Dairy-Free Arugula Pesto

When I first heard about making pesto with greens other than basil, I wanted absolutely nothing to do with it. Blasphemy, I thought. Give me basil or give me…no pesto at all.

But since we had a huge container of arugula from Costco just waiting to be consumed, I decided to eliminate a couple of huge handfuls of it in this doomed experiment. Surely it would not be good, I decided. I threw in all the delicious ingredients I normally put in pesto and waited to be disappointed.

But…it totally kicked ass. It’s so good! I love it just as much as basil pesto! How can this be??

When I made this batch I had people over at the house and it kind of inadvertently got scooped up as a dip. I assumed the raw garlic would make it too pungent to eat raw, but I was wrong. A good portion of the pesto was scooped up with pieces of naan. Highly recommend.

So I guess this was a lesson in making assumptions. I’m a lot more adventurous with my food now than I was growing up, but there are still some things I just assume I’ll dislike. I’m happy to be proven wrong in this case.

Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to add that arugula seems to cost WAY less than basil, ounce for ounce. We got a huge container of arugula at Costco for $2.99, and you’d barely get a handful of basil for that price at the grocery store. Just saying.

Some suggestions as to what to do with this:

  • use it as a dip with some nice bread
  • spread it on a sandwich
  • toss some pasta in it (use a little pasta water + extra olive oil to thin it out)
  • add a spoonful to a homemade salad dressing
  • make appetizers with tomato and bocconcini

It’ll work great anywhere you use traditional pesto. If you have other uses for it, let me know in the comments and I’ll update the list!

5 from 1 vote

Arugula Pesto

Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 cup


  • 2-3 cups washed arugula
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 small garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper


  1. Wash and pick through your arugula to make sure all the leaves are nice and healthy. I noted 2-3 cups because I initially added 2, but decided I wanted to bulk it up and added another big handful. Figure out what sort of leaf-to-nut ratio you like!

  2. In a food processor, add the arugula, nutritional yeast, oil, cashews, salt, and pepper.

  3. Peel and roughly chop the garlic so it's easier for the food processor to break it down. Add to the other ingredients.

  4. Juice the lemon (about 1/4 of a small lemon) and add. 

  5. Blend on high, scraping the sides occasionally, until you have a nice spreadable pesto. 


4 thoughts on “Dairy-Free Arugula Pesto”

  1. 5 stars
    The timing of this post is perfect! I just finished one brand of pesto that I usually don?t buy. Then I bought my usual brand and noticed a big difference in taste so I compared the ingredients and the calories. The pesto that I had finished didn?t have any pine nuts and was less heavy on the cheese.
    I?m interested in trying your recipe to share with my vegan friends and to taste what it is like with cashews. Pine nuts are super expensive as well as the basil so you have everything covered!
    I?ll report back after I?ve made it!

    1. Rebecca @ The Lucky Sprout

      That’s so great, thanks Maja! I’ll look forward to your feedback once you’ve tried it! 🙂

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I'm Rebecca, a Nova Scotian writer, designer, and entrepreneur. This website is my personal blog and creative hub. I hope you find something cool and inspiring here!

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