6 Best Substitutes for Orzo Pasta

orzo pasta

Pasta comes in all shapes and sizes. Orzo is a unique, rice-shaped pasta that is traditionally prepared in the same way as other types of pasta or cooked the same way as rice.

This type of pasta is served hot or cold and is a commonly-used ingredient in soups and salads. However, what if you are out of orzo but your recipe requires it? Is there anything else that you can use?

The best substitutes for Orxo Pasta are Arborio, fregola, couscous, short-grain brown rice, quinoa, acini di pepe, and many more.

Actually, if you are out of orzo, read the list of potential substitutes below to see how to prepare them, and to find out more common recipes for these alternatives.

Orzo Pasta Substitutes

Well if you are out of orzo, I will provide you the best alternatives, explain how they are cooked, and suggest some recipes that might come in handy for you to prepare a meal:

1. Arborio


This is the best replacement for orzo. This short-grain rice has a similar shape to orzo and the texture will be creamier when it’s cooked the same way. You can check this one on Amazon.

This type of rice is an Italian variety and it has amylopectin starch that gives a creamy texture to the meal. This type of rice can be brown but it’s commonly sold as white rice.

How to cook and use Arborio?

You can cook this type of rice in the same way as regular rice. Put it in a pot or pan with 2 cups of salted water and bring it to the boil over a medium heat. Simmer until the liquid is fully absorbed (about 20 minutes) and then it’s ready to serve.

This type of rice can be a good substitute when preparing cold salads, soup, and other types of dishes.

Recipes with arborio:

  • Arborio Rice and White Bean Soup
  • Roasted Vegetable Risotto
  • Arancini

2. Fregola


This is an ancient form of semolina pasta that comes from the Sardinia region of Italy. This type of pasta is made out of semolina flour mixed with water to produce small beads. In the past, people used to dry them under the sun, but nowadays they are toasted. Check this brand on Amazon.

How to cook and use Fregola?

This type of pasta is cooked in a large pot with 4 cups of salted water and boiled over a medium heat. 1 cup of fregola is enough. Cook it until al dente (about 8 to 10 minutes). Drain it, and if you are making a salad then spread it on a baking sheet to cool.

Use this type of pasta as a substitute for orzo when cooking seafood soups, baked pasta, and also pasta salads. Also, it can be used as a side dish alongside roasted meats.

Recipes with Fregola:

  • Fregola Sarda Pasta with Tomatoes
  • Sardinian Fregola With Lamb
  • Fregola with seafood

3. Couscous


This is a staple pasta that is commonly used as part of meals in northern Africa. It’s made from semolina, which is the grain of hard wheat. Because of its shape and small size, it’s often mistaken for a grain. It can be easily found in grocery stores. Check this one on Amazon.

How to cook and when to use Couscous?

Boil water in a medium pot, but also add flavorful chicken or vegetable stock to the liquid. Add a little bit of olive oil, a pat of butter and a little salt. Add the couscous and take the pot off the heat. Leave it for 5 minutes to absorb the liquid.

This type of pasta is commonly served as a side dish, usually with a meat or vegetable stew spooned over it. Also, it can be used when making pasta salads.

Recipes with couscous:

  • Chicken & couscous one-pot
  • Roasted veg & couscous salad
  • Spice & honey salmon with couscous

4. Short-Grain Brown Rice

brown rice

This rice got its name because of its shape – tiny but long and wide. This type of rice is a good substitute for orzo if your diet is gluten-free. It brings lots of benefits because of its high nutrients – even though it has a few more calories than white rice – as it has higher fiber and protein. Try this one from Amazon.

How to cook and when to use short-grained brown rice?

  • Boil the rice in water for about 30 minutes. Drain off the excess water and return the rice to the pot, cover it and let the rice absorb any remaining water for 10 minutes.
  • Use this type of rice to make salads, as a side dish with vegan recipes, as well as alongside meat.

Recipes with Short-grained brown rice:

  • Mushroom-Brown Rice Risotto
  • Oven-baked brown rice
  • Vegan brown rice sushi

5. Quinoa


This is another gluten-free alternative to orzo. Quinoa is a popular grain in South American cuisine. It contains more protein than any other grain and it’s very healthy. This grain can actually help you lose weight and it’s a very good ingredient when cooking. It also contains antioxidants that can benefit your health. Get this Quinoa from Amazon.

How to cook and use quinoa?

To cook this side dish all you need is 1 cup of quinoa, 2 cups of water and salt (according to taste). Rinse the quinoa and use it with your dish.

Use quinoa when cooking pilaf, salads, in sauces, soup, and other dishes. The quinoa will bring more flavor and it’ll make the dish healthier.

Quinoa recipes:

  • Quinoa salad
  • Crockpot quinoa tacos
  • Quinoa soup

6. Acini di pepe

Acini di pepe

This is very similar to orzo but it’s smaller. Acini de pepe is also an Italian pasta made from semolina with a small, round shape. Its name actually describes the size and shape of the pasta. It’s very easy to find in supermarkets.

How to cook and when to use Acini di pepe?

Heat oil in a pan and add onion and celery. Cook it on a medium heat until it’s tender (about 5 minutes). Add wine and stir until it’s absorbed. Then your pasta is ready to serve.

Use this type of pasta when cooking light soup, because it fits well because of the size. Also, this is a good substitute when you are making pasta salads.

Acini di pepe recipes:

  • Spicy garlic chicken with acini di pepe pasta & snow peas
  • Acini di pepe pasta in vegetable soup
  • Acini di pepe salad

What is orzo and how to cook it?

Orzo or risoni is a type of pasta that is made of durum wheat, which contains an above-average amount of gluten. However, most orzo pasta does not contain barley. The word “orzo” means “barley” in Italian.
This pasta has an interesting shape, it looks like a grain or rice. This rather small pasta is in the category “pastina” which means “little pasta”.

Orzo is used in soups in Italian cuisine, it is also combined with rice if you are making pilaf or as a rather popular ingredient in Europe, especially Greece if you are making krithiraki.

How to cook orzo?

Well, this type of pasta can be cooked in various ways. Because of its shape and size, there are many cooking techniques. I’ll share with you some tips and ideas below on how to cook orzo and have a healthy, delicious meal.

  • The standard way is to cook it like pasta: put water to boil, add salt, and add the uncooked orzo. Leave it for 8 or 10 minutes until it’s cooked al dente.
  • Then, drain the liquid and add butter or olive oil.
  • Another option is to prepare it the same way as rice. All you need is to put the orzo in a saucepan with cold water and bring it to the boil. After it starts boiling, lower the heat and cover the pot until the liquid is absorbed.
  • Cooking pilaf with orzo is another option, and combines the technique of boiling rice with making risotto. Put the orzo in a pan with a bit of oil and some chopped onion. Cook it for about 20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed.

Related questions:

Can I use risotto rice instead of orzo?

Risotto is also an Italian dish that is made from rice with meat, fish, or vegetables. In this case, you can substitute orzo for white rice when making risotto.

Can I substitute Israeli couscous for orzo?

Yes, you can. The Israeli couscous is just another type of couscous and it’s a good substitute for orzo.

Can I use macaroni instead of orzo?

The ditalini pasta is larger than orzo and you can use it for soups or cold macaroni types of salads.

Is orzo gluten-free?

Orzo is a type of pasta that is not generally gluten-free. However, gluten-free orzo is available – it should say it on the packet. Also, there are other substitutes (listed above) that can help you with your gluten-free diet.

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