Arugula Pesto


Did you know that pesto isn’t just made with basil? Prepare to be wowed by this peppery, slightly tart pesto recipe which features arugula.

Vegan arugula pesto recipe

One of the yummiest non-basil sauces you can make is this lemony arugula pesto recipe. People seem to have strong feelings about arugula: love or hate. Which side do you fall on? I love arugula, particularly on a salad or a burger. Yet it doesn’t have a place in a smoothie for me—I tried once and never again. In this arugula pesto recipe though, it provides a bright, bite which makes it a great sauce.

Arugula Pesto

What is arugula?

Arugula, also known as rocket, rucola, roquette, and eruca, to name a few, is a member of the Brassicae family, and is a cousin to kale, cabbage, and radishes. The peppery flavor is attributed to the presence of glucosinolate. Glucosinolate may help prevent some types of cancer.

This leafy green originated in the Mediterranean, where it remains a popular salad vegetable. Baby arugula is less peppery or pungent because it is harvested while it is still young. Wild arugula, though usually harvested when young also, may pack more of a peppery punch. The larger the leaves grow, the spicier and stronger the flavor becomes. It also intensifies as spring progresses into summer. If you are an arugula newbie, then go for the young bunch first, working your way up to the stronger tasting, more mature leaves.

ingredients for a delicious sauce

For the biggest nutritional bang for your buck, try to eat arugula raw, such as in a salad or in this arugula pesto. It contains all kinds of vitamins and minerals from vitamin K, vitamin C, vitamin A, and folate, to iron, calcium, potassium and magnesium.

How to make Arugula Pesto

How to make arugula pesto

Making pesto is easy and quick.

  1. I start with pre-washed bagged arugula. If you’re using loose arugula, then be sure to give it a good wash and spin it dry in a salad spinner.
  2. Chop the nuts and garlic so there aren’t large chunks of either in the pesto.
  3. Using a food processor or blender makes things very easy. You can also make pesto by hand using a mortar and pestle.
  4. Add the oil last, through the feed hold, in a slow steady drizzle so that it is incorporated. If the pesto separates, give it another whirl and it should come together again.
Healthy vegan lemon arugula pesto recipe

What makes this pesto vegan?

My arugula pesto recipe is 100% vegan, meaning no animal products are included in the ingredient list. Most traditional pesto recipes call for some kind of hard, aged cheese like Parmigiano-Reggiano or Pecorino Romano. Vegan arugula pesto relies on lemon zest and juice and almonds to add extra flavor and richness, respectively. Even if dairy doesn’t bother you, try this recipe out and see how it compares to your dairy-filled versions. I was pleasantly surprised how well it passed the taste test!

Recipes with Arugula Pesto

Try using arugula pesto in any of these recipes to brighten them up and add more protein and tasty flavors:

More pesto recipes

If arugula just isn’t your thing, or you are a pesto lover, here are some other great, vegan pesto recipes:

This arugula pesto might be a new concept for you, and I encourage you to dive in and try it! Even if arugula isn’t your green of choice, you might just fall in love with this recipe. Once you make it, don’t forget to rate and review it below. I’d love to know what you think!

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Lemon Arugula Pesto

  • Author: Jen Hansard
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 1 cup 1x
  • Diet: Vegan


Don’t toss that wilted arugula! Turn it into a fresh lemony pesto instead. Use it as you would any other kind of pesto, but it’s especially delicious served with roasted veggies or as a base for avocado toast.


  • ¼ cup raw almonds, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 4 cups arugula, loosely packed (wild or baby)
  • Juice and zest of 1 large lemon
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste


  1. Place almonds and garlic cloves into the bowl of a food processor fitted with the chopping blade. Pulse until finely chopped.
  2. Add arugula and lemon zest to the food processor. Pulse a few times to combine.
  3. With motor running, add lemon juice and olive oil through the feed hole. Stop and scrape down sides as needed. Once pesto is the consistency of a slightly chunky paste, stop the food processor and add a good pinch of sea salt. Pulse a few times. Taste and add a little more salt, if needed.
  4. Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Can also be frozen for up to 2 months.


  • Other nuts can be substituted for the raw almonds.
  • Swap half of the arugula with spinach or another mild leafy green or herb for a milder flavor.
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Method: Blending
  • Cuisine: italian

Keywords: arugula pesto recipe

#1 Green Smoothie Of all Time— no joke!
About Jen Hansard

Mom of 2, ran across the Grand Canyon and lover of smoothies, coffee & tacos. I transformed my family's health with a plant-based diet. I also found myself again along the way.

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Recipe rating

  1. Dani Mitchell says:

    Oh my gosh— I’ve fallen in love with arugula this past year and was SOOO happy to see this pesto recipe! It sounds delicious and I cannot wait to make it. Thanks Jen for another rawkin’ recipe.

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      I agree, I love arugula and this recipe looks awesome!

  2. Erin says:

    This is definitely going on the menu this week. It sounds so yummy!

    • SGS Rawkstar Jess says:

      It does! I think it’s going to be the first one I make.


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