What’s more refreshing on a hot day than crisp watermelon? Paired with basil, feta and lemon, this cooling watermelon basil salad is the perfect antidote to a sweltering summer day.
Few things are quite as refreshing as a crisp slice of watermelon on a sweltering day; it’s truly one of the season’s greatest pleasures. While the simplest way to enjoy watermelon is of course to eat it cut into fat wedges you can sink your teeth into, it’s equally at home in a simple summer salad.
This watermelon basil salad is my summer staple. It’s quick and easy to put together and a reliably refreshing addition to any backyard barbecue, pool party or summer soiree. The contrast of crisp watermelon, creamy feta, zesty lemon and fragrant basil is especially delicious on a hot day.
How to Pick a Watermelon:
Of course the most important ingredient in a watermelon salad is the watermelon, so here are a few tips on how to choose a good one.
- First there’s size and weight; the watermelon should feel heavy. When comparing its weight with one of similar size, you want to choose the heaviest one, indicating that it's full of juice. Watermelons are more than 90 percent water, so the juiciest ones are going to be the ones that are heavy for their size. Pick up a few that are the same size in the bin and keep the heaviest one.
- Then look for a creamy patch called the field spot. This is the place where the watermelon rested on the ground. The yellower in color, the longer the watermelon was on the vine maturing and sweetening. Yellow is better than a white spot, but white is better than no spot at all.
- There’s also the controversial thumping technique. Some insist on the tap and listen method, while others claim it’s unreliable. It usually involves using either the knuckles or the palm of the hand and listening for a melon that emits the right sound.
Of course, the very best watermelon is the one that goes from field to table the most quickly, so buying local watermelons is ideal if possible. Having said all that, choosing a good watermelon does involve a fair deal of crossing one’s fingers and hoping for the best.
(Here are a few notes about the ingredients you’ll need for this recipe. As always find the full list of ingredients and directions in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.)
One of the many charms of watermelon is that it doesn’t require much fuss to be enjoyed, and is best paired only with a handful of simple ingredients.
- Watermelon - I’ve called for a seedless mini watermelon because they are easy to find and easy to cut but you can use any color or variety of watermelon you’d like. Make sure it’s ripe! (See above for how to pick a watermelon.)
- Feta – Skip the crumbled feta and buy a block of feta instead. Always choose authentic sheep’s milk feta for the best flavor and creamiest texture.
- Lemon Juice and Zest – While many watermelon and feta salads rely on limes I find they can be too assertive and prefer the bright but less acerbic flavor of lemon. A combination of both lemon juice and lemon zest brings a lightness and freshness to the salad and the right amount of acidity to balance out the other components without overpowering them.
- Olive Oil – Use a good quality grassy tasting olive oil for best flavor.
- Basil – I’m sure you’ve had mint with watermelon before but basil is also a great compliment to watermelon and especially delicious when paired with lemon.
- Salt – A sprinkling of flaky sea salt is all that’s needed to pull this salad together.
How to Make a Watermelon Basil Salad:
(Here are the basic steps and some helpful tips on how to make the recipe. Find the full directions in the recipe card at the bottom of the post.)
- Start by cutting your watermelon into bite sized pieces, (cubes or triangles both work well), then spread the pieces onto a serving plate
- Next cube your feta and add it to the watermelon.
- Top the cut watermelon and feta with the lemon zest, and drizzle with the lemon juice and olive oil to dress.
- Lastly tear a few leaves of basil over the watermelon and finish with a sprinkle of salt when you are ready to serve.
Watermelon salads are best enjoyed fresh but leftovers can be stored in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 2 days.
Want to mix things up? Try these variations.
- Try watermelons of various colors or varieties.
- Cut your watermelon into triangles, cubes or use a melon baller to create balls.
- Try ricotta salata instead of feta.
- Use a vegan feta instead for a dairy-free and vegan version.
Paired with basil, feta and lemon, this cooling watermelon basil salad is the perfect antidote to a sweltering summer day.
- 3 pound mini seedless watermelon, sliced into triangles or cubes
- 4 ounces/113g Greek sheep’s milk feta, cut into chunks
- ½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
- 1 Tablespoon/15ml fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons/30ml extra-virgin olive oil
- A few sprigs of basil, leaves torn into small pieces
- ¼ teaspoon flaky sea salt
- Place watermelon and feta on serving platter.
- Sprinkle with lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil.
- Scatter basil leaves and salt over the top right before serving. Serve immediately.
Use watermelons of various colors or varieties.
Cut watermelon into triangles, cubes or use a melon baller to create balls.
Try ricotta salata instead of feta.
Use a vegan feta instead for a dairy-free and vegan version.
Salad is best served immediately but can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
Gluten-Free, Grain-Free, Vegetarian, Vegan Option, Egg-Free, Nut-Free, Paleo Option
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 258Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 9mgSodium: 215mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 1gSugar: 23gProtein: 4g
Nutritional information for recipes contained on this website, such as calories, fat, carbs, etc. are only estimates and are not guaranteed to be accurate.
Sylvie Shirazi is the recipe developer and food photographer behind Gourmande in the Kitchen. For the last 10 years she's been making eating more healthfully easy and accessible with gluten-free, grain-free, paleo and vegan recipes that are free from processed ingredients.