Arugula Basil Pesto Sauce Recipe with Walnuts

Arugula basil pesto sauce is made with a combination of two leafy greens to make a unique and zesty sauce that pairs perfectly with pasta, veggies, sandwiches and so much more!

a picture of arugula basil pesto sauce on pasta on a grey plate

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If you love bright, fresh flavors and easy to make sauces, then you are in for a treat! This arugula and basil pesto has a peppery kick from the arugula and a sweet flavor from the basil. It’s made with just a handful of ingredients and comes together in minutes!

For a more traditional pesto sauce recipe, try this basil pesto with cashews.

What is pesto?

Traditional pesto is a bright green sauce that originated in Genoa, Italy many, many years ago.  It is typically made from fresh basil, pine nuts, garlic, fresh Parmesan and olive oil, but today there are many variations.

You can use any green or combination of greens to make pesto. Think spinach, chard, asparagus, broccoli, a mixture of fresh herbs and you can even go beyond green if you like.

You can read more about what pesto tastes like and how to use it here.

Why you will love Arugula Basil Pesto Sauce with Walnuts

  • It’s a simple recipe made with simple ingredients.
  • Pesto is a versatile sauce with so many uses.
  • It’s healthy, made with fresh basil and fresh arugula.

Here is what you will need

This is a brief summary of the ingredients needed to make Arugula Basil Pesto Sauce with Walnuts and a convenient shopping list from my Instacart affiliate link. For a printable recipe card with exact measurements and detailed instructions, scroll down to the recipe card section.

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  • Baby arugula
  • Basil
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Walnuts
  • Parmesan cheese


  • Food processor

How to make this basil arugula pesto recipe

Prepare the ingredients: shred the parmesan cheese, rinse and dry the baby arugula and basil leaves. Rough chop the garlic cloves.

Arugula pesto sauce ingredients in a food processor bowl

STEP 1. Place the arugula, basil, walnuts and cheese into the bowl of a food processor.

STEP 2. Blend the ingredients into a thick paste. Scrape down the sides of the bowl of the food processor. Cover it and gradually add the oil and adjust the texture of the pesto with water until it is similar texture to a thin paste or to your personal preference.

Garlic scape pesto sauce step 3 sauce mixed in a food processor
arugula pesto on a plate with a jar of pesto sauce on the side

Ingredient notes and substitutions

The complete list of ingredients to make this recipe is above. Below are notes about some of the ingredients, along with ideas for substitutes.

Since pesto is not cooked, it is important to use fresh and good quality and fresh ingredients if you can.

Baby arugula – This adds a peppery flavor to this pesto sauce and it can be replaced with an equal amount of baby spinach which will take away the peppery flavor.

Garlic – Fresh garlic is always best especially since this sauce is not cooked. If you don’t have fresh garlic you can substitute it with chopped garlic in a jar or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder.

Olive oil – I highly recommend extra virgin olive oil in pesto sauce for its flavor. If you don’t have olive oil, any neutral tasting oil such as avocado oil will work but the flavor might be a bit different.

Walnuts – Add a nice texture and protein to the pesto sauce. They can be substituted with an equal amount of cashew nuts, almonds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds or pine nuts.

How to serve arugula basil pesto

Serve this homemade pesto over your favorite pasta, brush it onto grilled vegetables or meat, spread it on your favorite homemade pizza crust, drizzle it over fresh tomatoes, stir it into hummus or yogurt for a flavorful dip. It also tastes great as a sandwich spread, or added to your favorite pasta sauce.

arugula pesto tossed with pasta up close

How to store leftovers

Leftover pesto sauce will last in an airtight mason jar or any small jar in the refrigerator for up to three days. To serve, remove it from the refrigerator 15 to 20 minutes before using to allow for the olive oil to come to room temperature.

How to freeze fresh pesto

You can also freeze leftover pesto sauce for up to 6 months. A great way to freeze it is to freeze it in individual portions so you can add the cubes to sauces to flavor them. Ice cube trays or cupcake molds are perfect for this. Once the pesto is frozen in the mold, remove it and store the cubes in a freezer container.

If you love pesto, try this asparagus pesto!

Recipe variations

Arugula pesto sauce – Leave out the basil and use 4 cups of arugula in place of the basil.

Vegan arugula pesto – Replace the parmesan cheese with an equal amount of nutritional yeast or vegan cheese.

Add more veggies – Try adding 1/2 cup of sun-dried tomatoes, or roasted red peppers to the food processor.


  • Pesto is quick to make, start boiling the water for the pasta before you start making the pesto sauce.
  • Save some of the pasta water and adjust the texture of the sauce with the pasta water.
  • If you prefer a more mild garlic flavor; roast it in the oven before adding it to the sauce.

What is the best pasta to serve with pesto sauce?

Linguine, angel hair or  any pasta that has ridges so that the sauce sticks to it such as penne, rigatoni, shells or fusilli.

How do you make arugula and basil pesto sauce less bitter?

Sometimes pesto can turn bitter if it has been over blended. If this happens, try adding a splash of water or fresh lemon juice.

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arugula pesto on a plate with a jar of pesto sauce on the side

Arugula Pesto with Basil Recipe

This Arugula basil pesto recipe with walnuts and basil combines the peppery flavor of arugula with sweet basil to make a delicious pesto sauce.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

Click on serving size to scale this recipe

Course: Sauce and Salsa Recipes
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: arugula basil pesto sauce
Servings: 12 Tablespoons
Calories: 131kcal
Author: Anne
Scale this Recipe 12 Tablespoons


  • 3 cups baby arugula
  • 1 cup basil
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 cup walnuts shelled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese


  • Place 1/2 cup walnuts, 1 clove garlic and 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese into the bowl of a food processor and process until all ingredients are blended together.
  • Add 3 cups baby arugula and 1 cup basil – pulse until the leaves have broken up.
  • Gradually add 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil while the processing.
  • Adjust consistency by adding water.


Store leftover pesto sauce in the refrigerator for up to three days.  
Freeze pesto for up to 6 months in a freezer-safe container.
See the article above for recipe tips, variations and more.


Serving: 1/8 cup (approximate) | Calories: 131kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 75mg | Potassium: 55mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 0.2g | Vitamin A: 261IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 54mg | Iron: 0.4mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate and can vary based on cooking methods and ingredients used

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