I’m getting ready for our 4th of July celebrations and this Firecracker Watermelon Salad is the perfect addition to classic barbecue menus. Cool and refreshing with just a touch of heat, this is a dish your friends and family will appreciate, especially on hot days, relishing every refreshing bite.
When I was a child, the 4th of July meant we were halfway through the long hot summer days with no school. When we would wear shorts, head to the pool or lake to cool off, and sit on the sidewalk eating icy slices of watermelon. There was nothing better than being happily covered with watermelon juice, sticky and smiling from ear to ear.
Today for the Food Network’s #SummerSoiree we are celebrating the nation’s founding with a variety of our favorite summertime treats. There are many versions of red, white, and blue desserts so I wanted to give you a different option for this year’s celebrations.
Just like when I was a kid, my favorite summer indulgence is watermelon and I wait all year for it to come into season. These days I am slightly more refined when eating it, preferring cubes to slices, but I still eat it with the same delight.
Most of the time I eat watermelon plain, relishing the clean flavor and thirst-quenching juices. But today I thought I would change it up a little and use it as the base for a different kind of fruit salad. If you’ve ever had a pineapple or mango salsa, this is along the same lines, but less acidic. The watermelon is sweet, the blueberries a touch tart, the mint refreshing, and the jalapeno a surprising pop of heat. Then you tie it all together with a dressing made with orange juice and balsamic vinegar for the perfect side dish.
If you are planning on serving potato and macaroni salads or coleslaw with mayonnaise-based dressings, this will be a bright palate cleanser and cuts through the fattier options, waking up your taste buds. If you watch many cooking shows on TV, you know the judges are often saying, “It could use more acid.” This salad will give you the acidic component in your meal that would make the judges proud!
Enjoy this Firecracker Watermelon Salad with Orange Vinaigrette and have a fun and safe Fourth of July!
Key Ingredients for Firecracker Watermelon Salad:
- Watermelon, blueberries, fresh mint, shallot, jalapeno pepper
- Ricotta salata or feta cheese
- Fresh orange juice and zest
- Balsamic vinegar and honey or agave nectar
- Dry mustard, sugar, olive oil
If you are baking gluten-free you likely have xanthan gum in your pantry. This dressing is another way to utilize it. Gums are used in store-bought dressings because it helps keep the ingredients emulsified. If you whisk it in, the dressing will thicken as it stands and clings to the fruit more easily. Xanthan gum is expensive, so if you do not already have it, don’t buy it just for this recipe.
How to Safely Clean and Prep Melons
One thing I learned when I worked in a professional kitchen was that everything needs to be washed before preparing, even something you will be peeling. It seems counterintuitive, but once your knife makes the first cut, anything on the outside of the melon will be introduced to the interior with every subsequent cut. Rinse the melons under running water to remove most of the bacteria present and pat dry.
When cutting a melon, the first thing you want to do is take a slice off one end so you have a flat, stable surface for making the rest if the cuts. I cut a slice off both ends, deep enough to see the interior flesh. Stand the melon on one end and using a sawing motion, slice off the rind, starting at the top and following the curvature, work your way down to the bottom. If there are any spots of rind left, clean those up before continuing.
Once peeled, cut the melon in half and then place the cut side down on the cutting board for the safest way to cut it into chunks. If there are seeds, use a spoon to scrape them out and discard.
How to make Firecracker Watermelon Salad:
- Cube the watermelon and combine it with blueberries, shallots, mint, and chopped jalapeno
- Make the vinaigrette whisking together orange juice, vinegar, shallots, mustard, sugar, salt, and pepper; slowly pour in the oil whisking until emulsified
- Pour the vinaigrette over the fruit and toss to evenly coat everything; refrigerate about 1 hour to thoroughly chill and let the flavors blend
- Serve cool or at room temperature
Kitchen Tools I Use to Make This Recipe (affiliate links):
Always check labels for possible gluten ingredients – in this recipe check your balsamic vinegar to be safe.
- 4 cups cubed ripe, seedless watermelon
- 1 large shallot, peeled and finely minced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
- 2 tsp finely minced jalapeno peppers, or more to taste
- 1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and patted dry
- 3 tbsp grated ricotta salata, crumbled feta, or cubed Monterey Jack cheese, or more to taste
- Kosher or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fresh mint sprigs, for garnishing
- 2 tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1-1/2 tsp honey or agave nectar, or to taste
- 1 tsp finely minced shallots
- 3/4 tsp dry mustard
- 1 tbsp sugar
- Pinch kosher or sea salt
- 6 tbsp organic olive oil
- Pinch xanthan gum or guar gum, optional
- Prepare the Watermelon: Wash the melon under cool running water; dry and set on cutting board. Peel and cut the watermelon into bite-sized pieces. (See tip above for the technique for peeling and cubing the watermelon.)
- Prep the Salad: In a very large mixing bowl, place the watermelon cubes, shallots, mint, jalapeno, blueberries, cheese, salt and pepper. Gently toss together and set aside.
- Prepare the Orange Vinaigrette: In a small, deep bowl with high sides, whisk together the orange juice, vinegar, shallots, mustard, sugar, salt and pepper. Slowly pour in the oil, whisking constantly until the mixture is blended and emulsified. Whisk in the xanthan gum if using. Taste and adjust seasonings.
- Assemble the Salad: Pour the dressing over the watermelon mixture and toss gently to evenly coat the fruits. Cover and place in the refrigerator about 1 hour for the flavors to blend and thoroughly cool, tossing occasionally.
- To Serve: Toss the fruit to coat it with the dressing again. Use a slotted spoon to scoop portions of the watermelon salad onto plates. Garnish with mint sprigs if desired and serve immediately.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 359Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 17mgSodium: 264mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 2gSugar: 24gProtein: 6g
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Create a New Tradition Today!
This recipe is part of Food Network’s weekly Sensational Sides. See the links below for more inspiration and great recipes!
The Heritage Cook: Firecracker Salad
Jeanette’s Healthy Living: Brazilian Acai Breakfast Bowl
Weelicious: Magical Fruit Wands
Sweet Bake Life: Patriotic Moscato Gelatin Shots
Virtually Homemade: Traditional Potato Salad
Dishing With Divya: Red, White and Blue Fruit Salad
Feed Me Phoebe: Red, White and Blue Coconut Panna Cotta Cups
Domesticate Me: 12 Foolproof Recipes for the Fourth of July
Taste With The Eyes: Patriotic Grilled Chicken, Savory Blueberry Compote and Strawberry Arugula Salad
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Grilled Bruschetta with Pesto, Sauteed Spinach and Garlic Scapes
Red or Green: Popcorn with Jalapenos and Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Elephants and the Coconut Trees: Mini Cherry Blueberry Pies
Devour: Star Sweets for the 4th
Swing Eats: Corn Dogs (Gluten-Free)
Daily*Dishin: Dilly Potato Salad
FN Dish: 4th of July Treats
This post was first shared in July 2014. The article was updated in 2020.