Orzo is a main component in a variety of delicious dishes, but it can be rather difficult to find in the store. These substitutes for orzo can work in a pinch if you don’t have or can’t find any orzo.
What is orzo?
Orzo is a unique food since it looks like rice, but it is actually a kind of pasta. It’s cut into very small, rice-like pieces which can be served in a variety of ways. It’s made using durum wheat and is nutritionally similar to other white pastas.
As for preparation, it can be made like pasta by boiling it in water or like rice where the orzo is cooked until all the water has been absorbed. Similar to other pastas, you can purchase it in several varieties such as whole wheat, spinach, sun-dried tomato or gluten-free.
It’s great in cold salads, warm salads, soups, pilaf dishes or just by itself. Overall, it’s a very versatile food with a variety of options.
What dishes is orzo used in?
Orzo can be used in a variety of ways. Most commonly it’s used in cold salads, soup and pilaf dishes. It can even be prepared similarly to a risotto. Orzo is commonly used in both Italian and Greek dishes. Here are a few recipes that you may want to try out:
- Greek Orzo Salad
- Warm Greek Orzo with Feta and Tomato
- Garlic Parmesan Orzo
- Manestra (Greek Orzo with Tomato Sauce)
- Giouvetsi (Greek Beef Stew with Orzo)
The 7 Best Substitutes for Orzo
If you don’t have any orzo on hand, then you can try out any of the following ingredients that are similar to orzo in your recipe of choice. These are the best substitutes for orzo.
#1: Ditalini Pasta
Ditalini pasta is a very small pasta recipe which acts very similarly to orzo. It has a similar taste and texture to orzo since it’s made with durum wheat. While it’s very small like orzo, the shape is different, meaning it may take a bit longer to cook. Along with this, it’s going to look different in whatever kind of dish you make. This small pasta works great as a replacement for orzo in soups.
Arborio is a variety of rice which is typically used in dishes including risotto. While it’s not made from durum wheat like orzo, it has a similar shape and even a similar texture. It absorbs the liquid its cooked and expands in size. Arborio works well as a substitute for orzo in dishes like pilafs where the cooking liquid is absorbed and the final product is more like a thick paste than a soup.
Couscous is very similar to orzo in that it looks like rice, but is actually a form of pasta. Like orzo, it’s made from durum wheat, but it does have a slightly different texture and flavor. In my opinion, couscous has a more nutty texture compared to other pastas. It’s also commonly used in North African dishes, while orzo is used in Greek and Italian dishes.
Orecchiette is another form of pasta and can be used as a replacement for orzo in soups and salads. It’s not as small as orzo or ditalini pasta, but it’s still smaller than most pasta variations. Its shape is round and slightly concave, looking similar to one half of a shell. I personally love this pasta in cold salads as well as warm pasta dishes tossed in olive oil and vegetables.
#5: Pearl Barley
Pearl Barley is neither pasta or rice, though it does make it one of the best substitutes for orzo. Barley is a kind of grain that is similar to rice, but more thick and hardy. It’s a whole grain, so it’s high in fiber, making it a great option for those who are more health conscious. You can use pearl barley as a replacement for orzo in cold salads or warm pilaf dishes. It’s also not too bad in soups!
Farro is another grain that is in a category of its own. It’s quite similar to barley in that it is a whole grain that’s a good source of fiber. It’s a little thinner than barley, looking more similarly to brown rice. It’s fluffy and works well in cold salads, soups and warm pilaf dishes. It has a grainy and hardy texture and has a variety of health benefits.
#7: Long Grain Rice
Long grain white rice is another great alternative to orzo. While it’s not a pasta, it has a similar shape compared to orzo and works well in a variety of dishes. It doesn’t have a strong flavor and absorbs liquids well. Plus, it’s fairly cheap and easy to access for most people. Overall, it’s one of the best substitutes for orzo and you probably already have some on hand.
Is orzo healthier than rice or pasta?
Orzo isn’t too different nutritionally compared to white pasta or white rice. That being said, brown rice or whole wheat pasta is going to be a healthier option compared to regular orzo. Both of these foods are high in fiber, B vitamins, iron and other macronutrients. Plus, they contain some protein.
But, good news! You can buy orzo in the whole grain form. It can be difficult to find this variety in stores, but luckily there are several options that you can purchase online and have shipped to your residence:
What’s the difference between orzo and pasta?
Orzo is a kind of pasta. It’s made with durum flour and is shaped into small, rice-like pieces. It’s one of the smallest varieties of pasta out there. While it’s commonly mistaken as a kind of rice due to its small size and thin shape, it’s made out of flour like any other pasta and it’s not gluten-free (I repeat, it’s not gluten-free).
Does orzo spike blood sugar?
Orzo is high in carbohydrates and low in protein, fiber and fat, therefore it does have the potential to spike your blood sugar if you consume it by itself in large quantities. Because of this, it’s important to consume orzo in moderation and in combination with foods high in fiber, protein and fat.
A great way to reduce the glycemic load of orzo is to add it to a dish that has a variety of components to “balance it out”. An orzo dish with tomatoes, spinach, feta, olives, olive oil and spices is a great way to reduce orzo’s impact on your blood sugar. Stick to one serving of orzo per meal to avoid consuming too many refined carbohydrates.
Another great way to reduce orzo’s impact on blood sugar is to purchase whole wheat orzo (I provided a few options several sections above this). This being said, if you aren’t diabetic or you don’t have insulin resistance, I wouldn’t worry about spiking your blood sugar too much.