The Quickest Way to Make This Old-Time Favorite
Pickled Watermelon Rind is a traditional dish, and a tasty one. It’s a shame that so few people have sampled it — let alone tried to make it.
Traditional recipes for this dish are time consuming (in fact, the whole process can take several days). They also require canning procedures, which few people are equipped for these days.
But there’s a much quicker way to prepare Pickled Watermelon Rind, made popular by David Chang, of Momofuku restaurant fame. His method takes only a few minutes of cooking time, and the rind will be ready to eat within hours. This beats most of the traditional recipes by, well, days. As an added bonus, his approach allows you to leave a bit of the red watermelon flesh on the rind (traditional preparation requires scrapping all of it off).
In most of the US, July is peak watermelon season. The melons in the market now are the sweetest, the most luscious, and definitely the cheapest of the season.
So instead of throwing out the rind of your next watermelon, why not turn it into a delectable snack or side dish?
Recipe: Pickled Watermelon Rind
For this recipe, you need the rind from about half a watermelon (one that’s the size of a basketball or bowling ball). The rind needs to be peeled, which is the most difficult part of the recipe, but a vegetable peeler does the job pretty easily.
I first read about this preparation method in Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan, and my recipe is lightly adapted from Chang’s.
Preparation time is about 10 minutes for cutting up the watermelon and peeling the rind, plus a minute to cook, and an hour for cool-down before you can refrigerate the pickled rind.
This recipe yields about 1 quart of pickled rind; it’s easy to double (or triple). But the pickled rind will last only a week to 10 days when refrigerated, so don’t prepare more than you need.
- 1 quart watermelon rind (including ½-inch of red flesh left on the rind), cut into pieces about 1-inch square (~2 pounds; approximately half of the rind from a seedless-sized watermelon)
- 1 cup vinegar (Chang recommends rice wine vinegar; I’ve also used cider vinegar, which I like a lot, and plain white vinegar)
- ½ cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- 2½ teaspoons table salt or 3¾ teaspoons Kosher salt (Kosher salt has more volume by weight; see Notes)
- 1 star anise
- 1 two-inch piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped; or ½ teaspoon powdered cinnamon (optional; see Notes)
- Cut or scoop out flesh from half a watermelon, reserving for another use. Leave about ½ inch of red flesh on the rind (optional, but colorful and tasty). Cut rind into 1-inch strips, and using a vegetable peeler or knife, remove the bright green watermelon skin from the rind. Cut peeled strips into 1 inch pieces, and put into a quart-size measuring device. Continue peeling and cutting the rind until you’ve filled the quart-size measure (I usually fill to overflowing; the watermelon rind “settles” a bit as it cooks and cools).
- Combine vinegar, water, sugar, salt, star anise, and optional ginger or powdered cinnamon in a saucepan large enough to contain these ingredients, plus the watermelon rind. Bring to boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar and salt.
- When this mixture reaches a boil, add the watermelon rind. Return to boil, then simmer for 1 minute.
- Remove pan from heat. Cool for one hour.
- Transfer watermelon rind to a 1-quart plastic container (or canning jar). Add as much of the vinegar mixture as will fit in the jar (it will be all or most of it). Refrigerate.
- You can eat the watermelon rind in another hour or two, but it tastes better after it’s thoroughly chilled (overnight works best for me).
- Chang’s recipe — which is excellent — calls for rice wine vinegar, star anise, and ginger. A favorite variation of mine is to substitute cider vinegar for the rice wine vinegar, and cinnamon for ginger (you can also include both spices).
- If you have it on hand, you can substitute oil of cinnamon for powdered cinnamon. Oil of cloves also works nicely.
- BTW, some traditional recipes (the kind that take a day or more to prepare) also include star anise. I’ve seen other versions that include minced garlic, minced small, hot green chilies, and candied ginger. These would probably work well (though I haven’t tried all of them in this recipe).
- Other potential flavoring possibilities include allspice, cayenne pepper, mustard seed, mint, and turmeric.
- The point is: This is a dish you can play with after you learn how to make it.
- Table salt and Kosher salt are equally salty by weight. However, because flakes of Kosher salt are larger than grains of table salt, an equal measure of both by volume will result in less salt flavor from the Kosher. A rough rule of thumb is: 1 part table salt equals 1½ parts Morton Kosher salt or 2 parts Diamond Crystal Kosher salt (Diamond Crystal is “flakier” than Morton’s).
- The variation in saltiness doesn’t matter most of the time, but you want to be accurate when you’re using salt for food preservation (in this dish, the salt both preserves and flavors). Accuracy is important even when we’re refrigerator-preserving (rather than canning).
- By the same token, don’t reduce or substitute for the sugar — it’s also a preservative. (I’m sure people who know how the chemistry of how all this works can substitute with confidence, but I’m not one of those people, so in this case I follow the recipe.)
- With all of that said, the watermelon rind in this recipe is only lightly preserved. As noted above, 10 days is about the limit of its shelf life when refrigerated.
- David Chang began his string of Momofuku restaurants in New York City, later expanding to Sydney and Toronto. (The name means “lucky peach” in Japanese.) His first eatery, Momofuku Noodle Bar, helped draw attention to ramen — and showed Americans that it was more than just a cheap, packaged soup popular among college students.
- The Momofuku cookbook is innovative and a terrific read for anyone who enjoys cooking. (Disclaimer: I sound like a commercial, don’t I? Actually, my blog is noncommercial and no one is sponsoring me to write this. I’m not an Amazon Affiliate member, so I don’t benefit when you click links. I merely own this book and am an enthusiastic user.)
- Pickled Watermelon Rind makes a great snack or side dish (try it with barbecue or fried chicken).
- BTW, when pickled, the rind and watermelon flesh lose some of their original color. But it’s still an attractive dish. And very tasty.
Perfect for Fourth of July
Watermelon used to be a traditional favorite dessert for July 4th celebrations. So of course Pickled Watermelon Rind also became traditional — as a scrumptious use for the rind that otherwise would be thrown out.
I’ll be serving Pickled Watermelon Rind this 4th, along with a main course of Grilled Hamburgers (unless I decide at the last minute to do Barbecued Pork Steaks).
How about the other side dishes? Who knows — probably potato salad of some kind. Need suggestions for that, by the way? Check out my posts on Mustard Potato Salad, French Potato Salad, American (Mayonnaise) Potato Salad, and German Potato Salad with Bacon. For cooking the potatoes, I have some nifty tips in my Potato Salad Basics post.
Other sides might include Creamy Cole Slaw or Baked Beans.
For snacking before the main meal, I might serve Cheese Straws or maybe tortilla chips with Salsa and Picante Sauce or maybe Peach Salsa.
Dessert will be a warm-weather favorite: Root Beer Floats, a/k/a Black Cows.
What will we be drinking? Well, it’s hard to beat a Mojito, Tom Collins, or Pimm’s Cup.
But this year, I may serve a patriotic tipple: the Betsy Ross Cocktail.
Never heard of it? Check out my next post, later this week.
You may also enjoy reading about:
Potato Salad Basics
Mustard Potato Salad
Mayonaise Potato Salad
German Potato Salad with Bacon
French Potato Salad
Creamy Cole Slaw
Barbecued Pork Steaks
Salsa and Picante Sauce
Sounds interesting. I've never had pickled watermelon rind. Does it taste like watermelon or something altogether different. Thanks for sharing. I'd like to try this although I'm not sure if I could convince my family to eat it.
I have never tried nor prepared pickled watermelon rind, but you've inspired me to give it a shot. Our very next watermelon is getting pickled!
Hi Vicki, they taste of watermelon the same way cucumbers taste like cukes when they're pickled - a little bit, but really more pickled flavors. Terrific crunch in these. It's an easy recipe to make, so make a quart and see how your family likes them. If they don't, well — you were going to throw out the watermelon rind anyway. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Kristy, this is one of those dishes that has fallen out of flavor. Odd, since so many restaurants are now doing all sorts of pickled things. It's a fun recipe — I hope you like it! Thanks for your comment.
I'm not a great fan of watermelon but I am a fan of your photos.
My father made pickled watermelon rind when I was a kid but it was really sweet. I'd love to try making this.
I make watermelon rind preserves, but I've never made nor even seen "pickled" watermelon rind. This looks SO good - tart and sweet, and I love the touch of star anise and ginger! I'm going to have to check out that cookbook! I also have a huge watermelon sitting on the countertop, so some of that rind might just get pickled! Thanks for this recipe and the kitchen notes.
Hi Suzanne, gosh, thanks so much for that extremely kind comment!
Hi Maureen, this is an easy recipe to try - it practically makes itself (well, after you peel the skin off the watermelon rind, that is). Thanks for commenting.
Hi MJ, watermelon preserves are great. But this recipe is easier! Chang's cookbook is totally worth reading. Even if you do few of his recipes, learning his thought process on how he puts together recipes is absorbing. Thanks for the comment.
Oh this would be yum. My mum makes something similar, and I love it.
Never have tried these so may have to give it a go. Good tip on salt conversion. And have you seen Chang's Lucky Peach magazine? It's quarterly and has a lot of good reading. More reading than recipes and very creative writing. Interesting stuff.
I've never had this pickle but it totally make sense. Koreans make kimchi with them and it is delicious. Now I know what I am going to do next time I have watermelon. Thanks for sharing!
I Love watermelon! I've never tried picked watermelon, though. Sounds really interesting!
When I read the title to this post I almost fainted: I haven't tried pickled watermelon rind in ages! I really love it, my grandmother use to make it, and we, kids would snack on it all summer long. She couldn't make it fast enough! Thank you very-very much for the recipe! :)
Wow! I love this - I hate to waste food, so why not use the rind. This is a must share with friends and a must try.
I have read about pickled watermelon rind, but always thought i needed canning supplies. This is really fun to read I don't need any canning supplies, and I have tons of rind. I am definitely going to try this. Thank you for sharing all the different ways you can make this fun recipe! I have candied ginger, I may try that:-) Take care, Terra
Hi Tania, it's a fun recipe! I'm not big on homemade pickles, but this is quite tasty and easy. Thanks for your comment.
Hi This is How I Cook, it's worth a try. If you like it, great! If you don't? You've wasted a few minutes, plus some watermelon rind you were going to throw out anyway. I've read about the Lucky Peach magazine, but have resisted buying it - there's so much to read! I hear it's terrific, though. You subscribe, I take it? Maybe I should, too. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Holly, watermelon kimchi would be wonderful! This recipe is right up your alley - you're so good with kimchi, and I'll bet you'd quickly take this recipe to new heights. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Marina, this will taste a bit different from your grandmother's but definitely in the same ballpark. And this recipe takes a lot less time! I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Mother Rimmy, why waste food, indeed?! Definitely worth trying - it's a dish I think you'll like. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Terra, candied ginger sounds delish! I'm no expert on pickling things, but my impression is you have an awful lot of latitude in what flavorings you use. (Certainly in searching recipes I've come across many different flavoring ingredients.) Have fun trying this! Thanks for your comment.
Hi Sook, it's a fun recipe! I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for your comment.
I know that this flavor combination would be really good with the spices you used. Have you thought of an interesting drink to pair this with? Have a great weekend. BAM
Traditional and tasty my friend, an absolute stunner :D
Choc Chip Uru
This is incredible. That first photo knocked my socks off. Gorgeous!
Wow another stunning photo specially that first one
Hi Bam, good question! No, I don't have a specific drink suggestion, although the Betsy Ross - I'll be posting on it later this week - would work well. ;-) Thanks for your comment.
Hi Choc Chip Uru, thanks for your kind comment!
Hi Kim Bee, those black acrylic photos are kinda fun. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Raymund, thanks so much for your kind words.
Hi Asmita, thanks for your kind comment.
wow I am so intrigued to try this. Never had it before and to think that I always throw those rinds away. The recipe looks so simple too. Will definitely put those rinds to use next time.
Great photos as always!
This picture is amazing! watermelon is my favorite summer fruit & love how you used every part of the watermelon!
Hi Malou, one of the great things about this recipe is it takes so little time you'll find out in a hurry whether this dish is for you or not. I'm betting you'll like it. Thanks for your comment.
Hi May I Have That Recipe, watermelon is my favorite summer fruit, too (well, I like tomatoes too and technically they're a fruit, but they eat like a veggie). Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.
Pickled watermelon sounds very interesting, but I love it fresh so much... I like your pictures a lot. It always makes me hungry. Such a simple meal but showed in a very interesting way.
I once did a profile of a San Francisco chef for the Chronicle, and she made these for a dish she was preparing for the photos. If you haven't tried pickles like this before, they're amazing.
Hi Marta, with this recipe you can have the best of both - eat the flesh fresh as usual, but pickle the rind. No waste, extra taste! Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.
Hi Carolyn, aren't they good? And so easy to make. Thanks for your comment.
I make pickles year around and I am not the few people who have tried it. I've been to David Chang's restaurants here but I have actually never tried any of his recipes. It's definitely time for me experiment! Btw, do you just need the watermelon pickle by itself or do you serve it with something else? Thanks,
Hi Yi, you can eat the watermelon pickle as a snack with drinks, or as a side dish (it goes really well with grilled foods and picnic fare), or you can incorporate it into another dish - Chang said he used it in a frisée, for example. It's good stuff - you should give it a try sometime. If you make pickles, this is right up your alley.
I've never tried this but am absolutely fascinated! I think I'll have to give it a try - I feel like I'm missing out on something amazing. Thanks for sharing!
That is an original recipe and pickle! Really delicious looking and sounding. Star nise is a wonderful spice.
Cheers and have a great week,
Hi Amanda, it's well worth trying. We eat a lot of watermelon in the summer (it's my standard breakfast fare) so I don't pickle every watermelon rind, but it's definitely one of those things I like to do frequently. It's so much fun to play with different flavors. Thanks for your comment.
Hi Rosa, isn't star anise nice? And such a pretty shape! Its flavor is subtle in this recipe, but definitely there. Thanks for your comment.
Another great idea you have introduced to me! My 11-year old walked by while I was reading this and his reaction was hilarious! We love pickled vegetables so you bet we are going to have to try pickled watermelon rind!
Hi FamilySpice, I hope you enjoy these! They're fun to make, and different. Thanks for your comment.
It may be a sad thing that I have never heard of pickling watermelon rind before, but now I am very intrigued to give it a try, it looks delicious, wonderful pictures.
Hi Alessandra, don't be sad - just think of all the fun you'll have trying this new dish! Thanks for your comment.
I've never pickled them myself but my dad has, although he pickles them using Chinese flavours and has them with his Chinese congee on the mornings. :P A bit different but delicious too! Your recipe looks fascinating and tasty, I just make some for myself. :)
Hi Jenny, those of us in the US are amateurs in pickling compared to those in many other countries, China and Korea in particular (others, too, but those two do it so well). I hope you enjoy this! Thanks for your comment.
Wow, what a striking photo!
Hi Sook, thanks so much!
I never had pickled watermelon rind, but I always wanted to try it. I love anything pickled. I will save the rind of my next watermelon. Your pictures are stunning!
Hi mayihavethatrecipe, it's a fun dish, and easy to do. Hope you enjoy it. Thanks for the kind words, and the comment.
We use a lot of watermelon for making juice. This is quite fun and interesting recipe to try it out!
Hi Nami, juice is a great idea - I haven't done that for awhile. This is a cool recipe - I think you'd enjoy it. Thanks for your comment.
Hi John, I've been peeking around your site this morning and found your recipe for pickled watermelon rinds! Your photo and recipe look amazing! I can watermelon pickles every year and my recipe takes only 6-24 hours to prepare and is filled with tons of flavor. A bit time consuming but well worth the effort. I use candied ginger, whole cloves, lemon rind and cinnamon stick to season the syrup. The recipe makes a really delicious sweet pickle! If you'd like to compare notes you can find my recipe here: http://athomewithrebecka.com/watermelon-pickles-recipe-2/
Hi Rebecka, I'll definitely check out your recipe! It sounds like you made the traditional recipe, which in some ways is superior because you can then preserve the watermelon (as you do) for later use. The advantage of this recipe is you can be eating it as soon as it's chilled! Thanks for the comment.
Fabulous coming upon this recipe and lovely photographs - my pickled rind is happily in the fridge looking beautiful. Thank you for making it possible for me to create this delectable delight quickly, easily, WELL. It is now a home tradition.
Hi Danielle, isn't this a tasty and easy recipe? Such a great way to use watermelon rind! So happy you enjoyed it, and thanks so much for letting me know.
I commend Mr. Chang for taking the watermelon rind pickle to the high end eateries, I never thought I'd see a watermelon pickle look so glamorous until I saw your photo. I'm from the Southern U.S. and grew up on Watermelon Rind pickles but never saw the green out skin removed as is required in most recipes I see online today. The non-removal didn't seem to matter to the taste and visually it was more like eating a pickle, usually cut in about two and half inch strips. But this recipe sounds good; I'll give it a try.
Hi Anonymous, this certainly isn't traditional Southern watermelon rind, although a reasonably close cousin. Well worthy trying, and I hope you enjoy -thanks.
I LOVE watermelon pickles! My grandma used to make them in the summer to enjoy year around ~ My Mom made just a few pints of them in the summer ~ she used to use red and green food coloring, (even number of pints in each color), along with the red & green cherries in the pints, so as to dress up the pickle plate for Christmas dinner and through out the Holiday season! My brother & I begged her to make a bunch more, but she said it was too much work (so obviously, she made them in a different recipe!) they were so sweet & delish! I will have to try your recipe, as Mom says she is done pickling, even though she's a young 88 yrs. Thanks - beautiful photos as well!
The idea of using cherries with watermelon rind is new to me - but it must have looked quite festive! Thanks for the comment.
I love pickled watermelon rind, but I don't make pickles so I haven't had any since my grandmother passed away many years ago. I was very excited to find this recipe! Grandmother always used whole cloves, cinnamon sticks and star anise in hers, so that's what I did and the pickles turned out crisp and tasted perfect except for one thing .... they're WAY too salty! I used kosher salt, so maybe I'll try table salt next time.
Hi Kwach, odd about the salt - mine have always turned out OK, and I'm pretty sensitive to salt. I've never tried rinsing off the pieces of pickled rind, but maybe that would help? Do let me know if the table salt works better. Thanks for the comment.
Hello, you said the rinds only stay good for a week or two but could this recipe be canned just like other recipes?
Hi Anonymous, this recipe was designed for refrigerator curing, and I'm no expert on canning, so I don't know whether you could can it or not. I did read of someone doing it. To be honest, though, if I wanted to can, I'd just use a recipe meant specifically for canning (most of them have you cut all of the flesh away from the rind - I'm not sure what difference it makes, but I haven't tried that). Joy of Cooking has a good recipe for canned watermelon. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful, but thanks for the question.
Made these for the first time last night and LOVE THEM! Actually, they tasted great without even waiting for them to fully cool down. I made a mini-version last night to test out the recipe, and did the full-recipe today (I am now waiting for those to chill). These are a delight--the crunch, seasoning, and acidity factors they bring as a condiment are a wonderful way to "punch up" the flavor of other food. I just used what I had on-hand to make them, so I used plain white vinegar and they taste absolutely great. This is definitely a new favorite recipe in my house. Thank you for sharing it.
Hi Anonymous, aren't these great? So glad you liked them! And thanks so much for telling me that you do. :-)
Greetings! It is seedless-watermelon harvest time here in SW Florida. When I was a kid in Minnesota, my Aunt Dolly never wasted a thing that went through her kitchen - she made everything have a delightful and enjoyable edible quality to things my family tossed out. Haven't had them for years but I have two quarts sitting in the pan all cooked up and doing its "cool for one hour" thing. Then I will toss them into a couple of quart-size jars and get them into the fridge. Today I am eating iced watermelon flesh. Tomorrow, I will enjoy a taste of my past! Thanks for sharing! Tom
Hi Tom, we're starting to get watermelons here, but they aren't very good yet. Their rinds will be just fine, though! I need to make this again -- haven't since last year. Glad to help you recreate your past! Thanks for the comment.
I'm also from SWFL and was happy to find your recipe for this quick pickle!. Just bought a nice, organic watermelon today and thought it was a shame to throw away the rind. Used some for a watermelon smoothie and the rest is cooling as pickles! Can't wait to try them!
Hi Anonymous, watermelon smoothie sounds like a terrific idea! Hope you enjoy the pickled rind. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love this recipe. I made one batch with cider vinegar and one with rice wine vinegar. Thank you so much for the recipe! My questions:
I am on day ten and haven't eaten all the pickles yet. Is this a magical number and how can you tell if the pickles are spoiled? Also, is it possible to freeze these pickles?
Hi Garphelia's GrandD, aren't these wonderful? I've never tried freezing the pickles, but it's worth a try. I'd assume their texture would really change though -- probably get really mushy. But I haven't done that, so I'm just guessing. As to the 10 days, you might be able to stretch it out a bit longer, but I'm guessing not much. The pickles would probably be "safe" to eat, but again you'll start to run into deteriorating texture. Also they might start getting slimy. But as long as they look and taste OK, they probably are. No guarantees, though! Thanks for the comment.
I liked that one could make a small quantity. I followed directions but the watermelon pickles were hard as bricks. I cooked them two minutes longer and still hard and finally five minutes but with no success to get them soft and syrup was totally reduced at that point. What is the problem here?
Hi Anonymous, that's strange. You cut the green skin off, yes? That's the only part of the watermelon that's really hard -- the rind should be reasonably soft before cooking (the cooking does make it softer, but the main reason to cook is to help infuse the rind with the pickling mixture, not to soften it). Sorry this didn't work for you, but I'm at a loss to explain why it didn't.
John - I have really enjoyed perusing Kitchen Riffs today - and this recipe, in particular. I grew up on old-fashioned pickled watermelon rind and just love the stuff. I usually make a large batch every summer and, yes, it takes a lot of time. I am so excited to try Chang’s version. I will add cloves, as it is the flavor I associate most with the pickled rind we got in Vermont. I definitely need to check out the cookbook, as well.
Hi David, that is a WONDERFUL cookbook! Chang thinks a bit differently than most cooks, and he opened my eyes to a lot of flavor possibilities. Thanks for the comment.
i absolutely love this recipe and come back to it again and again. star anise is a perfect spice here. I don't eat watermelon much, but find myself asking people when they are giving their kids watermelon, to save the rind for me! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe.
Hi Eitbee, we love this one, too! Such wonderful flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Your recipe is such a fun way to use something I normally just toss. Now I am extra eager for watermelon to finally be season again!
Hi Heidi, this really has excellent flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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