There is nothing quite so frustrating than having a plan for dinner and then when preparing the ingredients, realizing that you are missing an essential component!
However, don’t reach for DoorDash just yet – there are options to save dinner and much more cheaply too!
Orzo is a rice-shaped pasta that is made from semolina flour and it is often used in dishes such as salads, soups, stews, and casseroles.
Orzo is often used as the main carbohydrate base across an array of dishes. This actually makes it super easy to work with as you can just substitute it for lots of other sources of carbohydrates.
If carbs aren’t your friend, you can also swap out with something more in line with your goals or restrictions.
How to Substitute Orzo in Your Recipes
It is somewhat obvious to some, but rice is a superb substitute carbohydrate for orzo. Orzo is literally shaped like a grain of rice!
You can use any variety of rice that you have in your pantry: white, jasmine, wild, or wholegrain – it all works!
Perfect in salads, paired with meat – or simmered in a soup, rice is the ideal alternative to orzo. The rice might take a touch longer to prepare than orzo, but it works well in a wide array of dishes – plus the grain is gluten-free and therefore is celiac friendly.
2. Spaghetti or Pasta
We won’t tell Pinterest, but any pasta shape you happen to have on hand in your pantry would be the perfect substitute for orzo. Orzo, like pasta, is made from durum wheat and its small size allows the orzo to absorb hearty meat sauces. However: fusilli, farfalle, broken spaghetti, orecchiette or, even penne – it all still works! So, don’t despair, and use what you have to whip up the perfect dinner!
3. Pearl Barley
Although pearl barley takes a touch longer to cook than orzo, its mild taste and al dente texture is a great substitute for orzo.
‘Pearl’ barley simply means that the two outer layers, of bran and the indigestible husk, have both been removed. Barley has a bite that is very similar to brown rice.
Pearl barley does very well as a replacement for orzo in soups or casserole dishes which contain a higher ratio of liquid, due to its longer cook time.
Couscous may seem exotic and unusual, don’t tell anyone, but it is the easiest thing to ‘cook’ in your pantry. Comprised of steamed granules of durum wheat semolina; couscous is heated briefly in boiling water, and then left to warm and swell.
Like orzo, couscous has a somewhat neutral, nutty flavor profile and it can be dressed up by adding proteins and sauce, to suit your dish.
Couscous can be purchased in its bulk form, or even easier, it comes pre-measured, seasoned, and prepared in box format. These are always really handy to keep in the pantry.
Once you get used to working with it, couscous will fast become your last–minute dinner hero!
Farro is an ancient whole-grain wheat; it has a distinctive nutty taste and retains a chewy bite. Due to these particular characteristics, farro is an excellent substitution for orzo within soup or casserole recipes.
Farro would be a great substitution used within salad or pasta recipes – and marinated in oily or liquid-based dressings.
Gone are the days when quinoa was just for health junkies and hippies! Quinoa is actually a seed and it is fiber-rich, high in protein, and incredibly nutritious. One cup of quinoa yields a whopping 8 grams of protein!
Like orzo, quinoa is easy to cook and prepare (under 30 minutes!) and it can be used in a wide array of dishes due to its broad flavor possibilities.
However, quinoa does loan itself well to salad dishes, and protein bowls and as a sturdy carbohydrate base for meat mains.
Interestingly, quinoa is sometimes used as a substitute for meat; it can be used in soup as a protein source and is often used in chili as a sub for ground meat.
7. Arborio Rice
For a substitution that is similar in size to orzo but has a delightfully creamy consistency, try using arborio rice for an easy swap-out.
It is perfect for creamy, casserole, or baked-style dishes. Arborio rice contains an abundance of amylopectin and when stirred consistently, the rice releases the starch creating a sticky grain that has the capability of absorbing flavors and sauces.
To maintain that Italian theme, arborio rice can be substituted for orzo across various Italian-style recipes.
Lentils belong to the legume family and are known for their nutritional properties. They are often found in grocery stores and available in varieties such as puy, green, red, and yellow.
Lentils are an excellent sub for orzo as they can easily be transposed into a variety of dishes. The great thing about this substitution is the adaptability of lentils.
These legumes can be used in salads, pasta, casseroles, and even soup and chili! Lentils are great dry in salads and superb in soups too!
For a fun and interesting substitution, consider using fregola. A pasta hailing from Sardinia, made from semolina flour and water, then slightly toasted. In Italian, fregola means ‘crumb’ which is what the petite pasta resembles.
Fregola is incredibly easy to prepare, it is simply boiled for 10 – 15 minutes. The style of the grain loans itself well to salads, side dishes, and bowls.
10. White Cannellini Beans
Beans are obviously a touch more carbohydrate-heavy than orzo but do not overlook a simple can of cannellini beans sitting in your pantry.
Cannellini beans are the perfect neutral base for a wide variety of dishes. The beans are mild in taste and texture and loan themselves excellently to acidic and bright dishes lifted with tons of vinegar and herb.
11. Cauliflower Rice
Whether you don’t have orzo, or you are simply watching what you eat, cauliflower rice is an excellent substitution. It can be cooked in a variety of ways: sautéed, simmered, or even steamed!
You can purchase cauliflower rice already prepared in a bag or, you can blitz regular cauliflower in a food processor for a few moments, to create your own.
The dish is perfect for those observing low-carb/keto or low-fat diets. It is advisable to season cauliflower well to ensure that you get a well-rounded flavor profile in the dish.