Summer watermelon is so good, you’re gonna want to eat as much of it as you can—but when you get tired of snacking on it straight-up (because those things are generally ginormous, and they last a while), these watermelon recipe ideas will make the last chunk just as exciting as the first bite.
Step One: Pick a Worthy Watermelon
As if to advertise summer itself, supermarkets all over America flaunt pool-size cardboard watermelon bins out front. Sure the fruit they’re heaped with is an emblem of summer picnicking, but how often are those melons good? Picked underripe or stored too long, watermelons can be bland and mealy. But grow your own, or buy from a farmer who knows their fruit, and you end up with watermelons totally deserving of their summer icon status.
The key to getting a good watermelon is buying one harvested when it was truly ripe. Unlike commercial growers, who clear-pick an entire field in an afternoon, small farmers like Ben Lucero, who grows watermelons (along with some of the West Coast’s best tomatoes and strawberries) in California’s San Joaquin Valley, pick melons from the same vine continuously over the long California season, stretching from July through October. Lucero grows several varieties, but his favorite? The deep-red hybrid called Sangria.
See three tricks for picking the perfect watermelon every time.
Step Two: Feast on These Watermelon Recipes
Whatever variety you choose, these recipe ideas will give you inspiration when you find your melon languishing half-eaten in your refrigerator.
One of the simplest things to do with watermelon (besides eating it straight off the rind): a slushy-textured purée, whose sweetness is enhanced by a little salt. Get our Watermelon Juice with Fleur de Sel recipe.
If you prefer a little kick (i.e., alcohol), check out these watermelon drink recipes too.
Vitamix E310 Explorian Blender, $349.95 from Sur La Table
The perfect excuse to finally get that blender.
In this pretty, classic summer salad, watermelon, ripe tomatoes, and cucumber are tossed together to provide a sweet contrast to the vivid Mediterranean flavors of salty, tannic Greek olives and ricotta salata cheese. Get our Watermelon, Tomato, and Kalamata Olive Salad recipe. (And for a spicy spin, try this Mexican Watermelon Salad recipe too.)
Another way to pair watermelon with seafood, these easy skewers are great when you want something different that doesn’t take a lot of work. Get the Watermelon and Grilled Shrimp Skewers recipe.
Related Reading: 11 Super Skewers to BBQ This Summer
If you don’t eat seafood, though, why not use meaty watermelon cubes as a stand-in for ruby-red ahi tuna? Get the Watermelon Poke recipe.
Yueshico Watermelon Slicer, $12.77 from Amazon
A quicker way to get melon cubes.
This Seared Watermelon Steak recipe may not fool carnivores, but it’s a deliciously inventive centerpiece for your summer dinner plate.
Raw watermelon makes for a sprightly salsa that you can scoop up with chips or spoon over grilled chicken or seafood. Get the Watermelon Salsa recipe.
Related Reading: Upgrade Taco Tuesday with These Fruit Salsas
Watermelon adds a surprising (and delicious) sweetness to this reworking of the classic tomato-based cold soup. A garnish of basil oil is a nice herbal complement to the lush fruit. Get our Watermelon Gazpacho recipe.
Melon and prosciutto are old friends, though the fruit is usually cantaloupe. Watermelon makes a great substitute. Get the Prosciutto and Watermelon Skewers recipe.
Part garden-party elegant, part frat-party festive: semifrozen cubes of watermelon macerated in a mixture of vodka, Chambord raspberry liqueur, and seeds from a whole vanilla bean. Cooling, tasty, and stimulating. Get our Drunken Watermelon Pops recipe. (You can also simply drizzle the melon with some gin; that’s a trick from Chowhound Pipenta.)
If you have a hankering for a frozen treat, watermelon popsicles are amazing, but if you don’t want to mess with molds, just blend your melon into a simple sorbet (not dissimilar to Dole Whip). Just be sure to freeze your watermelon beforehand. Get the Watermelon Sorbet recipe.
You’ve seen watermelon pizza, but if you want to get a bit more elaborate, make this frosted Watermelon Cake recipe. (You can frost it with Cool Whip, stabilized whipped cream, or coconut whipped cream for a vegan dessert.)
Watermelon spread is one of Trader Joe’s new summer snacks, but you can make it at home if you want to save a trip to the store (and some cash—and fight food waste in the bargain). Get the Watermelon Jam recipe and use it on toast, pound cake, cheese and crackers, or in these adorable watermelon thumbprint cookies.
Another classic way to preserve your scraps! See how to use watermelon rinds in pickles and more, and see the quick pickling process in action above.
Original story by John Birdsall in 2012. Update by Jen Wheeler.
Header image by Chowhound