Pistachio Pesto Recipe with Arugula (Without Basil, No Pine Nuts)


This simple pistachio pesto recipe with arugula and parsley is so easy to make using your blender or food processor. It’s made without basil and no pine nuts. Can be made vegan, paleo & Whole30.

homemade pistachio pesto in a small white bowl with lemon and arugula in the back

This easy pistachio pesto recipe is a Sicilian Twist on the classic Italian pasta sauce replacing pine nuts with pistachios. Including a hint of lemon zest and juice adds a fresh, light flavor to this spring pasta sauce. 

Pistachios pesto is a very typical recipe of Sicilian cuisine due also the incredible quality of their Pistachios. And Believe it or not, pistachios pair perfectly with pesto ingredients and add an extra hint of smokiness and sweetness. This recipe is quick and easy to make. Grab your ingredients, a food processor or blender, and get started. This recipe is endlessly customizable and can be used in countless dishes, and it is crazy good.

So grab a handful of pistachios and — I mean, definitely snack on a few, but then save the rest and — let’s make a batch!

overhead shot of a small bowl with homemade pistachio pesto without pine nuts

Ingredients needed for making Pistachio Pesto: 

  • Parsley – flat Italian, not curly
  • Arugula – pick small fresh-looking leaves to avoid bitterness
  • Shelled Pistachios – I bought them roasted and in the shell, it takes five minutes to prep them. 
  • Garlic – raw or roasted
  • Parmesan Cheese – fresh and finely grated.
  • Olive Oil – the good stuff
  • Salt, Pepper – super important! Be sure to taste and add more salt and pepper in the end if needed.
  • Lemon zest and juice for some zing

What? Pesto without basil? I know, a traditional basil pesto IS pretty dang incredible. But bear with me, that doesn’t mean it’s the ONLY way. Pesto can be just as good when its made with other herbs, veggies, and nuts. Dare I say, sometimes even better?

If you love pistachios as much as I do, you will go absolutely nuts for this version. 

ingredients needed for making pistachio pesto gathered on a kitchen counter

As for variations on this recipe, a little mix-and-match is always a good idea as long as you stick to the ratios. If you can eat it in a salad, you can probably use it to make a pesto. However, don’t go too crazy combining strong flavors. Spicy arugula, bitter kale, and tarragon shouldn’t all be thrown into the same pesto. This is why for this recipe, I chose one big, bold flavor – arugula – and fill out the rest with mild parsley. 

Another advantage of foregoing the pine nuts and swapping bunches of fresh basil for parsley and arugula? It makes this pesto quite a bit cheaper to make. 

How to make Pistachio Pesto in your food processor: 

ingredients for pistachio pesto in a food processor

Pulse your all “dry” ingredients together in a blender or food processor until combined. 

arugula, parsley, parmesan and pistachio nuts in a food processor ready to me blended into pesto

 Basically, everything except the olive oil and lemon juice.  Pulse until everything together until it is finely chopped.

picture collage demonstrating how to make pistachio pesto in a food processor

Now, slowly drizzle in the olive oil with your food processor running. Stop as soon as the mixture is combined.  Puree just until smooth. I do this in shorter intervals towards the end and scrape down the sides so that everything is evenly mixed.  In the end, stir in the lemon juice and season with more salt and pepper to taste. If your pesto is too thick, feel free to thin it out with a few tablespoons of extra olive oil or water. Add in extra Parmesan or basil or garlic if you’d like those flavors to stand out some more.

How to store homemade pesto: 

To Refrigerate Pesto, store it in a sealed container and refrigerate for up to a week.  To prevent any browning and extend shelf life, pour a thin layer of olive oil on top of the pesto to cover its surface.  Alternatively, place a piece of plastic wrap directly on top of the surface of the pesto.

To Freeze Pesto:  You can freeze homemade pesto in large batches. I find a really clever method is freezing it in ice cube trays so that it is already neatly divided up into small portions. Just freeze, pop the cubes out, transfer to a freezer bag and re-freeze. 

Can this pistachio pesto recipe be made vegan? 

This pesto can be made vegan by skipping the parmesan cheese and adding some nutritional yeast. I would add about 5 tablespoons of nutritional yeast. 

a small teaspoon being dipped into a bowl with Sicilian Pistachio pesto with dried pasta in the background

Recipe Ideas using pistachio pesto:

  • Use this Pesto as a meatless sauce for fresh pasta
  • Serve it as part of an antipasto platter
  • Spread it on crispy toasted bread
  • Serve it with roasted lamb, steak or, grilled chicken.
  • It tastes amazing with pan-seared scallops. 
  • Use it as a spread for Bruschetta!
  • Stir it into mashed potatoes or cauliflower. 
  • Make pesto dressing: Add a splash of white balsamic vinegar, a tsp of honey, and top off with more olive oil. 

overhead shot of a bowl of no basil pistachio pesto with garlic parsley and lemon in the background

Recipe Tips: 

  • If you are not a fan of raw garlic, roast it in your oven using my instructions in this recipe.
  • Pulse your food processor in short intervals so as to prevent the sauce from overheating.
  • You can make this pesto in big amounts and store it in sterilized jars. For storage longer than a week, it is good to freeze it.
  • Be sure to rinse your parsley and arugula under cool water (warm water will wilt them). Pat them dry with a clean tea towel, or use a salad spinner.
  • To avoid bitterness, pick small leave arugula and trim off any long stalks. 

Variations:

  • Use different greens and herbs: In lieu of parsley and arugula (or mixed with basil), you could swap in spinach, basil or cilantro (try with peanuts – so good).
  • Swap in different nuts: In lieu of pistachios,  use walnuts, peanuts, pecans, almonds, pine nuts, pepitas, or any other favorite nut or seed.
  • Add some heat: Crushed red pepper flakes give any homemade pesto an extra kick.
  • For paleo and whole30, skip the cheese and add 5-6 tbsp of nutritional yeast. 

Did you make and love this pistachio pesto recipe? Give it your review below! And make sure to share your creations by tagging me on Instagram!

a small teaspoon being dipped into a dish with homemade pistachio pesto
5 from 1 vote
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Pistachio Pesto

This simple pistachio pesto recipe with arugula and parsley is so easy to make using your blender or food processor. It's made without basil and no pine nuts. 

Course condiment, side
Cuisine Italian, Sicilian
Keyword pesto no basil, pesto with pistachios, pesto without pine nuts
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Servings 3 cups
Calories 80 kcal
Author Kiki Johnson

Ingredients

  • 4 loosely cups parsley 40g - about 1 small bunch
  • 2 loosely packed cups arugula 20g
  • 1 big garlic clove add up to 2 if you're a super fan
  • 2/3 cups pistachios shelled 85 g
  • 1 cup parmesan cheese 50 g
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp salt use less if using salted pistachios
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsps fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  1. Cut the parsley and arugula a bit using your scissors. In a food processor or blender, pulse the parsley and arugula with the grated Parmesan, shelled pistachios, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and pepper together until finely chopped.

  2. With the food processor or blender still running, slowly drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil until it is completely combined. Turn off the food processor or blender as soon as it comes together. You don't want to overmix the pesto or let the mixture get hot. Scrape down the sides using a rubber spatula, then pulse again quickly until the mixture is smooth. Stir in the lemon juice and season to taste. 

  3. Serve the pesto immediately or fill it into a sealable plastic or glass container. You can refrigerate your pesto in a sealed container for a week, or freeze for up to 3 months.

Recipe Notes

Recipe Tips: 

  • If you are not a fan of raw garlic, roast it in your oven using my instructions in this recipe.
  • Pulse your food processor in short intervals so as to prevent the sauce from overheating.
  • You can make this pesto in big amounts and store it in sterilized jars. For storage longer than a week, it is good to freeze it.
  • Be sure to rinse your parsley and arugula under cool water (warm water will wilt them). Pat them dry with a clean tea towel, or use a salad spinner.

Variations:

  • Use different greens and herbs: In lieu of parsley and arugula (or mixed with basil), you could swap in spinach, basil or cilantro (try with peanuts - so good).
  • Swap in different nuts: In lieu of pistachios,  use walnuts, peanuts, pecans, almonds, pine nuts, pepitas, or any other favorite nut or seed.
  • Add some heat: Crushed red pepper flakes give any homemade pesto an extra kick.

Pistachio Pesto Pinterest Graphic


2 Comments


  1. Hands down the best pistachio pesto recipe! The arugula and lemon are perfect additions. Creamy, nutty, not bitter at all.

  2. Pingback: Nudelsalat mit Pistazien Pesto, Rucola und Spargel

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