Curried Orzo Salad is an easy, flavorful side dish salad perfect for cookouts, BBQs and picnics, with orzo, raisins, grapes, and apples.

curried orzo salad with fresh basil

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I love the kick and the spice of this Curried Orzo Salad, the ultimate side salad, summer picnic, camping, or potluck dish! Not only is it a healthy side dish, it’s a great salad to make ahead. I don’t know about you, but when I’m hosting, I love recipes that I can make ahead.

Curried Orzo Salad

Here’s another one of our favorite orzo salads that you may have already tried: Summer Orzo Salad with Garbanzo Beans. I just love this combination, too.

We love the curry flavor along with the sweetness of the raisins and grapes in this delicious combination. Plus, the little crunchy bites from the nuts and the creamy dressing–so good.

curried orzo salad with red grapes

Ingredients for Curried Orzo Salad

  • Uncooked orzo (I buy DeLallo brand)
  • Rotisserie chicken (optional)
  • Golden raisins
  • Slivered almonds
  • Red onion
  • Granny Smith apples
  • Red grapes
  • Fresh basil

deconstructed curried orzo salad

What is the curried dressing made of?

It’s a healthy and fresh tasting salad dressing with a spicy flavor from curry and the cayenne pepper.

This dressing is delish with easy ingredients:

  • Mayonnaise
  • Light sour cream (or regular)
  • Lemon juice
  • Salt
  • Curry powder + turmeric
  • White wine vinegar
  • Sugar
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper

how to make curried orzo salad with curry dressing

Can you eat cold orzo?

You can eat orzo cold or hot. Add a tiny bit of water or stock to orzo if you are heating it up. It makes a delicious side dish for pork or fish or chicken.

Is orzo pasta or rice?

This is an interesting question that gets asked a lot. Even though rice and orzo looks similar, it is not rice. Orzo is Italian small rice-shaped pasta (that looks like rice).

It’s classified among pasta as “pastina.”

taking a bite of curried orzo salad

What is orzo used for?

Orzo is commonly used for soups, but we love it in this salad dish today. You can also use it in pasta dishes, soups, and grain bowls.

Variations – Orzo makes a good substitution for risotto rice, and vice-versa

  • Orzo is a great choice for pasta salad. If you don’t have it or if it’s hard to find at your local market, substitute any small size pasta like macaroni or rigatoni.
  • Chicken is optional in this salad.
  • You can use parsley in place of basil.
  • If you don’t want a “kick” then leave out the cayenne pepper.

curried orzo salad in a white serving bowl

What to serve for a luncheon? Here are my favorite salads to make:

Summer Italian Spaghetti Salad Recipe

Potluck Spaghetti Tuna Salad Recipe

Thai Chicken Fettuccine Recipe

Mediterranean Orzo Pasta Salad

Since we were keeping it easy in the Coughlin home, not stressing about too much fanciness, this salad is super easy to prepare and serve!


[This post is updated from May 2016 with new text and photos, but the recipe is the same.]

curried orzo salad in a white serving bowl
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Get the Recipe:

Curried Orzo Salad

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 6
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  • 2 cups uncooked orzo, I buy DeLallo brand
  • 2 cups Rotisserie chicken, chopped (optional)
  • ½ cup golden raisins, or regular
  • ½ cup slivered almonds toasted
  • ¾ cup red onion, diced
  • 2 cups Granny Smith apples, diced (unpeeled)
  • 1 cup red grapes, sliced in half
  • Fresh basil, chopped, cut in ribbons (leave some for garnish)


  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ½ cup light sour cream
  • ¼ cup lemon juice
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • ¼ cup white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper


  • Cook orzo according to package directions.
  • Combine all dressing ingredients (mayonnaise through the cayenne pepper), and mix well.
  • Pour dressing over warm orzo, then add chicken (optional), raisins, almonds, onions, apples, and grapes.
  • Mix thoroughly, then refrigerate overnight; serve!
  • Garnish with fresh basil right before serving!


Originally posted May 2016. Updated with new photos and text!
Cuisine: American
Course: Salad
Did you make this recipe?Tag @reluctantentertainer on Instagram and hashtag it #reluctantentertainer!

white bowl of orzo salad