Folks, I've cracked the code for this classic summer salad, and I want to show you how it's done! This Spicy Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint gets taken up a notch with a drizzle of lemon chili oil, a layered assembly, and lots and lots of mint.
Up until quite recently, I was not at all into the idea of a spicy watermelon salad. I'm not sure what changed, but lately I've been borderline obsessed with it.
But I mean, how could you not be? Cool, sweet, crunchy, juicy cubes of watermelon? Spicy peppers? Salty, briney feta cheese? Refreshing mint? Does it get any better than that?
I realized though, when I started recipe testing, that the issue wasn't that watermelon and feta salad isn't delicious - because it totally is when done right - but that most of the variations I'd previously had of this classic summer salad shared a few common flaws: too much dressing, soggy salad, bruised watermelon.
Folks, let me save you from years of thinking you don't like watermelon and feta salad. Let me open your eyes to the beautiful flavour sensations you could be enjoying with this salad executed correctly. Let me show you want a beautiful thing a spicy watermelon salad can be.
How to choose a watermelon.
Goes without saying, right? But if you start with a sad watermelon you're going to end up with a sad salad, and nobody wants that.
Of course, it's impossible to truly know you've got a good watermelon on your hands without cutting into it, but there are some telltale signs you can look for when you're choosing one.
First, you'll want a watermelon that's heavy for it's size. Heavy watermelon = juicier watermelon, and juicier watermelon = more delicious.
I also recommend you look for a watermelon that's NOT uniform in colour. See how the watermelon in the above picture has a yellow patch on the side? That tells us that it's been lying in the sun getting all nice and ripe. That's what you want.
What's in a spicy watermelon salad?
Alrighty, time to gather your ingredients! You're going to need:
- Watermelon! --> About 4 cups of diced watermelon is what we're after.
- Feta --> Go for some good sheep's milk feta if you can find it.
- Red onion --> Just a bit, thinly sliced.
- Chili pepper --> That's what makes this a spicy watermelon salad!
- Lemon zest --> To add a bit of zing!
- Olive oil --> Use your good stuff for drizzling.
Are we making a watermelon salad dressing?
Here's the thing about watermelon and feta salad: since watermelon is so juicy and feta is nice and salty and briney, you don't need much in the way of a dressing.
I've tried plenty of watermelon salads that add a bunch of extra liquid in the form of a vinaigrette, and it always ends up pooling at the bottom of the bowl and making the salad sad. We're taking another approach here!
This is a platter salad
Here's the thing about making a killer spicy watermelon salad that I consider to be a game changer. You guys, this is a platter salad, NOT a bowl salad.
The watermelon is delicate. The feta crumbles easy. This salad doesn't want to be dumped into a bowl where all the stuff on the bottom gets crushed, or tossed aggressively.
This salad wants to be arranged. It's a natural showstopper, so give it the opportunity to shine. Give it a nice big platter to spread out on, and layer the ingredients as you go.
This not only creates a more beautiful salad, it prevents the watermelon from getting bruised or crushed.
How do I make spicy watermelon salad?
Start with the watermelon, red onion, and part of the mint. Get that arranged on your platter, and then get in there with crumbled feta and more mint.
Finish with a drizzle of infused olive oil, and you're done. I also used some edible flowers here, but that's because I'm extra fancy.
(I'm not fancy at all. I found those growing in our back courtyard and went and picked a bunch when I was fairly certain none of the neighbours were watching)
And there you have it! We've officially cracked the code for show-stopping ridiculously delicious spicy watermelon salad. You're going to be a summer barbecue hero all summer long!
Quick Recap and Some Tips:
Alrighty, if you forgot to take notes along the way, here are some tips for making the best ever spicy watermelon salad and making all of your dreams come true!
1. This is a platter salad, not a bowl salad. It's all about layering. Do not toss!
2. We're using an infused oil, not a dressing.
3. Choose a watermelon that's heavy for its size and that has a yellow spot on one side.
Can I make this into a vegan watermelon salad?
Hey Nutrition Lady, tell me about watermelon!
Folks, it would be my pleasure! First up, watermelon is incredibly hydrating. Just like the name implies, this lovely summer melon is more than 90% water.
But the goodness doesn't stop there! Watermelon is host to several different types of phytonutrients, including carotenoids and flavonoids. Among these, lycopene - the compound responsible for its red colour - stands out for antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits.
Lycopene is also beneficial for helping to prevent prostate cancer, so eat up, fellas!
Watermelon is also a very good source of vitamin C, and a good source of pantothenic acid, copper, biotin, potassium, carotenoids (a precursor to vitamin A), vitamin B1, vitamin B6 and magnesium.
Other Salady Things You Might Enjoy
Spicy Water Melon Salad
- 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small red chili finely diced
- 1 lemon lemon zest
- salt and pepper
- 4 cups cubed watermelon in bite-sized pieces
- ½ small red onion thinly sliced
- ½ cup mint leaves loosely packed
- 5 oz feta cheese crumbled
- To make the infused olive oil, combine the olive oil, lemon zest, and diced chili in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper and set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.
- Arrange diced watermelon on a large rectangular platter. Top with red onion and half of the mint leaves.
- Scatter crumbled feta over the watermelon, and top with remaining mint leaves.
- Drizzle the salad with the infused olive oil (do not drain the lemon zest and chili).
First posted June 5, 2018. Last updated June 6, 2019.