Orzo Salad w/Spicy Buttermilk Dressing

I usually don’t attempt to make things with the word “spicy” in the recipe title, but I’m finding that I actually like spicy things when they are mostly veggie. It’s the spicy/meat combo that I’m not a fan of. 

I received my May 2011 Cooking Light Magazine and flipped through it to mark vegetarian dishes since I’m leaning in the direction with lunches. I came across the Orzo Salad with Spicy Buttermilk Dressing recipe in the Enlightened Cook – Everyday Vegetarian section and was intrigued. I knew the possibilities could be endless with add-ins, substitutions, etc.

The Ingredients:
1 Cup Cooked Orzo
1 Cup Frozen Whole-Kernel Corn
12 Cherry Tomatoes – quartered – I only had grape tomatoes, so I used more and just halved them
3 Green Onions – sliced
1 Can Black Beans (15 oz.) – rinse and drained
1/4 Cup Low Fat Buttermilk
3 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Cilantro – divided
3 Tablespoons Fresh Lime Juice
2 Tablespoons Light Sour Cream
2 Tablespoons Canola Mayonnaise – I just used Best Foods Light – it’s what I had.
1 Teaspoon Chili Powder
1/2 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
1/4 Teaspoon Black Pepper
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Red Pepper
2 Garlic Cloves – crushed
1 Peeled Avocado – cut into 8 wedges
1 Tablespoon Chopped Fresh Parsley

Yield: 4 Servings – Serving Size 1 and 3/4 cups
424 Calories | Fat 15.3 g | Protein 12.7 g | Carb 63.8 g | Fiber 10.1 g | Chol 6 mg | Sodium 607 mg

Cook orzo according to package directions – don’t add salt or oil to the water. Drain and rinse (I didn’t rinse). Place orzo, corn, tomatoes, green onions, and black beans into a large bowl and toss.

Combine buttermilk, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro (I accidentally added all 3 tablespoons – nobody died), fresh lime juice (more on that later) light sour cream, mayo, chili powder, salt, pepper, ground red pepper, and garlic.

Stir well with a whisk. – Now I need to talk about limes…


I loaded my limes into my citrus press and I honestly thought 2-3 limes would have been enough for 3 tablespoons of juice.

I obliterated them and it took 8 halves – 4 LIMES to make 3 tablespoons. That. Is. Crazy. I guess I happened to get the “Dry as a Desert” brand limes. Thankfully I had enough…

The recipe said to “drizzle” the sauce over the orzo mixture and toss. Drizzle/Dump – is there really that big of a difference? Nope. I sliced up my avocado and garnished with additional cilantro and flat leaf parsley.

I then set up shop for a crazy photo shoot. I got a few new placemats on mega sale at Kohl’s and I chatted with another designer/casual photographer and he thought some of my food photos could use more warmth – so I spent the next 30 minutes shooting 75 photos of my salad. Ha! I don’t normally include a million shots of each item, but I wanted to share some of the ones that came out pretty good (to me) and a few that didn’t.

I love shooting food on natural woods – this is an old crate I got at a friend’s garage sale – it often comes out for my final food shots.

Holy pattern Batman – not a huge fan of this shot… but I loved the placemat, it has a gorgeous flower on the opposite side.

These foam/round placemats came in a bunch of vibrant colors – thinking I might pick up a few more with my Kohl’s cash.

Too much gold…

Enough about the photography – back to the recipe itself. It was awesome! I loved the heat – if you aren’t into spicy dishes, you could easily just leave out the ground red pepper and chili powder.

I have eaten the orzo for lunches all week. Sometimes I drizzle a little lemon olive oil on top, or I added shrimp for a heartier dinner option as well.

The salad would be perfect for a potluck or summer BBQ. It’s been 4 days and it just keeps getting better and better. I’m definitely stuck on pasta and grain salads right now… guess I need to branch out a little more.

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    • Aim on April 20, 2011 at 9:39 am

    I know I’d like this dish. I’m a huge cilantro fan and adding a little corn to a pasta or rice dish is yummy I think. I think that’s why I like mexican rice….spicy enough and a little corn and some cilantro change it up. I will definitely make this dish. Looks and sounds delicious.

    I like the cute dish your salad is in. It kind of reminds me of a Rachel Ray design.

      • foodiddy on April 20, 2011 at 11:18 am

      Thanks Aim – I got the dish for $2.99 at HomeGoods, my adult playground. 😉

  1. This orzo salad is making my mouth water and will be added to my dinner menu asap. This is right up my alley, love it!!! All the ingredients just sound like they go so would together. Thanks for sharing :o)

      • foodiddy on April 20, 2011 at 11:18 am

      Thank you Susi – I’m having great difficulty leaving comments on your blog for some reason… I think my last 4 comments have gone away after refreshing to see the captcha. I am still reading daily though and your dishes as always look fabulous!

    • Laurie Laux on April 20, 2011 at 10:10 am

    So excited to see this recipe! Looks so yummy! I’m gong to make this for sure on Firday! (Lent)

    Thanks Kathleen! By the way, have to say I get so excited when I see you have posted! LOVE your blog! XXOO

      • foodiddy on April 20, 2011 at 11:16 am

      Thanks so much Laurie and YES! this dish is perfect for Lent.

    • dubu on April 20, 2011 at 10:21 am

    WOW, this looks sooooo good. I’m hitting BelAir after work with my list and making this for dinner tonight. I love your pictures, especially the one with the wooden crate. I luv, luv, anything with a SPICY kick!!!!!

      • foodiddy on April 20, 2011 at 11:15 am

      Please let me know what you think after making it and I think I like the wooden crate photo the best too. Thanks!

    • Tracey on April 20, 2011 at 10:49 am

    Orzo is so good and you are right, it’s perfect for lunches. I’m also a fan of spicy food so this meal looks great.

    I also must mention that your photography looks really good!

      • foodiddy on April 20, 2011 at 11:15 am

      Thanks Tracey, appreciate the compliment – a lot.

    • Mommers on April 20, 2011 at 10:51 am

    Sounds good and looks good and you really made me laugh honey……….Everyone needs that………Love, Mommers

      • foodiddy on April 20, 2011 at 11:19 am

      Glad to make you laugh – looking forward to Easter. Love you.

    • Laurie Laux on April 20, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    HA! Just got back from Trader Joes, can’t wait till Friday, I’m making it tonight! 🙂

      • foodiddy on April 20, 2011 at 3:04 pm

      Another reader tried it this afternoon and emailed that hers seemed more runny. Mine was more runny at first – the sauce soaked into the orzo after being refrigerated and the batch in the photograph was in the sun for 30 minutes. I did dry my beans between paper towels after rinsing them, and I made sure to get as much water out of my orzo as I could… but that shouldn’t make a huge difference. The dish should taste the same no matter what. Enjoy!

    • laurie laux on April 20, 2011 at 5:03 pm

    This was delicious! I did however forget to add the avacado! RATS! I assembled it this afternoon and was going to add it right before serving! Oh well, lots of leftovers so I’ll make sure we add it tomorrow. Mine wasn’t runny at all! Oh, I got 3 tbs of lime juice out of just 1 1/2 limes! What’s up with your limes??? 🙂

      • foodiddy on April 20, 2011 at 6:13 pm

      1 1/2 limes??? You are my hero. I must have gotten a bad batch. Glad you liked the dish and the avo will just switch it up for leftovers 🙂

    • Kristen on April 21, 2011 at 10:53 am

    This sounds delicious!!! I was already going to make a pasta salad for Easter, but it just became this one.

    Congrats to Foo for her first photo appearance in foodgawker!!!! Check it out at: http://foodgawker.com/page/2/ (#100367) I’m sure you all agree that it will be her first of many appearances.

    Happy Easter all!

  2. How fresh everything looks and sounds! I’m currently moving, and all my spices are packed away, but as soon as they’re out, I’m making this! Thanks.

    • Ann Marie on April 24, 2011 at 1:36 pm

    Serving recommendations: Warm or Cold?

    I feel like this would be a fantastic picnic dish for a meal I’m planning for my anniversary.


      • foodiddy on April 25, 2011 at 8:17 am

      I served it cold – taste tested in it’s warm state and it was delicious too – but after sitting in the fridge for a bit, the flavors really absorbed into the pasta. Happy Anniversary!

    • Anneke on April 25, 2011 at 10:03 am

    Have you tried putting the limes into the press with the cut side down? it inverts the lime into the press, and gets more of the juice out of it. I have a citrus press and I think it works much better that way.

    Love all of the recipies as of late!

      • foodiddy on April 25, 2011 at 6:06 pm

      Thanks for the suggestion, I’ll flip it and see what happens next time.

    • Tammy Tinsley on July 24, 2015 at 7:26 pm

    Is this best served cold or warm can I make it a day ahead?

      • foodiddy on August 14, 2015 at 7:30 am

      A day ahead would be fine. Warm or cold is equally delicious!

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