Switch up your pesto game with this arugula pesto. It’s great on pasta, pizza, and so much more! 

Arugula pesto in a small bowl with a blue spoon.
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The first time I tried arugula, I hated it. I thought, why is this green stuff spicy? But eventually, as I have with many things, I grew to love it. The bold flavor it brings is such an asset in so many recipes. Toss a pile on top of pizza, serve it with a baked chimichanga, stir it into soup or pasta sauce, or of course, make a killer salad with it!

Or of course, make arugula pesto out of it. I’m obsessed with this pesto, you guys. I love the spice that arugula has – it’s not a hot spicy, just enough to wake up your taste buds a bit. Also in this pesto is lemon juice, which adds a refreshing brightness to contrast that subtle spiciness from the arugula. You’ll want to pick a high-quality olive oil because it gives this pesto tons of great flavor. Don’t skimp!

Arugula pesto in a small bowl with a blue spoon.

I kept it nut-free because that’s how we have to do things at my house, but if you’re fortunate enough to be able to eat nuts, this would be great with a handful of walnuts, pine nuts, or almonds tossed into the food processor or blender.

I developed this arugula pesto recipe to make  Grilled Pizza With Arugula Pesto, Corn, and Ham.  You guys are going to love the bright summer flavors in this grilled pizza. Get creative with the toppings, using the arugula pesto as a base. Not crazy about ham? Try grilled chicken or shrimp. It would also be fantastic stirred into pasta (I’m thinking with some nice Italian sausage and tons of fresh vegetables).  

Arugula pesto in a small bowl with a blue spoon.

Know what else it would be fabulous for? Dipping bread. Forget plain ol’ olive oil. Ooooooh the damage I could do with this arugula pesto and a loaf of french bread. Just pass me all the carbs and no one gets hurt.

More Pasta Sauce


Arugula Pesto Recipe

4.16 from 32 votes
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Switch up your pesto game with this arugula pesto. It's great on pasta, pizza, and so much more! 
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  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh arugula
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (about ½ lemon)
  • pinch of red pepper flakes (optional)
  • cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • ½ cup good extra virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  • Combine arugula, garlic, lemon juice, red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese in a blender or a small food processor.
  • Pulse until combined and then, with the blender or food processor running, drizzle in olive oil until a pesto forms, scraping down sides as needed.
  • Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.


  • makes approximately 1/2 cup


Serving: 2tablespoons, Calories: 180kcal, Carbohydrates: 1g, Protein: 2g, Fat: 19g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 15g, Cholesterol: 3mg, Sodium: 127mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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4.16 from 32 votes (31 ratings without comment)

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  1. Sm says:

    1 star
    The recipe doesn’t warn that the pesto could turn out bitter, which mine did! Probably should have blanched the arugula first. Using raw arugula totally ruined my pesto.

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Mine has’t been bitter, but thank you for the feedback.

  2. Maria says:

    I really find the recpies fun that are quick and easy to make. I believe this can be made in 3 to 5 minutes. I just found your website and you have a ton of amazing and unheard recipes.

    Thanks Rachel for the good work. :-)

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Glad you’re enjoying them!

  3. Marcel Nagel says:

    I have a bunch of arugula I need to use up!! Can you store leftovers of the pesto in the fridge? How long does it stay fresh?

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Yes, store leftovers in the fridge for 2-3 days. I also imagine it might freeze well, but I haven’t tried it. Regular pesto freezes well, though so I don’t see why this wouldn’t.

  4. Nowhere Girl says:

    Is arugula the same as rucola? I’ve literally never seen this name.
    (By the way, English is not my first language and I think that “rucola” isn’t correct English either. But calling it “rocket” annoys me horribly – who has come up with such a name, what the heck does it have to do with space rockets??? ;))

    1. Rachel Gurk says:

      Yes, I believe they are the same!