Two things scream summer: biting into sweet, juicy watermelon and firing up the grill on any and all occasions. Have you ever combined the two? It’s surprisingly delicious. When succulent ripe watermelon hits a hot grill, something beautiful happens. There’s a delicate balance of sweet and smoky, cool and fiery, refreshing and grilled that excites taste buds and leaves you wanting more.
In this recipe, we’ve taken it a tiny step further. After grilling, we sprinkle each slice with a spice rub made of sugar, salt, smoked paprika, and cayenne and then finish it off with a squeeze of lime. It’s like adding a spicy tajin rim to a watermelon margarita—our go-to summer beverage.
Sweet and spicy grilled watermelon is delicious on its own and makes the perfect appetizer, side dish, or dessert for your next summer BBQ.
Why Grill Watermelon?
Typically we are melon purists, but there’s something irresistible about the flavor combination that results from chargrilled watermelon. When it’s cooked quickly and on high heat, the sugars from the fruit caramelize and are balanced by smoky notes from the grill.
The texture is still juicy but not as watery and melt in your mouth as fresh watermelon; it has a bit more chew to it. Grilling is a fun and interesting way to enjoy the fruit of the summer.
What Kind Of Watermelon Works Best?
For this recipe, we used a miniature seedless watermelon because it was slightly easier to handle than the typical larger, rounder watermelons. You can also use a regular-sized seeded or seedless watermelon and it would be just as delicious. As long as it’s ripe and you can slice it into wedges, you’re good to go!
When picking a melon, you want to look for one that has a brown stem, webbing on the skin (signs of sweetness), a creamy yellow underbelly, feels heavy for its size, and sounds hollow when you tap it (for high water content and juiciness).
Tips for Grilling Watermelon
- Cut the watermelon into thick slices and keep the rind on. Thick slices cook better on the grill and are less likely to break apart.
- Give your grill plenty of time to heat up and keep it on high heat. A hot grill prevents the watermelon from sticking.
- Don’t overcook your watermelon. You’re just looking for a quick char and grill marks; overcooked watermelon will get too soft and mushy.
Recipe Variations and Tips for Serving
- When serving as an appetizer, try adding a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of lime zest. The olive oil brings out all of the other flavors and adds a smooth, creamy quality to the watermelon. We highly recommend it.
- As a side dish, chop it up with crumbled feta cheese and fresh mint and serve it alongside grilled chicken, fish, or tofu. You can also mix in other fruits like pineapples and peaches for a delicious grilled fruit salad.
- For dessert, skip the spice rub (unless you’re feeling adventurous) and add just a sprinkle of sea salt and drizzle of honey to the grilled watermelon slices (peaches would be great here too!). Serve it up with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Grilled watermelon should be served immediately. If you’re not using all of your watermelon for this recipe, cover the leftover uncooked melon with plastic wrap and store it in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Summery Watermelon Recipes
- Watermelon Salad with Feta and Mint
- Watermelon Lemonade
- Pickled Watermelon Rinds
- Watermelon Granita
- Watermelon Gazpacho
Preheat the grill and make the spice blend:
Turn the grill on high and let it preheat for 10 to 15 minutes. If needed, clean the grates.
Make the spice blend by combining the sugar, salt, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper in a small bowl.
Prepare the watermelon:
Rinse and dry the watermelon and place it on your cutting board. Using a large knife, trim off each end of the watermelon.
Turn the watermelon up so that it’s resting on one of the flat ends you just created. Slice it in half lengthwise. Place the watermelon halves cut side down on the board and slice into 1-inch thick slices. Then stack those larger slices and cut them in half again so you have triangular wedges.
Grill the watermelon:
If you’d like to be extra careful, moisten a folded paper towel with neutral oil and brush it onto the grates. As long as the grill is clean and is very hot, the watermelon should not stick.
Place the slices on the hot grill and cook each side on high until grill marks appear, 2 to 3 minutes per side. The rind should still be vibrant and green, not shriveled.
Season and serve:
Using tongs, remove the slices from the grill and place on a rimmed baking tray to catch any juices. Squeeze lime juice on top and sprinkle each wedge with the spice mix. Enjoy immediately.
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