Homemade Walnut Arugula Pesto is vibrant in both color and flavor! This easy recipe features fresh ingredients like baby arugula, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and of course – walnuts. Toss it with your favorite pasta or smear it on bread. No matter how you serve it, you’re going to love this summery pesto!

Walnut arugula pesto is in a glass jar and on a spoon.

Walnut Arugula Pesto

Let’s make one thing very clear – I love pesto, especially in the summertime! It’s so bright, freshly flavored, and vibrant, that it’s simply made for the warmer months. Everything about it is fresh as can be, especially when you make it at home.

While there are some store-bought jars of pesto that aren’t half bad, they’re still made with artificial flavors and preservatives, which take away from the unbeatable fresh flavor that real pesto should have.

Speaking of real pesto, you’ve probably noticed by the title of this recipe that this isn’t your usual pesto recipe. Instead of pine nuts, we’re using walnuts – your wallet will thank you! They’re less pricey than pine nuts and still bring a great naturally nutty flavor to the pesto.

Also, instead of basil, we’re featuring arugula in this easy recipe. Arugula has a signature bitterness that’s delicious, but also balanced well and complimented by the other bold ingredients at play.

The other ingredients in the mix, like the garlic cloves and fresh lemon juice/zest, are what help develop the flavors of the key ingredients. Fresh garlic has a specific warmth to it, while fresh lemon is tangy and bright. On that note – do NOT use pre-minced garlic or the little plastic container of lemon juice for this all natural recipe! Trust me, you WILL be able to taste the difference.

Oh, and don’t skip the lemon! Not only does it add a great, fresh flavor, but the acid keeps your arugula from oxidizing and the color stays vibrantly green.

Pesto has been blended in a food processor.

How to Make It

Toss the first ingredients processor. In the bowl of a food processor, add the walnuts, 3 cups arugula, garlic, 1/2 cup cheese, lemon zest and lemon juice. 

Blend it. Process the ingredients for approximately 30 seconds or until the ingredients are finely chopped.

Add olive oil. While the food processor is still running on low speed, slyly drizzle in 3/4 cup of olive oil and continue processing until a smooth paste begins to form. Stop the food processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl.

Add more ingredients. Add the walnuts, arugula, garlic, and cheese to the bowl. Pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped.

Transfer and season. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the pesto to a bowl and stir in the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

An open jar of pesto is placed next to a spoon with more pesto on it.

How to Store Walnut Arugula Pesto

Make sure you keep your pesto in an airtight container, like a glass jar with a lid! Properly stored, it’ll stay fresh in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Variations to Try

  • Arugula has a very peppery bite. If you feel the pesto is too strong, you can substitute 1/2 the arugula with spinach or basil to tame the flavor just a bit.
  • If you’re not a fan of walnuts, pecans are an excellent substitute.
  • Always use freshly grated parmesan cheese in pesto, not the plastic baggie of pre-shredded cheese! If you don’t feel like grating it yourself, though, check out the deli section of your local supermarket – they’ll probably have a container of freshly grated cheese for you there.

How to Serve Walnut Arugula Pesto

I think this pesto is best served with freshly cooked pasta! Just pick out the pasta of your choice and use this pesto as a sauce with it. Be sure to reserve some of the water that the pasta was cooked in to help the pesto thin out a bit, and to help it stick to the noodles better.

It’s also great when served with chicken, salmon, or just a piece of bread!

A spoon is lifting a small portion of pesto from the jar.

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A spoon is lifting a small portion of pesto from the jar.

Get the Recipe: Walnut Arugula Pesto

An updated twist on traditional basil pesto, this earthy Walnut Arugula Pesto has a peppery bite and buttery texture which goes well with so many recipes. Ready in minutes!
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Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 4 cups fresh baby arugula
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste

Equipment

  • blender or food processor

Instructions 

  • In the bowl of a food processor, add the walnuts, 3 cups arugula, garlic, 1/2 cup cheese, lemon zest and lemon juice.
  • Process the ingredients for approximately 30 seconds or until the ingredients are finely chopped.
  • While the food processor is still running on low speed, slyly drizzle in 3/4 cup of olive oil and continue processing until a smooth pasted begins to form. Stop the food processor and scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  • Add the walnuts, arugula, garlic and cheese to the bowl. Pulse until the ingredients are finely chopped.
  • Using a rubber spatula, transfer the pesto to a bowl and stir in the remaining olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Store the basil pesto sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

Arugula has a very peppery bite unlike spinach or basil. If you feel the pesto is too strong, you can substitute 1/2 the arugula with spinach or basil to tame the flavor just a bit.
If you’re not a fan of walnuts, pecans are an excellent substitute.
Don’t skip the lemon! Not only does it add a great, fresh flavor but the acid keeps your arugula from oxidizing and the color stays vibrantly green.
Calories: 160kcal, Carbohydrates: 1g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 16g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10g, Cholesterol: 5mg, Sodium: 111mg, Potassium: 41mg, Fiber: 0.3g, Sugar: 0.2g, Vitamin A: 173IU, Vitamin C: 2mg, Calcium: 66mg, Iron: 0.2mg