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Vegan Arugula Pesto

$5.38 Recipe/$1.35 Serving

Arugula basil pesto is the perfect dairy free and vegan pesto!

Thick and creamy and so easy to make! All you need is a food processor and about 5 minutes to make this pesto. Arugula cashew pesto is vegan, Whole30, low carb, keto and dairy free so it’s the perfect dip or sauce for any meal.

Silver spoon resting in a bowl of arugula pesto.

Why you will love this recipe

  • Hidden veggies – typical pesto is made with just basil, but this recipe uses a 3 cups of arugula, adding some extra veggies to your dish.
  • Dairy free – made with cashews instead of parmesan cheese, this pesto is vegan and dairy free and budget friendly since there are no pine nuts in this recipe.
  • Great use for all that summer basil from the garden – when you make this with fresh basil growing from the garden, this is a very budget friendly recipe!
  • Great for weeknight meals or entertaining – this vegan arugula pesto is so easy to make and only takes about 5 minutes, so it’s great for weeknight meals or as an elegant meal for entertaining.
Ingredients to make arugula pesto.
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Ingredients for arugula pesto

  • Fresh Basil – this is what gives the pesto it’s flavor.
  • Arugula – Arugula is peppery and savory and a great addition to the basil, as it compliments the flavor well but also adds a kick. Lemon juice helps to cut through the peppery kick from the arugula in this pesto so it’s very subtle.
  • Extra Virgin Olive Oil – helps to add richness and body to the pesto.
  • Water – helps to thin out the pesto so it’s the perfect consistency.
  • Lemon Juice – lemon juice is used to help balance out the peppery flavor from the arugula and the kick from the fresh basil.
  • Raw Cashews – cashews help to make the pesto creamy and thick. Cashews are great alternative to pine nuts and are much more budget friendly.  
  • Spices: Salt, garlic powder – salt helps to elevate the flavor of the basil. I prefer garlic powder over fresh garlic, as fresh garlic tends to take over the pesto, but if you love fresh garlic, you can use that instead!

How to make vegan arugula pesto

In a large food processor, combine basil, 1 ½ cups arugula, lemon, olive oil, cashews and ½ tsp. of salt, garlic powder with 3 tbsp. of water and process until smooth (you may need to stop this once to scrape down the sides).

Add the remaining arugula and process until smooth. If you find that you need more liquid, add the additional tbsp. of water. Once you have the consistency you desire, taste for salt. Add up to an additional ½ tsp. of salt depending on your preference. Be sure to blend well.

Steps on how to make arugula pesto.
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Top tips

  • When making pesto in the food processor, it can always be helpful to stop and scrape down the sides with a silicone spatula to ensure everything gets blended together.
  • Start with just a little bit of water in the beginning, you can always add more but it can be hard to fix the consistency if you add too much at once.
  • Store pesto in an airtight container as the pesto will start to turn brown the longer it’s exposed to oxygen.
  • Fresh basil can be very finicky and sensitive to temperature changes when you bring it home in those clamshell containers from the store. If it was not refrigerated at the store, do not refrigerate the basil or it will turn black on you almost immediately. Also fresh basil does not last long in most kitchens because of the humidity and temperature. I recommend you make your pesto within 1-2 days of bringing home the fresh basil for the best quality. I have started to buy the live basil plants and watering them at home until I need the basil as a solution for this.

How to serve arugula pesto

Pesto is so versatile and can be used as a sauce or a dip, depending on how you want to use it.

  • Over pasta, spaghetti squash, zucchini noodles, gnocchi, quinoa, rice, or roasted potatoes
  • Great as a dip for veggies (fresh or roasted)
  • Stir into soups, like this vegan minestrone or pasta e fagioli to take the flavors up a notch.
  • As a sauce over grain bowls or buddha bowls
  • Over fresh tomatoes
  • On sandwiches or wraps or used in place of mayo in things like chicken salad or tuna salad.
  • Great mix in or on top of eggs
  • Spread or topping for pizza
  • Great over grilled or baked protein (chicken, salmon, shrimp, tofu)
Spoonful of pesto over a bowl.

How to store leftover pesto

Pesto will start to lose it’s bright green color as it sits in the fridge. The flavor will still be there but the color will start to fade after a day or two. Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the fridge.

You can also store leftover pesto in the freezer for up to 3 months. My favorite thing to do is to pour pesto into a silicone ice cube tray and freeze solid. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer safe bag for long term storage. This way you can just pull out what you need from the freezer.

To defrost frozen pesto cubes, simply leave them on the counter for about 30 minutes or store in the fridge for a few hours before you need them.

Substitutions

  • Arugula – you can also use baby spinach or kale (with the woody stems removed).
  • Lemon juice – if you don’t have fresh lemons or lemon juice on hand, you could also use white wine vinegar or white balsamic vinegar (1-2 tablespoons, start with 1 and taste as you add more in).
  • Extra virgin olive oil – the oil really helps to make a creamy, rich sauce. If you don’t like adding oil to dishes, you could omit it and add more cashews and water. If you are ok with adding oil, you could also use avocado oil in place of the olive oil.
  • Cashews – cashews are great as they help make the pesto thick and creamy and give a similar texture as pine nuts (but much more budget friendly). You could also use slivered almonds, sunflower seeds, hemp hearts or pistachios in place of cashews.
  • Garlic powder – garlic powder is used to help bring that savory quality to the sauce without the garlic overpowering the fresh basil in this pesto. If you love a garlicy pesto, add 1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced in place of the garlic powder. If you need to be low fodmap and cannot tolerate garlic, you can use roasted garlic olive oil in place of the olive oil in this recipe.
Food processor filled with vegan arugula pesto.

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Bowl filled with vegan arugula pesto.

Vegan Arugula Pesto

$5.38 Recipe/$1.35 Serving
Arugula pesto is the perfect sauce or dip and ready in just 5 minutes. Made with fresh basil, arugula and cashews, this pesto is vegan, dairy free, Whole30 and low carb friendly.
5 from 4 votes
Print Pin Save Rate
Course: sauce
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: arugula pesto, cashew arugula pesto
Prep Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 5 mins
Servings: 4

Guided Recipe Video

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fresh basil, packed - $2.25
  • 3 cups organic arugula, packed - $1.50
  • 1 large lemon, juiced - $0.33
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil - $0.22
  • ½ cup raw cashews - $0.93
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder - $0.10
  • ½ -1 tsp. salt - $0.05
  • 3-4 tbsp. water - $0.00

Instructions

  • In a large food processor, combine basil, 1 ½ cups arugula, lemon, olive oil, cashews and ½ tsp. of salt, garlic powder with 3 tbsp. of water and process until smooth (you may need to stop this once to scrape down the sides).
  • Add the remaining arugula and process until smooth. If you find that you need more liquid, add the additional tbsp. of water. Once you have the consistency you desire, taste for salt. Add up to an additional ½ tsp. of salt depending on your preference. Be sure to blend well.
  • Store in an airtight container for up to 1 week in the fridge.

Notes

Substitutions:
  • Arugula: You can also use baby spinach or baby kale. 
  • Cashews: You can use any nut or seed in place of cashews. You can use almonds, pine nuts, walnuts, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds would all be great here. 
  • Garlic powder: I prefer garlic powder over fresh garlic in pesto so that the flavor is not overwhelmed by garlic. You can also use 1-2 cloves fresh garlic (grated or minced). 
Storage:
  • Fridge: Store in an airtight container in the fridge up to 1 week. 
  • Freezer: Freeze pesto in ice cube trays in individual servings. Once frozen, transfer to a freezer safe bag for up to 3 months.
Budget tip: 
To make this more budget friendly, grow your own basil and make this in the summer when your basil is abundant.  You can freeze extra from leftover basil for up to 3 months!
See how I calculate food cost.

Nutrition Information

Nutrition Facts
Amount per Serving
Calories
138
Fat
 
11
g
Carbohydrates
 
8
g
Fiber
 
2
g
Sugar
 
1
g
Protein
 
4
g
Where does nutrition info come from? Nutrition facts are provided as a courtesy, sourced from the USDA Food Database.
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