Arugula Walnut Pesto Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time
Prep/Total Time: 15 min.
Move over, basil! We're loving arugula pesto. Here's how you can make pesto at home with a different green.

Updated: Apr. 23, 2024

You know pesto as the basil-forward green sauce that can top anything from pasta to pizza. But basil isn’t the only green that can tastes delicious in pesto sauce. Swap in a favorite spicy salad green and make arugula pesto.

Arugula Pesto Ingredients

Making arugula pesto follows all the same steps as a traditional pesto but with a few tweaks to the ingredients.

  • Arugula: First and foremost, instead of raiding your herb garden for bunches of basil, you’ll want to pick plenty of arugula. This green has a peppery kick that pairs well with pasta, tomatoes and other Italian ingredients.
  • Walnuts: You’ll also notice that in lieu of pine nuts, our arugula pesto uses walnuts. Walnuts are more affordable and add a similar flavor profile. Of course, if you’d like to stick with pine nuts, feel free! You can swap in the same amount in this recipe.
  • Parmesan: This hard cow’s milk cheese is a traditional component of pesto. You want freshly grated, not the jarred kind.
  • Garlic: Pesto needs a bit of bite from fresh garlic.
  • Oil: Reach for a good quality, smooth-tasting extra-virgin olive oil.
  • Lemon juice: Don’t skip the lemon juice! It brightens the flavor of the arugula and keeps the sauce a vibrant green color.

Directions

Step 1: Toast the walnuts

Spread the walnuts evenly on an ungreased sheet pan. Bake at 350ºF for 5 to 10 minutes, until you can start to smell a lightly toasted scent.

Step 2: Pulse the ingredients

Add the arugula, Parmesan cheese, garlic and salt to the bowl of a food processor. Cover and pulse until chopped. Then add in the cooled walnuts and lemon juice.

Step 3: Drizzle in the oil

Break out your favorite extra-virgin olive oil. Set the food processor to blend on low speed and slowly add a steady stream of olive oil into the mix.

If needed, scrape down the sides of the processor bowl and pulse until you reach your desired consistency. Some folks like a super smooth pesto, while others like to see a bit of texture—either works!

How to Use Arugula Pesto

How To Make Arugula PestoTMB Studio

Arugula pesto can be used in any recipe that calls for fresh or jarred pesto sauce. These recipes with pesto are a great place to start, but keep these applications in mind, too:

  • Dip: Arugula pesto has a bit of a kick. It makes a yummy dip for fresh vegetables. If you want a more mild flavor, stir fresh pesto into sour cream or softened cream cheese.
  • Marinade: Use arugula pesto as a marinade for proteins and veggies. Simply cover your ingredients in the sauce before tossing them on the grill or in the oven.
  • Spread: Got crostini? Or a pizza? Or crackers? Spread a bit of pesto on top. You can serve as is, or layer on prosciutto, burrata or roasted vegetables.

Arugula Pesto Tips

How To Make Arugula PestoTMB Studio

Do you have to toast the walnuts?

Don’t skip this step. Toasting nuts of all kinds adds more depth of flavor.

How do you store arugula pesto?

If you don’t plan on using the pesto right away, store it in the fridge or freezer.

To keep arugula pesto fresh in the fridge, pop it in an airtight container or Mason jar. Then pour a drizzle of olive oil over the top, cover and refrigerate. The layer of oil will prevent the pesto from turning brown. Discoloration won’t affect the flavor, but it does disguise the sauce’s vibrant hue. The arugula pesto will keep this way in the fridge for about a week.

If you’d rather store your pesto for much later, freeze it. You can freeze small portions in an ice cube tray. Once fully frozen, remove from the tray and store in an airtight container or bag. When you’re ready to enjoy, defrost in the fridge. You can also just freeze the sauce in a freezer-safe container of your choice. No matter the method, arugula pesto will last about six months in the freezer.

Arugula Walnut Pesto

Prep Time 15 min
Yield 2 cups

Ingredients

  • 4 cups fresh arugula
  • 3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoons garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil

Directions

  1. Place the first 4 ingredients in a food processor; cover and pulse until chopped. Add walnuts and lemon juice; cover and process until blended. While processing, gradually add oil in a steady stream.

Nutrition Facts

2 tablespoons: 162 calories, 17g fat (3g saturated fat), 3mg cholesterol, 145mg sodium, 2g carbohydrate (0 sugars, 0 fiber), 2g protein.

Arugula pesto has a nutty, bright flavor. It can be served on crostini or pizzas or tossed with pasta. For a more pronounced nutty flavor, toast the walnuts first. —Taste of Home Test Kitchen