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This arugula pesto recipe is bright green and peppery: an ideal way to use this leafy green! Serve on pasta, bread, pizza and more.

Arugula Pesto

Got handfuls of arugula to use up? Try making this silky, garlicky Arugula Pesto recipe! Arugula is ideal for a bright green pesto: the flavor is boldly peppery but brilliant. This glistening sauce announces its presence! Stir it into hot pasta, spread on a pizza, or dollop onto crostini with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes. There are so many options for this versatile sauce! Let’s go.

Ingredients in arugula pesto

Pesto is a sauce that originates in Italy (the city of Genoa, more specifically). The word pesto comes from an Italian word that means “pounded” or “crushed”. Pesto alla genovese or pesto from Genoa is the most popular version, made with basil. Swap out the fresh basil for arugula, and you’ve got arugula pesto! We like to use cashews in our arugula pesto because it’s cheaper: and the sweet flavor of the nut is a nice contrast to the bitter green. Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Roasted unsalted cashews
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic cloves
  • Baby arugula leaves
  • Lemon juice
  • Sugar
  • Salt
  • Olive oil

Tips for making this arugula pesto recipe

Got your ingredients? Here are a few notes for making this arugula pesto recipe, both on the recipe and a few notes on ingredients:

  • Baby arugula works best, but you can use standard if desired. We recommend baby arugula because the flavor is milder. The standard arugula that comes in bunches has a more bitter, spicy flavor: but you can certainly use it!
  • Sugar softens the bitterness. The sugar might sound unexpected, but just ¼ teaspoon rounds out the bitter flavor. Trust us!
  • Use a food processor or mortar and pestle. If you’ve got an old fashioned mortar and pestle, it’s our favorite way to make a pesto: the traditional way! But a food processor works just as well: and is quicker.
Arugula Pesto

Pesto variations

Want to vary up this arugula pesto? You can use various types of nuts, or even make it vegan! Here’s what to do:

  • Swap cashews for pine nuts. This makes more of a classic pesto flavor.
  • Make it dairy-free: go to Vegan Pesto and swap out the basil for arugula.

Pesto storage

This arugula pesto recipe lasts about 1 week refrigerated. But if you don’t think you’ll eat it all at once, you can freeze it! Here’s how to freeze pesto:

  • Pour the pesto into an ice cube tray and pop in the freezer.
  • Once frozen, remove the cubes and place them in a freezer safe sealed container.
  • When you’re ready to eat, you can pop out small servings of pesto. Place them in a container and allow to come to room temperature on the counter or in the refrigerator.
Arugula Pesto

Ways to use arugula pesto

Now for the fun part: ways to use this arugula pesto recipe! You’ve likely got lots of great ideas (and please share them in the comments below). Here are a few ways we like to eat it:

More arugula recipes

Love this peppery leafy green? Try this other great arugula recipes:

This arugula pesto recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free. For vegan, go to Vegan Pesto.

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Arugula Pesto

Easy Arugula Pesto

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 heaping cup 1x


This arugula pesto recipe is bright green and peppery: an ideal way to use this leafy green! Serve on pasta, bread, pizza and more.


  • ½ cup roasted unsalted cashews
  • ½ cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 2 medium garlic cloves
  • 2 cups packed baby arugula leaves (or chopped arugula*)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup olive oil


  1. In a food processor, combine the cashews, Parmesan cheese, and peeled garlic cloves. Process until finely ground, about 20 to 30 seconds.
  2. Add the arugula, lemon juice, sugar and kosher salt. Turn on the food processor and gradually pour in the olive oil: blend until it combines into a thick, oily sauce. Eat immediately or refrigerate up to 1 week (it solidifies in the refrigerator so bring to room temperature before serving). You can also freeze for several months.


*We recommend baby arugula because the flavor is milder: standard arugula that comes in bunches has a more bitter, spicy flavor.

  • Category: Sauce
  • Method: Blended
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Keywords: Arugula pesto, arugula pesto recipe

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. This recipe is very easy and the result is fabulous. I would not change one thing. Thank you so much for posting.