Here’s how to make a tasty Greek Orzo Salad with tender orzo pasta, cucumber, tomatoes, onion, sweet bell peppers, feta cheese, and bits of black olive. Dress it with Tzatziki Sauce to bring all those classic Greek flavours together into one summery pasta salad.
I love cooking with Greek or mediterranean flavours. Flavours like fragrant oregano, salty feta, and fresh cucumber transport me through time and space to the sunny hills of Santorini.
Greek Orzo Salad
In fact, it is so easy to use Tzatziki as salad dressing, I wonder why I haven’t thought of it before. Tzatziki Sauce is already creamy and full of flavour, why wouldn’t it also work as a salad dressing? Friends, this is one of those light-bulb life-hack AHA moments and I am glad to share it with you!
This orzo pasta salad is so delicious! I love how the creamy Tzatziki mixes into the soft orzo and how the fresh veggies provide a welcome textural crunch. The green herbs add to the freshness of the tangy tzatziki and keep the salad light and bright.
There’s a bit of chopping in this salad which makes it the perfect opportunity to practice knife skills. I like to dice the vegetables into fine or very fine sizes so they match the tiny orzo pasta. Note that you can make this salad with any shaped pasta and cut the vegetables to match.
Orzo vs. Kritharaki
Fun fact: ‘orzo‘ means ‘barley’ in Italian though sometimes it is also called ‘risoni’ which means ‘rice’. Since this is a Greek recipe, the proper name for this tiny rice shaped pasta salad is Kritharaki Salad. However, as you (and everyone else) most likely searched the internet for Greek Orzo Salad, this recipe is conveniently named as such.
Both orzo and kritharaki are used in a variety of dishes throughout Italy and Greece. They form the basis of comforting pasta dinner dishes, casseroles, soups, salads, ‘risottos’, and even some desserts.
Ingredients for Greek Orzo Salad
This pasta salad recipe contains all of the usual ingredients also found in traditional Greek Village Salad, or Horiatiki plus Tzatziki and orzo.
- Red Bell Pepper
- Red Onion
- Fresh Dill
- Fresh Italian Parsley
- Fresh Oregano
- Feta Cheese
- Black Olives
Just like any pasta salad, you can substitute the orzo for another similar sized (or not) pasta or even whole grains. Try other pastines (small pastas) such as stelline, Ditalini, couscous, fregola, Acini de Pepe, or small macaroni. You can also go up a pasta size and use elbow macaroni, gemelli, orecchiette, or penne.
Alternatively, make this into a whole grain Greek pasta salad by substituting pot barley, farro, quinoa, rice, or even legumes such as lentils.
The fresh vegetables are widely available and pretty self explanatory. I like English cucumbers as they tend to have fewer seeds than field cucumbers. Substitute cherry or grape tomatoes for the tomatoes and any colour of bell pepper for the red bell pepper.
Fresh herbs really sing in this salad but you can use their dried counterparts if you need to.
I buy blocks of sheep or goat feta and crumble them using a fork. You can buy pre-crumbled feta if you like.
Use a can of sliced black olives, or use whole kalamata olives and pit them before you chop them up. I actually prefer the taste of whole dried black olives. Add the kind of olives you prefer or none at all.
Lastly, let’s talk about the tzatziki salad dressing hack. My Tzatziki Sauce recipe contains Greek yogurt, cucumber, garlic, dill, oregano, lemon zest and juice. It’s pretty simple to make and if you make a double batch, this side dish salad will be ready to serve in no time!
How to Make Greek Orzo Salad
In any pasta salad recipe, the first task is to cook the pasta. For this recipe, the orzo needs to be cooked all the way through (not al dente) but not overcooked to the point that it becomes mushy.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil then cook the Orzo pasta according to package directions. Test it often once it nears the maximum suggested cooking time.
Drain the orzo well, then rinse it with cold water. Set it aside to cool completely in a medium bowl. While the pasta cools, prepare the vegetables.
Peel and deseed the cucumber, then dice it (see photo for size). Next, deseed the tomato then dice it into the same size pieces as the cucumber. Do the same for the red pepper. Pit the black olives and dice them up also. Add the vegetables to the salad bowl.
Peel and finely dice the red onion (smaller than the cucumber, tomato, red pepper, and olives). If it is very strong, soak it in cold water for ten minutes. Drain the onion well before adding to the salad.
Roughly chop the fresh dill, oregano, and Italian parsley. Add the herbs to the salad mixture. Finally, add the crumbled feta cheese, then pour over the Tzatziki Sauce. Stir to combine ingredients and serve cold.
How Long Will This Salad Last?
In short, how long this Greek orzo salad lasts depends on how you serve it. As with any dairy-based cold pasta salad, food safety is important. If you store the salad in the fridge until you are ready to serve it (and immediately replace it), it will keep for 3-5 days.
At room temperature, this salad can sit out for two hours maximum (ideally 1-2 hours). However, when serving outside on a hot day, it should be the last salad you set out on the picnic table and preferably in a shady spot out of the hot sun. It is not recommended to keep picnic or barbecue pasta salad leftovers.
Pro tip: place the salad bowl into a larger bowl filled with ice to keep it cooler for longer.
If you make this Greek Orzo Salad, please be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Be sure to follow me on Facebook and Pinterest for my latest recipes. Also, if you do make this recipe, please tag me on Instagram, I’d love to see what you guys are making! Thank you so much for reading my blog.
- 1 cup Orzo pasta
- 1 cup Tzatziki Sauce
- 1/2 English cucumber; peeled and small diced
- 2 tomatoes; de-seeded and small diced
- 1/4 red onion; very finely diced
- 1/2 red pepper; de-seeded and small diced
- 1/4 cup; chopped black olives
- 1/2 cup feta; crumbled
- 2 Tablespoons fresh dill; chopped
- 2 Tablespoons fresh Italian parsley; chopped
- 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, if available
- Cook the Orzo pasta according to package directions. Drain well, then rinse with cold water. Set aside to cool completely in a medium bowl.
- While the pasta boils, prepare the vegetables. Peel and deseed the cucumber then dice it (see photo for size). Addi it to the bowl of orzo.
- Deseed the tomato then dice it into the same size pieces as the cucumber. Next, deseed and dice the red pepper into similar sizes. Pit the black olives and dice them up also. Add them all to the salad bowl.
- Peel and finely dice the red onion (smaller than the cucumber, tomato, red pepper, and olives). If it is very strong, soak it in cold water for ten minutes. Drain well before adding to the salad.
- Chop the fresh dill, oregano, and Italian parsley. Add the herbs to the salad mixture.
- Add the crumbled feta cheese, then pour over the Tzatziki Sauce. Stir to combine ingredients and serve cold.
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 141Total Fat: 7gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 3gCholesterol: 14mgSodium: 234mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 5g
Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.