Watermelon Salad with Aleppo Pepper

This watermelon salad with Aleppo pepper is an elegant, easy, dairy free and gluten free dish that melds sweet and heat, combining pepper, watermelon, black olives, and mint. Comes together in just 15 minutes.

A black oval dish filled with watermelon salad with Aleppo pepper and black olives.

I just love this watermelon salad with Aleppo pepper. It reminds me of walking out into the garden back home and picking a fresh watermelon for lunch—the vibrant green- and yellow-striped skin, smooth and almost waxy on top with dirt still clinging to the paler underside.

With a perfect melon in hand, I’d head to our back porch and peel, chop, and toss it with some fresh herbs. Then I’d hit it with some Aleppo pepper and briny Greek olives for a vibrant, Mediterranean twist. Yum.–Angelo Sosa

Watermelon Salad with Aleppo Pepper FAQs

How hot is an Aleppo pepper?

Aleppo peppers are considered to have a ‘medium’ level of heat, and are at 10,000 SHUs (Scoville heat units) – so they pack just a bit more heat than a jalapeno, which rings in anywhere between 2500-8000 SHUs. Aleppo peppers are also known as Halaby peppers. Here’s a bit more info on the Aleppo pepper, if you’re interested.

What’s the best method for cutting watermelon into cubes?

First, you’ll need a large cutting board and a long, sharp knife. (Please, please do not use a dull knife – it could slip off of the smooth watermelon rind and you could get a nasty injury and a trip to the ER. Don’t ask how we know this.)

With your sharp knife, first cut the watermelon in half, lengthwise. Cut each of those halves in half – again, lengthwise. You should have four relatively equal quarters.

Working one quarter at a time, slice from left to right (or right to left), cutting from the peak all the way to the rind – but not through the rind. Make 1-inch (2.5-cm) slices across the quarter until you reach the other end.

Then take your knife and make perpendicular cuts (cut at a 90-degree angle from your initial cuts) – again, 1 inch, crosshatching your way across the quarter, creating little cubes that are still attached to the rind. Then, using your knife, cut along the rind, releasing your sweet little cubes into a bowl. Some of your cubes will be longer than others – but once they’re free, you can slice those down to size.

Watermelon Salad with Aleppo Pepper

A black oval dish filled with watermelon salad with Aleppo pepper and black olives.
This watermelon salad with Aleppo pepper is a simple side dish that is made with fruity Aleppo pepper, watermelon cubes, black olives, and fresh mint. It's easy to make and is ready in just 15 minutes.

Prep 15 mins
Total 15 mins
Salad
American
4 servings
101 kcal
5 / 6 votes
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Ingredients 

  • 1 pound watermelon
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon thyme leaves (optional)
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons ground Aleppo pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped black olives preferably Greek, pitted if desired
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped mint leaves

Directions
 

  • Remove the rind from the watermelon and discard.
  • Cut the watermelon into large chunks, remove and discard all the seeds, and place the watermelon chunks in a serving bowl.
  • Add the salt, thyme, Aleppo pepper to taste, and olives and gently toss to combine. Drizzle with the olive oil and garnish with the mint. Serve immediately.
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Show Nutrition

Serving: 1portionCalories: 101kcal (5%)Carbohydrates: 9g (3%)Protein: 1g (2%)Fat: 8g (12%)Saturated Fat: 1g (6%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gSodium: 622mg (27%)Potassium: 141mg (4%)Fiber: 1g (4%)Sugar: 7g (8%)Vitamin A: 827IU (17%)Vitamin C: 10mg (12%)Calcium: 13mg (1%)Iron: 1mg (6%)

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Recipe Testers’ Reviews

Salty and sweet with a little heat. This watermelon salad recruits summer garden flavors and tosses them together without fuss.

I served this salad with an herb-rubbed whole chicken butterflied and roasted on the grill. I would salt the watermelon first, letting it sit in a strainer for a few minutes to remove some of the water the melon will release. Adding the rest of the ingredients after that step will give the dressing an opportunity to cling to and season the melon.

It may seem silly to add anything, anything at all, to watermelon since it’s delicious on its own. However, I occasionally find that adding a little spicy heat brings out the sweetness even more.

This watermelon salad recipe adds a nice touch with the olives, adding just a little brininess to the spice. Instead of the Aleppo pepper, I used the suggested combination of sweet paprika and cayenne (4:1 ratio). I probably used only a teaspoon’s worth, combined, since I prefer a milder spice and still wanted the fruit to shine through. This salad is great for the summer, and anytime, really.

We loved this watermelon salad with Aleppo pepper. I had never had watermelon salad and really did not expect to like it. I used the thyme and the Aleppo pepper and mixed all the dressing ingredients before adding them to the melon. Next time I think I will omit the salt and add some crumbled feta cheese. Do not dress the melon ahead—the salt pulled the juices out of the melon very quickly.

This recipe is so good and easy to put together that I made it twice in the last week—once for the two of us at home and the other time for some friends who came to dinner. I didn’t have Aleppo pepper, so I used red pepper flakes instead. The combination of sweet, salty, and spicy is amazing!

One of our friends thought it was too spicy, but the rest of us loved it as is. I also added some feta cheese to a bit of the salad at the end to see what that tasted like, and it added another tasty dimension. I will definitely be making this one again.

A gorgeous summer salad bursting with flavor! I love how salt draws out the sweetness of the melon and the aleppo chili provides just enough subtle smokiness. The mint, in turn, provides a hint of freshness and just screams sunshine and outdoor picnics! I love the look of chiffonade, so I sliced my mint that way.

And for a little something extra, just add arugula, toasted almonds and some feta. A more filling salad that will not disappoint!

This is one of those dishes that you must continue to eat beyond just the initial bite to learn of its intricacies. The more I ate, the more I enjoyed it.

Watermelon with savory ingredients appeal to me because it can be bland and therefore a great base for a lot of flavors. The Aleppo pepper is what this dish was all about, though. Love the stuff. The recipe would be one note without it. Then, of course, the fresh mint and olive oil brought it all together.

The recipe includes fresh thyme as an optional ingredient, but I would say it is not optional. It really added a lovely freshness. I cannot say that this was a WOW dish but it was pleasing and delicious. It would be fun for a barbecue or picnic when you try to encourage guests to guess the ingredients.

Originally published July 31, 2012

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Comments

  1. 5 stars
    As summer turns to fall and there are still watermelons at the farmers market, the heat from the Aleppo pepper adds a perfect touch to this change of season salad, though that may just be my current mindset, and it’s probably equally good at the peak of summer.

    Because I like the wet-drippy-deliciousness of in-season watermelon, I would not strain or drain it at all. This makes for a sloppier eating experience, but isn’t that what watermelon is all about?

    Also, while I’m sure this salad would be fine without the thyme – I used it, and, if you have it readily available, absolutely, it’s a yes.

    I think the quarter pound per person serving size is skimpy, even for a side salad, and I think this could easily be a light entrée with the addition of a side of feta and/or feta plus bread. I added on feta, bread, and a couple of falafel to make it a fairly substantial and well-rounded meal. And, because there can never really be too many olives, my bread of choice was a crusty olive sourdough from my favorite Middle Eastern baker.

    1. Elsa, my mouth is watering after reading your description of the meal. That sounds absolutely incredible. Thank you so much for taking the time to let us know.

  2. 5 stars
    We love watermelon salads and just bought aleppo pepper for the first time, so this recipe was serendipitous. We took Jo Ann’s suggestion above to salt the watermelon beforehand (we often do this with fruits and vegetables to pull out water). I’d recommend that as it seasons the melon throughout, concentrates the flavor, and firms up the texture. We didn’t have fresh thyme but added a pinch of dried. I’d like to try it with fresh next time. We added feta to part of the salad, and although it was fine with, the salad was better without it.

  3. 5 stars
    I made this watermelon salad & took it to the roasting of a whole pig, and the salad was almost as big a hit as that pig. The hostess let me take home an entire leg/ham and assorted bits in exchange for the last few bites of the salad! This recipe is definitely a keeper.

    Blue and white plate with chunks of watermelon, Aleppo pepper, olives, and chopped mint

    1. Wow! Loooooooooooove hearing this, Carol. Brilliant idea to pair the watermelon with pork. (My fave restro in Manhattan, Fatty Pig, has on the menu as one of its signature dishes a salad of chunks of watermelon juxtaposed with chunks of fried pork belly and everything was doused with a ginger vinaigrette and scattered with scallions. Sigh. I miss it.) Many kind thanks for taking the time to share your experience.

  4. 5 stars
    We can never get enough of this. (I think some of our friends are getting sick of it, to be quite frank, because we serve it that often!) The blend of sweet, heat, and salt is marvelous. Of course, being olive freaks, I have to always add more.

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