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This Arugula Pesto is bright, flavorful, and packs a light punch. It’s made in 10 minutes with only 5 ingredients and the best way to brighten up your favorite recipes. Vegan, Gluten-free, Nut-free option.
This Arugula Pesto is made in 10 minutes with fresh ingredients like leafy greens, good quality olive oil, buttery walnuts and garlic. It’s a great way to use up a bag of arugula. Serve over your favorite grain bowl, pasta dish, pasta salads, burritos, sandwiches, roasted cauliflower, or simply eat it by the spoonful. Its bright, zesty flavor will have you coming back for more!
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Pesto with a Peppery Kick
There’s nothing quite like a good, fresh pesto. It’s one of my favorite ways to instantly jazz up any dish while getting a serving of leafy greens in at the same time. It’s bright, full of flavor, and has a creamy silkiness that I find myself craving on a regular basis.
This arugula pesto tastes fairly similar to traditional basil pesto, but with a peppery bite that’s perfect for Spring and Summer weather. You’ll never want to buy store-bought pesto again!
Ingredients for Arugula Pesto
Just like my homemade Nut-Free Pesto, this arugula pesto is equally as quick and simple. You’ll only need 5 ingredients (including salt!) that are widely accessible at any grocery store.
- Arugula: Classic pesto is made with the traditional fresh basil, but this peppery twist features tons of fresh arugula. It’s bright, slightly spicy, flavor negates the need for an acid like lemon juice.
- Walnuts: Pine nuts are the obvious choice for making pesto, but I find the sharp, buttery flavor of walnuts to pair best with the arugula.
- Garlic: What is homemade pesto without fresh garlic? I used two garlic cloves, but don’t be afraid to up it for an extra garlicky pesto.
- Olive oil: A cold-pressed olive oil is the secret to smooth, creamy pesto with a rich and buttery “mouth-feel.”
- Nutritional yeast: Optional, but the source of a “cheesy” flavor without any dairy.
How to Make Arugula Pesto
- Toast the walnuts in a warm pan over medium heat until fragrant and slightly golden.
- Add the toasted walnuts to a food process along with fresh garlic and pulse until finely chopped. Add in the arugula, nutritional yeast, and salt and pulse again until combined.
- Pour in the olive oil and process until emulsified and a vibrant, bright green color.
- Serve immediately or store for meal prep.
Caitlin’s Cooking Tips
- Use the best olive oil your budget will allow. I’m typically all about going for the affordable option, but when it comes to pesto, the quality of the oil will make or break the flavor. If there’s ever a time to spring for the good oil, it’s when making oil-based Sauces & Dressings. Check out these 9 pro tips Food & Wine put together on How to Buy and Use a Good Olive Oil.
- Store nuts in the fridge or freezer. This is particularly helpful if you like to shop in bulk, but nuts and seeds are prone to going rancid when stored at room temperature. For optimal freshness, I suggest keeping them in tightly sealed jars or freezer safe bags in the fridge or freezer until ready to use.
When it comes to pesto, the question is more what can’t I put pesto on. It’s one of the most versatile ingredients that can be enjoyed at every meal of the day. For inspiration, here are a few of my favorite pesto recipes for you to try:
- Vegan Breakfast Burritos
- No-Boil Pesto Pasta Bake
- Roasted Spring Vegetable Pesto Pasta
- Pesto Fried Rice with Vegetables
- Grilled Tofu Sliders
- Pesto Star Bread
If you’re looking for more homemade sauce recipes, you’ll also love this Easy Peanut Sauce, this Nut-Free Vegan Pesto and this Green Goddess Tahini Dressing!
How to Store Arugula Pesto
This vegan arugula pesto will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months. When storing, always seal in an airtight container such as a mason jar or Tupperware. Once refrigerated, high-quality olive oil may solidify, but it will turn back into liquid once it sits at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
Substitutions and Variations
- Walnut substitutions: The combination of walnuts and arugula works well together, but if you’re looking for a more traditional tasting pesto, I’d recommend substituting pine nuts.
- Nutritional yeast substitution: Replace the nutritional yeast with a dairy-free parmesan cheese.
- Nut-free option: Replace the walnuts with raw pumpkin seeds or pepitas.
- Blender option: If you’d like a smoother pesto, follow the same recipe steps, but prepare the arugula pesto in a high-speed blender instead of a food processor.
Bitter pesto is likely due to the olive oil. When olive oil is blended for too long or has gone rancid, it can taste bitter. For optimal results, use a high quality oil and add it slowly at the end until just combined.
Great question! Try my Pesto Orzo Salad, Quinoa & Arugula Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes or with Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette. You can also add it to a Grilled Pesto Tofu Slider if you’re interested in something heartier.
No need! Similar to baby spinach stems, arugula stems are edible and nutritious. They’re also quite tender and palatable so they won’t be difficult to chew.
Enjoy! If you make this recipe and decide to share it on Facebook or Instagram, don’t forget to tag me @FromMyBowl + #FromMyBowl! I would also love it if you could leave a comment below with a recipe rating! Thank you for the support 😊
- 1/2 cup walnuts*
- 2 cloves garlic
- 4 ounces arugula about 4 cups
- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional, but recommended)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1-3-1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil*
- Toast the Walnuts (optional): For a deeper flavor, warm a pan to medium heat and add the walnuts. Toast for 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the walnuts are fragrant and slightly golden on the edges.
- Make the Pesto: In a food processor with an S-blade attachment, add the walnuts and garlic. Pulse until finely chopped. Add the arugula, nutritional yeast, and salt. Pulse again until finely chopped. Scrape the sides of the food processor with a spatula, then close the bowl and run again. Slowly pour in the olive oil and process until the mixture emulsifies and turns a creamy, vibrant green color.
- Serve: Use immediately, or store leftovers in the fridge for up to 3 days. High-quality olive oil may solidify in the fridge after a day or two, but will turn back into a liquid once it sits at room temperature for around 30 minutes. Leftover pesto can also be frozen for up to 2 months.
- Walnuts: The flavor of walnuts pairs well with arugula, but you could also use pine nuts for a more traditional pesto flavor, or use pumpkin seeds to make the recipe nut-free.
- Olive Oil: Use only 1/3 cup of olive oil if you prefer a thicker pesto, or if you are omitting the nutritional yeast
- For a Smoother Pesto, follow the same steps but make it in a high-speed blender instead of a food processor.