Food

This Is the Absolute Best Way to Serve Watermelon This Summer

This Is the Absolute Best Way to Serve Watermelon This Summer
(Image Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn)

This fresh, juicy, mouthwatering side dish is an unabashed mash-up of two of my favorite summer foods: ruby-red watermelon and Mexican street corn salad (esquites). Instead of letting corn have all the fun, you’ll toss cubes of watermelon with all the classic esquites fixings for a salty-sweet dish that’s guaranteed to be voted most popular at the potluck. If you’ve ever sprinkled Tajin on your watermelon wedges, I have a feeling you’ll want to make this dish ASAP.

This Is the Absolute Best Way to Serve Watermelon This Summer
(Image Credit: Joe Lingeman/Kitchn; Food Stylist: CC Buckley/Kitchn)

It’s Time to Give Watermelon the Upgrade It Deserves

For far too long, watermelon has been forced to mingle with the same ol’ ingredients: feta and mint. And while I actually really love that type of salad, I can’t tell you how refreshing it is to dive into a platter of watermelon that tasted totally new and unexpected. The idea for this salad was actually inspired by a dish that a former Kitchn editor enjoyed from a street cart in Mexico.

For this salad, you’ll toss cubes of watermelon (you can start with a whole watermelon or buy pre-cut cubes), with a generous amount of lime zest and juice, a sprinkling of flaky sea salt, and a pinch of chili powder, which adds a subtle kick of heat without overpowering the dish. Then, you’ll finish it off with a shower of salty cotija cheese, fresh cilantro, and a few grinds of black pepper. The result is an explosion of sweet, salty, spicy, tangy flavors — pretty good for a side dish that comes together in mere minutes.

 

Esquites-Inspired Watermelon Salad

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 small seedless watermelon (4 to 5 pounds), rind removed, cut into 1-inch cubes (10 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (from 2 limes)
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt, plus more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder, plus more as needed
  • 1/2 cup grated cotija cheese (2 ounces)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  • Place the watermelon, lime zest, lime juice, salt, and chili powder in a large bowl and toss to combine. Add the cotija cheese and cilantro and gently toss to combine.
  • Transfer to a platter. Taste and season with more salt, chili powder, and several grinds black pepper if desired.