A recipe for Watermelon Feta Orzo Salad! This refreshing pasta salad is packed with watermelon, feta, red onion, and fresh mint.
This Watermelon Feta Orzo Salad is a great summer side dish to accompany seasonal grilling and/or picnics. It is also a fantastic way to use up leftover watermelon!
The flavors in the pasta salad were inspired by my recipe for Karpouzi me Feta (Greek Watermelon with Feta). Tender orzo pasta is coated in a light lemony dressing, then tossed with watermelon, feta, red onion, and fresh mint. It is best served at room temperature, but will keep up to two days in the refrigerator.
Orzo is a short cut pasta that looks like over-sized rice with its tapered ends. The name translates to barley in Italian and is sometimes referred to as rosa marina (slightly thinner than orzo) and manestra. Orzo is common in many cuisines throughout the Mediterranean. This dense little pasta is perfect for pilafs, salads, and soups/stews.
A Few Tips
Stir the orzo often as it boils, especially at the bottom. It tends to stick to the pan more than other types of pasta.
I added about 4 cups (600 grams) of cubed watermelon to the orzo salad and it was the perfect amount for me with a focus on the orzo. Bump the amount up to 5 cups if desired for a closer ratio of watermelon to pasta. Cut the watermelon into 1/2-3/4 inch (1.25-2 cm) cubes. You don’t want the pieces so large that they overwhelm the small orzo pasta.
Soaking the thinly sliced red onion in lemon juice is optional, but it helps take away some of the bite and adds a boost of citrus flavor throughout the salad. The thinly sliced red onions are combined in a non-reactive bowl with lemon juice, zest, and a pinch of salt. Allow to sit at room temperature, stirring every 5-10 minutes to make sure all the onions come in contact with the juice. I usually soak them for at least 15-30 minutes. If not using after 30 minutes, refrigerate until needed.
Not a fan of mint? You can swap it for equal amounts of fresh basil.
Want to add more vegetables? Arugula or diced cucumber would also be delicious.
Looking for more recipes with orzo?
This recipe was originally published in July 2015 and updated June 2021.
Watermelon Feta Orzo Salad Recipe
Adapted from Cooking Classy
Watermelon Feta Orzo Salad
- 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) olive oil
- 1 1/2 tablespoons (22 milliliters) balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoons (15 milliliters) fresh lemon juice
- 2 teaspoons (10 milliliters) honey
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Watermelon Feta Orzo Salad:
- 1/3 cup (40 grams) thinly sliced red onion
- 1/3 cup (80 milliliters) fresh lemon juice
- Zest from 1 lemon
- Pinch salt
- 10 ounces (280 grams) dried orzo pasta
- 4 cups (600 grams) cubed seedless watermelon
- 8 ounces (227 grams) feta cheese crumbled
- 1/4 cup (10 grams) fresh mint leaves thinly sliced
To make the dressing:
- In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, 1 tablespoon (15 ml) lemon juice, honey, and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to allow the flavors to blend as you prepare the remaining salad ingredients.
To make the Watermelon Feta Orzo Salad:
- In a small non-reactive bowl, toss the thinly sliced red onion with the 1/3 cup (80 ml) lemon juice, lemon zest, and a pinch of salt. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 to 30 minutes.
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the orzo and cook, stirring often, until al dente, just tender. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with half of the dressing and allow to cool to room temperature.
- Once the orzo has cooled to room temperature, toss in the watermelon, feta cheese, and fresh mint. Remove the soaked red onions from the juice and add to the salad along with the remaining lemon dressing, tossing lightly to combine. Adjust salt and black pepper to taste.
- Serve immediately at room temperature or refrigerate for up to 2 days.