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20 Minute Lemon Butter Orzo Carbonara. This is the simplest way to make carbonara pasta. You need just one skillet and about 20 to 30 minutes. The orzo is toasted in lemon butter, garlic, and thyme, then cooked and tossed with eggs and parmesan to create that classic creamy carbonara sauce. It’s so delicious, and the bacon on top really finishes it off just wonderfully. A little extra parmesan and butter is all you need.

20 Minute Lemon Butter Orzo Carbonara |

This recipe is so simple and perfect for anyone who really enjoys a delicious bowl of pasta for dinner. Carbonara is a pretty classic Italian pasta, usually made with bacon, eggs, lots of parmesan cheese, and a longer cut of pasta.

The secret to a great carbonara is the sauce. It consists of raw eggs and grated parmesan cheese. The eggs are tossed with the steaming pasta. As the tossing process takes place, the heat from the steaming pasta cooks the eggs, creating the silkiest, cheesiest pasta.

20 Minute Lemon Butter Orzo Carbonara |

If you’re unfamiliar with this method, it might sound like a funny way to make pasta, but it really is so delicious. The sauce is rich and creamy!

My variation on this classic pasta is made simply in one skillet with orzo pasta, butter, fresh lemon, and thyme. I love this dish because it comes together so quickly and with minimal ingredients – yet it’s still so good!

It’s also great because I sometimes struggle with my pasta not being hot enough to fully cook the eggs in the sauce. This one-skillet method makes things easy and ensures the most perfect, silky, creamy sauce!

20 Minute Lemon Butter Orzo Carbonara |

Here are the details

Step 1: cook the bacon

Bacon is essential to a yummy carbonara pasta. Use a thick-cut bacon and give it a nice chopping before cooking.

Be sure to cook the bacon in a skillet that will be large enough also to cook the pasta.

Once the bacon is crispy, remove it from the skillet and set aside for topping.

20 Minute Lemon Butter Orzo Carbonara |

Step 2: cook the orzo

Now, in that same skillet, add a couple of slices of butter. Add the lemon slices, then the garlic and thyme. Mix in the orzo and let the orzo cook in the lemon butter for a couple of minutes until it’s lightly toasted.

Now mix in a few cups of water, plus the spinach. Let the orzo cook until it’s just al dente. Do not drain the pasta.

20 Minute Lemon Butter Orzo Carbonara |

Step 3: mix the eggs with the Parmesan

While the orzo is cooking, whisk the eggs together with the parmesan cheese. I usually season with black peppers and chili flakes, too.

20 Minute Lemon Butter Orzo Carbonara |

Step 4: mix the eggs into the pasta

Remove the skillet of orzo from the heat. There should be some liquid left in the skillet. Working quickly, stir in the egg mixture. Continue to stir continuously until the eggs create a creamy cheese sauce.

This step is really important. Be sure to toss really the orzo for a good minute until the sauce thickens. You’ll then have perfect orzo carbonara.

I love to finish the carbonara with fresh basil, salt, and pepper. Once you plate the carbonara, top with the reserved bacon. Then add a little drizzle of melted butter + freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Top this however you like! It’s great served alongside grilled or roasted chicken or steak. You could also top it with asparagus or even broccoli. But be sure to include a big salad to complete the meal. So yummy!

20 Minute Lemon Butter Orzo Carbonara |

Looking for other easy weeknight dinners? Here are some favorites.

One Skillet Lemon Butter Dijon Chicken and Orzo with Feta Sauce

Easy Greek Sheet Pan Chicken Souvlaki and Potatoes

Browned Garlic Butter Creamed Corn Cheese Ravioli

One Skillet Cheesy Broccoli Cheddar Orzo Bake

Lastly, if you make this 20 Minute Lemon Butter Orzo Carbonara, be sure to leave a comment and/or give this recipe a rating! Above all, I love to hear from you guys and always do my best to respond to each and every comment. And, of course, if you do make this recipe, don’t forget to tag me on Instagram! Looking through the photos of recipes you all have made is my favorite!

Lemon Butter Orzo Carbonara

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories Per Serving: 514 kcal

Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.


  • 1. Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crisp. Drain onto a paper towel. If desired, remove some of the bacon fat.
    2. To the skillet, add the butter, lemon slices, thyme, garlic, and orzo. Cook until the orzo is toasted, 2 minutes. Add 3 cups water and the spinach. Season with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes, until the orzo is al dente and most of the liquid has evaporated, but not all of it.
    3. Whisk together the eggs and parmesan in a bowl.
    4. Remove the orzo from the heat. Add the egg/cheese mixture, tossing quickly (to ensure the eggs do not scramble) until the eggs thicken and create a sauce. Add the basil and season with salt and pepper.
    5. Serve the carbonara with grated parmesan and bacon. Drizzle a bit of olive oil or melted butter over top. Enjoy!
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20 Minute Lemon Butter Orzo Carbonara |

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  1. 5 stars
    I have made so many of your recipes, and I think this may be one of my absolute favorites. I’ve already made it twice. So delicious and easy!

  2. 4 stars
    This was good, but as a number of people have said, it took more than 5 minutes and 3 cups of water to cook the orzo (for me, 10 minutes and 3.5 cups), so not sure what brand of orzo recommends only 5 minutes. I also got a mild allergic reaction right after eating it, maybe from the eggs not really being cooked? Anyway, the flavor was good and I might make it again, but with a few modifications!

    1. Hi Helen,
      Thanks for trying this recipe and sharing your feedback, sorry to hear the orzo took longer to cook than expected. I think that could be the variations in pans and how high or low the heat is on the stove top. Glad the flavors were enjoyed! xx

  3. 5 stars
    Big hit at our house – I needed to cook the orzo longer than the recipe said to get it al dente (which required me to add more water) but we will absolutely be making this again!

    1. Hey Lydia,
      Wonderful! I love to hear that this recipe was a winner, thanks a lot for giving it a try! Xx

  4. 2 stars
    I love most of the HBH recipes but this one isn’t my favorite. The orzo took a very long time to cook and took more water than 3 cups to cook it. Overall I found the recipe to not have a lot of flavor… mostly disappointing. We’ll go back to the chicken, sundried tomato and spinach with orzo — which we absolutely love!

    1. Hi Brooke,
      Thanks so much for giving this dish a try and sharing your feedback, so sorry to hear it was not enjoyed! xx

  5. 4 stars
    Made this for a side to Santa Maria Tri-Tip for our wine club. Flavor is a wonderful; love the combination of the lemon with the butter, thyme, basil and spinach. And, bacon always makes everything better! Don’t skip the step to brown the orzo a bit; brings in a toastiness which is wonderful; but, watch closely not to burn. Also: 1) I stepped up the servings to 10 on the website; but DO NOTE the water does not adjust along with the other ingredients as it is embedded in the recipe text. I found I needed even more water to get the orzo to cook fully even after adjusting proportionally; 2) Be mindful to get all the seeds of the lemons out while slicing and decide if you want to try to pull them out before serving or leave them in to be eaten. If the latter, which you can do as they do cook down, just be sure to slice very thinly; and, 3) This recipe is difficult to hold the texture/moisture level right if you are intending to serve later than right when it comes off of the stove. I found it was perfect when done; but, unfortunately dried up a bit while in a warm oven waiting for us to serve it. Overall, though 4 stars for great flavor and creativity.

    1. Hey Jeff,
      Thanks so much for making this dish, I’m so glad to hear it was enjoyed!! I appreciate you sharing your detailed notes, I’m sure this will be helpful for others! have a great day! xx

  6. 5 stars
    When my husband says half way through cooking something that he knows he’s going to love it – it’s a winner!

    This was soooo good. Surprisingly light, thanks to the lemon, but so full of flavor.

    We topped ours with seared scallops (being in the Pacific Northwest were big seafood fans) for some protein but otherwise I made as the recipe said. I would say, the orzo definitely takes a bit longer but knowing that going in I just kept it going in water a little longer than directed and once done I covered it in the pan while we made the scallops.

    Thank you for yet another dish that will be on our weekly menu often!

    1. Hey Kristen,
      Happy Sunday!! Thanks a lot for giving this recipe a try, I’m so glad to hear it was a hit! Such a great idea to top with scallops, that sounds delish! xT