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This 5-minute Arugula Pesto recipe is nutty and peppery with bright and savory flavors. Spread over bread or use as a sauce for pizza or pasta. It's easy to make any season with always-available arugula.
If you're curious about arugula but don't know what to do with it, arugula pesto is your new best friend. It takes 5 minutes to make and is utterly delicious on everything!
The good news is that fresh arugula is available every season of the year in most produce departments. Also, this pesto uses walnuts, which are more budget-friendly than pine nuts used in classic pesto. The walnuts also give arugula pesto a deep, rich taste.
I can legit eat this stuff by the spoonful. But, if I'm being civilized, I'll spread it over crostini, or French bread, dollop it on pasta, pizza, or baked spaghetti squash. Use arugula walnut pesto the same way you would use basil pesto.
- fresh arugula - The star of the show. I prefer baby arugula, but mature arugula will work too.
- extra virgin olive oil - This adds a nutty flavor and comforting texture to pesto. I don't recommend substituting other oils, but if you must, go for it.
- Parmesan cheese - I like to use Parmigiano Reggiano for this pesto recipe.
- walnuts - Arugula walnut pesto is an affordable alternative to pesto made with pine nuts, but you are welcome to use any nut you like.
- water - Small amounts of water may be needed to adjust pesto consistency instead of using oil.
- fresh lemon juice - Avoid packaged lemon juice, if possible.
The difference between basil and arugula pesto
The key difference between arugula and basil pesto depends on which herb you use, basil or arugula. Otherwise, my two recipes are nearly identical. I love arugula because it's both peppery and sweet, and is available and affordable any season of the year in the grocery stores. Basil tends to be more bitter and is definitely expensive when it’s not in season. If you want to venture out even more, check out these radish greens pesto.
- dip for vegetables and crackers
- as crostini or spread on sliced French bread
- marinade for chicken, fish, and seafood
- great ingredient for crustless quiche
- as a flavor loaded sandwich spread
- combine with any variety of pasta noodles
- dollop or spread on pizza before baking
Does arugula pesto turn brown?
No, it actually doesn't! Well, not right away anyway. In fact, I’ve made this exact arugula pesto recipe countless times and I always notice that it maintains a beautiful green color. Unlike basil pesto, arugula doesn't need to be blanched for the pesto AND it doesn't need to be drenched in oil during storage. The lemon juice magically helps prevent browning for at least a few days after it's made, which makes it a brilliant choice for pesto.
- Always use fresh arugula during peak freshness. Make sure the color is a vibrant green and free of brown spots, wilting, or any other signs of spoilage.
- To reduce calories, I use cold water – instead of oil – to adjust the pesto consistency, just like I do in this hummus recipe. It cuts calories and cost!
- To store, arugula pesto can be refrigerated in an airtight container and enjoyed within 3-5 days. I personally love how the flavor deepens by day 2 and 3.
Can I freeze arugula pesto?
Yes! To freeze arugula pesto, portion into any size freezer safe container. As mentioned earlier, I've never found it necessary to drizzle oil over the surface. Freeze arugula pesto up to 90 days, or longer if vacuum sealed. Then transfer the pesto to the refrigerator for overnight stay and it will be ready to serve.
Easy dips and spreads you'll love
- 5 Minute French Onion Dip
- Loaded Black Bean Dip
- Herb and Artichoke White Bean Dip
- Creamy Avocado Ranch Dressing and Dip
- Smoked Salmon Dip with Greek Yogurt
Arugula Pesto Recipe
- 4 cups Arugula same as 3 ½ ounces
- 1 cup Walnuts
- ½ cup Parmesan Cheese shaved, shredded, or fresh grated
- ¼ cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 2 tablespoons Lemon Juice optional, but recommended
- 2 cloves Garlic coarsely chopped
- ¼ teaspoon Sea Salt
- Black Pepper to taste
- ¼ cup water as needed for thinning
- Place ARUGULA, CHEESE, WALNUTS, OLIVE OIL, LEMON, GARLIC, SALT, and PEPPER in a food processor fitted with the dough/chopping blade attachment.
- Pulse or blend until all ingredients are well-combined.
- Add water in small amounts to adjust consistency.
- Store in airtight containers up to five days in the refrigerator and up to 90 days in the freezer.
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