Herb Orzo Salad
on May 24, 2021, Updated Aug 21, 2023
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Tiny rice shaped pasta is surrounded with chopped herbs and vegetables in this colorful, cheerful, portable orzo salad.
I don’t know why orzo salads make me so cheery, but they do. Something about the way the tiny, rice-shaped pasta plays with small bits of vegetables is just festive and charming. And whether the other ingredients are a bit more restrained in terms of variety and color, or a full-on explosion of ingredients, it all just works for me. If you love orzo salads as much as I do, also think about bookmarking Shrimp Orzo Salad, Greek Orzo Salad, and Vegetarian Spring Orzo Salad!
This salad is definitely in the full-on explosion camp and one of those good staples to think about after a trip to the farmers market. The dressing is simple, with just a bit of lemon juice, rice vinegar, and olive oil. Then add in the orzo…and the red peppers, red onion, fennel, basil, mint, parsley, and crumbles of goat cheese. I like serving this colorful pasta salad alongside chicken — maybe some Roasted Chicken Thighs or Grilled Chicken Breasts — or just some good ol’ burgers.
Table of Contents
Orzo Salad: Tiny rice shaped pasta is surrounded with chopped herbs and vegetables in this colorful, cheerful, portable orzo salad.Tweet This
- Olive oil – Adds flavor and silkiness.
- Lemon – You’ll use the juice AND the zest here; remember to zest the lemon before juicing it!
- Rice wine vinegar – I love the softer acidity of rice vinegar, but you can sub in another vinegar if that’s what you have on hand.
- Bell pepper – I used a combo of red and yellow peppers here to make the salad even more vibrant.
- Red onion – Adds a nice sharp oniony crunch.
- Fennel – Adds a refreshing anise flavor, but not enough to be overpowering in combo with all of the other herbs and veggies. See the FAQ section if you need a refresher on how to cut a fennel bulb.
- Herbs – Fresh basil, mint, and parsley give this orzo salad its title. Chop them all up roughly, or maybe even consider chiffonading them for an extra flourish.
- Goat cheese – Either use a whole 4-ounce log of cheese or ⅔ cup of the crumbled variety. You can use plain or find a flavored goat cheese that you like.
Variations and Substitutions
- You can use feta instead or leave out the goat cheese for a vegan salad.
- Feel free to add in or sub in any other vegetables you like: sliced or diced zucchini or summer squash, asparagus, sugar snap peas, or even tomatoes.
How to Make Herb Orzo Salad
- Cook the orzo: Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking.
- Make the dressing: In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
- Make the salad: Add the cooled orzo, bell peppers, onion, and fennel to the bowl, and toss. Add the basil, mint, parsley, and goat cheese, and lightly toss to combine.
Orzo is not a type of rice — but it has the same shape as rice, so it can be confusing! In fact, this pasta shape gets its name from the Italian word for barley because its small shape looks like barley grains.
In the most basic sense, herbs are leaves. When it comes to cooking, though, herbs are leaves that are aromatic, which means they secrete oil that you can smell. Think of the scent of a big handful of fresh basil — that’s an herb’s calling card. Some popular herbs include basil, thyme, mint, parsley, rosemary, sage, dill…The list goes on and on.
First, cut off the fronds as close as possible to the bulb and set them aside. Next, cut the bulb in half. Inside the bulb, you’ll see a triangular-shaped core; use the tip of your knife to remove that wedge from the center. Now your fennel is ready to slice or chop to your liking, either horizontally or vertically. (For this dish, you’re going to dice it up!)
What to Serve With Herb Orzo Salad
More Orzo Recipes
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Herb Orzo Salad
- 12 ounces dried orzo
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice wine vinegar
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
- 2 bell peppers (finely diced)
- 1 small red onion (finely diced)
- 1 small bulb fennel (finely diced)
- ½ cup roughly chopped fresh basil
- ½ cup roughly chopped fresh mint
- ½ cup roughly chopped parsley
- 1 4-ounce log fresh goat cheese (crumbled – approximately ⅔ cup; optional)
- Cook the orzo according to package directions. Drain and rinse with cool water to stop the cooking. Let it sit in the colander while you make the dressing.
- In a large bowl. combine the olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper. Add the cooled orzo, bell peppers, onion, and fennel and toss. Add the basil, mint, parsley, and goat cheese and lightly toss to combine.