This easy Orzo Pilaf recipe is full of buttery flavor with lemon, dill, and green onion. An optional but delicious step: the orzo is toasted in brown butter before it’s cooked for a boost of delicious flavor. This simple Greek-inspired side dish will be your go-to to serve with chicken, fish, and more!
Look closely at the photo of orzo pilaf above. Do you see how there are some pieces of orzo that are darker in color than others? That, my friends, is the beauty of this dish. The toasted orzo not only makes this pilaf pretty to look at, but also boosts the flavor.
And browning the butter before toasting the orzo in it results in a delicious earthy, toasty flavor that adds a lot of depth to this otherwise simple side dish. (Intimidated by brown butter? Don’t worry- if you want to skip browning the butter, that’s fine too!)
Best of all- you only need a handful of ingredients, one pot, and 20 minutes total to make this easy orzo pilaf. You’re going to love how versatile and yummy it is!
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Butter – use olive oil or a vegan butter sub for a vegan version, or ghee for dairy free (and skip the browning part).
- Green onions – I really recommend green here, but finely diced yellow, white, or sweet onion would also work.
- Orzo – parboiled rice can be used instead, or substituted for half the orzo.
- Lemon zest and juice
- Chicken broth – vegetable broth or water may also be used.
- Fresh dill – dried may be used in a pinch, or another herb such as parsley.
How to make orzo pilaf
- First, BROWN butter in a medium pot, stirring frequently so it doesn’t burn (or just melt the butter if you’re skipping browning).
- As soon as the butter is brown (or melted), ADD the green onions to the pot. Cook until softened.
- Then, ADD the orzo and lemon zest. Cook for about 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently, until orzo is toasted.
- ADD the chicken / vegetable broth, along with some salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 10-13 minutes or until orzo is cooked.
- Finally, turn off heat and STIR IN more butter, lemon juice, and fresh dill. Stir until butter is melted and season to taste. Serve.
Recommended Additions to the Pilaf
This orzo pilaf is delicious as is for a simple side dish. But it’s easy to add other ingredients to make it more hearty for a light meal on its own.
- Add 1/3 cup slivered almonds or another chopped nut like pecans or walnuts when you add the orzo. They will toast with the orzo and soften as it cooks.
- Stir in cooked chicken or shrimp.
- Add a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas or white beans.
- Sauté some chopped spinach with the green onions, or other delicate veggies like diced zucchini or summer squash.
- Add in some frozen peas and/or corn after the orzo is cooked and stir in until they are heated through.
What to serve with orzo pilaf
- New England Baked Haddock
- Pan Fried Sea Bass
- Salmon Patties
- Keftedes (Greek Meatballs)
- Greek Chicken Bites
Other easy orzo recipes
- Shrimp and Orzo Salad
- Orzo with Mushrooms, Brown Butter, and Thyme
- Mediterranean Chickpea and Orzo Salad
- Spinach, Orzo, and Meatball Soup
- Manestra (Greek-Style Orzo with Ground Beef)
You may also want to check out this recipe for Greek Spinach and Rice, or Spanakorizo – a similar recipe packed with spinach that uses rice instead of orzo.
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Orzo Pilaf with Lemon and Dill
- medium pot
- 3 tablespoons butter divided
- 3 green onions white and green parts, thinly sliced
- 1 cup orzo
- juice and zest of 1 lemon about 1 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice
- 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock or vegetable stock, or water in a pinch
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper plus more to taste
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
- In a medium or large pot with a lid, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat (optional: brown the butter for a boost of toasty flavor). Add the chopped green onions (white and green parts, reserving a few green parts for garnish if desired) and sauté over medium heat until softened a bit (about 2 minutes).
- Add the orzo (1 cup) and the lemon zest (about 1 teaspoon) and stir to coat in the butter. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes, until orzo is slightly toasted from the butter.
- Add the chicken stock (2 cups), the kosher salt (1/2 teaspoon), and the black pepper (1/4 teaspoon). Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer on low until all liquid is absorbed, stirring occasionally (about 10 minutes).
- Turn off heat and stir in the lemon juice (about 2 tablespoons), the fresh chopped dill (2 tablespoons), and the remaining 1 tablespoon butter until butter is melted.
- Season to taste and serve, garnished with more dill and green onions, if desired.
- For a vegan version, use a vegan butter substitute or olive oil.
- For a dairy free version, use any vegan substitute or ghee instead of butter.
- Ingredient substitutions: parboiled rice may be substituted for half or all of the orzo, parsley may be substituted for the dill, yellow (or similar) onion may be substituted for green onions.