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This pesto arugula will add a bright, peppery flavor to pasta, pizza, sandwiches, soups, and more. It's easy to make with a few simple ingredients, it freezes beautifully, and it's ready in minutes!
Arugula is super versatile and by far one of our favorite salad greens. Try our delicious arugula and wild rice salad and arugula and fresh cherry salad with goat cheese and candied pecans.
We love pesto and use it year-round to add amazing flavor to everyday dishes. This arugula pesto is what we make in fall and winter when fresh basil isn't widely available. But it's also delicious in the spring and summer when arugula is in season.
In this recipe, you'll find similar ingredients to traditional pesto, but we use arugula instead of basil. It has the familiar bright green color and fresh, salty taste of pesto, but it's more earthy and less herby.
If this is your first time making pesto at home, you're in for a treat. It's one of those kitchen skills that's so easy, and the pesto is so fresh and delicious that you'll never go back to store-bought.
You only need a few ingredients and a food processor to make it. Simply add all the ingredients and pulse until it's mostly smooth. Make sure to taste it and adjust the salt and lemon juice if desired.
We always make extra and freeze it for easy weeknight meals. It's super versatile and adds incredible flavor to pasta dishes, pizzas, soups, sandwiches, and everyday dishes.
How to make arugula pesto
Arugula pesto is flavorful, nutritious, and easy to make. Use it on everything from pasta to sandwiches, and even add a dollop to soup. Here's how we make it in a few simple steps:
- Add all the ingredients to your food processor.
- Blend until it's mostly smooth (or to your desired consistency), making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl a few times. We always taste for salt and lemon juice and adjust if needed. That's it!
Arugula pesto ingredients
Here's everything you need to make this arugula pesto:
- Arugula – arugula (also known as rocket) is a popular salad green that has a peppery and slightly spicy flavor.
- Olive oil – olive oil adds flavor, and also acts as an emulsifier to bring everything together. A good extra virgin olive oil will add great flavor, but any variety will work.
- Parmesan cheese – parmesan gives the pesto a bold salty bite. Also, when you mix the pesto with something warm, the parmesan becomes wonderfully creamy.
- Pumpkin seeds – pumpkin seeds are not necessarily traditional in pesto, but they work well in this recipe (plus they're really nutritious)!
- Lemon juice – the acidity of lemon juices helps to brighten and balance everything. Fresh lemon juice is the best option here. Feel free to add a bit of lemon zest for extra lemon flavor.
- Garlic – the amount we use is not overpowering, but gives a slightly pungent kick.
- Sea salt – to enhance all the other amazing flavors.
Arugula pesto variations
The beautiful thing about making pesto at home is that you have full creative control over the flavors. Once you have the basic recipe down, you can swap the nuts or seeds and add fresh herbs or other ingredients. This way you can use what you have on hand and make it your own.
Here are a few of our favorite pesto variations:
- Arugula basil pesto – add a cup of fresh basil leaves for that wonderful fresh, sweet Italian flavor.
- Arugula sun-dried tomato pesto – look for sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, and add a ⅓ cup for a burst of intense sweet-tart tomato flavor.
- Arugula pesto with walnuts – swap the pumpkin seeds for walnuts for an earthy and robust version of this arugula pesto.
Can you freeze arugula pesto?
Yes, pesto freezes beautifully. Store it in an airtight container in your freezer and it will keep for up to 3 months. We like to divide it up into portions for easy weeknight dinners. Try freezing it in an ice cube tray for small individual portions that thaw quickly!
Are pine nuts traditional in pesto?
Yes, they are. But they tend to be very expensive in most places so we like to use other nuts as alternatives.
How long does pesto keep in the refrigerator?
If you're not using the pesto right away, pour a thin layer of olive oil over the top to keep the pesto fresh. When stored properly in a mason jar or airtight container in the fridge, arugula pesto will keep for up to 2 weeks.
Can I use spinach instead of arugula?
While spinach and arugula have a similar texture, arugula is much more flavorful. Using spinach will work, but will result in a rather bland-tasting pesto. If you'd like to swap the arugula for spinach, we recommend adding basil to the recipe.
What to do with arugula pesto
Arugula pesto is really versatile, and you can use it anytime you would use traditional pesto. It tastes amazing on pasta, pizza, spread onto sandwiches, grilled cheese, or crostini. Try it drizzled on top of soups or stews, dolloped on polenta, or anytime you want to add amazing flavor to everyday dishes.
Everyday recipes that taste great with pesto
- 3 cups arugula (packed – see notes)
- ¾ cup olive oil
- ½ cup parmesan cheese
- ½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic (minced)
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- Add all of the ingredients to your food processor.3 cups arugula, ¾ cup olive oil, ½ cup parmesan cheese, ½ cup toasted pumpkin seeds, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 clove garlic, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Blend on high speed until mostly smooth stopping a few times to scrape the edges.
We have thoroughly tested this recipe for accuracy. However, individual results may vary. See our full recipe disclosure here.