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Thai Watermelon Salad

Watermelon just got a savory upgrade.

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Nothing cools down a hot summer day quite like taking a juicy bite of watermelon. And while a simple slice with a sprinkling of salt is a classic tried-and-true way to utilize watermelon, this never elevates or graduates watermelon from the after-meal quasi-dessert category. Here, this Thai Watermelon Salad takes watermelon and makes it a part of the dinner plate. A royal flush of flavors mixes with watermelon to create a complex dressing that coats not just the melon but also thinly sliced onions, cucumbers, and cashews as well.

This version of Thai Watermelon Salad is simple but complex at the same time. Each ingredient of the dish is a strong contributor that adds a unique and needed flavor to enhance and complement all of the components of the salad.

The dressing is packed full of savory umami elements like soy sauce, sesame seeds, and fish sauce (or Worcestershire sauce if you can’t find fish sauce). These three ingredients create a solid base for other ingredients like zippy ginger, floral lime, and tart vinegar, which all add contrast. A sprinkling of salt and pepper alongside a pinch of brown sugar creates a dressing that’s not only delicious in this recipe but can work as a dressing for lettuce-based salads. 

Once the salad dressing is whisked together, it’s time to add all of the remaining salad components. Seedless cubed watermelon gets added alongside thinly sliced onion, chopped roasted cashews, and roughly chopped cucumbers. 

You can serve this salad right away, or you can let the salad set in the fridge, but if you do so, know that the onions and cashews might lose their crunch. 

A garnish of mint and basil (bonus points if you can find Thai basil) adds another bit of freshness that makes this the perfect warm-weather salad. The watermelon, cucumbers, and onion give you a well-needed dose of produce packed full of water, and the cashews give the salad some grounding with a denser, earthier crunch. 

This is the perfect salad to have after a hot day under the summer sun, as well as a way to use watermelon beyond the classic bowl of plain cubed watermelon sitting solitarily in its own juices. 

Biting into this salad is like traveling without a ticket. All of the elements are familiar, but at the same time, when combined together, make for a unique and complex dish. 

Yield(s): Serves 4

20m prep time

Allergens: Nuts

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For the dressing:
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon white or rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon fish sauce or Worcestershire sauce
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
For the salad:
  • 4 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
  • 1 to 2 seedless cucumbers, quartered
  • 1 small Vidalia or sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup chopped roasted salted cashews
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, roughly chopped
To make the dressing:
  1. In a bowl whisk together lime juice, soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, ginger, and fish sauce. Season with salt and pepper, set aside.
To make the salad:
  1. In another bowl combine watermelon, cucumber, cashews, mint, and basil.
  2. Pour dressing over everything, using a rubber spatula to gently combine everything.
  3. Serve immediately or wrap the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve. This salad can be made the night before. If making the night before, don't add the onions and cashews and toss them in right before serving.

Recipe adapted from Every Last Bite.