A small batch recipe with shallots, garlic, charred lemon juice, and orzo pasta topped with crunchy golden panko breadcrumbs and bright, crisp microgreens.
This is a delightfully bright yet comforting orzo recipe that comes together in just 20 minutes! Topped with golden, crunchy panko breadcrumbs and bright, crisp microgreens, this is a new side dish staple for spring.
I love creating small batch recipes, and this charred lemon orzo is a shining example of a seasonal favorite. The orzo is cooked in vegetable broth rather than water, which adds to the flavor of the entire dish. You are certainly welcome to use chicken broth or water instead, and feel free to double or triple the recipe as needed. This charred lemon orzo recipe makes two side dish servings that are just about 3/4 cup each.
- 1 medium Lemon *
- 1 tsp. Avocado Oil (or any neutral oil)
- 2 tbsp. Unsalted Butter
- 1 small Shallot, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
- Salt & freshly cracked Black Pepper
- 2 cloves Garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup dry Orzo
- 1 cup Vegetable Broth *
- 1/3 cup grated Parmesan Cheese *
- 2 tbsp. Half and Half * (optional)
- Toasted Herbed Breadcrumbs (ingredients follow)
- Microgreens * or Chives, for garnish
Toasted Herbed Breadcrumbs Ingredients:
- 1 tsp. Olive Oil
- 1/4 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
- 1/4 tsp. Italian Seasoning
* Lemon : This recipe has been tested with both Meyer lemons and regular lemons. Either will work! Meyer lemons are less tart than regular lemons, and they taste sweeter. They’re fantastic in this sauce, but I also love the tartness of regular lemons sometimes. It’s up to you which lemon you prefer to use!
* Vegetable Broth : I prefer to use the Better than Bouillon Seasoned Vegetable Base as my vegetable broth; it has SO much flavor and lasts forever. (My city also has a phenomenal glass recycling program, so that’s also a huge perk because it comes in a glass jar.) You could use vegetable broth OR low-sodium chicken broth, or water if you don’t have broth. Just know that using water will substantially decrease the flavor of this orzo.
* Parmesan Cheese : Parmesan is a staple in my refrigerator. I keep a wedge from either Costco or Whole Foods on hand at all times because they both offer high quality, great tasting parmesan either a) pretty inexpensive at Costco or b) in a small $5 wedge at Whole Foods. I advise against canned parmesan, but if you prefer it to be grated when you purchase it, please use the best quality you can find. Alternatively, use Grana Padano or Pecorino Romano cheese.
* Half and Half : This is totally optional, but makes the texture of the orzo extra creamy. Start by stirring in one tablespoon of half and half, then adding more as needed until the orzo is as creamy as you like it.
* Microgreens : Microgreens are not always easy to find, but they’re absolutely packed with nutrients and flavor. They’re fairly abundant at local farmers’ markets during the warmer months, but not always. If you cannot locate microgreens, feel free to substitute with chives. (Any variety of microgreens will do; the microgreens in these photos are pea shoots, but I love cilantro, watermelon, or sunflower. Or any!)
I created this recipe on a whim after I used charred lemon in this Slow Baked Salmon with Charred Lemon Dill Sauce. It’s absolutely delicious, and one of those super flavorful feel good meals that I can get behind for any meal, any day. The charred lemon aspect just offers a depth of flavor to the sauce (or in this case, the orzo) that takes it to another level. Charring lemons is very easy, and worth the effort! Let’s get down to it.
How to Char Lemons
I originally charred lemons in my small cast iron pan, but the acid eats away at the cast iron finish. Therefore, I recommend a nonstick pan (any size will work), that way the lemons don’t adhere to the bottom as they char.
Add about a teaspoon of oil to the pan. Avocado oil is my preferred neutral, high heat oil, and grapeseed oil is another great neutral, high heat oil.
Zest the lemon you’re working with, then cut the lemon in half.
Once the pan and oil are hot, swirl the oil to coat the part of the pan where you’ll be charring the lemons. Place the lemon halves, cut side down, into the oil. Allow them to cook for 4-5 minutes without disturbing them, then transfer them to a small bowl or plate. That’s it! I love to squeeze the juice from one of the halves into this orzo recipe, but you could easily squeeze in both halves if you’re a really big lemon fan. Start with the juice from one lemon half, stir it into the orzo, then taste the orzo to see if you would like more lemon flavor. If you want to stick with the juice from just one half, use the other lemon half to make this Charred Lemon Dill Sauce OR cut the remaining half into wedges and serve it alongside your orzo for a fancy presentation.
How to Make Charred Lemon Orzo
- Melt one tablespoon of butter in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Stir in finely chopped shallots and a pinch of salt. Cook the shallots, stirring occasionally, until softened and slightly charred (about 4-6 minutes.)
- Stir in minced garlic and cook for one minute. Pour in orzo and stir to combine it into the shallots and garlic. Toast the orzo for a couple of minutes.
- Stir in vegetable broth and allow the broth to come to a simmer. Stir frequently so the orzo does not stick to the bottom of the pan.
- Once the broth is simmering, continue stirring frequently until the broth is totally absorbed into the orzo. The orzo should be al dente, and have just the tiniest bite to it.
- Stir in the lemon zest, ¼ cup of grated cheese, another pinch of salt and a crack of black pepper, and the remaining tablespoon of butter. If it seems too thick, thin it out with one tablespoon of water at a time until it reaches your desired consistency. For a creamier texture: stir in half and half, one tablespoon at a time, until the orzo is as creamy as you like it.
- Divide between two warm bowls and top with crunchy toasted breadcrumbs, remaining grated cheese, and microgreens or chives. Serve warm!
Comments & Reviews
I have died and went to lemon heaven! This was amazing, thank you for such a great recipe!
sara a. says
I’m SO glad you enjoyed it!! Thank you for trying it!