Arugula Walnut Pesto

Arugula Walnut Pesto

Confession: I’m a pesto fanatic, but I had never actually made my own until recently. I was intrigued by Barbara Kingsolver’s method of making pesto in bulk in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (which Lesley kindly shipped to me from Bordeaux!). However, my baby basil plant isn’t nearly big enough to produce mass quantities of pesto, so I was stumped.

Arugula Walnut Pesto Ingredients

Then I ran across arugula pesto. By now you all know I love arugula (see arugula pasta salad), and I thought it would be the perfect springtime green to incorporate in my pesto. I searched around until I found this recipe for arugula walnut pesto. The author, Elise of Simply Recipes, felt like walnuts complemented the arugula better than pine nuts, which was fine with me because walnuts are much less expensive!

garlic cloves and parmesan

I spent about thirty minutes on a lovely weekend night making this pesto, and froze the extra for later in an ice cube tray. Now any time I want pesto for pasta, pizza or toast, I just have to defrost some green cubes.

toasted walnuts

arugula walnut pesto with whole wheat linguine

pesto close-up

Arugula Walnut Pesto
3.5 from 2 reviews
  • 4 cups of packed arugula leaves, stems removed
  • 1 cup of shelled walnuts
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 12 garlic cloves, unpeeled
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Cracked black pepper, to taste
  • ½ to 1 full lemon, squeezed
  1. Over medium high heat, lightly brown the unpeeled garlic cloves, about ten minutes. Peel off the skins once they have cooled down.
  2. Over medium high heat, toast the walnuts until fragrant, about three to five minutes.
  3. In a food processor, combine the arugula, salt, walnuts and all the garlic.
  4. Pulse while drizzling in the olive oil.
  5. Remove the mixture from the processor and put it into a bowl. Stir in the Parmesan cheese, freshly ground pepper and a big squeeze of lemon, to taste.
  • Adapted from Simply Recipes.
  • The lemon brightens up the flavor of the pesto and is, in my opinion, essential to the recipe.
  • This recipe yields enough pesto to toss with pasta for 6 to 8 people. Feel free to double the recipe if you really want to make it in bulk. I live alone so this is plenty of pesto for me!

arugula walnut pesto in ice cube tray

Note on freezing pesto: Some instructions on freezing pesto suggest that you leave out the parmesan altogether, and add fresh parmesan to your pasta when you’re ready to eat it. I haven’t had any problems with my frozen pesto, which includes the parmesan, but I thought I’d throw the suggestion out there.


  1. says

    I LOVE PESTO!!! I always choose pesto pasta when I’m out at Italian restaurants. Your homemade pesto looks a thousand times better. Good job! :)

  2. says

    Looks pungent and delicious! I use walnuts in my pesto too since they’re so much cheaper than pine nuts here – actually they’re free since we have access to some walnut trees in the Dordogne.

    I’m glad the book has provided you with inspiration. (But to be honest, although I like Barbara Kingsolver’s fiction, I thought she came over a little preachy in this book.)

    • says

      I haven’t read Barbara Kingsolver’s fiction, but I’ve heard good reviews of The Poisonwood Bible. I enjoyed Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, but there were certainly moments when I felt like she was being too condescending. My favorite food writer is still Michael Pollan—he manages to present a more well-rounded view, I think.

      • Jes says

        I agree about Pollan, he’s changing my life with every chapter. I keep planting things after listening to his book. I want to get a goat or some chickens so bad (but Marshall isn’t so into that idea).

  3. Camille says

    Can you please make this for me when Ruby is born since I will have no time to cook? I’m trying to make yummy meals and freeze them before she’s born!

  4. says

    Lovely recipe! I will certainly be trying it. And good idea on putting it in ice cube trays! I could never eat all that pesto up before it went bad!!

  5. says

    yay a great idea to put my arugula plant to good use! ive only ever tried the classic version using basil! oh and the freezing idea is genius…because on a working day, i can be too lazy to take out my food processor and then washing it afterwards lol.

  6. says

    Mmmm… I love the spicy, slightly bitter taste of arugula pesto. It’s wonderful. Pesto is also great with kale or chard as well, if you’re interested in trying something really different!

  7. says

    Mmm mm Mmm! This looks so good! I’ve been too busy to read my favorite blogs lately, glad to finally have some reprieve. I would love trying this pesto with some spiralized zucchini noodles as a cold dish.

    • says

      Oo, that would be good. I’m going to make a whole wheat pizza with this pesto and tomatoes from the farmer’s market soon. Craving it already!

  8. says

    I’m a pesto fanatic too though I’ve never ventured to make it with arugula. Great idea to freeze it in cubes too! These pictures are some of your best yet, especially the one of the garlic, wow!

  9. says

    Tried this one last night, v. tasty (with pasta, on crackers and straight off the spoon!) and have tried putting the leftovers in ice cube trays as suggested.
    I had to google what Arugula was though – but it turns out it is what we call ‘rocket’ in Australia which I use reguarly in salads.
    (I am also very impressed with your Headings with the photos on your Recipe page, I think I will have to improve my own after seeing yours!)

  10. says

    Love the photos on your site! I definitely want to try this arugula / walnut pesto. Thanks so much for the tip on freezing the pesto! I always wonder what I’m going to do with the leftovers when I make too much. Now I know! Do you also do this with basil pesto?



  11. Karen says

    I also love arugula (not to mention all forms of pesto). Try making the pesto with dandelion greens and pumpkin seeds/pepitos…I have and it was wonderfully delish.

  12. Cindi says

    This looks wonderful! I’m a kale fanatic so I think I’ll substitute kale (also, the one farmers market in my tiny rural area doesn’t currently have arugula). What could you serve this with besides pasta, crackers or toast since I avoid any processed foods? I do plan on trying the roasted cauliflower with the red pepper pesto. Any other suggestions?

    PS My apologies for the two star rating. My tablet was being stubborn and wouldn’t let me give it more.

    • says

      Hey Cindi, kale will be great. Pesto is also delicious on baked potatoes and roasted vegetables in general. I bet it would be tasty with roasted carrots, maybe with wild rice, too? I also enjoy pesto on eggs—fried eggs, scrambled eggs, frittatas, etc. It makes for a pretty rich meal.

  13. Judi says

    I love so many of your recipes, but I am vegan and not that many recipes you post are vegan. I love pesto and I love arugula, is there any way of making the arugula walnut pesto without the parmesean cheese?

    • says

      Yes! Just skip it, or add some nutritional yeast to taste if you’d like to make up for some of that cheesy flavor. Pesto is highly adaptable! You might like my kale pesto recipe, which I made with hemp seeds. They get nice and creamy when they’re blended up.

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