Whipped up in mere minutes, this chilled shrimp and orzo salad delivers a burst of refreshing flavors for those warm summer days. Packed with succulent shrimp, al dente orzo, crisp vegetables, and a zesty lemon dressing with fresh basil, this effortless salad captures the essence of summer in every bite.
You don’t need to be a seasoned chef to whip up this quick and easy summery pasta dish. It just requires a bit of roasting, and whisking together a quick homemade dressing, and… Voila!
You’ve got yourself a scrumptious shrimp orzo salad ready to enjoy and impress your family and friends. With minimal time and effort, you’ll create a dish that’s light and perfect for a summer dinner.
There’s nothing quite like a cold salad for easy summer nights. If you’ve got fresh corn and a little more time, you might want to make a warm shrimp carbonara pasta dish, or try an antipasto salad with marinated veggies. If you’re going to a potluck then you have to bring this fabulous macaroni salad, but when you’re short on time and want something light and refreshing, you’re going to love this summer pasta salad.
Add some kalamata olives and fresh lemon basil dressing for Mediterranean inspired flavors added with some Southern Carolina shrimp. You can serve it as a warm pasta dish, but this shrimp recipe is best served at room temperature or cold.
It’s a winning seafood salad that can be served at a summer BBQ, potluck, or 4th of July picnic. You won’t heat up the kitchen with long cooking times and if you need a quick dinner, it can be on the table in the time it takes to cook the pasta to cook.
While hearty enough for a main dish, you could also serve this as a refreshing side dish to serve with steaks for a surf and turf meal.
Cooked shrimp are one of those seafoods that are so versatile. Try them marinated or in a creamy dip for some appetizers. Grilling them adds so much flavor when added to quesadillas, they are delicious in shrimp boil packs, and of course you can’t have a seafood boil without them. Try going Tex-Mex and add them to some creamy shrimp enchiladas.
Can I use frozen shrimp in lemon orzo salad?
Yes, you can use frozen shrimp for this recipe. Just make sure you thaw them before cooking and dry them off well. Most shrimp are frozen immediately preserving their flavor so even though we can get fresh shrimp living just a couple of hours from the coast, for practical reasons, I buy them frozen most of the time.
How to thaw frozen shrimp
There are three ways to thaw shrimp safely, you don’t want to thaw them in the microwave.
- Let them thaw overnight in the fridge.
- Place the package of frozen shrimp in a bowl of cold water, use a plate to keep them submerged, they will thaw in about 45 minutes.
- Remove the shrimp from the package and place them directly in a bowl of cold water. They will thaw in 10-20 minutes.
What else can I add to this pasta salad?
You can add extra veggies like cherry tomatoes or peppers to this salad. You can also substitute baked salmon for the shrimp. This is great if you like to meal prep. Just make some extra salmon one night and use the leftovers for this salad.
Why You’ll Love This Lemon Orzo Shrimp Salad
- Quick and Easy: This recipe is a breeze to make, perfect for those busy days when you want a delicious meal without spending hours in the kitchen.
- Refreshing Flavors: The combination of shrimp, orzo, and lemon basil dressing creates a light and refreshing salad that’s perfect for hot summer days. Fresh herbs and fresh lemon juice really add a punch of flavor.
- Versatile: Whether you’re hosting a picnic, a potluck, or simply enjoying a family dinner, this Shrimp Orzo Salad is a versatile dish that can be served cold or at room temperature, making it a go-to option for any occasion.
Why use orzo?
One of the star ingredients in this recipe is orzo, a small pasta that looks like rice. It adds a lovely texture and acts as a perfect base for absorbing all the flavors of the dish. If you don’t have orzo on hand, you can easily substitute it with other small pasta shapes like couscous.
Shrimp Salad Recipe Ingredients
- Orzo: This tiny pasta resembles rice and adds a delightful texture to the salad. You can use other shapes of pasta.
- Shrimp: Succulent and juicy, the shrimp are ready available in any area of the country.
- Asparagus: These tender green spears add a pop of color and a fresh, slightly crisp texture to the salad.
- Olive Oil: A versatile and healthy oil that adds a smooth richness to the dressing and enhances the flavors of the other ingredients.
- Lemon: The zest and juice of lemon brightens up the dish, providing a tangy and refreshing element. A fresh lemon is a must! Learn how to get the most juice our of your lemon.
- Garlic: A little bit of minced garlic brings a subtle, savory note to the salad. You can also use jarred minced garlic for a similar result.
- Fresh Basil: Fragrant and aromatic, fresh basil brings a hint of sweetness and complements the other flavors beautifully.
- Kalamata Olives: These add a saltiness and rich flavor to the dish. If you want a little spice to the dish, you can find these marinated in red pepper flakes. These make it more of a mediterranean shrimp orzo salad.
- Feta Cheese: This is an optional but a little sprinkled on top adds flavor and texture to the salad.
How To Make the Yummiest Lemon Orzo Shrimp Salad
Step 1: Cook the orzo.
Use the package directions to cook the orzo al dente in a large pot of salted water. Drain well and place it in a serving bowl.
Step 2: Cook the asparagus and shrimp.
While the orzo cooks, clean and cut the asparagus and add to a bowl with the raw shrimp. Coat them in olive oil, lemon zest, garlic, and salt and pepper. I find that using your hands works the best to coat the shrimp and asparagus.
Roast them on a sheet pan in the oven until the shrimp are just cooked through and the asparagus are still a little crisp. You could also cook them in a skillet over medium heat.
Step 3: Stir together.
Stir together the cooked asparagus, shrimp, orzo, and olives.
Step 4: Make the dressing.
Combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and basil in a mason jar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle half the dressing over the salad and mix it in. Save the rest to drizzle over the salad when it’s served along with the feta. Refrigerate or serve as-is.
Tips for Making a Summer Orzo Salad
- Cook the orzo al dente. Be sure to cook the orzo just until it’s tender with a slight bite. Overcooking can make it mushy.
- Don’t over cook the shrimp. Shrimp will cook pretty quickly so check them frequently.
- Season generously. Don’t be afraid to season the shrimp, asparagus, and dressing with salt and pepper. It helps bring out the flavors.
How to Store Leftovers
In the Fridge: Store any leftover shrimp orzo salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. The flavors will continue to meld, making it even more delicious with time.
In the Freezer: This salad is best enjoyed fresh, I don’t recommend freezing.
How can I adjust this recipe?
This is a forgiving recipe, and you can change it up to give it new life depending on the occasion. Here are a few ideas:
- Add chopped sun-dried tomatoes, and goat cheese along with some fresh mint to give the salad a Mediterranean vibe.
- Add in more vegetables, try red onion, cucumber, edamame, cherry tomatoes or a bell pepper.
Shrimp Salad FAQs
Can I prepare the dressing in advance?
Certainly! You can prepare the dressing a day ahead and store it in the refrigerator. Just give it a good shake before using it to dress the salad.
Can I add other herbs to the dressing?
Absolutely! Experiment with your favorite herbs like parsley, mint, dill, or cilantro to add a unique twist to the dressing.
Can I serve this salad warm?
Yes, you can serve it warm if you prefer. Just combine the cooked orzo, roasted shrimp, and asparagus while they are still warm, and drizzle the dressing over the top.
More Summer Salads to Love
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Cold Lemon Orzo Salad with Shrimp
For the Salad
- 1 cup orzo cooked
- 1 lb shrimp peeled and deveined
- 1 bunch asparagus cut into 2 inch pieces
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ tsp lemon zest
- 1 cup Kalamata olives pitted
- ½ cup feta cheese crumbled
- salt and pepper to taste
For the Dessing
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup lemon juice about 1-2 lemons
- 1 clove garlic minced
- 1 tbsp basil fresh, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
To Make the Salad
- Cook orzo in a pan of salted water per package directions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl to cool.
- Preheat oven to 450º.
- Cut the asparagus into 2-3 inch pieces and add to a bowl with the shrimp. Add olive oil, lemon zest, garlic and salt and pepper. Stir to coat and place on a rimmed baking pan. Roast for about 5 minutes until the shrimp are cooked through.
- Add shrimp and asparagus to orzo add kalamata olives and toss to combine.
To Make the Dressing
- In a jar with a lid, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and basil. Shake, add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle half over the salad and toss to coat. Save the rest for drizzling over the salad.
- sprinkle with feta cheese.
- Serve at room temperature or refrigerate to serve cold.
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- Be sure to cook the orzo just until it’s tender with a slight bite.
- Allow the cooked orzo, roasted shrimp, and asparagus to cool slightly before combining them.
- Don’t over cook the shrimp, they will take 5-8 minutes depending on the size.