This Easy Vegan Arugula Pesto Recipe is one of my favorite Italian preparations. Not only can you make great pasta, but you can use it to boost the flavor of many other dishes.
Sometimes we add it to a stew, make bruschettas or add it to pizzas. We also use pesto as a sandwich spread to boost its flavor instantly instead of mayonnaise.
We also love using the super-food-packed kale pesto topping for roasted veggies like cauliflower steaks.
Since we use carrots quite often for juicing, and we love zero-waste cooking and minimizing churn, we use carrot tops to make carrot greens pesto on pasta salads.
🤔 What is pesto sauce?
There are many kinds of pesto: Pesto Alla Genovese is the traditional one and consists of seven ingredients, according to il Consorzio del Pesto Genovese (the Academy of Pesto).
These ingredients are Basil leaves, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, Pecorino Cheese (Sheep’s milk cheese from Sardinia), Garlic, Pine nuts, and Coarse Salt.
It is common to replace pine nuts with walnuts since pine nuts may be challenging to find and relatively expensive.
In addition to the traditional Basil pesto and the less traditional but commonly found Arugula one, the standard pesto products found in Italy are:
- Pesto Alla Calabrese (Hot Peppers)
- The Pesto Alla Siciliane (Ricotta Cheese and Nuts)
- Pesto Rosso (with tomatoes).
Then you have more Gourmet pestos made out of Pistachio nuts.
In a nutshell, to make a pesto, you need a Vegetable or Leave (such as Basil, Red Peppers, Tomato, Arugula), Cheese, Garlic, and Oil. The variations come with imagination. The Mint Pesto is a good example.
Pestos make great and easy vegan sauces.
This is how you make a pesto vegan. We are replacing the Cheese Component with Cheesy Nutritional Yeast. It is essential to have good quality and cheesy nutritional yeast; otherwise, it won’t make it for the recipe’s lack of cheese. Some Nutritional Yeasts are neutral or are even fruit-scented, which, of course, won’t work.
- Fresh arugula (used in place of the traditional fresh basil)
- Olive Oil
- Lemon juice
- Walnuts (pine nuts or almonds also work)
- Garlic cloves
- Nutritional yeast
Another plus of having this vegan version is that it is dairy-free and casein-free. Therefore, lactose-intolerant individuals can consume it, and nutritional yeast is packed with protein and has a very low-calorie count compared to cheese.
Making pesto is very simple:
- Wash the arugula thoroughly.
- Measure your ingredients.
- Throw everything in the food processor. Blend in the food processor for 2-3 minutes until you reach the desired consistency. Add more oil if you want it to be thinner. You may have to scrape the sides with a spatula a couple of times.
Adjusting flavor - add more nutritional yeast if you want it to taste cheesier. Lime juice to make it more acid, more nuts to make it thicker.
Tip: add more extra virgin olive oil to make it more liquid and creamy.
Leftover pesto will last in the fridge for weeks; make sure you store it in a glass container with a lid. Add extra olive oil to ensure it is covered; this with help to prevent it from developing fungi.
Using ice cube trays, you can also store this vegan walnut pesto recipe in batches in the fridge. You can then add your vegan pesto cubes directly to your favorite pasta or sauces.
🥢 How to use
In addition to making a rocket pesto vegan pasta, you can use fresh pesto instead of roasted vegetables, roasted cauliflower, sandwiches, pesto pizza, and even use your vegan pesto recipe as a salad dressing.
We love using a thin layer of pesto and cherry tomatoes on top of bruschettas for a punch of flavor.
We just love pesto on top of everything, including our vegan and gluten-free zucchini lasagna.
- Nuts - Use your choice of walnuts, almonds, pine nuts, pecan nuts, Brazilian nuts, or even pumpkin seeds or sunflower seeds. You can use toasted pine nuts or walnuts to have extra depth in the flavor.
- Fresh herbs - instead of arugula, you can make your vegan pesto using fresh basil, kale, or spinach.
- Garlic - I prefer to briefly grill my garlic cloves in a small skillet, skin-on, covered with a lid, for a couple of minutes; this ensures the garlic flavor becomes less intense.
- Lemon juice - you could use lime juice instead, but it will change the flavor profile of your pesto. If you don't have an option, you can go for it. I have done it, and although it tastes different, it is better than not making pesto.
- Nutritional yeast - to make this rucola pesto vegan, this easy recipe calls for nutritional yeast to replace parmesan cheese. That's what adds the cheese flavor to this vegan version. Of all the ingredients, this is the one that I would not recommend substituting.
You can make a pesto using a high-speed blender (affiliate link) or food processor (affiliate link) for a quick fix, but we also love using our handmade granite mortar and pestle, for a more authentic texture.
💭 5 Reasons to make your own pesto
Pesto Sauce is super versatile and customizable. First, you need a strong-flavored green such as Arugula (Rucola), Basil, Mint, or Kale, any nut, olive oil, nutritional yeast (used in place of parmesan cheese), lemon, salt, and garlic.
Looking at the ingredients of store-bought pesto, I realized how many preservatives and chemicals they have. You should be in complete control of what I put in your body.
If you are vegan, including Nutritional Yeast in your diet is essential. This pesto replaces Cheese with Nutritional Yeast to make up for the traditional pesto cheesy flavor.
You can make a lot and save some money. For example, I used to buy lots of pesto, using it at least twice a week. But, making your own pesto is suitable for your pocket!
Including more greens in your diet
It is a great way to add nutritious greens to your diet. Fresh Arugula (Rucola) is considered a cancer-fighting superfood, so with this pesto, you deliciously include arugula in your diet as you also protect the Aging Brain From Cognitive Decline.
🍃 5 Benefits of arugula (rocket or rucola)
Arugula's Health Benefits are vast. Did you know that rucola is considered a Superfood?
Studies show may reduce the risk of developing lung, prostate, breast, and pancreatic cancer.
Research has shown us that the trace minerals and antioxidants in the dark, leafy greens are essential for our sexual health.
Rucola in your diet can benefit you with many nutrients. Two cups contain only 80 calories, making it a good choice for those on a diet.
Protects the aging brain from cognitive decline
Rucola, along with broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage, is high in fiber and antioxidants and rich in glucosinolates, which studies show may reduce the risk of developing lung, prostate, breast, and pancreatic cancer.
It helps reduce inflammation in the body
It contains substances that have been shown to suppress the production of inflammation in the body.
Now, let's get cooking! Well, just blending... it only takes 5 minutes, so you might want to start boiling your pasta!
📚 More vegan pesto recipes
Try our basil vegan pesto which is closer to the traditional version as it uses fresh basil instead of arugula.
We also love using our mint pesto on dishes like our vegan poke bowl.
Finally, we use our kale pesto to top our cauliflower steaks and, of course, for a healthy bowl of whole bran pasta.
Try our roasted red pepper tofu pesto recipe for an oil-free, healthier pesto option.
We will soon be sharing our sun-dried tomato pesto as well.
🇮🇹 More Vegan Italian Recipes
- Stuffed Pasta Shells with Pesto Sauce
- Lemony Spaghetti
- Saffron Risotto
- Basic Pizza + All the tips for getting it right the first time!
Find out more about Nutritional Yeast benefits.
See how to make vegan homemade pasta and spaghetti noodles.
⭐ If you try this recipe, let us know! 💬 Leave a comment, rate it, and don't forget to tag us @ourplantbasedworld on Instagram. Cheers!
Vegan Arugula Pesto
- 2 cups arugula leaves fresh
- 5 tablespoons olive oil extra-virgin
- 3 tablespoons walnuts or almonds / pinenuts
- 2 garlic cloves or 3 pre-cooked garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons lemons juiced
- 6 tablespoons nutritional yeast cheesy kind
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Blend. Put all the ingredients on the food processor or you can also use a small blender. Blend for 2-3 minutes until smooth.
- Adjust with water for fluidness or nutritional yeast for thickness.
🌡️ Food safety
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with a high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
See more guidelines at USDA.gov.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice. See our full Nutritional Disclosure here.
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I haven't seen many arugula pesto recipes that don't contain basil. I was a little skeptical of this, but it was AMAZING. I omitted the nutritional yeast because it tastes like stinky feet to me and added a bit more salt.
Thank you so much for your wonderful five-star review! We greatly appreciate your kind words. We're thrilled to hear that you enjoyed our vegan arugula pesto recipe. While we adore basil pesto, arugula holds a special place in our hearts, and we simply couldn't resist creating a 100% arugula version. In fact, we incorporate arugula into our daily salads, unlike basil. If you ever decide to try another pesto sauce from our blog, please don't hesitate to let us know. Cheers to your culinary adventures!
So good, great way to use up a bunch of arugula from my local CSA box. I added 1 tsp italian seasoning, pinch sugar to offset bitterness, about 1/3 cup tofu and reduced the oil slightly to reduce fat, just personal preference (added extra splash pasta water instead). Enjoyed on pasta with a caramelized onion garnish, this is a keeper will definitely be making this again soon! Thanks for a fabulous recipe
Thank you for the fantastic 5-star review of our arugula pasta recipe! We're delighted to hear that you enjoyed it and found it to be a great way to use up your local CSA box arugula. Your addition of Italian seasoning, tofu, and a pinch of sugar to offset the bitterness sounds delicious, and we're glad to hear that you made some adjustments to suit your personal preferences. We love the idea of serving the pasta with a caramelized onion garnish, and we're thrilled to hear that this recipe is a keeper for you. Thanks again for your kind words, and we hope you continue to enjoy making this dishand and keep coming for more recipes... we have a bunch of pesto recipes, and even a tofu pesto, you might like!
Kurtis Mcluckie says
I'd constantly want to be update on new content on this website, bookmarked!
Super Kurtis, thanks for letting us know! Don't forget to subscribe to get our weekly newsletter with healthy recipes!
Wonderful! I subbed garlic scapes for the garlic since i had to use up. Really a keeper!! Many thanks for this recipe!!
That's a beautiful substitution. I am going to try that in our pestos! I am glad you liked it!
Arugula is my favorite cruciferous vegetable! What a great recipe, I can’t wait to make this.
Dana Sandonato says
Love this! Never have I thought to swap out basil for arugula and I love it. The peppery-ness of arugula works so well with the nuttiness of pesto. So smart!
Thank you for your review Dana! I'm so happy to hear that you've been trying new things in the kitchen. As a chef, it's always my goal to keep people experimenting with their palettes and this is such a great example of how easy it can be.
I'll make sure our culinary team sees your feedback too--that they know we're doing something right when they read reviews like yours. Thank you again for taking the time to share your experience and I hope you enjoy cooking more with us in the future!
This looks amazing, a perfect weeknight dinner.
Thank you for the kind words! I'm so glad to hear that this recipe was a hit.
I love arugula and never thought to make it into pesto. Must try!
Claudia Lamascolo says
Perfect for the holiday bursting with savory color and flavors!
Love swapping arugula for basil when making pesto. I've always loved it's peppery kick! Thanks for the easy recipe and option to keep it dairy-free as well!
Gina, thank you so much for your review and feedback! I'm so happy to hear that our recipe resonated with you. We hope this is the first of many arugula-based recipes in your kitchen!
Pesto is always my go-to for a quick and easy meal and this vegan pesto looks delicious, and so vibrant.
Hi Dannii, thank you so much for your review. I'm so glad to hear that our pesto has found a place in your kitchen and we're grateful for the opportunity to share it with others!
The Sudden Cook says
I've only used basil to make pesto. Will definitely try arugula next time!
Hi, thanks for the review! I'm glad you found our pesto recipe helpful.
I love that you're branching out and trying new things with your basil. I'll be sure to include some of your suggestions in future recipes so keep an eye on the blog!
Jacqueline Wormington says