This lemony salmon asparagus pasta salad recipe is full of the best fresh springtime flavors, it’s quick and easy to make, and can be served warm or as a cold pasta salad.
Yes, salmon! ♡
I thought it would be fun to mix things up with the usual pasta salads that I tend to make this time of year. So for something different, I flaked up a filet of smoked salmon and tossed it with some chopped asparagus, herbs, pine nuts, Parmesan and a quick lemony dressing. And you guys — this simple orzo salad was such a winner!
The smokiness of the salmon was downright irresistible paired with the rest of those bright, herby, and citrusy flavors. And with a bit of light multitasking, I was doubly pleased to find that the whole dish came together in just 30 minutes or so. It’s the perfect make-ahead dish for easy weekday lunches or weekend dinners on the patio this time of year. And after testing this recipe a few times here at our house, we can vouch that it tastes even better the next day too. ♡
Feel free to use whatever type of salmon here that you prefer — hot-smoked, cold-smoked, baked or sautéed. And if you’re not a big fan of dill, this recipe is incredibly flexible and would work well with fresh basil, parsley, or chives too. Alright, let’s make some pasta salad!
Salmon Asparagus Pasta Salad Ingredients:
To make this lemony salmon asparagus pasta salad, you will need the following ingredients:
Pasta: I used orzo pasta, but any pasta shape or noodle will work here.
Asparagus: I chopped my fresh asparagus into small little pieces, then briefly sautéed them in a drizzle of olive oil until they were crisp-tender.
Salmon: I used hot-smoked salmon, which I roughly flaked into pieces. But you could also chop up cold-smoked salmon, or bake/sauté a salmon filet until it is full-cooked if you prefer.
Parmesan: The more, the merrier, in my opinion. I coarsely-grated my Parmesan using a box grater, and really liked the larger chunks, but you could also use finely-grated Parmesan instead if you prefer. (I forgot to add it to the photo above, by the way, but it is pictured in all of the final photos of the salad here!)
Pine nuts: Which I recommend briefly toasting before adding to the pasta salad, to bring out their best flavor. I just toasted mine in the same sauté pan that I used for the asparagus.
Red onion: You all know me and red onion — I add it (or shallots) to nearly every salad I make. ;) That said, feel free to swap in green onions here if you prefer. And as always, if you would like the onion taste to be a bit more mild, just give it a quick rinse in cold water before adding it to the salad.
Fresh dill: I always love salmon, lemon and dill together. But if you’re not a fan of dill, feel free to add in some fresh basil instead.
Lemon dressing: I just used my everyday dressing for this pasta salad, made with olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon, garlic, salt and pepper. If you would like, feel free to also zest your lemon (before juicing it) and add the zest to the pasta salad too.
How To Make This Pasta Salad:
If you do a bit of multitasking, this pasta salad can be ready to go in around 30 minutes or so. Simply…
Cook the orzo. In salted boiling water until al dente, then drain and rinse with cold water until the pasta is chilled.
Make the vinaigrette. Whisk everything together or shake in a mason jar until combined.
Sauté the asparagus. Sauté until crisp-tender. (Or alternately, you could roast the asparagus!)
Put it all together. Toss everything together until combined.
Serve. Serve and enjoy — sprinkled with extra Parmesan and fresh dill if you would like!
There are so many ways that you could customize this salmon orzo salad recipe, so feel free to play around with it! For example, you could…
Serve it hot: We really enjoyed this as a cold pasta salad, but it could just as easily be served hot! (If doing so, I recommend sautéing the onions and garlic from the dressing with the asparagus.)
Make it chunky: I opted for smaller chopped ingredients for this recipe. But you could use a larger pasta shape, and chop the asparagus and salmon into larger pieces to match the same size.
Add extras: Marinated artichoke hearts, sun-dried tomatoes (or fresh cherry tomatoes), olives, capers, fresh greens (such as chopped arugula or spinach), or other sautéed veggies (green beans, peas, zucchini, etc) would also be delicious in this salad.
Use a different protein: Canned tuna would also be delicious in place of salmon. Or you could use cooked shrimp, shredded chicken or chickpeas instead.
More Pasta Salad Recipes:
Looking for some more great pasta salad recipes to try? Here are a few of my faves:
Cook the orzo. Cook the orzo in a large pot of generously-salted boiling water until it is al dente. Pour the orzo through a strainer and rinse with cold water until the pasta is chilled. Set aside until ready to use.
Make the vinaigrette. Meanwhile, whisk together all of the lemon dressing ingredients together until combined.
Sauté the asparagus. Heat the oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the asparagus and cook for 4-5 minutes until crisp-tender. Remove pan from heat and set aside.
Put it all together. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chilled orzo, cooked asparagus, salmon, Parmesan, pine nuts, red onion and dill. Drizzle evenly with the lemon dressing and toss until combined.
Serve. Serve immediately, sprinkled with extra Parmesan and fresh dill if desired.
Salmon: I used hot smoked salmon for this recipe, but you could also sub in cold-smoked salmon. Or, you are welcome to bake a salmon breast and then add it to the recipe too.
Lemon zest: I also recommend adding the zest of the lemon to the salad too, if you would like it to have an extra lemony kick.
Storage instructions: This pasta salad can be refrigerated in a food storage container for up to 3 days.
I can’t believe that just yesterday I made nearly the same recipe except that I poached the salmon and served it whole on top of warm Tabouli salad with essentially the same ingredients as this pasta salad – substituting mint for dill, adding chopped tomatoes and omitting the Parmesan. Wish I’d have thought of the pine nuts. – Next time. And the lemon buttered asparagus was served whole, too. “Deconstructed”? At any rate it was sensational.
This looks absolutely delish! Making a grocery list now so that I can fix over the long weekend ahead!
Thanks for posting this recipe! So delicious :) I used so salmon we had for dinner the previous evening. Love the combo of flavors!
Hi Ali, this looks delicious! Did you buy the hot-smoked salmon or did you make it yourself? Not sure where to get hot-smoked salmon here in Portugal as most of the ones in stores are the cold-smoked kind. Thx!
Yes, same story here in Spain! We have a few specialty shops that sell hot-smoked, which is where I found ours for this recipe. Cold-smoked or baked salmon will work well too though. :)
Yum! I added frozen peas & feta instead of parmesan (bc that’s what I had in my fridge)–excellent the following day
Your recipe inspired our dinner last night. We only have one salmon lover in our house, but everyone loves shrimp, so I made that swap and then basically deconstructed everything to suit picky eaters. I grilled the shrimp and the asparagus, then cut into bite size pieces. I did increase the orzo and used the dressing as a drizzle over each bowl. It was amazing and got rave reviews — bright flavors, easy prep, and company worthy!
I made the recipe as written (using grocery store smoked salmon), and it was absolutely amazing! The blend of flavors is perfect.
Just as easy and versatile as advertised! I went with cucumbers and cherry tomatoes and a sprinkle of capers, since we had those already *and* the husband isn’t a huge asparagus fan. I’ll try it as written next time it’s just me at home, though!
Finally made it with cold-smoked salmon and it was absolutely delicious! I ended up sautéing the red onion with the asparagus as I prefer cooked onion. It turned out great.
So delicious. I served it warm. All the recipes that I’ve tried have turned out, several keepers!
This was super easy and excellent. Will definitely make again!!
Made this and it was delicious! I added frozen peas to the asparagus and used parsley instead of dill since I have tons growing in my garden at the moment. Substituted toasted walnuts for the pine nuts and added pecorino as the cheese Also used shallot instead of red onion. Very yummy and filling enough to be dinner rather than just a side.
Absolutely delicious. I’ve only had it hot and have loved it. I’ve been using green beans instead of asparagus but enjoy it either way. We have enjoyed any recipie we have tried from this blog ☺️
Wonderful inspiration recipe, is a favorite. Happened to have asparagus and red onion steamed with chives dill and Penzey Fox point seasoning– used as a base farro and some lentils, added a few green peas, chopped tomato. Had some roasted delicata on hand and “why not” added that -pistachio just a touch, and a bit of smoked salmon. Didn’t need any dressing at all. I used a low carb alternative noodle for my base –(I am a calorie saver where I can.) Like that you give all sorts of additions ideas.
Love this recipe! We have made this many times! I am not usually a salmon lover, but this recipe may have converted me… the smokiness of the salmon with the tart lemon and the fresh dill is just perfect!
I have made this several times this year! My daughters and I love it. It is delicious warm and cold as leftovers.
This recipe was so simple and delish! BOTH of my children (1.5 & 3 years old) devoured their first helping and asked for seconds and then THIRDS! They are currently enjoying leftovers for lunch today! Thank you so much for this fun recipe I will keep on lunch and dinner rotation foe the rest of the spring and summer!!!
Made for my wife for mother’s day. She RAVED spoonful after spoonful over it. Had everything but the pine nuts. Still super delicious! I’ve saved this one as a make again next time we have some salmon and asparagus..
I liked the idea and will probably make it again with baked salmon but between the hot smoked salmon, parmesan and the salt in the dressing it was just incredibly salty– recommend cutting back on the salt in the dressing if you’re using salmon that’s heavily salted as well.
I plan on making this tomorrow, what would you suggest serving with it? It seems to be a nice balanced meal in itself, but seems weird to just eat this as a dinner? Thanks! We LOVE your recipes!!
So fresh, easy and yummy!
It was the yummiest salmon salad I’ve ever had 😋
Thanks a lot ♥️