When it comes to cheap summer fruit, it’s tough to beat watermelon.
At Frugal Foodie’s local supermarket, a whole melon costs 40 cents per pound and some farmers markets are charging even less. The current prices for a whole watermelon are less than half the per-pound rate for a quarter of a melon and a tenth of what a container of watermelon chunks costs.
But once you’ve got an entire melon, which can weigh anywhere from 10 to 25 pounds, what can you do to use it creatively? As it turns out, excess watermelon is a good problem to have.
In fact, The National Watermelon Promotion Board, in honor of National Watermelon Day on August 3, has a whole roster of out-of-the-box recipes both sweet and savory, including pizza and s’mores.
We also put out the call to food bloggers, chefs and other experts for creative ways to use up extra watermelon.
Chef Robert Carter of Carter’s Kitchen in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., suggests using this drink as a cocktail mixer or serving it solo:
To make, puree two pounds seedless watermelon, one diced ripe mango, four ounces peach nectar and half a diced lemon. Strain and chill.
“One of my favorite recipes with watermelon is a beverage recipe,” says Dominique Dobson, a brand manager for kitchen ware distributor Roland Products. She runs watermelon and basil through a juicer and adds vodka.
“People are always impressed,” she says. “It’s easy to have the watermelon-basil mix stored in the fridge — just add the vodka when pouring.”
Elizabeth Mwanga of Winning Diabetics makes a version of gazpacho that uses two cups of watermelon.
To make, preheat oven to 500 degrees. Place one Serrano and one jalapeno chili — both whole — and one garlic clove still in its skin in aluminum foil. Drizzle with a half-tablespoon of olive oil and toss. Seal the package and roast for 35 minutes.
Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Peel skin away from the garlic, and remove the seeds from the chilies. Dice all three.
In a blender, puree the chilies with one large diced tomato and one and three-quarter cups watermelon. Pour in a half-teaspoon red wine vinegar and three tablespoons olive oil and pulse.
Add half of a small diced red onion, half a diced seedless cucumber and the juice of half a lime. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Puree until smooth.
Pour into chilled bowls and garnish with cilantro, Cotija cheese, and another quarter cup of finely diced watermelon.
Watermelon Salad — 5 Ways
Watermelon, feta cheese and salad greens are a classic pairing, so much so that more than half a dozen cooks sent us versions. Here, their twists:
- Chef Grayson Schmitz (of Top Chef: Texas fame) uses watercress as a base, and tops the salad with toasted pumpkin seeds.
- At Arizona Grad Resort & Spa, Chef Eric Finney grills the watermelon and then chills it before mixing with the other salad ingredients.
- Jim Angleton, president of Aegis Financial Corporation, squeezes the watermelon cubes to soak up excess juice, and adds julienned strips of sweet basil. (“Spicy basil takes away from the taste,” he warns.) He also suggests adding cold cooked shrimp.
- Raspberry vinegar and onion add tang to this watermelon salad recipe from Karen Ciancio of “Cooking Nook.”
- Home cook Cindy Cohen adds a cup of pitted Nicoise olives and fresh mint.
White Sand Beach Cocktail
Vinegar in cocktails is getting trendy, and this concoction from City Tavern in Culver City, CA starts with a watermelon “shrub.”
To make, combine one cup cubed watermelon, one cup sugar and a teaspoon salt in a sealed container and let rest for two or three days. Strain out the watermelon and add half a cup of balsamic vinegar. Let sit for two more days in a cool, dry place.
Voila! You’ve made a shrub that will keep for up to a week in the fridge.
For a cocktail, mix three-quarters of an ounce of the shrub, two dashes orange bitters and an ounce of white tequila into a tall glass with ice. Stir, then strain.
Top with an ounce of soda water and an ounce of Sprite and garnish with lime zest.
Jumbo Lump Crab Salad with Seared Watermelon
Miami’s Area 31 sent this straight-from-the menu pick, made by Chef E. Michael Reidt. Mix together a tablespoon cayenne pepper and one and a half tablespoons each of sugar and salt. Dip four-ounce pieces of seedless watermelon (one per diner) in the spice mixture and sear on a hot grill or pan on one side until caramelized (only sear one side).
Make a vinaigrette by mixing a quarter-cup chopped pineapple, a half-bunch of cilantro, a cup of extra virgin olive oil, a quarter-cup rice wine vinegar, a quarter-cup orange juice and the juice of one lime. Toss four ounces of jumbo lump crab with four sprigs of cilantro and the vinaigrette and season to taste.
Cut four baby heirloom tomatoes in half for each plate. Place a rectangle of watermelon in center of plate and place crabmeat on top of watermelon.
Top with a puree made from a peeled and pitted avocado, two tablespoons Greek yogurt, the juice of a lime, and a half-teaspoon cayenne pepper and salt. Finish with the tomatoes.
Watermelon Rind Pickles
“Watermelon pickles are something you definitely want to try,” says Pamela Braun of “My Man’s Belly.” (Frugal Foodie seconds that motion – they’re a favorite in her house, and a great way to use something tasty you might otherwise throw away.
Braun suggests serving her easy watermelon rind recipe as an appetizer with sushi-grade salmon.
Cheryl Sternman Rule, author of Ripe, pegs this dessert as refreshing without being too sweet. “This icy cooler is like popping a straw in a watermelon and drinking it, only slightly easier,” she says.
Line a baking sheet with parchment, wax paper, or a silicone liner. Cut a two-pound hunk of melon into thick slices. Remove and discard the rind, then cut the flesh into rough, ice-cube size chunks (you should have about a pound and a half left).
Place in a single layer on the lined baking sheet. Freeze for exactly 30 minutes. Pop the frozen watermelon cubes into a food processor or ice-crushing blender along with the juice of a lime, a third of a cup plus one tablespoon of water, three chopped mint leaves, and a tablespoon sugar. Whirl for one minute.
Stop the machine; scrape down the sides and process for a few seconds longer, or until the drink is thick and frosty, with no chunks remaining. Serve immediately.
“People think watermelon and they think summer,” Bertil Jean Chronberg, general manager and sommelier for The Beehive in Boston. “Pairing it with the spark of champagne is just a natural pairing.”
Blend five cups watermelon cubes with two cups of fresh orange juice and a half-cup sugar until smooth. Strain (if needed) and chill. Add half an ounce of triple sec to each Champagne flute. Fill halfway with watermelon mix. Top with Champagne or other sparkling wine.
Frugal Foodie is a journalist based in New York City who spends her days writing about personal finance and obsessing about what she’ll have for dinner. Chat with her on Twitter through @MintFoodie.