Arugula Pesto

No basil? No problem. This arugula pesto is creamy and bright, with a peppery kick from the arugula. We love it on pasta, veggies, and more!

Bowl of arugula pesto with wooden spoon

If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know that I love riffing on pesto. Vegan pesto, kale pesto, broccoli pesto… This arugula pesto recipe is my newest twist.

Now, pesto purists might argue that this arugula pesto isn’t really pesto at all. And that’s fair. Traditional basil pesto is made with pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese, and it has a slightly chunky, paste-like texture. In this arugula pesto recipe, I sub arugula for the herbs and cashews for the pine nuts, and I totally nix the cheese. Instead, I blend in lemon juice for bright, fresh flavor.

Oh, and speaking of blending, I make this arugula pesto in the blender instead of pulsing it in the food processor or grinding it with a mortar and pestle. It comes out with a smooth, creamy texture, which I love on everything from pasta to sandwiches to roasted veggies.

So, traditional? Not really. Delicious? Yes! I hope you love this arugula pesto recipe as much as I do.

Arugula pesto recipe ingredients

Arugula Pesto Recipe Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make this recipe:

  • Arugula, of course! It gives the sauce a spicy, earthy flavor.
  • Cashews – I use them in place of the traditional pine nuts to give the pesto a smooth and creamy texture.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil – For richness.
  • Fresh lemon juice – It makes the pesto nice and bright.
  • Water – It helps the pesto blend into a smooth puree.
  • Garlic – For sharp, savory bite.
  • And salt and pepper – To make all the flavors pop!

Find the complete recipe with measurements below.

Recipe ingredients in a blender

Place all the ingredients in a blender, and blend until smooth. Stop and scrape down the sides of the blender as necessary. Then, continue blending until you have a creamy puree. That’s it!

Arugula pesto in a blender

Arugula Pesto Serving Suggestions

Like any homemade pesto, this arugula pesto is a versatile sauce to keep in your kitchen. Have fun experimenting with different ways to use it! Here are a few ideas to get you started:

How do you like to use arugula pesto? Let me know in the comments!

Arugula pesto recipe

More Favorite Sauce Recipes

If you love this arugula pesto recipe, try one of these favorite sauces or dressings next:

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Arugula Pesto

rate this recipe:
5 from 10 votes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 5 minutes
Serves 4
This easy arugula pesto is creamy and bright, with a peppery kick from the arugula. Toss it with pasta, spoon it over roasted veggies, and more!



  • In a blender, combine the arugula, cashews, oil, lemon juice, water, garlic, salt, and several grinds of pepper and blend until creamy.
  • See the blog post above for serving suggestions.


For a more traditional (less smooth) pesto texture, you can make this recipe in a food processor.


5 from 10 votes (8 ratings without comment)

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Rate this recipe (after making it)

  1. rain

    will this freeze well?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Rain, actually these creamy cashew-based sauces don’t freeze that well (they become grainy), but if you wanted to sub in arugula (or half arugula) into our regular pesto recipe, it’ll freeze great:

  2. Aya

    I’m allergic to raw cashews. Can I use roasted ones instead?

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Aya, I’d use pine nuts or almonds instead and make it in a food processor instead of the blender.

  3. Donna

    5 stars
    Used berbere spice blend for a kick, and less lemon juice. Very delicious!!

  4. Peggy

    My husband is allergic to tree nuts, do you have a substitute for the cashews ! Pine nuts are fine in the topping…

    • Phoebe Moore (L&L Recipe Developer)

      Hi, you can use raw sunflower kernels or pepitas. They pack together more densely in a measuring cup than cashews do, so I would start with 1/4 cup and add more as needed to reach a nice creamy consistency.

  5. Marion

    Delicious especially after adding Parmesan cheese

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad you enjoyed it!

  6. Dusty

    5 stars
    A win with the non-adventurous eater in my house. I’m thinking it will be really good appetizer on tiny slices of bread with a couple slices cherry tomato on top.

    • Dusty

      Forgot to mention that we halved the lemon juice and I only had salted cashews on hand, so I didn’t add any salt at all.

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      I’m so glad everyone loved it!

    • Jeanine Donofrio

      Hi Kim, I haven’t tried freezing this smooth sauce, but I freeze the chunkier pestos all the time. I’m not sure if the texture here would thaw as creamy.

  7. Danielle

    I just got a bunch of arugula so I found it fitting this recipe came up first. Totally making this soon!

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.