Meatless Monday Challenge

5-Minute Arugula Basil Pesto

on December 22, 2020
last updated April 21, 2023
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This quick and easy 5-Minute Arugula Basil Pesto packs such a powerful punch of flavor and freshness to elevate any meal.
Bowl of Arugula Basil Pesto

Sometimes your food needs a flavor punch. And what better way to get one than fresh, easy, herbaceous pesto? This Arugula Basil Pesto will enrich any dish every time.

There is nothing better than homemade pesto, and this 5-Minute zesty green sauce is the quickest and easiest way to turn boring into bold when it comes to food. It’s fragrant, vibrant, and out-of-this-world delicious!

Close up of Arugula Basil Pesto garnished with pine nuts

As an environmental scientist, I’m always thinking of ways to be more sustainability-minded in the kitchen. Making my own homemade sauces and dressings is one of my favorite ways to lower my contribution to environmentally damaging microplastics.

Green tip: Making your own sauces and syrups is a great way to avoid extra plastic packaging that eventually ends up in landfills or makes its way into the environment and becomes microplastics.

Arugula Basil Pesto Ingredients

  • Arugula. Adding arugula to pesto gives it a delicious peppery flavor.
  • Basil. The star of any pesto!
  • Lemon juice. You will need 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, so one fresh lemon will be more than enough!
  • Pine nuts. I love using pine nuts because they are super buttery and lend a creamier texture to your pesto, but you can also use walnuts or almonds with a similar outcome.
  • Garlic. Fresh garlic goes a long way in this recipe.
  • Olive oil. Blending the oil into the other ingredients is what gives you a creamy, saucy texture.
  • Parmesan cheese. To thicken and add flavor.
  • Salt & pepper. To season and ramp up the other flavors.
pesto ingredients - arugula, lemon, pepper, parmesan, basil, oil, salt, garlic, pine nuts

Arugula Basil Pesto Tips and Tricks

Use Fresh Ingredients

Fresh arugula, basil, garlic, and lemon juice go a long way in this recipe!

You can (and should!) use both the leaves and stems of your basil in this recipe. It avoids waste and the stems actually pack a lot of flavor!

Prep your garlic by peeling it. No need to mince or dice your garlic, you can add it to your food processor whole.

Green tip: Growing your own herbs at home is easy! Try picking up a basil plant at the grocery store instead of the plastic packages of pre-harvested basil. Set it on your windowsill so it gets plenty of natural light and water it once a week, or plant it in your garden!

Squeeze Your Lemon Juice Separate

Squeezing your lemon juice into a separate cup (I like to use my measuring cup) allows you to more accurately measure your juice.

It also means that you can make sure that no lemon seeds accidentally fall into the pesto. Not even a food processor will be able to break a lemon seed down!

Squeezing lemon juice into a measuring cup
Use fresh lemon juice for the best flavor

Use a Food Processor or High-Powered Blender

The best way to break down all of your ingredients and seamlessly blend them together is with a food processor or high-powered blender.

Adding black pepper to food processor with the rest of the ingredients
Use a food processor or high-powered blender for the best pesto

Blend Until Smooth

Making this pesto is as simple as adding all of the ingredients to your food processor or blender and blending on high until smooth.

Storing Arugula Basil Pesto

Homemade pesto will last in an airtight container or sealed glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 10 days. You can also freeze this Arugula Basil Pesto for up to 6 months.

The pesto is safe to consume raw. Just make sure you allow frozen pesto to thaw in the refrigerator overnight.

Green tip: Billions of tons of food is wasted annually. Combat food waste by reducing the amount of waste you produce in your own home by properly storing food and leaving little to not leftovers.

Serving Arugula Basil Pesto

This Arugula Basil Pesto is so versatile!

I love to make a simple pesto butter with it to have on hand for Pesto Butter Garlic Bread and Pesto Butter Salmon.

I also love to make Mushroom Pesto Pasta, Tuna Pesto Pasta Salad, or a Pesto Frittata. Or simply enjoy it as a dip for veggies or bread.

Arugula Basil Pesto garnished with fresh basil leaves

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you substitute arugula for basil in pesto?

Arugula is one of the best substitutes for basil in pesto along with other herbs mint, cilantro, parsley, and oregano, and other greens like kale or spinach.

Best yet, use a combination of basil with a leafy green, like arugula, to add a more dynamic flavor to your pesto.

How do you make arugula pesto less bitter?

Between the arugula and basil, Arugula Basil Pesto can sometimes be bitter. In this recipe, we use olive oil and lemon juice to balance out the bitterness. If you feel the final product is too bitter, add some extra olive oil.

Why You Should Make This Arugula Basil Pesto

  • The depth of flavor. Adding arugula to basil pesto gives it a more peppery, full flavor.
  • It’s versatile! This pesto will help to elevate any meal!
  • It’s quick and easy. It’s as simple as throwing everything in a food processor and blending, giving this recipe a total time of 5 minutes.

If you’re loving this Arugula Basil Pesto and want more fresh, basil-forward dishes, check out this Hummus Pasta with Basil and Watermelon Basil Margarita.

Bowl of Arugula Basil Pesto

5-Minute Arugula Basil Pesto

5 from 3 votes
Marley Goldin
This Arugula Basil Pesto packs such a powerful punch of flavor and freshness. All you need is a food processor, 5 fresh ingredients, and 5 minutes and you’re off and running!
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 1 cup


  • 1 cup fresh basil (tightly packed)
  • 2 cups arugula (tightly packed)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (1 lemon = approx. 4 tablespoons juice)
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of pepper
Shop Ingredients on Jupiter


  • Throw all your ingredients into a food processor!
    All ingredients for Arugula Basil Pesto in food processor
  • Process on high until everything is finely diced. Voila! You’re done! Store or serve raw on pasta, pizza, or add more olive oil until you achieve desired consistency for a dip.
    Just blended Arugula Basil Pesto

Pro Tips


Course Sauces and Dressings
Cuisine Mediterranean
Diet Vegetarian
Keyword 30 Minutes or Less, 5 minute Pesto, Easy, Pesto, Quick, Two Step Pesto
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