This Pesto Orzo with Lemon Garlic Shrimp is made in one pan and takes only 30 minutes! Fresh lemon zest and parsley make the dish bright and flavorful. It's the perfect spring or summer dinner that's quick but still restaurant-worthy!
Why This Recipe Works
- Quick and easy - Both the orzo and the shrimp are cooked in the same pan and the whole process takes only 30 minutes! It's a great spring or summer no-fuss dinner that's still restaurant-worthy!
- Orzo makes it fun - If you've never tried orzo, I highly recommend giving it a try! It's a fun pasta shape similar in size and shape to rice and it's great for dishes like this or salads.
- So much flavor - Shrimp, pesto, and lemon are so delicious together and compliment each other really well. The brightness of lemon zest and juice with the pesto really make shrimp shine.
- Perfect for leftovers - Orzo holds its shape really well so when you reheat your leftovers the next day, the dish will be just as pretty and delicious as when you made it!
- Shrimp - I highly recommend using raw peeled and deveined shrimp. I always buy frozen ones with the tails still attached. If you used pre-cooked (opaque pink) shrimp you risk overcooking them. I like keeping the tails on for presentation in this recipe but you can remove them too to make the shrimp easier to eat.
- Lemon - I add fresh lemon zest to the shrimp before cooking which adds a ton of flavor. You could use dried lemon zest but it won't be as flavorful. You'll also be using the juice to brighten up the finished orzo at the end of cooking.
- Orzo - Orzo is made with wheat so if you need this to remain gluten-free, you can add use rice instead. I recommend arborio rice so that you can cook it the same way you would the orzo. See my Arborio Risotto with Asparagus and Peas recipe for more information on how to cook risotto rice.
- Vegetable stock - I like using vegetable broth to add more veggie flavors but you can use chicken or beef broth too.
- Shallots - Shallots are not as strong tasting as yellow or red onions but any onion works here if you don't have shallots.
- Pesto - Homemade pesto - Pesto is the star of the dish so the quality is really important. I often use a store-bought one I really enjoy but you could also make your own. It's really easy to make and perfect when you want to adjust the flavors and make it your own. All you need is basil, pine nuts, parmesan or pecorino, olive oil, and garlic. There are a ton of variations out there though so don't be afraid to really make it your own. Try my vegan Arugula Basil Pesto if you want your pesto to be dairy-free.
Variations and Substitutions
Protein - If you don't have or don't like shrimp, you can use many other proteins you like. Fish like salmon would be a really great substitute. Chicken would also work well or even crispy tofu to make the dish vegan.
Pesto - If you don't want to use the classic basil pesto, try out different herbs or nuts to change things up. Check out my Sundried Tomato Pesto Pasta (vegan, GF) for a sun-dried tomato version.
- Start by tossing the shrimp with the seasoning. Wash and dry your shrimp, make sure they're peeled and deveined. Pull on the tails to remove them if desired. Add the shrimp to a bowl, drizzle with avocado oil and sprinkle with sea salt, pepper, garlic powder, and lemon zest. Toss to coat well.
- Cook the shrimp over high or medium-high heat with a little more oil if needed for 2 minutes per side. When turning them, add minced garlic. Toss the shrimp in the minced garlic to pick up the flavor. Transfer everything, including the garlic, to a plate and set aside.
- Add chopped shallot and more oil to the pan and cook for about 2 minutes.
- Add dry orzo and toast for a minute.
5. Slowly pour in the stock and scrape anything that's stuck to the bottom using a spatula. That's where all the flavor is!
6. Cook the orzo stirring often, adding more stock or water as needed for about 10 minutes or until soft.
7. Stir in the pesto, a good squeeze of lemon juice, and more salt or pepper if needed.
8. Add the shrimp back in and gently toss. Let them warm back up, sprinkle with fresh parsley, and serve.
Serve the orzo with a lemon slice or a lemon wedge and a sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley. Anything with fat like oil or cheese is best served with something acidic like lemon, lime, or anything pickled. The lemon will brighten up the dish and bring out all the flavors.
This dish is best served right away while it's still hot but sometimes I like to eat the leftovers cold as you would a pasta salad and it's delicious too, just not as creamy because the oils in the pesto will harden in the fridge slightly.
I recommend storing any leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days. The storing time is shorter because of the shrimp. If you make the orzo without any fish or seafood, you can store it for up to 3 days. I don't recommend freezing it.
To warm up your leftovers, simply transfer them to a pan or a saucepan and add a splash of water to prevent the orzo from sticking or burning. Warm-up slowly over medium heat, stirring often and adding water as needed, until hot.
The white/grey shrimp are raw, the pink opaque ones are pre-cooked. I always recommend using raw to avoid overcooking the shrimp.
Swap the shrimp for tofu (the cooking time will be longer with tofu), and skip the pecorino cheese. You can use vegan parmesan or nutritional yeast instead. Pesto also usually has cheese so make sure yours is vegan.
No, it's not. Orzo is a type of pasta and it's made with wheat.
In general, a great substitute will be any kind of gluten-free pasta or rice. For this recipe, I recommend using arborio rice to make risotto. It's made with the same technique by adding the liquid in parts slowly and will yield similar results.
More Orzo Recipes
Orzo is a great pasta shape for salads because it holds its shape very well when mixed with other ingredients. It's my favorite so I definitely plan on sharing more recipes in the future but here are three of my favorite orzo recipes! Check out the Pasta Recipes category to see all pasta recipes.
This Pesto Orzo is made in one pan with vegetable broth and a handful of other simple ingredients. Topped with sauteed shrimp and really delicious! Perfect dinner for spring and summer.
- 1 lb raw shelled shrimp, thawed and washed, tails removed (approx. 25 shrimp)
- 2 tbsp avocado oil (divided, plus more as needed)
- ½ tsp fine sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- Zest of 1 lemon (1 tbsp of zest)
- 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1-2 shallots, finely diced
- 1 ½ cup dry orzo
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- ½ cup pesto
- ½ lemon, juiced (plus more for serving)
- Grated parmesan or pecorino for serving (optional)
- Wash the shrimp and make sure they're peeled and deveined. Pull on the tails to remove them if desired. Dry them well with a paper towel and trasfer to a medium bowl.
- Drizzle the shrimp with 1 tablespoon of the oil, and sprinkle the shrimp with sea salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and fresh lemon zest. Toss to coat well.
- Heat up a large skillet over high heat. Add the shrimp in a single layer and more oil if needed. Lower the heat to medium-high and cook the shrimp for about 2-2.5 minutes on each side. After you turn them, add the minced garlic and toss the shrimp in it to coat.
- They’re done when they turn light pink and completely opaque. Transfer everything to a plate and set aside.
- Add the diced shallot and the other tablespoon of oil and cook, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes.
- Add the orzo, toss, and toast for a minute.
- Slowly pour in the broth and use a wooden spatula to scrape the bits from the bottom of the pan (this is where all the flavor is!).
- Let the orzo come to a soft boil, lower the heat to medium, and simmer, stirring often, for about 10 minutes. Add more broth or water if needed.
- When the orzo is cooked, add the pesto, fresh lemon juice and gently toss to combine. Add the shrimp back in, let them warm up and serve with grated parmesan or pecorino if desired.
Shrimp: I recommend using raw shrimp because precooked shrimp would shrink too much while cooking and could become too chewy. Raw shrimp are translucent and blue-ish. Cooked shrimp will be opaque and light pink.
Orzo: If you don’t have orzo or want to make this dish gluten-free, you can substitute any pasta you like. I recommend cooking it separately because it will probably need much more water. Cook your pasta in a large pot and while it’s cooking cook the shrimp with the shallots and garlic, add the pesto, lemon juice, and pasta. Save some pasta water to create more sauce.
Storing: Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days. Reheat in a pan or a saucepan with a splash of water, stirring, until hot.
Nutritional info: The information provided is only an estimate. It will vary based on what vegetable stock and pesto you use among other factors.
Keywords: one pan, pesto orzo, lemon garlic shrimp