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Grilled Shrimp and Creamy Coconut Orzo Pasta Salad

This grilled shrimp and creamy coconut orzo pasta salad is my go-to summer salad that is full of fresh veggies, orzo cooked in creamy coconut milk, and protein perfect for throwing on the grill. 

Orzo just feels like the perfect sequel to a pasta salad! P.S. the orzo cooked in coconut milk makes it taste like Annie’s White Cheddar Mac & Cheese 🧐

This is a warm pasta salad, simply because my African mom truly believes that eating cold food is utter torture, but you can let the orzo and shrimp cool before combining the salad if you prefer it cold. 

The veggies make the most delicious, summery kachumbari to add to the pasta. Kachumbari is a staple Kenyan tomato salad that is served with grilled meats (or anything, really!), and there’s loads of recipes to serve it with in my debut cookbook, AfriCali: Recipes From My Jikoni

Crunchy bits are so welcome in this recipe. Let the orzo cook until it begins to brown on the edges for extra crunch.


1 can (14 ounces) coconut milk

1 cup water

Salt to taste

1 1/2 cups (225 grams or 8 ounces) orzo pasta

1/2 pound grape or cherry tomatoes, diced

1/2 small red onion (1/3 cup), finely diced

1 Serrano pepper, seeds removed and finely chopped

1 lemon

Olive oil 

1/2 pound peeled and deveined shrimp

1 tablespoon garlic ginger paste

A small handful of cilantro, finely chopped (stems and leaves separated)

1 cup small diced cucumber

1 avocado, diced 

  1. In a medium pot, bring the coconut milk, water, and salt to a boil. Add the orzo and cook until tender. Drain in a colander to remove any extra liquid. Set aside.

  2. In a mixing bowl, make the kachumbari by combining the diced tomatoes, red onion, and chili pepper. Season with salt and the juice of half a lemon. Set aside.

  3. In a separate bowl, season the shrimp with the garlic ginger paste, finely chopped cilantro stems, salt, and black pepper. Heat a wide non-stick pan or outdoor grill over medium-high heat. Once hot, generously coat the cooking surface with olive oil and cook the shrimp until pink, making sure not to overcook. Set aside.

  4. To the same frying pan, generously coat with more olive oil and add the drained cooked orzo, toasting until the grains are separated and are lightly toasted.

  5. When ready to serve: in a large mixing bowl, combine the toasted orzo with the kachumbari, cooked shrimp, cucumber, and half the avocado. Taste and add more olive oil, salt, or lemon juice as needed.

  6. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with the remaining half of avocado.


  • How to make garlic ginger paste: Combine equal parts chopped ginger and chopped garlic, and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 3 months.



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