Pico de Gallo is a vibrant, fresh salsa that oscillates between sweet, savory, spicy, and acidic. The tomato version, which I assumed to be the traditional version is a staple in my kitchen, as well as many of my favorite Mexican (American) eateries. Just to see if it would work, I decided to throw watermelon into the mix, and I was more than pleasantly surprised. The texture and flavors were very similar, with a little special “What IS that?” thrown in at the end.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Watermelon – It goes without saying that watermelon is the star of the show. These recipes each use about ⅛ of a large watermelon, but could be doubled, tripled, or halved depending on how much watermelon you have, and how much you want to make. Choose the best watermelon you can find, but even a mediocre watermelon will work great in all of these recipes.
- Red onion – For it’s color and sweetness, I prefer red onion in this recipe. Want to use something else? Pretty much any onion, or even a shallot, will work in this pico.
- Cilantro – I love the stuff, but I get why some folks aren’t fans. Leave it out, or use fresh parsley or celery leaves.
- Garlic – It’s important to have garlic for depth of flavor. Not a fan? Use less or none. I guess you could use a bit of garlic powder if that’s all you’ve got. Pre-chopped would also be fine, but fresh is, of course, best.
- Jalapeno – I love the green heat of a fresh jalapeno. Use as much or as little as you can handle. You could also use a green bell pepper if you wanted to make it the most mild pico ever.
- Lime juice – There is no substitute for fresh lime juice. Except maybe fresh lemon juice.
Wait. What? Watermelon?!
Admittedly, I’m not an expert on picking out watermelons. I look for the yellow patch, and I thump them to listen for something, and I now even look for the lines that supposedly tell you that it’s got a lot of sugar in it. Occasionally, my detective work pays off, and I’m rewarded with a perfectly sweet and ripe watermelon. Other times, even if a melon seems to check all of the ripeness boxes, it’s “just OK”.
But like pizza, Thai food, and sex, a “just OK” waterelon is still worth having.
I don’t buy watermelons as often as I would like to, mostly because I feel like they require a lot of work to get into. And once you do get into them, there seems to be a ton of byproduct that I never know what to do with. Not to mention the storage aspect of trying to refrigerate 15 to 20 pound of fruit.
So, I started to think of other ways that I could use watermelon, both to help me eliminate some of the waste, and to give me some other ways to enjoy a watermelon that might not be the ripest or sweetest one of the bunch.
It came to me that I had seen watermelon used in a recipe that normally called for tomates, so I decided to see just how far I could take it.
No shade at tomatoes, but tomatoes are another one of those fruits that are never really as good as you would like them to be, and most of the time when you find them in our season-less supermarkets, they are under-ripe and bland.
I learned a lot from my initial tests. First of all, “just ok” watermelons are superior to “meh” tomatoes. A watermelon that’s not as sweet as it could be is still more flavorful than a tomato with the same challenges.
Secondly, the yield you get from a single watermelon, is exponentially more than what you get from an entire bushel of tomatoes. I was taken aback by just how much fruit there actually is in a watermelon. I paid close to $6 at Sprouts for an organic melon, and I just keep thinking how much it would have cost for me to get the same amount of usable fruit from organic tomatoes.
In terms of the waste or byproduct, the watermelon does have an edible rind, between the skin and the flesh, that is actually quite good when handled properly. I have a few recipes I’m working on for that, so stay tuned.
The four recipes that I tested out using watermelon in place of tomatoes all came out incredible:
The flavor and texture of the watermelon works so perfectly in all of these dishes that, if you didn’t know any better, you would think they had been made to use watermelon all along.
Check out this video to see just how easily these dishes can be made, and then scroll down for the down for the full printable recipe for my Watermelon Pico de Gallo.
Watermelon Pico de Gallo
Delicious and spicy pico de gallo made with refreshing watermelon
- 2 cups (12-13 ounces) ripe watermelon, cut into ¼ inch cubes
- ¼ red onion, minced
- ¼ cup cilantro, roughly chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- ½ jalapeno, minced
- 1 lime, juiced
- ½ teaspoon salt, or more to taste
- tostadas or tortilla chips
- Combine all ingredients into a bowl, and stir to combine. Taste for salt. Allow to rest about 1 hour until ready to serve with tortilla chips (as a salsa) or with tostadas (as a “ceviche”).