Vegan Arugula Pesto

I first started making Arugula Pesto about 10 years ago when I ran out of fresh basil, which I typically used to make traditional Italian pesto. Luckily, I had arugula on-hand so I substituted arugula for basil, added walnuts instead of pine nuts to balance the bite of arugula, and a dinner fave was born. More recently, when my daughter gave up dairy, she could no longer eat pesto because of the parmesan cheese in it. What I needed was a vegan arugula pesto that even my cheese eaters would enjoy. It turns out a vegan alternative to parmesan cheese is something already in our pantry – nutritional yeast seasoning. At first, I wasn’t sure how it would turn out, but it was delicious! I swear, you can’t tell the difference, seriously! In just minutes, you can create the perfect vegan pasta topping for a quick weeknight meal. Plus, it’s good, like, really good! It also makes a great sandwich spread.

Cutting board with knife, garlic and walnuts

Vegan Arugula Pesto-ingredients and food processor

Vegan Arugula Pesto


3 cups arugula (packed)
3 tbsp nutritional yeast seasoning
2 cloves garlic – mashed or minced
1 tbsp lemon juice
¼ cup walnuts (cashews is a good substitute)
¼ cup EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
Salt and pepper to taste


1. In a food processor, add arugula, nutritional yeast seasoning, garlic, lemon juice, walnuts, salt, and pepper. Pulse 8 – 10 times to incorporate ingredients.

Arugula, walnuts and garlic in food processor
Roughly chopped vegan arugula pesto ingredients in a food processor

2. With the food processor set to low, slowly stream in EVOO to emulsify. Stop and scrape the sides of the food processor as needed. Continue adding EVOO until desired consistency is reached.

Drizzle EVOO into food processor
Vegan Arugula Pesto!

Enjoy fresh pesto with your choice of pasta! In my house, we usually finish the pesto in one meal, but the recipe will last for about a week in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Pro tip: cover with a thin layer of EVOO to prevent darkening. 


P.S. You can use ¼ cup parmesan cheese instead of nutritional yeast seasoning for a non-vegan version.

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