Pickled Watermelon Rinds

We eat watermelon a few times a year, and usually throw the rinds into the compost pile. I figure that’s what most people do. But a while back I ran across the idea of pickling the rinds, and I was immediately hooked on the concept; I love the idea of using a quick, simple pickling process to render something that’s usually inedible into a delicious, tangy, and crunchy treat.

It might sound a little weird at first glance, but watermelon pickles have been around for a while. While in Germany and Eastern Europe they tend to pickle the red flesh of watermelon, there are a few Scandinavian recipes that focus on pickling the rinds. In the US, there are records of people making pickles of watermelon rinds dating back to the Civil War; those original recipes call for soaking the rinds in a salt brine, then boiling with sugar, vinegar, cloves, and cinnamon until clear and soft, which turns it into something resembling a sweet relish. I went with a Scandinavian approach, but left a little of the flesh on the rind in order to add a little natural sweetness to the pickle and to aid in the fermentation process (bacteria likes sugar!).


yields 1 pint

1/2 lb watermelon rind (about 1/4 watermelon), some flesh still attached
2 cups water
1 tbsp salt
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (optional)
1 sprig fresh dill (optional)

For my own recipe I kept things simple with just a salt water brine and some garlic, but if you’re looking for a more “pickley” taste, adding mustard seeds and fresh dill will do the trick.

To get your brine ready, boil the water, remove it from heat, stir in the salt, and allow to cool to room temperature (should take about 30 minutes). As you wait for the brine to cool, cut up and peel the hard green part of the rind using a vegetable peeler.

Place the cut pieces of watermelon rind into a pint-sized jar along with the garlic cloves (and mustard seeds/dill if you’re using it).

Once the brine is cool, pour it into the jar until it’s near the lid. I like to put a small dish into the jar in order to push everything down and keep it submerged in water, but it’s not totally necessary for a short ferment like this one.

Store in a dark place (preferably pretty warm) for three days and taste it. I liked it at the three-day mark, but decided to give it a couple more days to see how the flavors developed. My instincts proved right – at the five-day mark the taste was much more complex and rewarding, with a tinge of sourness to it.

That’s it! After five days the watermelon will have taken on a yellowish hue and a slightly pickled taste, and will have softened enough to eat while keeping a nice crunch to it.

It should stay nice and crisp in the fridge for about three weeks.

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27 thoughts on “Pickled Watermelon Rinds

  1. This is really left field, and an interesting idea. I just can’t see myself liking a pickled watermelon though, I like the sweetness of the red flesh, and feel that would be taken away. Is that the case?

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  2. This is so interesting! I just heard about pickled watermelon rinds the other night while watching Chopped on the Food Network and I had no idea what they were. Thanks for sharing this post – I think I’ll give it a try during the summertime. (Pinned it for later) :)

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  3. I’ve definitely got to try this. I’d read about it before, but this makes me want to try it. I started pickling and canning last year, and this year we’re going to add various melons to our garden, so this is a must. Thanks for the awesome reminder!

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    1. That is a great idea and I am sure it’d be tasty but I believe in the fermentation literature I’ve read, it says that the bacteria would be inhibited by the acid in vinegar – for those who would like to try this for the benefits of the bacteria and yeasts in live, fermented foods.

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      1. That’s strange… It can be found maybe in Georgia and this region. I come from Poland, but my family used to live in various regions of Russia (Central/Baikal/Western) and never heard of pickled watermelon. Maybe you mean the Asian part of this country? Watermelons are not really common in Eastern Europe. Maybe you mean South-East?

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        1. Hi Venidle, I am a Russian translator and teacher in my day job, and I work with a faculty of native Russians and Belarusians, who are all familiar with this dish. Googling “Russian pickled watermelon” produces many examples in English; in Russian, searching for “соленый арбуз” produces 68,000 results. While this doesn’t give as many results as more common pickled vegetables like соленый огурец (pickled cucumber, 541,000 results) I hope it’s enough to persuade you that this dish exists in Eastern Europe.

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          1. Russ,

            Definitely, cucumbers are one of the most popular vegetables to pickle. It is always something new to learn about watermelons (your pickled watermelon rinds are on my to-do list). However I think you should be more specific using the term “Eastern Europe” (don’t take this personally, as a Russian translator you are most probably aware of this).

            Nevertheless, I feel completely convinced :)

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  4. Have you used whey at all as a fermentation starter? Would love to know if you have tweaked the recipe to include the starter. This is an awesome idea!!!

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  5. Thank you for this recipe I wanted one without sugar an this is the first I’ve seen. I also appreciate having one that is fermented, although my fermentation experience is limited to a few rounds of kombucha and of kefir–so I am a bit nervous about the possibility of accidentally growing something unhealthy since There is no starter for these. Have you had any problems?
    I’ve another question: I know raw cucumber slices can be added to the brine in a pickle jar. Your recipe leads me to believe it might also work with the watermelon rinds. So tempted to try this! Any thoughts?

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