Arugula Pesto


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Arugula Pecan Pesto is a quick, simple, inexpensive variation on pesto using peppery arugula and sweet pecans with many fun uses.

pesto on toast on a slate tray

The closest thing to a New Year’s resolution that Frank or I made this year was a commitment to eat more greens.  And we have definitely succeeded.  If we are what we eat, my appendix must be made of baby spinach by now.  But despite our dedicated efforts, at the end of most weeks, we’ve got some bunch of mopey, un-salad-worthy greens hiding in the back of our refrigerator.

A different kind of pesto

So I’m adding an addendum to my eat-more-greens commitment.  To find a use for the greens that don’t make it into the salad rotation.  And here is my latest favorite use – pesto.  It was a bit of a revelation to me to realize that pesto is not the exclusive domain of basil and pine nuts.  Until now, pesto always felt a bit precious to me since a) basil is a fleeting seasonal herb and b) both pine nuts and basil are expensive.  But since I started making pesto mash-ups with inexpensive ingredients that we always have on hand (not the least of which are past-their-prime greens), I’ve got more pesto than I know what to do with.

Arugula, pecans, garlic and parmesan in a food processor

Many combinations would work, but I highly recommend this combination of arugula and pecans. The arugula has a peppery bite and the pecans are slightly sweet and buttery – no need to toast them, they are perfect raw.  I added parmigiano reggiano because, well, this.  And olive oil to bring it all together.  A clove of garlic is good too, if you’re so inclined.

pesto on toast

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5 from 1 vote

Arugula Pesto

A simple, inexpensive variation on pesto using peppery arugula and savory pecans. Use it over baked fish or chicken, spread on sandwiches, toss pasta in it, or make pesto pizza!
Prep: 5 minutes
Total: 5 minutes
Servings: 10 servings


  • Food Processor


  • 10 ounces baby arugula
  • 2/3 cup toasted pecans
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 ounces parmigiano-reggiano cheese, broken up into pieces
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt


  • Pulse the first four ingredients (through the cheese) in a food processor until broken up. Turn the food processor on and blend while slowly adding the olive oil and salt. Continue blending until it becomes smooth and spreadable, adding more olive oil if needed. Taste and add more salt, if needed.
  • Pesto will keep up to a week covered in the refrigerator.


Calories: 172kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 17g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 4mg | Sodium: 100mg | Potassium: 159mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 855IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 127mg | Iron: 1mg

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

Author: Jess Smith via Inquiring Chef
Cost: $3.00
Calories: 172
Keyword: DIY sauce, easy recipe, easy sauce, homemade sauce, pesto
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About Jess Smith

Jess is the recipe creator and photographer at She spent nearly a decade as the Chief Recipe Developer for the award-winning meal planning app Cook Smarts. Her colorful, healthyish recipes have been featured in popular online publications including Parade, Hallmark, and HuffPost.

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    1. My husband is totally hooked on arugula too, Debra – maybe it’s a guy thing? He’s converted me though – I used to think it was a bit too peppery, but now I really like it!

  1. I love making pesto out of all sorts of things. Arugula pecan sounds great! I like to freeze pesto in ice cube trays so I’ve got single servings to pull out and add to all sorts of things. Will have to add this arugula version into my rotation!

    1. That ice cube trick is SUCH a good idea – I forget to do it, but it’s amazing what a little pesto can do to things like soups and pastas! I need to add that into my new pesto-making plans, Katie!