The Spicy Watermelon Salad You’ll Eat All Summer Long

I do not exaggerate when I say that I ate this salad four days in a row. IN A ROW! It’s that good. Friends have been making it over and over again as well, as I can’t shut up about this being “the” salad of summer.

I spotted a similar salad on a friend’s Instagram update, and she sent me the recipe. The original version is from The Defined Dish, but I’ve adapted it a bit. It’s a super easy, no-cook recipe that will WOW over and over again. It pairs well with steak or fish, but it also makes a lovely light meal on its own. All I can say is: Do yourself a favor, and make this salad ASAP!

The only thing that takes a bit of time or that may be intimidating is pickling the Vidalia onions. If you have never pickled onions, trust me when I say it’s super easy, and even 30 minutes (a “quick pickle”) makes a noticeable difference in the onions. I will start pickling onions at the beginning of prepping dinner, and they are always good to go by dinner time. If I’m planning ahead, I’ll do them earlier in the day, and they are that much better.

To pickle onions, the easiest thing to do is to slice them up thinly – this is where a mandolin comes in handy – and then add them to a small glass container. I typically use a 16-ounce mason jar. Fill half the container with 50 percent vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar, but distilled is just fine) and 50 percent water, until all the onions are covered. Then, add a large pinch of salt and a large pinch of white sugar. That’s it! Let them soak in the mixture for at least 30 minutes or up to two weeks, and keep them in the refrigerator.

spicy watermelon salad

Here is the Spicy Watermelon Salad before the dressing is added. If you are in a pinch and don’t have time to make the salad dressing, just drizzle the salad with olive oil and reduced balsamic vinegar for delicious and fast results. If you have time to also squeeze half a lemon across the top, even better.

Spicy Watermelon Salad

An up-close photo of the salad: It just needs some finishing salt, a little black pepper, and some dressing.

Now, onto the salad. To make it even easier to prepare, you can buy pre-chopped watermelon at Kroger in the produce section. I’m not great at picking out watermelons, so I default to the pre-chopped watermelon regularly. I add thinly sliced raw jalapeño to this salad, but leave them off if you don’t like spicy food. To take a bit of the edge off of them, you could also add them to the pickling onions. I do not add feta cheese to my version, but it makes a nice addition if you’d like to make this a heftier salad.

Now, without any further delay, let’s get to the recipe!

Watermelon, Pickled Onion, and Fresh Jalapeño Salad

Liza Graves

If you are looking for a salad to eat multiple times a week, all summer long, you’ve found it! This makes enough for four main courses or eight side salads.

  • 4 cups cubed watermelon
  • 1 Vidalia onion, sliced thinly
  • 5 oz lettuces (arugula, spinach, kale, spring greens, etc.)
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, sliced thinly (Slice to where seeds start, and then stop to keep peppers from overpowering the salad.)
  • 10 leaves fresh mint (add basil as well if you’d like)
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Pinch salt
  • Pinch white sugar

Salad Dressing

  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard (optional)
  • 1/2 tbsp sour cream or mayonnaise (optional)

For Salad

  • On a large platter, lay out your lettuces. A 5-ounce bag of pre-washed arugula or spring mixed greens works well.

  • Then, chop up watermelon to have one cup per person, for a main salad. So, for this recipe, that’s 4 cups of watermelon.

  • Roll the mint leaves and chop them into ribbons. Layer across the watermelon.

  • Sprinkle a little salt across the watermelon and mint.

  • Next, use at least half of your pickled onions and lay them across your watermelon. You can use all of your onions if you want (that’s one full onion, pickled).

  • Thinly slice (paper thin) 2 jalapeño peppers from the tip to where a lot of seeds start to appear. Set aside the heavily seeded part of the jalapeño peppers for a later dish. Place the thinly sliced jalapeño peppers across the top of the salad.

  • Sprinkle the sliced almonds across the whole salad.

  • Add dressing (see below) and then dust the top of the salad with Maldon salt flakes and black pepper. Serve immediately.

Salad Dressing

  • Whisk together all dressing ingredients. Mustard and/or sour cream/mayonnaise is optional.

  • That’s it! This is such an easy vinaigrette. You can substitute the lemon juice for white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar, but for this salad, I do think the lemon juice adds a nice pop of flavor.

Rate it above to let us know how it was!

This salad would taste so good with these fresh salmon burgers, which are a reader favorite.

Salmon burger recipe

Elegant enough for a dinner party, easy enough for a weeknight meal. If you like salmon, you’ll love these salmon burgers. See the recipe HERE.

And, for watermelon fans everywhere, try these no-strain Watermelon + Mint Margaritas!

Watermelon margaritas

Watermelon margaritas are so tasty and so easy to make! See how to make them HERE.

Enjoy your new favorite summer salad!


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