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Spicy Pickled Watermelon Rind with Ginger and Lime Recipe

Spicy Pickled Watermelon Rind with Ginger and Lime Recipe

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For the watermelon rind:

  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 cups warm water
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 4-5 cups cubed watermelon rind (skin and pink meat removed)

For the pickling juice:

  • 5 cups of cold water
  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar
  • ½ cup salt
  • ½ cup white sugar
  • 4 small red dried chilies, like arbol
  • 4 teaspoons grated ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon lime zest
  • ½ teaspoon dried mace


  • 4 glass pickling jars, heated in the microwave for 30 seconds


For the watermelon rind:

In a bowl, stir the salt in with the hot water until the salt dissolves. Add in the lime juice and watermelon rind and put in the fridge to cure overnight. When ready, rinse the watermelon rind and pat dry.

For the pickling juice:

In a non-reactive pot, heat the water and vinegar and stir in the salt and sugar. Simmer on low for about 5 minutes until salt and sugar are dissolved.

Evenly divide the chiles, ginger, cloves, lime zest, and mace into the hot glass jars. Add in the cured watermelon rind (about 1 cup in each jar). Add the hot pickling liquid, leaving about ½-inch of space at the top.

Screw on the tops and then place the jars in a large stock pot full of boiling water (place a rag at the bottom of the pot so that the jars don't rattle). Leave the jars for about 15-20 minutes. Remove carefully with tongs and place on a rack or dishtowel. Listen for the seal to pop after about 20 minutes. Leave the jars out for about 12 hours and then place them in the fridge or cool, dark shelf for up to a few months.

Crisp Pickled Watermelon Rind Recipe

Make this crisp picked watermelon rind recipe if you've ever wondered what to do with leftover watermelon rinds.

I first tried watermelon rind pickles when we first moved to Georgia.

We spent the day in Atlanta and ended up at a touristy restaurant that served classic Southern fair like greens, grits, and fried green tomatoes.

One thing that stood out were the watermelon pickles. They were so tasty! As soon as I could, I learned how to make them at home.

Pickled Watermelon Rind

In a large bowl or pot, stir salt into one gallon of water until dissolved. Add watermelon rinds and let sit overnight.

Drain off water and thoroughly rinse rinds. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, cook watermelon rinds with remaining one gallon of water. Cook the rinds until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Return the saucepan to heat and add vinegar, sugar and spices. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add watermelon rinds and cook until transparent, about another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Sterilize jars and lids directly before using for 10 minutes in simmering water or in the dishwasher. Remove one at a time when ready to fill. While rinds are still hot, use a slotted spoon to transfer into the hot sterilized jars. Pour vinegar solution over rinds, filling to within 1/4 inch of the top. Wipe rims with a clean damp cloth and seal jars with lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath (making sure water level is 1 inch over the top of the jars) for 10 minutes. Remove from water bath and allow to cool on the counter overnight.

Pickled Watermelon Rind

Recipe adapted from Kwang Uh, Baroo, Los Angeles, CA

Yield: 8 cups

Prep Time: 2 hours and 30 minutes, plus pickling time

Cook Time: 5 minutes

Total Time: 2 hours and 35 minutes, plus pickling time


2 tablespoons kosher salt


1. Break down the watermelon by slicing it into 8 equal, and more manageable, pieces. Carve out the red and pink flesh from each slice. Using a juicer, juice enough flesh to produce 3 cups of watermelon juice. Reserve the watermelon juice for the pickling liquid the remaining flesh can be eaten or saved for other uses.

2. Carefully fillet the white rind off the green skin, discarding the skin. The rind should be only ⅛ inch thick and have no green color remaining. Cut the rind into ½-by-2-inch rectangles.

3. In a large bowl, add the watermelon rind pieces and toss in the salt. Let sit until they have softened slightly and seasoned, 2 hours. Rinse the salted rind pieces with cold water, then drain and return to the bowl.

4. In a medium stock pot, add the reserved watermelon juice with the lime juice, maple syrup, rice wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, cinnamon stick and kaffir lime leaf. Bring the pickling liquid to a boil and pour over the rind pieces. Allow to completely cool and store in the refrigerator until ready to eat, at least 48 hours.

Watermelon Rind Pickles

The classic Southern watermelon rind pickle is as good as ever, and there are plenty of ways to play with the seasoning: try adding ginger and celery seeds, or red pepper and star anise.

This recipe for a no-waste watermelon gazpacho is garnished with a stripped-down watermelon rind pickle, which you can also use for lots of other things, like summer cheese plates, salsa, or as part of a chopped salad:


Do these need to be placed in major jars with he hot liquid to create the seal? Or is there no need for this?

If you are traditionally canning your pickles to preserve for later, mason jars and a hot seal are employed. This recipe we suggest just keeping in any sealed container in your refrigerator for up to two weeks to guarantee freshness, taste and texture. We have not tested our recipe for longer term preserving, but if you do try, please let us know your results!

These were quite good, even though I substituted ground spices for the whole (basically a pinch of each). I ate the whole jar in two days.

Looks like a great recipe … can’t wait to try it. Thanks

Does the boiling water need to be added to the “remaining ingredients” reducing in a saucepan? The recipe doesn’t make this clear but it seems like the 4 cups of water is needed for the pickling.

Thank you for catching that. We’ve updated the recipe to reflect that yes, the strained water does need to be included with the remaining ingredients.

Why the metal bowl when you are going to add a hot vinegar solution to it? Seems like a recipe for metallic tasting pickles.

We have updated the recipe to suggest a non-reactive bowl. Some metal bowls are fine, but if you want to play it safe, please use a glass or plastic bowl.

Back to the canning question. Is there a reason to soak overnight or can I just pour the hot mixture right over the softened rinds so the lid can seal?

We found this great answer from Our Everyday Life: You help ensure the crispness and flavor of your finished pickles by soaking them before pickling to improve their texture and taste. Whether you soak them in ice water, salted water or a lime-water solution, an overnight soak is an important step in many recipes to create quality pickles that you will love.

Hi! I am also developing a recipe for watermelon rind pickles for a state agriculture agency, and I would really like to know if anyone at the Watermelon Board believes it is a food safety issue to skip the soaking step. I find the texture to be just fine without soaking when making a refrigerator pickle such as this one, but maybe if they are stored for a long time they would become limp instead of staying crsip. If someone at your organization knows anything about the science behind the soaking beyond textural concerns, please let me know! I hope a canning recipe on your end is on the way as well!

We do not believe it is a food safety issue, to skip the soaking step. It’s simply a quality/texture issue.

It seems that you have not peeled the green skin off the watermelon in the video, yet suggest that you do this in the recipe. Which is best?

Peeling the skin is a personal preference. However, when we tout that 100% of the watermelon is edible, the skin (or peel) definitely must be cooked. With the skin on, the texture on the outside has more of a “chew” to it, but it is pleasant and unique.

How to Make Watermelon Rind Pickles

They were an annual treat that made their appearance in a cut crystal dish next to the celery hearts, colossal pimento-stuffed olives, and carrot sticks. They only showed up briefly for Thanksgiving dinner, and I waited patiently to savor their spicy sweetness all year long. I would later learn that watermelon rind pickles represent the best of Southern frugality, taking what would otherwise be discarded and transforming it into something tasty—in this case into the star of a relish tray, or bacon wrapped and broiled for a sweet and savory hors d’oeuvre, or coupled with thinly sliced ham in a biscuit or with a few slices of roast pork. Although the pickles disappeared from my life after my maternal grandmother’s death, I loved them even more in memory, factoring in the knowledge that they were hand prepared from a Virginia recipe she never shared with her daughters and that went with her to the grave.

Watermelon rind pickles have been in the African American culinary lexicon for more than a century, and a version appeared in What Mrs. Fisher Knows about Old Southern Cooking, the second known African American cookbook, published in 1881. Post-Emancipation, the book’s author, Abby Fisher, made her way from Alabama to California, where she is listed in the 1882 San Francisco City Directory as a pickle manufacturer. More recently, the pickles became a means of survival. Patsy Randolph, an African American entrepreneur in Harlem during the Great Depression, collected watermelon rinds from street vendors and transformed them into pickles that she sold along with pepper sauces and relishes. The pickles were her biggest sellers.

Haunted by my childhood delight, I set out to re-create my grandmother’s pickles and came up with a recipe that while not exactly replicating hers, comes closer in taste than any of the commercial brands I’ve tried, which trade a complex spice-infused flavor for sugary sweetness. Though I prepare them infrequently, they’re one of the first items that I think of for special meals for their ability to evoke the taste of memory.

This article appears in the August/September 2020 issue of Garden & Gun. Start your subscription here or give a gift subscription here.

Recipe Summary

  • 3 quarts water
  • ¾ cup salt
  • 4 quarts watermelon rind, white part only, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons whole cloves
  • ½ teaspoon mustard seed
  • 10 (3 inch) cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
  • 1 quart apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 drops green food coloring (Optional)

In a glass bowl, stir together the water and salt until the salt has dissolved. Add the watermelon rinds and any additional water needed to cover them. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.

Drain the watermelon rinds from the salted water, and place into a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Cover with fresh water, then place over high heat and bring to a boil. Boil rinds for 30 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, tie the cloves, mustard seed, and cinnamon sticks in a piece of cheesecloth. Place into a large saucepan or Dutch oven along with the vinegar and sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat, then remove from the heat and let stand for 15 minutes. Stir in the drained watermelon rind, then return to the stove over high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer until the rind is transparent and the syrup is slightly thickened, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove and discard the spices after 40 minutes. Stir in the food coloring if desired.

Ladle into hot sterilized 1 pint jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space. Seal jars with new lids and rings, making sure you have cleaned the jar's rims of any residue. Process jars under 1 inch of water in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Let cool overnight, then press down on the lids to make sure they are sealed before storing. Store any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and enjoy those first.

What do you eat with the rinds?

We prefer them straight out of the jar as a sweet snack, but there are a bunch of different ways to use them!

  • a condiment to meats (fried chicken, braised pork, grilled steak)
  • on a charcuterie platter with hard, salty cheeses and cured meats
  • chopped up in a fresh salad (arugula and pecorino come to mind, or a crunchy cabbage slaw)
  • a compote over a sweet pound cake
  • in sandwiches or wraps

Enjoy them all summer long!

Crispy Pork Belly and Watermelon

Yield: 8 | Total time: 13 hours 15 min Print Recipe Print This! -->

This recipe takes very little prep time but does call for slow and low cooking. Your patience will be rewarded with tender, juicy belly that's delicious with watermelon, or slipped into a steamed bun with a slice of pickled cucumber à la Momofuku.



  • 2 ounces soy sauce
  • 2 ounces sesame oil
  • 1 ounce hoisin sauce
  • 1 ounce Sprite
  • 1/2 ounce fish sauce
  • 1/2 ounce lime juice
  • 1/2 ounce Sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped cilantro


  • 12 ounces pork belly
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 2 cups canola oil
  • 8 ounces fresh watermelon, cut into 1-ounce cubes
  • Garnishes: fresh cilantro, julienne of carrot and Daikon radish


  1. Combine ingredients for Soy-Hoisin Dressing and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 200°. Place pork belly in a deep baking dish. Combine water, onions, carrots, star anise and garlic in a bowl pour over pork belly. Cover with plastic wrap and aluminum foil. Braise for 13 hours.
  3. Remove pork belly from pan, discarding vegetables and spices. Press the belly between two sheet pans and chill for four hours or until firm.
  4. Heat canola oil to about 325°. Cut pork belly into 1-ounce cubes and deep fry until crispy and golden.
  5. Toss pork belly cubes in Soy-Hoisin Dressing and serve with chilled watermelon cubes.

Date Published: June 6, 2012

All recipes have been tested by the KimSuné Test Kitchens unless otherwise noted.


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