Arugula Pesto

Arugula pesto made with fresh arugula leaves, garlic, olive oil, walnuts, and Parmesan cheese.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Have an abundance of arugula? A great way to use it up is by making an arugula pesto.

By the way, gardeners out there, if you ever plant arugula, be warned, it grows like a weed! (Hence our need to make pesto.)

To make this pesto I used mature arugula from our garden (though you could use baby arugula too, it just isn’t as strong.)

I tried making it with both walnuts and pine nuts and strongly prefer this pesto with walnuts. The strong, meaty flavor of the walnuts balances out the astringency of the arugula, a good blend of flavors.

Arugula Pesto

I’ve made pesto both with mortar and pestle and with a food processor. The food processor method is definitely easier but the mortar method produces larger pieces of the arugula.

I prefer a mild garlic flavor that you can achieve by using roasted garlic. The 1/2 raw garlic clove is added for a little kicker. The first time I made this pesto it was with only raw garlic and it was a little overwhelmingly garlicky. Using roasted garlic is a great way to still have the garlic flavor but without the intensity.

Arugula Pesto Recipe

  • Prep time: 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: Makes 1 heaping cup


  • 2 cups of packed arugula leaves, stems removed
  • 1/2 cup of shelled walnuts
  • 1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 6 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 1/2 garlic clove peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


1 Brown the garlic: Brown 6 garlic cloves with their peels on in a skillet over medium high heat until the garlic is lightly browned in places, about 10 minutes. Remove the garlic from the pan, cool, and remove the skins.

2 Toast the nuts: Toast the nuts in a pan over medium heat until lightly brown, or heat in a microwave on high heat for a minute or two until you get that roasted flavor. In our microwave it takes 2 minutes.

3a Process in food processor: (the fast way) Combine the arugula, salt, walnuts, roasted and raw garlic into a food processor. Pulse while drizzling the olive oil into the processor. Remove the mixture from the processor and put it into a bowl. Stir in the Parmesan cheese.


3b Use Mortar and pestle: Combine the nuts, salt and garlic in a mortar. With the pestle, grind until smooth. Add the cheese and olive oil, grind again until smooth. Finely chop the arugula and add it to the mortar. Grind up with the other ingredients until smooth.

4 Adjust to taste: Because the pesto is so dependent on the individual ingredients, and the strength of the ingredients depends on the season or variety, test it and add more of the ingredients to taste.

Serve with pasta, over freshly roasted potatoes, or as a sauce for pizza.

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Mortar and Pestle

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Showing 4 of 20 Comments

  • teresa

    i made this last night in my new food processor (took like 2 minutes) and it’s incredible. thank you!

  • Ashley

    I made this a few days ago and loved it so much I just had to come back to comment. I’ve made pesto a gazillion times with basil, but never thought to try arugula until now. I might like this version better than the traditional!

    The bag of Trader Joe’s arugula offers a pesto recipe, but it doesn’t use nuts or cheese. Sounds crazy to me…

  • carol

    i have seen this recipe all over the web and decided to try it. glad i picked your recipe – super easy and super tasty! thank you! this recipe will be a keeper!

  • Tay

    Hi Elise,

    How long does the arugula pesto last? Should it be stored in the fridge? What about the freezer? Thanks!

    Great question. Like any pesto, you want to store it in the refrigerator. Cover the surface of the pesto with plastic wrap. Any oxygen reaching the pesto will darken it. Some people freeze pesto with success. I haven’t attempted to freeze it. ~Elise

  • Shirin Escobedo

    I made this pesto for my girls night get-together and it was fantastic!! I tossed it over brown rice, gluten-free pasta and it gave it a nice al dente texture. Loving the easy recipe for Pesto and the freshness of the arugula. Added a few leaves of basil as well and a little extra parmesan cheese. The walnuts were already ground up, so just stirred them into the pesto.

    Thanks Elise! You’re the best.

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