Is Orzo Healthy or Unhealthy?

is orzo pasta healthy

Short Answer: Orzo can be a healthy addition to your diet. Just be sure to eat it in moderation.

Living a healthy lifestyle means making decisions each time we head to our local grocery store.

But making decisions that align with our lifestyle can be tough, especially considering that each store aisle contains thousands of products. 

When it comes to pasta, there are hundreds of different varieties with varying levels of nutritiousness. One such variety that has exploded in popularity in recent years is orzo.

Many of you may be unfamiliar with orzo, as it’s less commonly found in American pantries than its more popular counterparts. But is orzo healthy? 

This article will contain a 360 view of Orzo, and we will discuss…

  • Is orzo healthy?
  • Is orzo good for you?
  • Is orzo healthier than rice?
  • Is orzo Keto and gluten free friendly?

Let’s get started!

What is Orzo?

Orzo is a form of short cut pasta that takes its name from the Italian word for “barley.” Its appearance strongly resembles rice, but don’t be fooled, as orzo cooks in a similar manner to many of your favorite pastas.

Orzo has long been popular across Europe, especially in the Mediterranean countries where it can be found in a variety of different dishes. Many assume that pasta is unhealthy since they tend to contain large amounts of carbohydrates. But is orzo good or bad for you? 

Is Orzo Healthy?

As with most pasta varieties, orzo is calorically dense with about 40 grams of carbohydrates per 2 ounce serving. On the other hand, orzo tends to contain about 5-7 grams of protein per serving, which is an essential nutrient in any healthy diet.

The healthiest aspect of orzo is its fiber content, as each portion contains 3 grams of fiber. Be sure to look out for whole grain varieties of orzo, which contain significantly more fiber than its traditional counterpart. 

On the whole, orzo is healthy when eaten in moderation. When eating orzo, be sure to carefully measure your portions, since the amount of calories you can consume quickly escalates if you are not careful.

If cooked at home, be sure to avoid processed, store-bought sauces since these ingredients can rapidly increase the amount of sugar and calories per meal. One great, yet often overlooked, aspect of orzo is that it tends to be extremely filling, which leads to less overeating. 

Orzo Nutrition

Orzo nutrition can change slightly depending on the brand you buy. Overall, there are only slight differences. Nothing seriously impactful to worry about. Below we will breakdown Barilla orzo.

Calories from Fat9
Total Fat1g
Saturated Fat0g
Trans Fat0g
Total Carb42g
Dietary Fiber3g
Soluble Fiber2g
Insoluble Fiber1g

Orzo Vs. Rice

Due to their similar appearances, people often confuse orzo with rice, but there are a number of distinct differences between the two foods. In terms of their nutritional profile, orzo and rice are fairly similar, but orzo delivers nearly twice the amount of protein per serving.

Another difference is, orzo comes from semolina flour while rice is a grown cereal grain. Perhaps the best aspect of orzo is its quick cook time. A plate of orzo can be ready to go in about ten minutes, whereas rice generally takes at least 20 minutes to prepare.

Is Orzo Gluten Free?

Since orzo is a form of pasta comes from flour, it is not gluten free. However, there are a few gluten free orzo options which they manufacture from corn and rice flour.

If you subscribe to a gluten free diet, be sure to carefully read the nutrition facts in order to discern whether a particular brand of orzo is gluten free.

Is Orzo Whole 30 Friendly?

Since orzo is a pasta that comes from wheat flour, it is not compliant with the Whole 30 diet. If Whole 30 compliance is a concern for you, then we recommend a grain free replacement, such as cauliflower rice. 

Is Orzo Ketogenic Diet Friendly?

Given its high carbohydrate and low protein nutritional profile, orzo is not a good choice for those looking for a keto-friendly pasta. If you’re on a ketogenic diet and set on cooking orzo, there are certain low carb varieties available at specialty grocery stores that may better align with your needs.

Is Orzo Vegan?

Now that we’ve examined Orzo through the lens of a number of different diets, let’s talk about whether or not orzo is vegan. Fortunately, since orzo does not contain any animal-based ingredients, orzo is indeed vegan, and it will make a great addition to some of your favorite recipes.

Orzo Vs. Risotto

Similar to rice, people often mix orzo up with risotto. To put it simply, orzo is a pasta while risotto is a classic Italian dish you prepare with rice. 

How to Prepare Orzo?

Orzo is an extremely versatile pasta that you can cook a number of ways. The most common way to prepare orzo is to boil it as you would with any pasta.

However, our favorite way to cook orzo is to prepare it in a skillet. First, add your orzo to a skillet with salt and butter and let it toast until the rice-shaped kernels are a light golden brown.

Once you achieve that color, add water or your preferred stock (chicken, beef, etc…) and let it slowly simmer until all the liquid has evaporated. Finally, add the orzo to your main dish and enjoy!

Our Overall Take on Orzo

As we’ve discussed at length, orzo is a versatile dish that can be used in a variety of different recipes. Overall, orzo is fairly healthy when you eat it in moderation. It helps provide a solid amount of protein and carbohydrates.

Since orzo is high in calories, it is always important to measure your serving size of orzo to ensure that you do not overeat.

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