Substitute for Orzo

Substitute for Orzo

Orzo is a rice shaped pasta which is normally used as a soup pasta, in sauces, pilaf, salads and at times dressed with a light pasta: If you run out of it, you can choose alternatives from the ones listed below.



It is also referred to as risoni and it is made from wheat flour (semolina). Though it is shaped like rice, orzo is not rice. Orzo is Italian for barley but orzo is not barley. It has diverse colours but the taste and flavour is the same. Orzo can be cooked as you would rice or like any other pasta. Orzo does not take long to cook as it requires 8-10 minutes. A cup of uncooked orzo produces two cups when cooked.

Depending on what or how you intend on using your orzo, you can always substitute it with the following.


Fregola is a small pasta made from semolina flour just like orzo. The two differ in shape, fregola is shaped as beads. It also cooks at medium heat, for 8-10 minutes and it can be used as a salad or as a side dish to roast meat. Fregola makes the best substitute for orzo when cooking sea food soups and baked pasta. Remember that fregola offers a unique nutty flavour and you will have to be careful which dishes to use it in as a substitute. Fregola is prepared the same way as orzo.

Acini di pepe

This is an exact duplicate of orzo in shape though it is smaller. It is also an Italian pasta made from semolina. Its name Acini di pepe is a description of its size and shape. This type of pasta makes a good substitute for orzo when you are making light soup and pasta salads. Unlike orzo, this particular pasta is not prepared by being boiled in salty water. To prepare it, you heat oil in a pan and your onion and pasta. Cook it at medium heat for roughly five minutes. When the pasta is tender, add a little wine and stir until it is absorbed and the pasta will be ready to serve.


If you are on a gluten free diet but you have a recipe requesting you to use orzo, this is the substitute that will work for you. Quinoa is a gluten free grain commonly used in South American dishes. It is also a healthy substitute as it has a high protein content and it also has antioxidants beneficial to your health. Quinoa is flavourful and it can be used anywhere where the orzo is required. Cook your quinoa in water at a ratio of 1:2 (two cups of water for one cup of quinoa).


Arborio is a better substitute for orzo as its shape is similar to that of orzo and it has an even better texture. Arborio is cooked like rice; leave it to cook at medium heat in salty water. Allow it to simmer until all the water is absorbed, then it will be ready to serve. Cooking your Arborio this way enhances its texture, making it creamier. Arborio can be white or brown in colour, it is a good substitute in whatever colour you have it in. This little pasta can help you shake off a few carbohydrates as it has a lesser carbohydrate content of 52g compared to orzo which has 64g. Arborio has a high starch factor, perfect for making creamy dishes.


Couscous is also made from semolina and it is as small as the orzo. This pasta is popular in the Northern Africa, in fact, it is their staple pasta. It substitutes orzo well, being served as a side dish and being used when making salads. To cook it, boil water, add butter, salt, a tablespoon of olive oil and a flavored spice if you like. As soon as you add your couscous, remove the pot from the heat and leave it for ten minutes so that it can absorb water.

Short-Grain Brown Rice

This is another good substitute for orzo if you are seeking a gluten-free pasta. This pasta is a little long and wide. It is packed with nutrients, with a higher percentage of protein, fiber and calories. Short grain brown rice can substitute orzo as a side dish or in salads. To prepare it, boil it in water for a maximum of thirty minutes, drain off excess water, then return the pot to low heat and allow the rice to absorb the remaining water for about ten minutes or less.

Ditalini Pasta

This is one type of pasta you would never think of when considering substitutes for orzo. Ditalini Pasta, also largely known as macaroni can surely substitute orzo, even though it is bigger in size. To prepare it, add it to boiling salted water for 10-15minutes, drain the excess water, then allow it to simmer and absorb the little water that remains after draining some. Ditalini pasta can be alternated for orzo in soups as well as in cold macaron type of salads.


Orecchiette loosely translating to little ears was named that way because it resembles a tiny ear. This pasta is found in two sizes and the smallest size is the one which is a good substitute for orzo. It is a great alternative in soups.

Pearl barley

This is the other ingredient which qualifies into substituting orzo. Pearl barley is nutty flavored and its texture is chewy. It is also nutritious, rich in calcium and fiber. Unlike orzo, barley requires 30 minutes to cook in salted water and it should be allowed to simmer at low heat.


Teff can also be a good substitute for orzo. This option also show that you can be gluten free and still enjoy nutritious food. Teff is high in protein, calcium and iron. Also, it does well when used in soups.

Cauliflower rice

This particular ingredient adds to the choice of alternatives you can choose from if you are on a gluten free diet. Cauliflower rice substitutes orzo well as a side dish. It is to be noted though that this ingredient does not provide the same texture or flavor as orzo. Cauliflower is also a good substitute if you are looking to eliminate grain from your diet.

Remember that all the above make the best substitutes depending on why you are looking for an alternative.

Leave a Comment