Thai Style Grilled Watermelon Salad is a refreshing fun easy summer recipe with grilled Watermelon and cucumbers and a simple Thai dressing.
This spicy watermelon salad recipe is a great idea for summer picnics, graduation parties, grilling out or even as a side dish potluck idea. Watch our video to learn our easy hack for cutting a HUGE watermelon into sticks for grilling or for a garden party.
You are going to be amazed how sweet watermelon gets when it is grilled. Combined with sour lime, savory fish sauce and spicy chilis for the perfect Thai Cuisine bite. (Gluten free and vegan recipe options too!)
Table of Contents
Grilled Watermelon Salad
Yes, you heard that right, we grilled watermelon and cucumbers on the outdoor grill (BBQ). Hey wait! Aren’t those things ALWAYS supposed to be served cold? You know like the Spicy Garlic Cucumber Refrigerator Pickles? Well, they can be but wait until you pop them on the grill. That is when the magic happens.
You are going to love this Thai salad because the grilling brings out the natural sweetness of the melon with an explosion of flavors and textures going on in your mouth. In addition, the watermelon and cucumbers pick up a little smokey hint on the grill. If you try it just once, we bet you will be hooked.
Not only does grilling leave those cool grill marks but it also leaves the watermelon and cucumbers like little crisp sponges. They are ripe and ready to absorb all the delicious flavors of the Thai vinaigrette dressing. A perfect combination of natural sweetness, sour, savory and of course SPICY – the quintessential Thailand flavor palate.
Balancing Flavors and Textures
Do you know what happens to watermelon’s texture when it is grilled? When you bite into a grilled watermelon steak, it has the texture of a seared tuna steak. As you probably already know watermelon is about 91% water and contains 6% sugars.
When you grill a watermelon, some of water evaporates and firms the flesh of the watermelon. In addition, as there is less water to fruit ratio the sweetness intensifies but also so does the smokey flavor from the grilling process. Really unique! You need to give it a go.
The little extra crunch from the radishes and red onions makes for a fun salad. The dressing is super simple just a little fish sauce, fresh lime juice, cilantro, basil and of course some Thai chilis.
How to Cut a Watermelon Easily?
Wouldn’t it be convenient if all our watermelons were like the square or cube watermelons in Japan? There would be no worries on getting that huge oval or round wobbly watermelon into watermelon sticks, steaks or cubes. Have no fear, we have a solution for you!
Our grilled watermelon salad holds its shape so much better when the rind is kept on. It makes it easier to flip the watermelon on the grill and is a fun way to serve up this salad. Watermelon sticks are also fun to serve up at any summer party or gathering. So easy to eat and less messy compared to a wedge.
Step 1: Wash and dry your outer watermelon well. (Dry it well as you do not want a slippery watermelon)
Step 2: Grab a good and sharp butcher’s knife or in our case our Chinese cleaver. (Dull knives can cause accidents- sharp knives do not)
Step 3: Choose a heavy-duty table with a large cutting board. Make sure your cutting board is held firm to the table. If not, a quick hack is to place a slightly damp dish cloth underneath the cutting board to keep it stable.
Step 4: Cut the watermelon in half. Set aside one half. (It is best to put the pointy end of the knife in the skin to get it started and then slowly rotate the knife and your melon around to cut all the way through) Now, you should have 2 halves of watermelon.
Step 5: Lay the watermelon’s cut side down on the cutting board.
Step 6: Cut 2-inch slices across the watermelon. Turn 180 degrees and slice 2-inch slices in the opposite direction. (Bravo and well done! You have made watermelon sticks)
Check out our quick and easy video below. We have included a step-by-step easy watermelon cutting hack.
The blend and balance of sweet, salty, sour, and spicy is essential to our Thai Inspired Grilled Watermelon Salad recipe.
Watermelon – Seedless is the best as this will save you time picking out all the seeds. There are many different varieties of watermelons and sizes. Our watermelon weighed in at a whopping 10 pounds! Technically speaking, you could really use any type of melon for this recipe such as a honeydew, muskmelon (cantaloupe), rock melon and the list goes on.
Cucumber – We prefer the baby cucumbers or seedless cucumbers if you can get your hands on them. However, as the these were twice the cost, we chose the regular cucumbers and removed the seeds. Use what you have is always our motto! If you have extra cucumbers you may want to try our Seared Steak Salad with Strawberry Cucumber Salad or our Heirloom Tomato Cucumber Salad.
Fish Sauce – this funky sauce is what gives this watermelon fruit salad the savory component. If you want to keep this recipe vegan just add salt to taste. On the other hand, to keep this recipe gluten-free, there are many gluten-free fish brands on the market like Red Boat that work well.
Lime – Fresh lime juice is always best, but you can also substitute with lime concentrate if needed. (The kind in the little squeeze bottle) In addition, grating a little lime zest to garnish at the end is unbelievably delicious.
Chilis – We used Thai bird chilis for this recipe. However, you can substitute with your preferred fresh or even dried red chili flakes to give it your level of desired level. (Jalapeño, serrano, etc.) Please note that each type of chili has their own Scoville scale. Thai bird chilis are not for the faint of heart. They might be little, but they certainly pack a punch!
Fresh Herbs – Italian basil, Thai basil, mint, and watermelon salad with cilantro is so refreshing.
Crunchy Vegetables – this is the perfect time to access your crisper and use what you have. We choose radishes, onions, and peppers but anything goes here. Just a fun little extra crunch for texture.
Thai Dinner Recipe Ideas
Ok, now that we have the salad sorted, what about the rest of the menu? So glad you asked. We have a plethora of Thai Cuisine recipes on Healthy World Cuisine. What do think about this Thai dinner menu plan?
Thai Cuisine Flavors
Thai cuisine is all about balance in sweet, salty, sour, and spicy just like in our Prik Nam Pla sauce.
Sweet – Watermelon
Salty/Savory – fish sauce
Spicy - chili peppers
Sour - lime
If you don’t have fish sauce or want to keep this recipe vegan, add salt and white pepper to taste. In addition, there are many gluten-free brands of fish sauce on the market. Our Essential Thai Herbs and Spices is a great resource for all Thai ingredients and potential substitutions.
Is Eating Cold Foods Bad for Digestion?
Do you remember our Spiced Yam and Vegetable Stir Fry recipe? We talked about how eating cold and icy foods and drinks is hard on your body. We know when it is hot outside, you really crave that cold, icy drink, and cooling foods but that is not the best for gut health.
If you eat foods closer to your body temperature, your digestive powerhouse does not have to work so hard to extract the nutrients. You can read more about this in our Feed Your Spleen: Nourish Your Body article. Grilling your watermelon and cucumber brings these cooling foods up to temperature making them easier to digest.
Did you know that there are Five Energies of Food? Food is categorized as cold, cool, neutral, or warm or hot in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). A balance of both cool (yin) and warm (yang) foods are desired to keep the body in balance. Our Thai fruit and vegetable salad has a lovely mix of both cooling and warming foods to create balance.
Watermelon – cold
Cucumbers – cool
Chilis – hot
Fish sauce – if made from anchovies is warming.
Frequent Asked Questions (FAQ’s)
The salt balances the flavor. When you take the first bite your tongue tastes the salt. Then, when your tongue hits the watermelon flesh it seems to even taste sweeter due the contrast of the salt and the naturally sweet watermelon. The salt intensifies the sweetness of the watermelon fruit.
When watermelon is grilled, it intensifies in sweetness and takes on this delicious smoky flavor too. When you grill a watermelon, some of water evaporates and firms the flesh of the watermelon like the texture of seared ahi tuna. In addition, because there is less water to fruit ratio the sweetness intensifies but also so does the smoky flavor from the grilling process.
If you are grilling watermelon, you do not need to add extra oil to the watermelon. However, you do need to oil your grill grates well before grilling watermelon to prevent sticking.
Absolutely! Do you know all the miles and places on the floor those watermelons have been laying?
More Delicious Salad Recipes
Grilled Watermelon Salad (Thai Style + VIDEO)
- Grill or Grill pan
Thai Salad Dressing
- 2 tbsp lime juice
- 1 tbsp fish sauce (if you do not have just add a little bit of salt to balance the dish)
- 1-2 chili peppers
chopped (as desired to you heat liking). We used Thai bird chilis
- 2.5 pounds watermelon
or about 6 slices or 4 cups (horizontally slice watermelon and leave on the rind)
- 2 cucumber
small (deseeded, cut into lengthwise quarters -leave the skin on)
- 1 tablespoon oil olive oil to coat the cucumbers and grease the grill or grill pan
- salt if desired, add to cucumbers while on the grill.
- 2 shallots or small red onion sliced (or can use green onion chopped if you like)
- 5-6 radishes sliced thinly
- 4 mini sweet peppers sliced (optional)
- ⅛ cup basil (chopped or whole)- if you can find Thai Basil fantastic otherwise just exchange with regular sweet Italian basil and its just as delicious.
- ⅛ cup cilantro chopped or mint leaves if you prefer
- lime zest garnish - optional (if desired)
- salt and white pepper to taste if desired
- Step 1: Wash and dry your outer watermelon well. (Dry it well as you do not want a slippery watermelon)Step 2: Grab a good and sharp butcher’s knife or in our case our Chinese cleaver. Step 3: Choose a heavy-duty table with a large cutting board. Make sure your cutting board is held firm to the table. If not, a quick hack is to place a slightly damp dish cloth underneath the cutting board to keep it stable. Step 4: Cut the watermelon in half. Set aside one half. (It is best to put the pointy end of the knife in the skin to get it started and then slowly rotate the knife and your melon around to cut all the way through) Now, you should have 2 halves of watermelon. Step 5: Lay the watermelon’s cut side down on the cutting board. Step 6: Cut 2-inch slices across the watermelon. Turn 180 degrees and slice 2-inch slices in the opposite direction. (Bravo and well done! You have made watermelon sticks)Check out our quick and easy video below. We have included a step-by-step easy watermelon cutting hack.
- Leave the skin on the cucumbers. Wash well. Cut ends off. Slice cucumbers lengthwise so they are about the same length of you watermelon sticks. Remove seeds with a spoon. Slice lengthwise again.
- Toss the cucumbers in a little olive oil.
Make the Thai Dressing
- Mix lime juice, fish sauce and chili peppers together and set aside.
Grill and Combine
- Clean and oil your grill or grill pan with a little oil. Preheat grill to a medium high heat.
- Grill Watermelon and cucumber slices on the grill for just about 2-3 minutes on each side just to get a slight grill marks. Remove from grill. (We like to add a little salt to taste to the cucumbers while they are on the grill. )
- Place the grilled watermelon and cucumbers sticks on a serving platter. Top with radishes, shallots and sweet mini peppers . Drizzle on the Thai vinaigrette dressing, basil and cilantro (or mint). Garnish with a little lime zest if desired.
- Serve your Thai Grilled Watermelon Salad at room temperature or chilled to your liking. enjoy!