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.)

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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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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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41 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Shelley

    This is a perfect pesto recipe! I had some parsley languishing in my fridge so threw that in to use it up, but otherwise followed recipe as written. Love the idea of roasting/toasting the garlic! Brilliant!


  2. Melissa

    Made with arugula and walnuts as the recipe states, strong arugula flavor but delicious! I made it in a blender with no issues.


  3. Natalie

    I’ve eaten jarred pesto for years and have always loved it but I had never made it myself. I picked up a large bag of arugula from the farmer’s market and was looking for recipes/uses and found this recipe. I had all the ingredients on hand, so I decided to whip this up using the food processor method. So delicious and easy! I added a little lemon juice for brightness but otherwise followed the recipe exactly. I sampled it on a spoon, but I plan on using it on grilled chicken, turkey sandwiches and BLTs.


  4. natalie

    We have an over abundance of arugula already so I googled what to do with so much, came across your recipe, tried it and am in love! Wow! It’s just the right balance of the nutty green leaf with all the other flavors! I’ll be freezing it in batches and making more. Thanks!


  5. Stefen

    Made this tonight. Great starter recipe I made a change with adding a little lemon juice and one anchovy fillets.I will definitely be making this again also I did make it with pinenuts instead of walnuts because that’s all I had. Will definitely be trying the walnuts next time.Thank you for the recipe!


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