A few simple ingredients take this Italian classic and turn it into a plant based version that is just as good as the real thing! This versatile vegan Arugula Walnut Pesto recipe can be used on pasta, spread on sandwiches, or even as a dip. With omega-3s and tons of flavor this pesto is both good for you and delicious!
I don't know about you, but I hate letting things go bad in the fridge. I can't count how many times I've bought a bag of arugula, used just a little of it or even completely forgotten about it before it begins to reach its expiration date as a salad green.
So what I do is turn those greens into pesto!
In fact, pesto is one of my favorite things to make with leftover salad greens! It's quick and easy to make, can be used for everything from a pasta sauce to a sandwich spread, and keeps well in both the fridge and freezer.
For this recipe I used arugula, which is a classic in Italian cuisine when combined with walnuts. But I've made pesto with all kinds of greens and herbs. The fantastic thing about pesto is that almost any green or herb will work if you just follow the preparation technique.
What is Pesto?
When most people think of pesto they think of pesto alla genovese, which is the most popular type of pesto made from basil leaves, garlic, pine nuts, hard cheese, salt, and olive oil. Pesto alla genovese, originates from Genoa the capital city of Liguria, Italy. But you will find variations of this classic sauce all over Italy.
The word pesto itself, refers to anything that is made by pounding. The term can be used to describe a variety of different paste like sauces using various herbs, nuts, and greens.
Some of these different types of pestos include sundried tomato pesto, cilantro lime pesto, or even arugula walnut pesto, which would explain why you went searching for a pesto made with arugula!
Plant Based Pesto Ingredients
This recipe only requires 6 ingredients:
- Nutritional Yeast
- Olive Oil
The stars of this recipe are the arugula, garlic, and walnuts. With the addition of lemon adding some acid to bring out the flavors. Balance it all out with the olive oil, which also adds some healthy fat and depth. And finally add just enough nutritional yeast to give it a "cheesy" touch of flavor in this plant based version.
Just a few ingredients in just the right amounts combined creates an amazing pesto!
Walnuts add an omega-3 boost!
Walnuts are used in this pesto for flavor, but with that added flavor comes a healthy twist. Just a few walnuts a day is a great way to add omega-3s to a plant based diet.
Walnuts are known to be high in antioxidants and good for brain health. They are also said to potentially help prevent heart disease and cancer. And while they may be high in fat studies have shown that walnuts don't increase the risk of obesity when replacing them with other foods in your diet.
How to Make Arugula Walnut Pesto
Pesto is super easy to make and is ready in just a few minutes. You just need a food processor or blender.
This version of pesto begins by toasting walnuts in the oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit for about 10 minutes. Just long enough get them golden in color and give off a toasty aroma.
Now put all the remaining ingredients EXCEPT the olive oil into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse the ingredients together until they are finely chopped and well combined. Next, while the food processor is running at a medium-high speed slowly drizzle in the olive oil. Make sure to drizzle the olive oil in with the other ingredients in a slow stream so that the pesto becomes a creamy emulsified paste like sauce. In culinary science pesto is considered to be a partial emulsion. Adding the olive oil in slowly ensures that this process is a success.
Once your pesto is perfectly combined, taste and season with salt and pepper.
If you are serving this pesto with pasta you will want to combine freshly cooked hot pasta with the pesto. Then add some of the pasta cooking water a little at a time to thin out the pesto until the pasta is even coated. DO NOT ever heat up pesto. It is meant to be added to hot pasta or used as a condiment.
You should make this vegan Arugula Walnut Pesto because it's:
- Amazingly delicious on almost anything
- Ready in 15 minutes
- Heart healthy with added antioxidants
- Goes with pasta, sandwiches, and snacks
- Stores great in both the fridge and freezer
Leftovers & Variations
This pesto recipe makes about 1 cup. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to 6 days in an airtight container or in the freeze for up to 3 months.
The recipe can be made with almost any herb or green. A combination of different herbs or greens will work as well. Some variations include: basil and arugula, all spinach in place of the arugula, or a mixture of spinach and arugula.
And just like the greens you can switch out the walnuts with any type of nut you like.
There are no rules in pesto!
Go crazy with your leftover greens, herbs, and nuts. Have fun with it while making something delicious!
I hope you enjoy this versatile recipe and eat your pesto heart out!
If you try this recipe please let me know how it turns out by leaving a comment and rating. You can also hashtag #danceswithknives with a photo of your creation on Instagram where you can find me @dances_with_knives.
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Vegan Arugula Walnut Pesto Sauce
- 3 cups baby arugula
- ⅓ cup toasted walnuts
- 1 large garlic clove
- 1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- Zest of 1 lemon
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp sea salt (season to taste)
- 1 Pinch black pepper
- Toast the raw walnuts in the oven at 350 degrees fahrenheit for 10 minutes until golden brown.
- Add the arugula, toasted walnuts, garlic, nutritional yeast, lemon, and lemon zest to the bowl of a food processor. DO NOT add the olive oil at this point. Now pulse the ingredients together in the food processor until they are finely chopped and well combined.
- Next, turn the food processor on to a medium-high speed and as it is running slowly pour in the extra virgin olive oil. It’s important not to add the oil too quickly at this stage. Continue running the food processor until the mixture is nice and smooth.
- Now taste and season with salt and pepper to your liking. If you want to add a little kick, crushed red pepper makes a nice addition to this pesto.
- If you are serving the pesto with pasta you will want combine hot pasta with the pesto. Then add a little of the pasta cooking water a little at a time to thin out the pesto until the pasta is even coated. DO NOT ever heat up pesto. It is meant to be added to hot pasta or used as a condiment.