Looking for substitutes for orzo pasta? Maybe you don’t have any on hand and need a quick replacement that has a similar taste or texture? No matter what you are using it for, here you’ll find 15 great replacements for orzo!
Orzo might be one of my favorite pastas. This simple, rice-shaped pasta is so versatile and can be used in salads like this Caprese Pesto Orzo Salad, soups, and in hot side dishes and main dishes like this Creamy Chicken Orzo with Asparagus.
But if you find yourself not having any on hand, below are some of the best substitutes for orzo.
WHAT IS ORZO?
Orzo is a small, rice-shaped pasta. It is made from semolina flour which is made from durum wheat. Therefore, orzo is NOT gluten-free.
Semolina flour generally has a higher protein content than other types of flour, therefore orzo tends to hold up very well with longer cooking times (soups, casseroles, etc.) than traditional pasta and doesn’t get mushy.
HOW ORZO IS MOST COMMONLY USED
Orzo pasta is SUPER versatile! Here are the most common ways orzo is used in cooking:
- Soups: Such as this light soup– Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup
- Cold Salads/Side Dishes: This is my go-to picnic salad–Perfect Orzo Salad
- Hot Main Dishes/Pasta Dishes: This Creamy Chicken Orzo with Asparagus is a weekly staple at my house!
- Risotto: Like this simple Mushroom Orzo Risotto
- Casseroles: This One Skillet Cheesy Broccoli and Orzo Bake is delish!
15 SUBSTITUTES FOR ORZO PASTA
1. Ditalini Pasta
Like Orzo, ditalini is also considered a “pastina” or “little pasta.” This is one of my favorite substitutes for orzo and it works well in soups and cold salads. It’s just a little larger than orzo, but still works as a great alternative.
Stelline is star pasta! You might remember these from childhood—they used to be super popular in soups! They are similar in size, taste and texture to orzo and work well in soups and hot main dishes such as this Creamy Chicken Orzo. Bonus points for being super kid-friendly!
3. Small Elbow Macaroni
Small elbow macaroni is somewhat larger than orzo but can work great in soups or cold salads as a replacement for orzo.
4. Broken Spaghetti
You may not have thought about this one but simply breaking up spaghetti works so well in place of orzo in hot dishes and casseroles like this Greek Chicken Orzo Casserole!
Most couscous is made from semolina flour, just like orzo, so it has a similar flavor profile. Typical couscous is smaller than orzo, however if you want more of an orzo-like texture, opt for a larger version like pearl couscous.
This is a great healthy substitute for orzo. It’s great in salads or hot dishes and quinoa is packed with nutrients, as well as protein.
7. Arborio Rice
Arborio rice has the most similar shape and texture to orzo, making it a perfect substitute in so many different dishes! It has a super creamy consistency because of all the starch, so it’s best used in hot dishes and sides…and of course risotto! It’s delish in this Garlic Parmesan Orzo!
Like Orzo, fregola is another pasta/grain that is made from semolina flour. It has a very similar taste and texture to orzo. Replace orzo with fregola in soups and hot dishes.
Similar in texture, brown rice can be used to replace orzo in hot dishes, sides and casseroles.
10. Acini de Pepe
Acini de Pepe is also a small pasta like orzo, making it perfect substitute! It’s smaller than orzo (almost like couscous) and is used in Italian wedding soup and also works perfectly in salads like this Acini de Pepe Pasta Salad!
11. Pearl Barley
Pearl barley has a mild flavor and it is similar in shape and size to orzo. Given it’s mild taste, it works great as an orzo replacement in soups–it just takes longer to cook than orzo.
Farro has a bit more of a nutty, deeper flavor than orzo, but works fine as a healthy substitute for orzo in soups, orzo salads and cold side dishes.
13. Cauliflower Rice
Cauliflower rice is light and fluffy in texture (similar to couscous) and works well to replace orzo in cooked dishes such casseroles, and hot main dishes.
Lentils are packed with vitamins and nutrients and are a nice, healthy non-grain alternative to orzo. Lentils work well in most dishes to replace orzo, especially in cold salads and hot soups!
15. White Rice
Jasmine rice or long grain wild rice is an easy substitute for orzo! While it CAN be used to replace orzo in soups, it’s much better as a replacement in casseroles and hot dishes.
HOW TO CHOOSE A SUBSTITUTE
Here are the best replacements for orzo in soups:
- Ditalini, Stelline, Small elbow macaroni, Fregola, Acini de Pepe, Farro, Lentils
Cold Salads/Side Dishes
Not every replacement for orzo above works well in cold dishes. Here are the best alternatives:
- Ditalini, Stelline, Small elbow macaroni, Cous Cous, Quinoa, Fregola, Acini de Pepe
Hot Main Dishes/Pasta Dishes/Casseroles
In hot dishes, you want a replacement that will hold up well with a longer cooking time. Here are the best options:
- Ditalini, Small elbow macaroni, Broken Spaghetti, Quinoa, Arborio rice, Fregola, Brown rice, White rice, Acini de pepe, Pearl barley, Farro
For risotto, you need the starch factor. Here are the best replacements for orzo in risotto:
- Arborio rice, Farro, Pearl Barley
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Cauliflower rice, quinoa, couscous and barley all have lower carbs than the other orzo alternatives.
Yes! Orzo has a fairly high starch content so it works great as a substitute for arborio rice in risotto. It holds up well and the texture is amazing!
Cauliflower rice, quinoa, couscous and pearl barley are all lower in carbs than orzo. Fregola, farro and lentils are also packed with vitamins and minerals making them a super healthy replacement for orzo.
Quinoa, arborio rice, brown rice, white rice, cauliflower rice and small gluten free pastas (like this Gluten Free Acini de Pepe) are all great gluten free alternatives to orzo.
There is also gluten free orzo, although I have yet to find it in my regular grocery store!