I'm SO happy to hear how much you love it, Megan! And I think your comments on the salt are spot on. It sounds like a ton, but when you use the proper amount of salt and water, it really just flavors the pasta perfectly -- and the majority of the salt stays in the water. Thanks so much for weighing in!

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