What Is Orzo? Difference Between Orzo and Rice


Orzo is a versatile Italian pasta, also called risoni, risone and risotto. The name orzo comes from the Italian word orzo, which means barley. But this pasta does not contain any gluten. The only gluten-containing grain that can be used for making pasta is wheat.

It’s time to give your cooking repertoire a boost. This easy-to-prepare side dish can be enjoyed hot or cold in salads and pilafs. You’ll find it adds flair to soups and stews as well. Try our organic orzo today! You won’t regret it when you taste how much flavor there is in each bite of this delicious, whole grain pasta alternative.

It’s readily available dried and priced similar to traditional pasta. Find it in the rice section of your grocery store. While barley is often recommended as a substitute for wheat flour, this finely ground staple has more protein than any other gluten-free grain available.

You can cook it in several ways, and it is a wonderful ingredient to use in a gluten-free, vegan lasagna. Because of its high protein quality, you can use chickpea flour as a base for meat substitutes like lentil burgers or falafel. Make sure you rinse it, drain it well, and toss it in salads. Not only does the fiber in these small beans help with digestion, but they pack a powerful protein punch. If you want to know more about orzo and how to prepare it, read this article.

The Difference between Orzo and Rice

There is a slight difference between orzo and rice, but this can be hard to determine if you are shopping in the supermarket. You might assume orzo is similar to other small shapes like ditalini, acini de pepe, stelline, or elbows.

Although it resembles large rice, orzo is an oval-shaped pasta that boasts a distinctive, tough texture. If you are very keen on pasta shapes, you might notice that orzo is slightly larger than rice-shaped pasta.

Orzo is usually made of hard durum wheat flour and water to form small pieces of dough that are then pressed into forms before being cut into the characteristic oval size. Orzo is traditionally cooked and served just like rice.

What Is Orzo Made of?

Orzo is pasta made from durum wheat flour and water. Durum, as you know, is the hardest variety of wheat. In fact, durum has been referred to as “the power wheat” because it has a higher protein content than other kinds of wheat. Orzo dough is shaped into small pieces before being pressed and cut into its characteristic oval size.

Orzo is usually cooked and served just like rice, but it can also be pan-fried with other ingredients to make a pilaf or become part of a soup. However, the ingredients behind orzo are not made from barley. It’s made with wheat semolina flour.

How Does Orzo Taste?

Orzo is rice-shaped pasta made from semolina, high-protein flour ground from hard wheat. It has a mild taste and a light, chewy texture similar to al dente white rice.

How Is Orzo Made?

Orzo pasta is made by cooking, drying, and milling durum wheat semolina. The color of the final product naturally varies depending on the type of durum wheat used in production. But manufacturers can further alter the color by adding ingredients like spinach to retain that familiar green hue.

Is Orzo Gluten-Free?

Orzo can be gluten-free depending on the grade of semolina used in production. Semolina is made from durum wheat, which does contain gluten. It can be confusing since pasta is also made from durum wheat, but it goes through extensive processing that removes the gluten-containing germ and bran layer where much of the protein resides.

How to Cook Orzo

Since orzo is a small-sized pasta, its cooking method is in accordance with that of regular pasta.  Here’s how to cook this delicious mean:

  • In a medium-sized saucepan, add four quarts of water and two tablespoons of salt.
  • Bring the water to a boil over high heat, and then add the orzo slowly into the boiling water, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon.
  • Continue cooking at a rolling boil until pasta is al dent doneness.
  • Drain the liquid; add cooked orzo into a bowl, then toss with your favorite sauce.

You can also prepare orzo the same way as rice. All you need to do is combine your pasta and cold water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Let the orzo simmer for about 20-25 minutes to achieve the desired tenderness. Drain and add in your favorite seasonings and oil.

Even though orzo can be traditionally made with a starchy short grain type of rice, it is often made with the same long-grain rice used in risotto to achieve a different texture. Orzo is one of the most versatile forms of pasta and can be paired with many different sauces in dishes like soups, salads, entrees, main courses, side dishes, and even dessert.

Orzo Varieties

The most common variety of orzo is a basic pale yellow color, but there are other varieties that have a more rich yellow color with specks of red and green mixed in. Most orzo is made from durum wheat, which is the hardest form of wheat, meaning it has to be processed for longer. Other varieties include plain, garlic, onion flavored, tomato flavored, red pepper flavored, and spinach orzo.

Substitutes for Orzo

The best substitute for orzo” is rice, especially short-grain rice such as arborio. The shape of orzo is already similar to rice, making it easy to substitute one for the other in most dishes. If you want rice that isn’t quite as sticky, try brown rice, which also has more fiber and nutrients than white rice.

If you’re planning to add orzo to soup, then try pasta such as tubettini and acini di pepe. They will add more flavor and texture to your soup. While orzo is a type of pasta, it’s also used as a rice substitute in many dishes. This means that you can use any rice you have on hand to replace the orzo if needed. Just remember that when cooking with rice, be sure to adjust your recipe according to how sticky your rice is.


There, you have it. This versatile meal is easy to make, yet it would take a simple dish to a whole new level. So now, you can cook orzo with confidence.


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