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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55 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?


  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) :)


  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!


      1. I’m courious about using old cucumber dill pickle juice. Boiling the old juice and pouring over the rind and not cutting the green skin off. Any suggestions.


    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.


      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?


        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.

          Liked by 1 person

          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 :)


  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!!!


  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?


    1. Yes, any jar will work fine! To adjust the recipe, you’ll want to scale the brine up mathematically to a little under a gallon of liquid, then pack the jar with rinds and pour the liquid in. Good luck!


      1. Hi thanks. I recently read that watermelon rinds shouldn’t be consumed unless they are certified organic or grown yourself at home(I can’t not right weather here) your thoughts on that? I read all pesticides and toxins are stored in rind…I have not seen certified organic watermelon in stores and of course no local farmers for watermelon..


        1. No more risk than the inside of other vegs/fruits after the tough outer green layer is removed. It is a pretty good barrier. I would still prefer organic anything, but consider melons among the best choices otherwise. Don’t know about modern commercial farms, but growing up in my area no one used pesticides on melons. they did not need it.


      2. Hi thanks. I recently read that watermelon rinds shouldn’t be consumed unless they are certified organic or grown yourself at home(I can’t not right weather here) your thoughts on that? I read all pesticides and toxins are stored in rind…I have not seen certified organic watermelon in stores and of course no local farmers for watermelon..


  6. My mother was a great cook and made watermelon rind pickles every year, Her family was of German and Italian descent – no eastern European background. One of my regrets is that I never saved her recipe. Her pickles were rind only; no pink fruit (we already ate all that!). They were sweet sour so I know she used vinegar because she almost always used vinegar. She must also have used sugar.


  7. What do you mean by “cut up and peel the hard green part of the rind using a vegetable peeler” ? Are you peeling off the outermost layer of the green skin?


    1. Yes, peel the outermost layer of the tough dark green skin, but just peel it as you would peel an apple. Cut up means to cut up the rind into smaller pieces


  8. Interesting, but I wouldn’t eat these!
    Watermelon Rind Pickles should carry the taste of Mixed Spice (cloves, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg, coriander seed) and not garlic, mustard or dill. What your recipe has done is turn them into just any old ‘pickle.’ Watermelon Rind Pickles are a true delicacy in the South. Sad how you chose to ruin it.


    1. Variety is the spice of life my friend….
      He didn’t replace the typical Southern watermelon pickles (which by the way have numerous versions) He suggested something different to his readers.


    2. Well it’s a great thing that not everybody is like you. People are allowed to like different things, and just because YOU don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s ruined. How about you try opening your eyes to things and stop being so basic…


    3. If you read carefully, he described the traditional Southern method then explained that he was following a more traditional Scandinavian technique. I, for one, don’t care for sweetness in any sort of pickles, and had almost given up on finding a recipe I could use to make watermelon pickles. Then I happily came across this one and I’m getting started on it this morning. So he didn’t “ruin” anything; he created an opening for me and others by offering his take on a technique from a culture that isn’t “American.” I hope your negative comment isn’t a reflection of your own worldview.


  9. The rind has a lot of nutrition. I’d like to try it with the outer layer on, like the pickle. I wonder if that changes the flavor? Is that okay?


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