This is a main dish summer pasta salad, featuring plump briny shrimp and one of the cutest pasta shapes out there, orzo. Orzo is like little grains of rice that are actually — surprise — pasta! I adore all types of orzo salads under the sun. If you do too, you can also check out Vegetarian Spring Orzo Salad, Spinach Orzo Salad, and Greek Orzo Salad, or scroll to the end of this recipe for even more options.
My Summer Shrimp and Avocado Salad turned into this pasta salad the next day. When I made it from scratch another time, I had the advantage of knowing that I could dice and add the avocado right before serving, which was the only real drawback of making it from leftovers. This pasta salad is gorgeous, summery, and filled with color and texture — it’s a perfect way to make a warm weather afternoon feel awfully special.
Table of Contents
- Extra-large shrimp – Cook according to the instructions below for how to cook shrimp on the stove, or check out how to cook your shrimp in an air fryer!
- Orzo – Cook the orzo according to the directions on the package, and then cool before using it in this recipe.
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Fresh lemon or lime juice – The citrus lends fresh acidity to the dressing.
- Honey – Honey counteracts the bite of the citrus with a touch of sweetness.
- Red onion – For crunch and a little heat.
- Corn kernels – You can use freshly cooked corn in season, or otherwise cooked frozen corn works well.
- Jalapeño pepper – Seed the pepper and chop it finely.
- Avocado – Add the diced avocado at the last possible second so that it’s still green when served.
- Tomatoes – You can use cherry or grape tomatoes here; multi-colored cherry tomatoes add even more vibrancy if you have them. You can also cut regular tomatoes into nice-sized dice if you prefer.
- Fresh cilantro – Add some fresh, green leaves as an optional garnish (parsley is another option).
How to Cook Shrimp on the Stove
- Prep your materials: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water.
- Add the shrimp: Add the shrimp to the pot of boiling water. Cook the shrimp for 3 to 4 minutes, just until cooked through.
- Cool the shrimp: Immediately drain the shrimp and submerge them in the ice water bath for 10 minutes. Drain.
- Peel: Peel the shrimp and cut them in half cross-wise (unless you are using small shrimp or like the impact of whole shrimp in your salad). Cover and refrigerate until ready to use in the salad.
How to Make Shrimp Orzo Salad
- Make the dressing: In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, onion, salt, and pepper.
- Toss the salad: Add the shrimp, orzo, avocado, tomatoes, corn, and jalapeño, and toss to coat with the dressing.
- Serve. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with the cilantro, if using.
Make Ahead and Storage
What I love about this recipe is that you can cook the orzo, shrimp, and corn a day or two ahead of time. Oh, and yes, you can even buy pre-cooked shrimp if you want to deal with even less prep! You can also make the dressing up to three days ahead of time so that it’s super easy to serve this dish when the time comes.
The best way to prep this dish ahead of time is to assemble the whole salad, minus the tomatoes and avocados, up to one day ahead of time. Add the tomatoes and avocados just before serving, and bring the salad to cool at room temperature before serving for the best flavor.
Store leftovers in the fridge for no longer than 2 days. The citrus juice should delay the avocado from turning brown. Even if it does, it’s still good to eat.
Orzo may look like a bunch of grains of rice, but it’s actually a variety of pasta. This pasta shape is called “orzo” because it looks like unprocessed barley grains, which have the same name in Italian. Traditionally, orzo is used in Italian soups like Avgolemono, but it’s also great when it acts as a pasta all on its own, combined with lots of fresh ingredients!
Yes, since your shrimp is pre-cooked, you can eat it cold. Just make sure you’re not leaving it out of the fridge for too long. Cooked shrimp (whether you cook them or purchase them already cooked) are best eaten within about two hours at room temperature.
If you put your cooked shrimp in the fridge, it can keep for up to 3 days. Frozen cooked shrimp will last for up to 10 months, as long as you keep them sealed in the bag they came in, or in an appropriate airtight container. After 10 months, the texture may start to change, and become a bit less firm and crisp.
More Main Dish Summer Salad Recipes
- Late Summer Cobb Salad
- Summer Whole Grain and Vegetable Salad
- Artichoke, Feta, and Roasted Pepper Couscous Salad
- Couscous Salad with Shrimp, Roasted Tomatoes, and Pesto Dressing
- Grilled Shrimp Salad with Citrus Dressing
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Shrimp Orzo Salad
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juice
- 1 teaspoon honey
- ½ cup chopped red onion
- Kosher salt and freshly pepper (to taste)
- 3 cups cooked and cooled orzo (cook according to package directions)
- 1 pound cooked extra-large shrimp (see above for cooking directions if you need them!)
- 1 avocado (diced)
- 1 cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes
- ½ cup cooked corn kernels
- 1 jalapeño pepper (seeded and finely chopped)
- Fresh cilantro leaves (to garnish, optional)
- In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, onion, and salt and pepper.
- Add the shrimp, orzo, avocado, tomatoes, corn, and jalapeño, and toss to coat with the dressing.
- Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with the cilantro, if using.
- You can cook the orzo, shrimp, and corn a day or two ahead of time.
- You can use pre-cooked shrimp if you want to deal with even less prep!
- The dressing can be made up to 3 days ahead of time.
- The best way to prep this dish ahead of time is to assemble the whole salad, minus the tomatoes and avocados, up to one day ahead of time. Add the tomatoes and avocados just before serving, and bring the salad to cool at room temperature before serving for the best flavor.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.