Calabacitas Orzo Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing {gf+v}

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Calabacitas Orzo Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing {gf+v}-0674

You know that feeling when you have to sneeze so bad, but for some reason your nose just won’t communicate with your brain?  You know that it would feel really cathartic if you were able to sneeze, but it just won’t come out?

Well, that is how I am feeling about the weather lately.  The sneeze being rain.  In the southwest, every July and August we have what we call monsoon season.  Apparently back in the day you could set your watch to the monsoons and it would pour a ridiculous amount of rain down every afternoon.  It can be a pretty awesome sight and sometimes it even rains so much that it causes flash floods.  They are exciting to watch from afar, but can be very dangerous!

more flood 013

But, unfortunately the monsoons this season are just not producing.  The most annoying part of it all is that I have been staring at skies that look like this for weeks now and everyday I’m positive that we will get rain and then all of a sudden the clouds part and the sun comes out.  I’m feeling pretty upset about it and really just need a good cathartic rain.  So, rain gods, if you are reading this, please send us rain!

Peanut Butter, Chocolate & Banana Ice Cream Sandwiches-0392

One thing that never disappoints is Mexican food!  I can always count on it to deliver delicious flavors that bring me lots of happiness, so when I saw that they sell gluten free orzo at the store now, I immediately knew that I wanted to put a Mexican spin on it.  I’ve been dreaming about all the awesome looking orzo salads posted by my fellow blogger friends this summer and I was so excited that I could finally make my own!  If you aren’t familiar with orzo, it is little pieces of pasta that look like rice.

Calabacitas Orzo Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing {gf+v}-0540

A while ago (actually a very long time ago, it was one of my first posts) I wrote about my favorite Mexican restaurant and how they make the best potato tacos in the world.  Well, they also have these other awesome tacos called calabacitas tacos.  They are filled with seasoned and sauteed squash and zucchini and they are so simple, but yet so good.

Calabacitas Orzo Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing {gf+v}-0635

Those calabacitas tacos were the inspiration behind this salad and I gotta tell you, these flavors taste just as good with orzo as they do stuffed into tacos.


Calabacitas Orzo Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing {gf+v}

  • Yield: 6 - 8
  • Category: Salad, Gluten Free, Vegan


  • 1 1/2 cup dried orzo pasta, I used gluten free corn orzo
  • 1 medium squash, small diced
  • 1 medium zucchini, small diced
  • 1 medium red pepper, small diced
  • 1 cup corn kernels
  • 1/2 red onion, small diced
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 cup sliced cherry tomatoes
  • 1 avocado, sliced or diced*

Cilantro Lime Dressing:

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon shallot, roughly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons lime juice, about 1½ limes
  • ¼ cup cilantro
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper


  1. Heat a large pan over medium heat. Add olive oil, squash, zucchini, red pepper, corn, and all seasonings. Cook for about 10 – 15 minutes until vegetables have slightly softened.
  2. Bring 6 – 8 cups of water to a boil. Pour orzo into the boiling water and cook according to package directions, or until orzo is tender.
  3. In a large bowl, mix orzo with the sauteed vegetables, sliced tomatoes, diced red onion, and avocado.
  4. Add all of the dressing ingredients to a blender and blend until combined. Pour dressing over salad and stir until it is mixed in.


*If you are serving the salad immediately you can dice the avocado and add directly to the salad, but if you are planning on eating the salad for leftovers you might want to dice a few slices of avocado and place on top of the salad each time you eat it.


Calabacitas Orzo Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing {gf+v}-0662

Calabacitas Orzo Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing {gf+v}-0656

Calabacitas Orzo Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing {gf+v}-0678

Calabacitas Orzo Salad with Cilantro Lime Dressing {gf+v}-0650

Cheeto is ready for Halloween!


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  1. says

    Yes, I know calabacitas tacos well!! And what a perfect pairing with orzo and the cilantro lime dressing. And that picture of the sky over the house is amazing. Is that your daily view?! Wish we could send some of our rain over to you, we’re getting more than we need for our summer months. Like that our recipes have a similar Southwester/squash similar this week. 😉

    • She Likes Food says

      Hi Katie! That is so funny that we both posted southwest squash recipes! Great minds think alike! Yes, that is the view from across the street! For living in a big city like Tucson, we are lucky to live so close to the mountains, they are not bad to look at at all :) It rained all day yesterday!!! The rain gods must have been listening!

    • She Likes Food says

      For some reason I always seem to forget about it too, maybe because it is so small and looks like rice?! You are right, it really does go so well with salads and I think I need to start using it more!

  2. says

    That is so crazy you have monsoon season! That picture of the flash flood is kind of scary. Looks like something from the movie Jumanji!

    This salad sounds so delicious! I really want to try your cilantro lime dressing!

    • says

      hahahahaha as I was reading this I was totally picturing that scene from Jumanji! Great minds think alike! :)
      And I had no idea they make gf orzo! I haven’t seen it yet, now I am on a mission to find it!

      • She Likes Food says

        Haha! It really does seem like it is out of a movie sometimes! I didn’t know they made gf orzo until a few weeks ago and I was so excited to buy it! I found it at the healthfood store, maybe I can send you some! It is perfect for when you don’t know if you want to eat pasta or rice, ha!

    • She Likes Food says

      Haha, it does remind me of Jumanji! The monsoons can be kinda of scary, but they are also really fun to watch if you are safe inside! Once we were out driving and we had to pull over because the rain was so heavy! But, it gets so hot and dry here in the summer that the rain is very welcomed!

      I think you will really love this dressing, Natalie!

  3. says

    Yum, this salad looks delicious! I could go for this for lunch today.
    We too have a monsoon season here. It drives me crazy, especially when I am trying to photograph. We start of sunny, then it seems the minute I bring my camera out the clouds roll in. Sometimes it rains, but mostly just clouds. My kids laugh at me because I talking to the clouds…just rain already!

    • She Likes Food says

      Thank you, Cindy! It really does make food photography so hard, especially since I take all my photos outside! I’m always having to run out and cover up my table to make sure it doesn’t get soaked. But when you are in the desert, any rain is welcome! We finally got some rain yesterday and it was so nice, except now it is really humid today, which I really hate! I guess you gotta make some sacrifices!

    • She Likes Food says

      Thank you so much, Danielle for the sweet words!! I don’t use orzo that often, but when I do I love it so much that I wonder why I don’t use it more often!

  4. says

    This salad! OMG, you packed basically all my favorite things into one gorgeous salad. Aaaand I’m pretty sure I have all of these ingredients on hand right now. This is so going to be my lunch tomorrow. LOVE the sound of that dressing! :)

    • She Likes Food says

      Haha! The more I get to know you, the more I think we are so alike! These are some of my favorite ingredients too! And trust me, you will most def love this dressing!! :)

  5. says

    It sounds like you have some beautiful flavours in here, Isadora!
    Orzo is really popular in Greece so it’s one of those ingredients that I’ve had on my food bucket list for absolutely ages but just haven’t got around to yet. So thanks for the inspiration – yours is so colourful!!

    • She Likes Food says

      Thank you Helen!! You have got to get your hands one some orzo! It is basically like rice and pasta mixed into one, and in my opinion, you really can’t go wrong with that!

  6. says

    I would hate to have a monsoon season, but your pictures are gorgeous! And this salad looks amazing. I love the flavors , especially with the cilantro lime dressing. Definitely a perfect dish to cure those Mexican food cravings!

    • She Likes Food says

      Thank you Gayle! It is always so hot and dry here that even though the storms can be a little crazy, they are very welcomed! I don’t like the humidity they bring, but I love that they cool things down a bit. The cilantro lime dressing is one of my new addictions, I think you would love it, Gayle! No matter how much Mexican food I eat, I always want more :)

  7. says

    I have never had orzo! Hmmm, so many things I need to try. But I’m into all things lime these days…it just adds a spark to any dish. I love the zucchini in the dish and obviously I’m looking for ways to use it us. Not to mention that (yay) avocados are finally on sale where I live for the week =) I’ll trade you some rain, it rains here without ceasing. Feels like monsoons, went to a party yesterday and the big white tent almost blew over!

    • She Likes Food says

      You must try orzo! It is kinda like rice, but it is actually pasta, lol! I feel like it could be used in both ways. I’m into all things lime these days too! It is so tangy and refreshing and so nice in the summer time. I like to just squeeze a little in my water everyday! Yah for avocados being on sale! I feel like they have been on sale here forever and I keep buying them up! I think I need to move up your way, because I’m really loving the rain and think I could get used to having it more often :)

  8. says

    This salad looks beautiful! I had no idea they had GF orzo and now I can’t wait to look out for it next time! The cilantro lime dressing sounds so light and delicious too!

    • She Likes Food says

      Thank you Kelly! I’ve only seen it at one grocery store now, but I had to buy it right up! I hadn’t had orzo in so long and it was exciting to cook with it again! This dressing is one of my new favorites!

  9. says

    Izzy! Hey girl! I think it may be the Canadian in me talking, but I LOVE discussing/reading about weather. I find it so fascinating. When I was a kid, my “dream job” was a tornado chaser. I’ve always loved the weather! I hope you get some soon -that would feel like one of those extra nice sneezes. Hehe.

    This is only the second time I’ve seen gfree orzo on a blog. I need to find some. Like your rain, the gluten-free orzo is elusive for me.

    PS. This pic of Cheeto is one of my faves. I am actually excited for Halloween because I live for fall! I assume that brings some cooler temps for you, too.

    PPS. The tongs you used to style this shot are gorgeous! They’re almost kind of cute -not sure if that makes sense 😉 I think it’s their bubble-like tops. Awww :)

    Al xoxoxoxoxox!

    • She Likes Food says

      Hey Al! Haha, I love talking about the weather too! Especially when it is exciting and involves torrential down pours! I went to a class a few years ago all about weather and wildfires and I found it so fascinating that I left wanting to become a meteorologist, but then I realized how much school it would take and changed my mind, haha! A tornado chaser would be both awesome and terrifying at the same time! We finally got some rain a few days ago and it poured for hours, which was so nice!

      I’ve only seen gluten free orzo at this one healthfood store I go to and I put off buying it for a while because it was kinda pricey, but I finally broke down and don’t regret it at all! I will totally send you some if you can’t find it! I’m so excited for Halloween too! I’m not really one for dressing up, but I love carving pumpkins and even more so, I love the cool Fall weather!

      Ha, they do have bubble like tops! I got them at an estate sale and between you and me, I only use them for photos :)

  10. says

    Ahahaha, I vow to meet Cheeto one of these days! Is that the Mexican place on Broadway you were telling me about with these delicious-sounding potato tacos?? Yum! Yes, the monsoons are a total tease this year! They’ve been this way for a few years now, but the cloud cover is at least a nice break from the heat. I hope you’re doing well girl and that you’re enjoying your job here! :-)

    • She Likes Food says

      Yes, you will meet him and you will love him! It is the Mexican restaurant on Broadway. We went there again this weekend and when we were leaving the waitress said, “see you next week” haha! I guess we are regulars there now. Thank goodness we finally got some rain on Saturday, but you are right, the clouds do at least give us a break from the direct sun. The new job is getting a little stressful, but I’m hoping that goes away after I get used to things more. I hope you guys are doing well too!

  11. says

    There’s a mexican hint in my family’s kitchen these days, so this is definitly going in the “must cook” list 😛 It definitely look like it would have a deep savoury taste, I like the ingredients for the dessing too. I just hope I cna find gluten-free orzo 😉

    • She Likes Food says

      Mexican food is pretty much the best food ever! I think the dressing really makes the flavor here! Good luck finding gluten free orzo! I was able to find mine at a healthfood store :)

    • She Likes Food says

      Hi Andi! It is Calle Tepa! Located on Broadway and Wilmot. They’ve changed a little bit since I wrote that post and we don’t eat there quite as often, but it is still pretty good! They charge for the chips now, but not that much!


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