Mexican Orzo Salad

I wasn’t sure whether to call this Mexican Orzo Salad or Confetti Orzo Salad because of the vibrant colors in this dish. Everyone loves it and it’s really easy to make.  Since it’s a pain to wash and dry fresh cilantro (or parsley),  you can use more of it in my Mango Salsa  and Chilled Black Bean Soup with Avocado recipesAnd the extra scallions can be used in my Mixed Green Salad Topped with Crispy Salmon.

I usually add rinsed canned black beans to this dish, but that’s optional. Why didn’t I include it? Some people don’t like black beans, and if you’re making the Chilled Black Bean Soup to accompany this dish, you wouldn’t want to repeat the beans. Please feel free to include them for extra protein and color.

If you’re not sure how to prepare the red pepper, cucumber, cilantro and scallions, please go to the “Ins & Outs” section.

 You need to cook the orzo just until it’s al dente, which means literally, “to the tooth.” It’s when the pasta is just cooked through but no more than that! You want to drain the pasta immediately and run cold water through the strainer, tossing the pasta around until the pasta is room temperature. That stops the cooking process. Some people like to put oil in the pasta water so the pasta doesn’t stick. I don’t recommend doing that it because it prevents the pasta from absorbing the other ingredients.


  • 2 cups dried orzo
  • 1 red pepper, but into 1/4-inch pieces
  • 4 washed scallions, thinly sliced, including the green part
  • 1 large Kirby cucumber (or 1/3 English cucumber), peeled and cut into 1/4″ dice
  • 2 ears fresh corn or 1 cup cooked corn (fresh is better!)
  • 1/2 cup green olives, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup rinsed and drained cooked black beans – optional
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh coriander or parsley

1.Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the corn, broken in halves, to the pot and cook for 4 minutes. Remove and let cool.

2.Return the water to a boil, add the orzo, and cook according to the package directions, about 8-9 minutes or until al dente. Don’t overcook! Immediately drain and run cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain well.

3.Place the corn on a cutting board and slice the kernels from the cob.

4.While the orzo is cooking, place the red pepper, scallions, olives, black beans (if using), and corn in a large mixing bowl.  This is called mis en place.

5.Place the drained orzo in a large bowl. Add the veggies and chopped cilantro and toss gently to combine.

6.In a small jar (or a small mixing bowl), place the lemon juice, sherry vinegar, cumin, oregano, salt and pepper. Shake to combine. Add the olive oil and shake to emulsify the ingredients.

7.Pour most of the dressing over the salad and taste. Add more dressing until you’re satisfied and serve.

Grocery Bag: Mexican Orzo Salad