How to Make Watermelon Pickles


Start to Finish: 20 minutes plus chilling or canning time

Servings: 1 quart of pickles

Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate

Watermelon-rind pickles are crisp, tart and make use of the peel from watermelons -- a part of the fruit that otherwise would be tossed. Eat the rinds on their own as an accompaniment to burgers or grilled meats, or chop them to use in a tangy, crunchy relish. This recipe is inspired by ones from bon appetit, Saveur and Pick Your Own.


  • Rind from a 4- to 5-pound watermelon
  • 1 fresh jalapeño or cayenne pepper, whole
  • 1-inch piece of ginger
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup fennel, chopped
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 cup white wine vinegar


Scrape off all pink flesh from the watermelon rind, then peel it with a vegetable peeler, leaving only the white rind. Cut the watermelon into 1-inch wide pieces that are 2 to 3-inches long.

Peel and trim the ginger, cutting off the small nibs. Slice them thinly and set them aside. Combine the whole chile pepper, vinegar, star anise pods, mustard seeds, peppercorns, garlic, celery and fennel in a non-reactive pan. Bring the mixture to a boil on high heat.


  • Remove the pith and seeds from the chile pepper if you want a less spicy pickle.

Lower the heat to medium, add the salt and the sugar, and stir until they are completely dissolved. Add the watermelon rind pieces and raise the heat to high, bringing the mix back to a boil.

Reduce the heat to medium and cook the rinds for five to seven minutes until the rinds are just tender. Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let it rest until the mixture is at room temperature.

Transfer the rind and the brine to a plastic airtight container, ensuring the rinds are fully submerged. Store the rinds in the refrigerator for at least 12 to 24 hours before eating or using them.

Extra Tips

Vary the spices to change the flavor of the pickles. Pair the spices with different types of vinegar. For example, use a classic blend of pickling spices with apple cider or white vinegar for more traditional-tasting pickles. For Asian-style pickles, use only rice vinegar. For an Italian watermelon pickle variation, use fresh thyme, rosemary, garlic and shallots to flavor red or white wine vinegar brined pickles.

Store the pickles, submerged, for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. For longer storage, can the pickles in sterilized jars in a water bath.

Serving Ideas

Use the watermelon pickles, thinly sliced, in place of cucumber pickles as a garnish for hamburgers. The pickles may be chopped and used as a condiment for pate or charcuterie. Use sliced pickles with cucumbers, tomatoes and black olives for a fresh salad.

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