Why I'll Never Get Tired Of This Orzo Recipe

It’s full of fresh flavors that’ll leave you perfectly satisfied, but not overly stuffed.

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Spring Shrimp-and-Orzo Salad with Lemon Dressing
Photo: Photo: Antonis Achilleos; Prop Styling: Claire Spollen; Food Styling: Chelsea Zimmer

Orzo is one of my favorite ingredients because it’s a great base that can be turned into a myriad delicious dishes. Our Orzo Salad with Shrimp and Lemon Dressing is the perfect example: You can serve it hot or cold, swap out the veggies for what’s in season, switch up the protein to your liking, or even keep it vegetarian if you prefer. 

I’ve yet to come across an orzo dish I really didn’t like, though I can’t say I have ever followed a recipe exactly. Though this recipe is quite tasty the way as is, I like to take a few creative liberties—bringing in or swapping out a few ingredients here and there while still keeping it light and fresh.

Bonus: The dish is ready in under 30 minutes, making it ideal for busy weeknights. And while not all dishes are equally enjoyed as leftovers, this is one I actually look forward to eating for lunch the next day. 

Why I Love This Easy Orzo Recipe

One of my favorite things about this dish is that you can really alter it to your liking or based on what you already have on hand in the fridge or freezer. While asparagus and snap peas are ideal for spring, you can easily substitute other vegetables, preferably crisp ones, like snow peas, green beans, wax beans, artichoke hearts, or even broccoli (though it wouldn't be my first choice) in either fresh or frozen form. 

You can also play with the herb medley—though you should stick with fresh herbs rather than dry spices for this dish. I often have parsley and chives on hand but not tarragon, so I just roll with it. Mint makes for a refreshing addition as well. If you want to make it a little creamy, stir in a bit of freshly shaved parmesan cheese with the orzo when it’s still warm. Or to check the cheese craving, toss in crumbled feta when assembling. 

If shrimp isn’t for you, or you just want to switch it up because like me, this dish has become part of your regular recipe rotation, chicken is a tasty alternative protein whether it’s a freshly cooked chicken breast, leftover meat, or a rotisserie chicken.

I always love a meal that can be enjoyed at various temperatures. While this salad is delicious served hot or cold, I prefer it warm. When I’m eating it as leftovers for lunch, I'll often add it on top of a bed of arugula to bulk it up.

How to Make This Orzo Salad 

The first time I went to make this recipe, our One-Pan Garlic-Butter Shrimp with Orzo also caught my eye. It inspired a few of my fun additions and changes, turning my rendition of this orzo salad into a mix between the two dishes, while still staying on the healthy side.

My version of the recipe starts slightly differently: I sauté one shallot, sliced in quarters, with a drizzle of olive oil on medium heat for about 3-4 minutes. Once the shallots start to turn golden, remove them from the pan and put them on a plate to the side, then add the orzo to the same pan to lightly toast. After about 1 minute, add the orzo to a pot of boiling water and cook according to the package directions until al dente.

To retain the color and crispness of the vegetables, I followed the recipe as is. By blanching the snap peas and asparagus, they retain their nutritional value and add a nice vivid green hue to the dish. This also softens the vegetables only slightly so they still add crunch and texture to the salad. 

Rather than boiling the shrimp, I chose to sauté them for more flavor, using the same pot in which I cooked the shallots and toasted the orzo. With a touch of butter and drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, and red pepper chili flakes, cook the shrimp on medium heat for about 3 minutes. Omit the ice bath for the shrimp, then follow the recipe to finish, combining all the ingredients and tossing with the zesty dressing.

Whether you choose to get creative like me or enjoy the recipe as is, you can’t go wrong with this herby, light and bright dish.

Recipe: Orzo Salad with Shrimp and Lemon Dressing

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