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Arugula Pesto

Arugula Pesto- an earthy and heart-healthy blend of fresh arugula, basil, garlic and walnuts for a verstile sauce or marinade.

Pesto sauce is high up there on my list of all-time favorite sauces. Compared to others, it is so verstile and can be used to top, dip, marinate, coat or toss. Pair that with its cheery green hue and garlicky flavor and you’ve got a winner.

arugula walnut pesto in a jar


In its most basic version, pesto is nothing more than basil, garlic, olive oil and pine nuts, but is one of those recipes that begs for customizations. For me, that meant adding arugula, which is another leafy green known for its peppery taste. Walnuts were swapped for pine nuts because they are a heart-healthy fat and also slightly more budget friendly. Other modifications are minimal easily adjusted.

How this Pesto Came About

Today we are joining together to help raise awareness for Heart Disease. Kim of Cravings of a Lunatic lost her Mom to heart disease when her mother was 47, and Kim was 15. Each year on the day her Mom passed she shares stories and photos of her Mom. This year she joined forces with Jen of Juanita’s Cocina, whose life was also touched by heart disease when her Stepfather had a heart attack. Jen’s Stepfather is alive and well more than a decade later, and for that, Jen is thankful every day. The ladies got in touch with other bloggers to ask them to share their own stories about how heart disease has touched their lives. So today we share stories and recipes from our hearts to yours, in memory and honour of Momzie, Kim’s Mom. We hope you will share your stories with us today as well.

In 2006, at the age of 52 my dad had triple by-pass surgery.  High cholesterol runs in our family, and he had been on medication for years to help control it.  He was having some problems, and my mom forced him to go to the doctor.  Turned out he had major blockage, and his cholesterol medicine was the only reason he had not had a heart attack.  The cholesterol medicine had actually formed new vessels going to his heart.  They thought he was going to have a stint put in, but after he went into surgery they ended up doing a triple by-pass.

My dad is alive, well, active, and much healthier these days.  He has completely changed his lifestyle.  My dad now works-out most days, and watches what he eats (well, my mom does that part).  In 2009, my husband and I hiked with my dad to the top of a mountain.  That is something he never would have done before.  I have a 7 year old son, and I am so happy that he will have many years to come with my dad.

A man standing in a body of water with a mountain in the background

Ingredients for Arugula Pesto

One of the great things about this arugula pesto recipe is its ease, but also flexibility. Nearly any of these ingredient amounts can be adjusted up or down based on preference or what you happen to have on hand.

  • Basil- Fresh basil is the base for most pestos, although many use a blend of basil.
  • Arugula or Arugula/Spinach Blend– If you can’t get your hands on enough arugula or just want a subtle peppery taste, supplement with another heart-healthy green, spinach. Make sure to pack it into the measuring cup well to get the full amount.
  • Fresh parsley– Dried parsley won’t do in this case. Use fresh flat leaf, or Italian parsley.
  • Walnuts- These give the sauce depth, body and flavor, but if you have a nut allergy in your house, omitting them is best and you’ll still have a fantastic sauce.
  • Olive oil- The base and also used to make sure the greens stay green. It prevents them from oxidizing too much.
  • Garlic- Fresh garlic only! You’ll love the lovely flavor for muted or sweetness if you opt for jarred.
  • Parmesan cheese- Take the extra time to grate fresh off-the-block. Shaker parmesan cheese doesn’t boost much flavor other than salt and might leave a gritty texture behind.
  • Chicken stock- Used to thin out this thick paste, it can be increased or decreased based on the intended use.
  • Salt- Helps to preserve and enhance natural flavors.
  • Black pepper- If you aren’t a huge fan of pepper, the arugula alone might be enough for your taste buds. Use white pepper for a less pronounced flavor.
arugula walnut pesto in a jar

How to Make Pesto

Old school techniques of making pesto used a mortar and pestle, now days a small food processor or blender are your best bets. The texture can also be adjusted from a super fine paste to a hearty and coarse chopped chutney.

  1. Combine the basil, arugula, parsley, walnuts, olive oil, and garlic in the food processor or blender and process until it forms a smooth paste. Doing these first ensures the correct level of blending, if you add it all at once, too much liquid prevents the leafy greens and garlic from breaking down enough.
  2. Add the cheese, stock, salt and pepper and pulse until combined.

What to Use Pesto On

What can’t you use it on is really the question. These are my favorite uses:

  • Toss with pasta- probably the most common use!
  • Mix with plain Greek yogurt or mayonnaise as a spread for sandwiches, crostini or wraps.
  • Use as a marinade when blended with plain Greek yogurt or additional water.
  • Salad dressing- drizzle it on a classic caprese salad or any other salad you can think of.
  • Burger topping- Make any burger into a caprese burger with pesto, mozzarella cheese and roasted tomatoes.
  • Dip it- I like use it as a dip for crudite platters.

Storage & Freezing

Pesto has all of the elements for a shelf stable sauce, but with that said, it is best stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

It is also freezer friendly. Store in small airtight containers or plastic bags or evenly divide into cheap ice cube trays. After it is frozen, pop them out and place into an airtight plastic bag.

arugula walnut pesto in a jar

While some do can and preserve, the addition of cheese and not heating make it not recommended for homemade pesto. If you’d like to store it long term, we highly recommend freezing.

Yield: 10

Arugula Walnut Pesto

arugula walnut pesto in a jar

Peppery arugula and walnuts give lots of flavor to this healthy pesto.

Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes


  • 1 cup basil leaves
  • 1 1/2 cup arugula/spinach mix
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley
  • 3 tbls walnuts
  • 3 tbls olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/3 cup chicken stock
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper


    1. Combine basil, arugula, parsley, walnuts, olive oil, and garlic in the food process. Process until a smooth paste forms.
    2. Add cheese, stock, salt and pepper. Pulse until combined.
    3. Add additional stock to thin out if necessary.


Adapted from Cooking Light

Nutrition Information



Serving Size


Amount Per Serving Calories 72Total Fat 6gSaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 4gCholesterol 5mgSodium 350mgCarbohydrates 3gFiber 1gSugar 0gProtein 3g

Nutrition Disclaimer: All information presented on this site is intended for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and any nutritional information shared on should only be used as a general guideline.

Did you make this recipe?

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Friday 8th of March 2013

Kind of scary reading your post, Erin since your dad is maybe 10 years my senior. I'm so so glad for all of you that he is ok!!

Now to go buy some arugula!

Erin @ Texanerin Baking

Thursday 7th of March 2013

I'm so happy to hear that your father has changed his ways. :)

I think it's great that you all are sharing your stories to bring awareness to the issue.

And the pesto looks great!


Thursday 7th of March 2013

I'm so happy to hear that your dad is doing so much better. Love that picture of the two of you. Unfortunately, I can't say the same for my stubborn dad. He loves fatty foods and it's genetics that's saving him. No matter how hard my mom tries to feed him well, my dad goes back to the fatty stuff. This pesto is wonderful!


Wednesday 6th of March 2013

Love this pesto. My hubby was just talking about pesto so I will have to show him this recipe!! Thank you so much for sharing.

I am so happy your dad is doing well. Love the picture!!

Jen Laceda @ Tartine and Apron Strings

Wednesday 6th of March 2013

I think my original comment didn't go through. So here goes again...

The combination of arugula and omega-rich walnuts is enough reason for me to make this healthy pesto!

Erin, I know how hard it is when a family member falls close to illness or suffering. I'm glad that your Dad is OK and hopefully, no more further issues. High cholesterol runs in our family, too, so thanks for sharing this post. It reminds me to check up on my Dad.


Wednesday 6th of March 2013

This time it really didn't go through....a couple other times it went to spam. I check spam and it isn't there this time. Not sure what happened!

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