Pickled watermelon rind, anyone?

Credit: Photo: Jennifer Causey

Summertime and watermelon are practically synonymous. Juicy and high in heart-healthy antioxidants, watermelon makes a perfect snack to cool your body off on a hot day.

Plus, watermelon is extremely versatile: you can use it to make smoothies and juices, chilled soups, popsicles, salads, and more while reaping the health benefits.

“In terms of micronutrients, watermelon is a good source of immune-supporting vitamins A and C while also providing small amounts of a variety of other vitamins and minerals,” says Kelly Jones MS, RD, CSSD, sports dietitian and founder of Student Athlete Nutrition.

Watermelon is most known for its high antioxidant content, including L-citruline and lycopene, the latter of which gives the fruit its red hue. “Lycopene has been associated with reduced muscle soreness as well as improved exercise performance in some studies, while L-citruline is correlated with a reduced risk of prostate cancer in men,” Jones explains. And since L-citruline is more often found in animal sources than plants, watermelon is an excellent vegetarian source.

Watermelon As Part of a Balanced Meal

Per one cup serving, watermelon has 47 calories, 0.2 grams fat (0 saturated fat), 12 grams carbohydrates (0.6 grams fiber), 10 grams sugar, and 0.9 grams protein. So it’s a good idea to pair the fruit with fat, protein, and fiber for a balanced meal or snack.

Enter a plethora of savory-sweet possibilities. From feta cheese to meat and fish, we’re sharing watermelon serving ideas that pack protein and fat while keeping sugar and carbs low, as well as a tangy watermelon condiment and an herbaceous gazpacho to serve alongside grilled meats and crusty bread.

Grilled Watermelon Kabobs With Balsamic and Mint

Watermelon works well on the grill, so add a pop of color and antioxidants to your steak, chicken, or shrimp kabobs this summer. Simply cube the watermelon, stack on the kabob skewers with your chosen protein, and grill. Jones recommends a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of fresh mint overtop. You can also up the fiber by threading on green veggies like broccoli or Brussels sprouts.

Watermelon Gazpacho

Credit: Stephanie Frey

Served with crusty bread or alongside a protein-packed pasta salad (Jones recommends edamame or chickpea noodles), watermelon gazpacho is a welcome alternative to the classic tomato soup base. “In a large food processor, combine four cups cubed watermelon with four Roma tomatoes, one medium, de-seeded red bell pepper, two cloves of garlic, one-third cup fresh basil, and two tablespoons each fresh oregano, olive oil, and sherry vinegar,” instructs Jones. Blitz and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bonus: Serve in shot glasses for an elegant appetizer.

Cubed Watermelon and Feta Salad

This one’s easy: cut fresh watermelon into cubes and toss with crumbled feta and freshly diced cilantro or mint. If you want to lower the fat content, opt for a low-fat feta cheese. “To serve four to six people, you will need four cups of cubed watermelon, one-half cup feta cheese, and one-third cup chopped fresh cilantro or mint,” says Jones. Drizzle with one tablespoon of olive oil for omega-3 fatty acids to lower inflammation and protect your heart. You can play around with this recipe by swapping feta for goat cheese, adding a swig of balsamic, or serving it atop grilled chicken or tofu.

Grilled Fish Tacos With Watermelon Salsa

Credit: Caitlin Bensel

“Instead of using tomatoes for a salsa, sub watermelon,” says Jones. Watermelon is every bit as juicy as tomatoes and it adds a sweet element that pairs nicely with white fish tacos. “Dice four cups of watermelon finely and combine with one-half cup minced red onion, one-third cup fresh diced cilantro, one tablespoon avocado oil, and salt and pepper to taste,” instructs
Jones. For a spicy salsa, add a half (or whole, if you dare) sliced Serrano pepper.

Pickled Watermelon Rinds

“While this one takes more effort, it’s a great addition to summer cheese and appetizer boards,” says Jones. Plus, pickled watermelon rinds offer gut-healthy probiotics to boost your immune system and aid in digestion. To prepare, it’s ideal to leave a little pink flesh on the rind and always cut the green skin off before cutting the rind into one-inch squares. Check out this recipe for the how-to, and feel free to switch up the spices to your liking. Jones recommends peppercorn, clove, ginger, and celery seeds.