Grilled Watermelon

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Grilling watermelon brings out even more of its natural sweetness, and it makes a beautiful appetizer, snack, side dish, or even dessert! The sprinkle of citrusy sugar elevates the flavor and helps it caramelize when cooked over the fire.

Cookout serving platter filled with grilled watermelon slices.

What’s even more exciting than watermelon at a barbecue? Grilled watermelon! We finally gave it a shot, and it was a really interesting addition to the barbecue table. Barely kissed by the grill, the grill marks look super cool on the bright red flesh of the fruit.

A dusting of sugar and lime zest with a touch of heat from chile powder brings watermelon into another dimension. And, it’s kind of a showstopper and a surprising conversation piece, especially if your guests haven’t seen it before! Try both red and yellow melon varieties. This can be served as an appetizer, a snack, a side dish (try it with Grilled Chicken Salad!), and also a dessert. You might want to pair it with Grilled Peaches for a stunning grilled fruit platter.

Squeezing fresh lime juice over slice of grilled watermelon at cookout.

Grilled Watermelon: A dusting of slightly spicy and citrusy sugar help bring out watermelon’s natural sweetness on the grill for an unusual side or dessert.

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Ingredients

You could grill watermelon without any seasoning, and it will be delicious. However, a sprinkle of a blend of sugar, lime zest, a bit of salt, and chile powder makes the sweet fruit sing. 

  • Watermelon – Choose a seedless watermelon, preferably on the smaller side so you can cut it into manageable wedges for grilling.
  • Sugar – A little bit enhances the natural sweetness of the fruit.
  • Lime – Please use fresh! The acidity balances out the sweetness.
  • Kosher salt – Everything tastes better with a little salt, even sweet things! Salt simply enhances flavor.
  • Chili powder – Make sure to use pure chile powder made solely from dried chilies. Chili powder or chili blend has ground dried hot peppers in it, but also oregano, garlic, and other spices, which are a bit strange on watermelon. The pureness of a single-grind chile powder is what you want here. I used ancho, but you can use chipotle or New Mexico chile powder or any other single-pepper powder.
Fresh watermelon slices in bowl on picnic table.

FAQs

Why grill watermelon?

The heat allows the sugars to caramelize, and the grill also adds some smokiness to the fruit. The texture will change notably on the grill. It’s terrific if you can serve and eat it while still warm. You may also see this called grilled watermelon steak or grilled watermelon ham — I prefer to call it what it is: grilled watermelon!

What does grilled watermelon taste like?

It still tastes like watermelon, but only subtly so. It surprisingly lost some of the sweetness even in the short grilling time. However, the sugar rub will intensify the sweetness on the outside a bit, and the live fire adds smokiness. 

We found the most surprising thing about grilled watermelon was the texture. It became a bit chewy and immediately less crisp than uncooked watermelon. That was the most unexpected part. It tasted best right off the grill. The texture got a little less satisfying as it cooled. It’s quite different from fresh watermelon, and I know I’ll be going back and forth all summer.

Do you grill watermelon with the rind on or off?

Grill watermelon in wedges with the rind still on. This will make the pieces hold together. Cutting the watermelon into wedges makes it easy to flip on the grill and also easy to eat. You can eat it out of hand or slice it with a knife and serve it in strips if you prefer.

How to Grill Watermelon

  1. Make the spiced sugar: In a small bowl, combine the sugar, lime zest, salt, and chile powder.
  2. Prepare the watermelon: Cut the watermelon into wedges. Place the wedges on a wire rack and sprinkle the sugar mixture evenly over the wedges, and lightly rub it in with the tips of your fingers. 
Rubbing spiced sugar mixture on watermelon slices.
  1. Grill the watermelon: Grill for 2 or 3 minutes on each side, just until nice grill marks appear. 
Watermelon wedges cooking on hot grill.
  1. Enjoy: Serve warm, if possible, with lime wedges.
Freshly grilled watermelon on cookout serving platter with lime wedges.

Tips

  • Use your fingers to rub the sugar and spice mixture together, which will allow the sugar to release the oils in the zest. 
  • Make sure to use a pure chile powder, not a chili spice blend.
  • This is best eaten right after grilling.

How to Serve Grilled Watermelon

  • This can be served as a surprising appetizer, a fun side dish, an unusual dessert, or just for nibbling. You can also cube up the watermelon and add it to fruit salads or use it in Watermelon and Feta Salad instead of raw watermelon. You can also sprinkle the grilled watermelon with fresh herbs, like oregano or basil.

What to Serve With Grilled Watermelon

Cookout table setting with grilled watermelon and cold drink.

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5 from 1 vote

Grilled Watermelon

Grilling watermelon brings out even more of its natural sweetness, and it makes a beautiful appetizer, snack, side dish, or even dessert! The sprinkle of citrusy sugar elevates the flavor and helps it caramelize when cooked over the fire.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 6 minutes
Total Time: 16 minutes
Servings: 10 People

Equipment

Ingredients 

  • 1 watermelon (about 4 to 5 pounds)
  • cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lime zest
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon pure chile powder (such as ancho; not a chili powder blend)
  • Lime wedges (to serve)

Instructions 

  • In a small bowl, combine the sugar, lime zest, salt, and chile powder. Use your fingers to rub the mixture together, which will allow the sugar to release the oils in the zest.
  • Cut the watermelon into wedges. Place the wedges on a wire rack and sprinkle half of the mixture evenly over the wedges, and lightly rub it in with the tips of your fingers. Flip the wedges and sprinkle the rest of the sugar mixture over the wedges, then rub that in. Let sit while you heat the grill to medium-high.
  • Place the watermelon wedges on the grill for 2 or 3 minutes on each side, just until nice grill marks appear. Serve warm, if possible, with lime wedges.

Notes

  • Use your fingers to rub the sugar and spice mixture together, which will allow the sugar to release the oils in the zest. 
  • Make sure to use a pure chile powder, not a chili spice blend.
  • This is best eaten right after grilling.

Nutrition

Calories: 161kcal, Carbohydrates: 41g, Protein: 3g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 0.1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 0.2g, Sodium: 123mg, Potassium: 507mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 35g, Vitamin A: 2591IU, Vitamin C: 37mg, Calcium: 32mg, Iron: 1mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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