10 Healthy Orzo Substitutes For Soups

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With their small, rice-shaped grains, orzo has long been a favorite soup addition of mine, adding a delightful texture and subtle flavor. Whether it’s in chicken noodle soup or adding depth to a minestrone, orzo is a staple used in soup recipes everywhere. But what if you’re out of orzo or want something different? Don’t worry! I’m sharing healthy orzo substitutes for soups that will enhance your dishes while still delivering comfort and satisfaction.

Best alternatives for orzo in soups

1. Rice

Rice, with its neutral flavor and ability to absorb the essence of the soup, is a fantastic substitute for orzo. Choose from varieties like arborio, long-grain white rice, jasmine rice, or even brown rice for a nuttier flavor and added nutrition. Remember to adjust cooking times according to the type of rice you choose, as they can vary significantly.

2. Pearl couscous

If you’re craving a pasta-like texture without the traditional noodle shape, pearl couscous is an excellent alternative for orzo. These small, round pearls provide a delightful chewiness and can absorb the flavors of the soup beautifully. Plus, their slightly larger size adds visual appeal to your dish. Try this pear couscous soup with shrimp recipe.

3. Israeli couscous

Often mistaken for pearl couscous, Israeli couscous is larger in size and has a slightly chewier texture. Like pearl couscous, it’s excellent for soaking up the flavors of the soup while adding a satisfying bite. Its robust nature makes it ideal for heartier soups and stews. Give them a light toast for a nutty flavor.

4. Farro

For a rustic touch, consider using farro in place of orzo. Farro, an ancient grain with a nutty flavor and hearty texture, adds depth to soups and complements a wide range of ingredients. It retains its chewiness even when cooked in broth, making it an excellent choice for soups that require longer simmering times.

5. Quinoa

If you’re looking for a gluten-free alternative to orzo, quinoa is your answer. This versatile pseudo-grain is packed with protein and nutrients, making it a nutritious addition to soups. While it won’t mimic the texture of orzo exactly, its delicate, slightly crunchy texture adds a delightful contrast to soups. Also, quinoa comes in many colors; white, red and black that can offer a visual appeal to your dishes.

6. Barley

Another ancient grain that’s perfect for soups is barley. With its chewy texture and nutty flavor, barley adds a hearty element to any soup or stew. I love pearl barley for its softer texture or hulled barley for a chewier bite. Barley does take longer to cook than orzo, so plan accordingly.

7. Acini di Pepe

If you prefer smaller pasta shapes, consider using acini di pepe as a substitute for orzo. These tiny pasta pearls are perfect for thickening soups and providing a subtle pasta presence without overwhelming the dish. They work particularly well in brothy soups and minestrone.

8. Ditalini

Ditalini, meaning “small thimbles” in Italian, are short, tube-shaped pasta similar in size to orzo. Their compact shape makes them ideal for spooning up with each bite of soup. Ditalini holds up well in hearty soups and adds a satisfying texture to every spoonful.

9. Pastina

Pastina, also known as stelline or stellini pasta, are small star-shaped pasta commonly used in soups, especially in Italian cuisine. Their diminutive size makes them perfect for adding a playful touch to soups, and they cook quickly, making them convenient for busy days.

10. Bulgur

Bulgur, a staple in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, is a nutritious whole grain made from cracked wheat. When cooked in soup, bulgur adds a chewy texture and nutty flavor, along with a boost of fiber and protein. It’s an excellent option for those seeking a hearty, wholesome alternative to orzo.


While orzo undoubtedly adds a delightful texture and flavor to soups, there’s a world of substitutes you can try. Whether you go for brown rice, couscous, ancient grains, or alternative pasta shapes, or even bulgur and pastina, each one of these substitute brings its unique characteristics to your soup pot. So, the next time you find yourself without orzo, take the opportunity to experiment with these versatile alternatives.