It’s watermelon season in Arizona and we can’t think of a better way to celebrate than to showcase its versatility as the weather gets warmer. Surely, one of the of the best ways to eat watermelon is to cut it into big slices or chunks and eat as-is, but the fruit is also a wonderful ingredient. And note that while the industry focuses on melons with green rinds and crimson-colored flesh, there are tons of other varieties to try. Saveur’s list of watermelon varieties showcases just that.
To explore the possibilities with watermelon, we turned to one of our favorite cooking resources, The Flavor Bible, which literally takes any cooking ingredient and gives a comprehensive list of compatible flavors according to renowned chefs and flavor experts.
The following list explains why we’ve been seeing watermelon pairings with briny, crumbly cheeses, salty flavors, and peppery vegetables like arugula. Or, why a longstanding Mexican treat consists of watermelon, lime, chili powder, salt, and other produce like cucumbers, jícama, and orange. It also explains why juicy watermelon is great for drinks, often enjoyed as a hydrating sports beverage or combined with tequila and salt for brilliant twist on a margarita.
The Flavor Bible’s list of compatible flavors and affinities for watermelon
- Anise hyssop
- Cheese: feta, goat*
- Chili powder
- Kaffir lime
- Olive Oil
- Vinegar: balsamic, rice, sherry*
*Highly or frequently recommended pairings
- Watermelon + Cilantro + Cream + Tequila
- Watermelon + Fennel + Lemon Juice + Parsley + Salt
- Watermelon + Feta Cheese + Red Onion
- Watermelon + Kaffir Lime + Vanilla
Yum!! Inspired by these mouth-watering flavor combos? Below we’ve provided some simple instructions for a DIY watermelon salad to get you started.
- Prepare your watermelon: ½- to 1-inch pieces work best
- Make your dressing (think: citrus or vinegar based dressings)
- Consider contrasts of flavor and textures (e.g., salty + sweet; crisp/juicy + soft/creamy) and assemble your ingredients
- Chop up any garnishes: a host of herbs go surprisingly well (see list)
- Dress, toss together, and enjoy!
And for more inspiration, check out the recipes below:
- Cookie and Kate’s Arugula and Watermelon Salad
- BA’s Sesame-and-Soy Watermelon Poké
- Parade’s Chile-Lime Watermelon, Cucumber and Jícama
- Saveur’s Watermelon Gazpacho with Cilantro and Mint (gazpacho = blended salad)
- BA’s Watermelon With Yogurt, Poppy Seeds, and Fried Rosemary
And let’s please not forget watermelon rind, which often gets relegated to the compost bin or trash. It can be pickled in apple cider vinegar and sugar for a great complement to smoked meats and BBQ. The National Watermelon Promotion Board provides a reliable recipe for watermelon rind pickles.