Recipe: Shrimp and Orzo Salad

shrimp salad recipe

summer shrimp salad

Because sometimes, when you’ve been eating a lot of takeout and drinking way too much wine, your body finally taps you on the shoulder and is like, “Um, hello? Can we please have something light, fresh, and healthy today?”

That’s basically what my body said to me recently (or was it my liver?), and who I am to ignore that nagging internal voice that wants you to load up on high quality foodstuffs? So I whipped up this light but satisfying salad, and immediately felt better. What is it exactly? The perfect summer meal: shrimp sauteed in olive oil and lemon, mixed with freshly chopped raw vegetables, tons of herbs, and orzo pasta. Dress it in a light vinaigrette, and dig in. I like this dish because you can make the shrimp and orzo salad on its own and eat it as is, or pile it high on fresh greens (I love it with peppery baby arugula). The shrimp salad itself can be zhushed up with any veggies you have on hand, and you can swap out the herbs for whatever your favorites are. In my version, I used fresh tomatoes, basil, parsley, peppers, and a few other goodies, but I think this would be good with dill, sun dried tomatoes, and even summer corn. You can finish the salad with a little crumbled feta, or omit it if you’re being extra good.

We have a bunch of the shrimp and orzo salad left over, and it’s the perfect thing for a take-to-work lunch, or for a picnic with friends. Give it a try and let me know what you think! Here’s how to make it: 

healthy orzo pasta salad with shrimp

healthy shrimp and orzo salad


Serves 2 for a hearty lunch

1 small red bell pepper, seeded and finely diced
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (about 15 tomatoes, halved)
1/2 bunch of scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup of scallions total)
1/2 cup basil, finely chopped
1/2 cup parsley, finely chopped
1 cup of dried orzo pasta
3/4 lb shrimp (21-25 ct), cleaned, peeled, and tails removed
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp garlic powder
2 lemons, each cut in half
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 oz feta cheese
3 cups baby arugula, washed and dried
— optional garnishes: sliced avocado, sliced cucumber
— kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine the red bell pepper, tomatoes, scallions, and herbs in a large bowl. Set aside.

Fill a medium sized pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. Season well with salt, to flavor the pasta. Add the pasta and cook for about 9 minutes, or however long the box directs.

While the pasta cooks, heat a saute pan over medium high heat, and add in 2 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil. Next, add in the shrimp, being sure to distribute so they’re all in an even layer in the pan. Season the shrimp with salt and pepper and the garlic powder. Allow to cook until the first side has turned bright pink and springs back to the touch, about 2 minutes. Use tongs to flip the shrimp over, season again, and then add the juice of half a lemon. Let cook until completely pink on both sides, about another 3-4 minutes. Once done, transfer the shrimp to the bowl with all the vegetables and herbs.

By now, the pasta should be nearly done. Once time is up, drain the pasta in a colander, and gently rinse with cool water, shaking the colander to distribute the liquid. Drain the pasta completely, then transfer it to the bowl with the shrimp and vegetables. Juice two more lemon halves over the mixture, add the vinegar, then add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, and season the salad with salt and pepper. Gently toss to combine, tasting to see if it needs additional seasoning (more acid, more oil, more salt or pepper).

If you’re eating the salad on its own with no lettuce, you can crumble in the feta now and serve. If you’re making it into a heartier salad with greens, divide the arugula onto two plates, then pile the shrimp salad on top. Crumble a little bit of the feta on top of each salad, and serve. You can also serve additional oil and vinegar on the side for anyone who likes their greens with additional dressing.

You’ll have some additional shrimp and orzo salad left; just keep it covered in the fridge or in tupperware, and it’ll be good for another 3-4 days!

Images by Victoria McGinley for vmac+cheese


  1. 7.22.14
    Abby said:

    This looks so light, but filling! YUM!

  2. 7.22.14
    Julia said:

    I hear ya about too much take out/wine. That tends to happen in the summer! If I wanted to make this sans cheese, any recs for a replacement?

    • 7.22.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      I would just omit! I sprinkled mine on at the end, so without that, it’s totally dairy free! The cheese adds a nice salty bite at the end, but it’s totally not necessary. Actually, you know what might be good? Some sun dried tomatoes, especially ones that have been marinated. Chop ’em up, and it adds that last little salty, umami bite.

  3. 7.22.14
    Catherine said:

    I was just on vacation and indulged a bit too much, so this is on point for me! Can’t wait to try!


  4. 7.22.14

    All i gotta say is “YUM!” I love shrimp and orzo so this is the perfect summer combo.

  5. 7.22.14
    Ashley said:

    A salad with pasta is always the way to go!

  6. 7.22.14
    Anne Kroeger said:

    Didn’t follow to a T – but inspired my lunch today – thank you!

    • 7.22.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Awesome! So glad you got inspired by it!

  7. 7.22.14
    Maura said:

    this sounds so good!! sounds like perfect summer salad!

  8. 7.23.14

    Since moving to SF I have definitely been indulging too much. Making this next week!

  9. 7.23.14
    viv said:

    This looks delectable!

  10. 7.24.14
    Agoprime said:
  11. 7.24.14
    Maddy said:

    I’ve never before wanted to put shrimp in a salad but this looks amazing! What a great idea! We all have those “eat real food now please” moments from our bodies… ;)

  12. 7.30.14
    Suzzanne Ravitz said:

    I made this last night. It was such a hit…and I have enough for lunch today!

    • 7.30.14
      Victoria McGinley said:

      Suzzanne, I’m so happy to hear that! Glad you enjoyed it! :)

  13. 8.11.14
    Rachel said:

    This sounds amazing. I’ve been on vacation, eating junk food and now I need to detox.

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