Oil-Free Arugula Pesto (Vegan)

I think the urge to “nest” has finally started to hit me, because not only am I feeling the pressure to organize and clean every inch of my house (which is really the only time I ever think about cleaning things like my baseboards or behind my washing machine), but I’m also feeling the need to make large batches of food, as if I’m stocking up for winter.

oil-free-pesto

I never had the chance to prepare a batch of freezer meals during my first pregnancy, because my son surprised us by arriving three weeks early. This time around I’m practicing making easy and filling meals that can be ready in 10 minutes or less– so that we can function on auto-pilot, even when we are sleep deprived and starving. I’ve found that the key to making fast meals is to have a batch of delicious sauces and dressings ready to go, like this 5-minute pesto sauce.

I threw this sauce together last weekend, and the jar lasted me all week for some easy make-ahead lunches and dinners. It’s so versatile that it can be spread on sandwiches or wraps, used as a pizza sauce, scrambled with eggs, or added to salads and veggie bowls for an extra punch of flavor without any added oil.

Once you’ve got a sauce or two like this one ready, all you need is a few more elements, such as a batch of cooked grains, a frozen pizza crust, and a variety of pre-chopped veggies, to have a healthy and filling meal ready in no time. I’ll be sharing a few of my favorite make-ahead lunches later this week, but for now, I’ll leave you with this tasty pesto sauce. I hope you enjoy it!

Oil-Free Vegan Arugula Pesto
Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients:

1 cup fresh arugula
1 cup fresh basil
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 to 3 cloves garlic, to taste
1/2 cup raw walnuts
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

Directions:

Combine all of the ingredients in a small food processor (I use this one) and process until everything is broken down. I prefer my pesto to have a bit of a chunky texture, but you can use a blender if you would like a smoother result.

best-vegan-pesto-recipe

Once the pesto is smooth enough, taste it and adjust any seasonings as needed. When you use fresh ingredients, the taste will always vary by batch, so I usually end up adding an extra splash of lemon juice or an extra pinch of salt to make it taste “just right.” And also, I think it should be noted that I love a spicy punch of garlic, so 3 cloves is usually perfect for me, but if you’re not the biggest garlic fan, you might only want to start with 1 or 2 cloves and add more to taste. The nice thing about making a blended sauce like this one is you can always taste as you go and adjust as needed!

Because the ingredients are so fresh, I’d recommend keeping this sauce stored in an airtight container in the fridge and using it within 4 to 5 days for best flavor.

arugula-pesto

5.0 from 2 reviews
Oil-Free Arugula Pesto (Vegan)
Author: 
Serves: 1 cup
 
A quick and easy pesto sauce that is dairy-free and oil-free.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup fresh arugula
  • 1 cup fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 to 3 cloves garlic, to taste
  • ½ cup raw walnuts
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
Instructions
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small food processor and process until everything is broken down. I prefer my pesto to have a bit of a chunky texture, but you can use a blender if you would like a smoother result.
  2. Once the pesto is smooth enough, taste it and adjust any seasonings as needed. When you use fresh ingredients, the taste will always vary by batch, so I usually end up adding an extra splash of lemon juice or an extra pinch of salt to make it taste "just right." Also, I think it should be noted that I love a spicy punch of garlic, so 3 cloves is usually perfect for me, but if you're not the biggest garlic fan, you might only want to start with 1 or 2 cloves and add more to taste. The nice thing about making a blended sauce like this one is you can always taste as you go and adjust as needed.
  3. Because these ingredients are all fresh, I'd recommend keeping this sauce stored in an airtight container in the fridge for no longer than a week for best flavor.

Substitutions: Pesto is a very forgiving sauce, so feel free to use any other fresh greens you have on hand, such as kale, spinach, or parsley in place of the arugula. Any substitution will change the overall flavor, but as long as you like the taste of each individual ingredient, you should still enjoy the result!

Reader Feedback: What’s your favorite make-ahead meal?

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Meet Megan Gilmore

Hi, I’m Megan. A former fast food junkie turned certified nutritionist consultant, trying to make healthy living as easy as possible. I believe in eating delicious whole foods on a regular basis to help naturally support the body’s detox organs— no juice fasting required. (Unless you want to!) If you make one of my healthy recipes, tag @detoxinista on Instagram or Facebook so I can see!

15 thoughts on “Oil-Free Arugula Pesto (Vegan)

  1. Laura ~ Raise Your Garden

    I’ve been thinking a lot about oil lately and how it affects your body. All in all, I am trying to eliminate it from my diet. And yet pesto is one of the best things of life and I have basil and arugula growing in my garden. Fresh ingredients always allow to pass myself as a better cook than I really am =)

    Reply
    1. Robynn

      Looks amazing! I made a variation of this last week with basil and instead of water – I used a cucumber and a little zucchini. I’m going to try the water this week! Thank you 🙂

      Reply
  2. Karen

    My husband swore that he would do all the cooking when I was pregnant with my last. However my appetite was too big. I found I was eating more than he made and I would eat a lot of breads just to fill me up. People always talk about nursing to lose weight. What they don’t know is your need to eat a TON of food. Especially in beginning. So really it could go either way. A lot of moms gain weight while breastfeeding because you body needs more food than usual to keep up with the supply of milk. I just found out I’m pregnant with my second. I’m looking forward to hearing how you handle it all. I’m committed to making a lot of meals myself now like you are doing because I learned my lesson the first time around. Freezer meals are your bff when you have a new baby! Please share how you handle this stage. With a toddler running around to boot!!!

    Reply
    1. Karen

      Funny story for people who may not believe me when I emphasize hungru you get after newborn…my dietician I was seeing during my pregnancy warned me to make enough food. She said she was so hungry when she had her daughter she couldn’t wait to make a meal. And all she had was a box of old moldy muffins. She didn’t even care. She ate it mold and all. She used that story as a word of warning to me to make sure I made enough food for when newborn came.

      Reply
  3. Anne

    I’m almost at the 33-week mark and have also had the strongest urges to organize my house and cook for an army! My chest freezer is almost fully packed and I still feel like it’s not enough. I’m looking forward to your make-ahead lunch ideas, and this pesto recipe looks delicious! I’m sure it will come in handy in our house in the near future 😉 Thank you so much for sharing!

    Reply
    1. Roz

      I make a similar one to this often for my toddler and use whatever seeds are in the house – mostly pumpkin but also sunflower or a few hemp hearts. Also we throw in nutritional yeast for the B12 and a little “cheese”!

      Reply
  4. Rachel

    Could you give some ideas for what to eat this with? I’m trying to follow food combining rules and it seems like it’s not good to eat nuts with anything else!

    Reply
  5. Jen @ sweetgreenkitchen.com

    I love pestos and arugula & basil is such a great combination! I also like my pestos on the chunky side so never use nearly as much oil in my recipes as most others do, but now I’m excited to try one without any oil at all. I also found any pesto I made was a great way to get greens into my daughter when she was young and not so keen on vegetables, but she loved any pesto I made, now she devours vegetables and loves them all, unfortunately my 7 year old son is another story but I continue to try getting veggies in him and hope to win the battle (for his health’s sake) one day.

    I too, was starving while nursing my son since he wanted to feed round the clock and sadly I didn’t have an array of meals waiting in my freezer for me. For the first few months after my son was born I subsisted on little bowls of nuts, dried apricots and cheese – quick and easy to grab snacks and lots and lots of water. Sounds like you have a better plan going, best of luck 🙂

    Reply
  6. Beth

    Made this tonight, tossed with pasta. It was so easy and really good! Impressive that it had no oil too. Thanks for the recipe!

    Reply
  7. Anja

    I’ am a huge fan of pesto,so I have made this one several times and I’am totally addicted to it.
    This pesto has a really delicious taste and it will last in the fridge for a substantial time.

    Reply
  8. Erin L

    This might sound pathetic, but can you sub dried basil in? We don’t have any fresh at the grocery store & im wondering what u could do instead. Thanks!

    Reply
    1. Megan Gilmore Post author

      That sounds challenging, but maybe? I’d sub another fresh green for the basil, like spinach, to provide the bulk, then add dried basil to taste, since you’ll need a lot less of the dried version for flavor. Let us know if it works for you!

      Reply

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