Lemon Orzo With Zucchini has a bright and citrusy flavor with just the right touch of creaminess!

This is an easy to make, one pot recipe that can be ready in about 30 minutes! With the addition of fresh zucchini and kale, it’s a healthy recipe too! Cream, butter, lemon zest and juice, make this dish incredibly rich and delicious, while fresh parsley and thyme add color with a light savory touch. This is a memorable recipe, that is perfect served hot or cold for a buffet, picnic or as a tasty side with dinner.

plated Lemon Orzo with Zucchini with pot full in the back

What is Lemon Orzo?

  • Orzo (AKA risoni) looks like rice and has the texture of rice, but is really an Italian pasta. It is often used in many Greek recipes similar to Panera’s lemon orzo soup.
  • Orzo is popular because of its versatility in hot or cold recipes, which makes it an easy go-to for bbq’s, picnics, and potlucks!
  • Lemon orzo with zucchini comes out creamy and delicious and works as a hearty vegetarian main dish or a tasty side with its light and refreshing flavors!
  • Make this time-saving dish ahead and let the flavors continue to blend! Use it as a side dish, workday lunches or a filler for wraps!

spinach , broth , zucchini , butter , orzo pasta , lemon , milk , cheese garlic and seasonings to make Lemon Orzo with Zucchini

What’s in Lemon Orzo?

PASTA: This recipe makes orzo seem like a creamy risotto without the work! Other kinds of pasta that could be used are ditalini, pastini, small macaroni shells, or acini. White or brown rice could also be used in a pinch, if necessary.

VEGGIES: Zucchini and kale are superfood additions to this recipe. Spinach, sliced brussels sprouts, and even arugula are excellent substitutions for the kale and yellow squash. Or try diced sweet potatoes as a substitute for zucchini. Garden fresh peas, green beans, or asparagus can turn this dish into a new recipe every time!

SAUCE: Real butter, cream, fresh lemon zest, and juice are needed to make this recipe really rich and creamy. Fresh parsley and thyme (or dill) add color and a light savory touch and the sprigs can be used whole as garnishes, if desired.

pot full of cooked Lemon Orzo with Zucchini

How to Make Lemon Orzo with Zucchini

This delicious side dish goes together in no time flat.

  1. Cook garlic in butter, add orzo and thyme, then cook until the orzo is golden brown (as per recipe below).
  2. Add zucchini and kale and saute until the kale is wilted.
  3. Deglaze the pan with a little broth, then add remaining broth, lemon zest, juice, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then simmer.
  4. Stir in cream and parmesan cheese, then cook until orzo is tender. Garnish as desired.

close up of Lemon Orzo with Zucchini in the pot

What Goes with Lemon Orzo?

This orzo dish is delicious served solo. But it’s equally as delicious when a protein, such as chicken, is added. This versatile recipe can become an easy weeknight main dish!

Serve zucchini orzo along side grilled steak, pork tenderloin, some grilled shrimp skewers, or a fabulous rotisserie chicken.

How to Store Leftovers

  • Keep lemon orzo with zucchini in a covered container up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
  • Reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop and refresh the flavors with a little lemon juice, cream, and/or parmesan cheese.
  • Freeze chilled portions in zippered bags for up to 4 weeks.

Lemon Orzo with Zucchini on a fork

Other Delicious Recipes To Try!

plated Lemon Orzo with Zucchini with pot full in the back
5 from 6 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
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Lemon Orzo With Zucchini

Make this fresh and brightly flavored lemon orzo recipe in one pot and in only about 30 minutes!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 -6 servings
Author Candace



  • 3 Tablespoons butter
  • 3-4 cloves garlic minced
  • 16 ounces dry orzo pasta
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme
  • 2 zucchini shredded (or yellow summer squash) about 1 pound
  • 3-4 cups kale or arugula or chopped spinach, about 2 ½ ounces
  • 3 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth, plus more to thin if desired
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper or to taste
  • ½ cup light cream or milk
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese plus more for serving
  • 2 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or thyme leaves (or 2 teaspoons dried), plus more for garnish


  • In a large skillet over medium high heat, cook butter and garlic about 1 minute, until garlic is fragrant. Add orzo and thyme, and cook while stirring for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown.
  • Add zucchini and kale and cook for 2-3 minutes, until kale is wilted.
  • Add about ½ cup of broth and deglaze the pan, scraping up any charred bits. Add remaining broth, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook stirring often, until the orzo is al dente, about 8-10 minutes.
  • Stir in cream, parmesan, and parsley and cook for 2 minutes, until heated through and orzo is tender. Add additional broth or cream to thin as desired. Sprinkle with additional parmesan and parsley or thyme and serve.


  • Refrigerate leftovers in a covered container for up to 3 days.
  • Reheat leftovers on the stovetop, or in the microwave. Portions that have cooled completely, can be frozen in zippered bags for up to 4 weeks.
  • Add a bit of  lemon juice, cream, and parmesan cheese to refresh the flavors.
5 from 6 votes↑ Click stars to rate now!
Or to leave a comment, click here!

Nutrition Information

Calories: 471 | Carbohydrates: 65g | Protein: 19g | Fat: 16g | Saturated Fat: 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 592mg | Potassium: 607mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 2183IU | Vitamin C: 25mg | Calcium: 218mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition information does not include optional ingredients or garnish and is an estimate. It may change based on actual ingredients and cooking methods used.

Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine American

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Lemon Orzo with Zucchini in a bowl and on a fork with writing

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Very slightly adapted from Half Baked Harvest


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About the author

I am a wife, mother of two, and professional accountant. I love fantastic food, and it is so often the center of our lives, from everyday dinner, to family gatherings, and special evenings at fabulous restaurants. I have always loved cooking and baking, with my mom and grandma, and now, with my daughter and son. I love trying new recipes while enjoying my favorites too. I’m so happy to share them with you.
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