Quick & Easy Watermelon Feta Salad is bursting with flavor with just the right amount of varying textures to make it the perfect salad for summer BBQs. It is sure to be a big hit!
This is one of my favorite summer salads to make and it's always the first to go at parties. Although the ingredients may sound a little unusual together, they work and create the perfect flavor combination.
The sweetness of the watermelon pairs perfectly with the tang of the dressing and salty feta cheese. The different textures in this salad are simply wonderful! I hope you give it a try if you haven't had it before. It's shockingly good.
Frequently Asked Questions
1-2 days in the refrigerator is about the lifespan of this salad. As it sits, juice is released and, after about 3 days, I find it to be too watery. While you can drain the excess liquid off, you will also be draining off the dressing. If you want to make this 2-3 days ahead of time, you can prep all the salad ingredients and add the dressing 1-2 hours before serving.
When choosing a watermelon from the grocery store or a farmer's market, there are two signs I look for to determine the best one to pick. If the watermelon is completely green all over, it isn't ripe. The best watermelons are ripened on the vine and they develop a yellowish look where they sit on the ground, so look for one that has a yellowish area on the bottom. The other way is to tap it. A ripe watermelon will have a hollow sound to it when tapped.
Absolutely! There are no rules with this easy summer salad. Use as much or as little of any of the ingredients as you like and adjust the dressing amounts accordingly.
What to serve with this Refreshing Summer Salad
This salad screams outdoor parties and bbq food and is the perfect summertime side dish. Try pairing it with these favorite easy recipes for a spectacular summer cookout!
Ingredients & Substitutions
Watermelon is the main ingredient and, while I think a different melon could be used, the texture and sweetness of watermelon will be the best choice for this salad.
When picking out a watermelon, I would choose a seedless watermelon to make things easier on you. If you get one that has seeds, you will want to remove the dark brown/black seeds for sure. The whitish seeds are usually soft enough and they go undetected in the salad.
Onions & Cucumbers
While both can be omitted, I love the crunch and flavor of a red onion in this recipe. You could also use a sweet onion, but the red onion adds a great color and it's my first choice in this salad. I haven't always used cucumbers in this salad, but love the added crunch.
If I have a cucumber on hand, I'll add it and, if I don't, I'll skip it. The cucumber won't make or break the salad, that is for sure. If using cucumber, I recommend English cucumbers which are seedless and the skin isn't as bitter as some other varieties.
You can certainly add in different types of vegetables to this watermelon feta salad recipe. Get creative and try out different things. I have seen variations where people add a few cups of baby arugula to add a bit of a peppery kick.
The feta cheese gives a saltiness to this watermelon salad that goes perfectly. It's mild enough not to be overpowering, but adds just the right amount of flavor.
If you wanted to use a firm ricotta, goat cheese or even cottage cheese, you can, but you might want to add some salt to the cheese so it adds that pop of flavor in the salad.
You can even make your own ricotta and better control the texture. Here is my recipe for making homemade ricotta cheese:
Fresh mint leaves balance all the other flavors in this watermelon salad recipe and I really recommend using it.
Although I have not tried this salad with other fresh herbs, I have seen some varieties using fresh basil leaves instead. Please let me know if you give that a try!
For a shortcut, you can grab your favorite balsamic vinaigrette and use that instead of making your own dressing. However, this is such a simple dressing, I hope you try it!
Vinegar: My vinegar of choice is balsamic vinegar because it has the perfect balance of tang and is slightly sweet. You can certainly use a red wine vinegar or even a white wine vinegar, but I don't recommend using plain white or apple cider vinegar.
You can also use a balsamic glaze, which is a thicker and more concentrated balsamic vinegar that is much sweeter. I would decrease the amount to about 1 Tablespoon and adjust to taste. I would also skip the honey if using a balsamic glaze.
Honey: This added the balance to the dressing that it needed, but you can use a different sweetener if you like. Go by taste and add as much or as little as you like of any sweetener or sugar substitute.
Lime: I use lime juice and a little zest in this dressing and I prefer the lime flavor over lemon, but lemon zest and juice can be used instead.
You can also omit the citrus if you think your dressing is balanced without it. I found the dressing needed that big of brightness from the lime juice and zest.
Oil: I used olive oil in this dressing, but you can use any oil you like. Avocado oil would be a good substitution because it won't impart it's own flavor into the dressing.
The oil is needed to balance the acids from the lime juice and the vinegar, so I don't recommend skipping it. You can add as little or as much oil as you want to the dressing and I encourage you to taste it as you add the oil to get the perfect balance for you.
How to Make Watermelon Feta & Cucumber Salad
I suggest starting out with your watermelon chilled. You can either place the entire watermelon in the fridge for 1-2 days or scoop the watermelon out and refrigerate for a few hours.
Even seedless watermelon have some small seeds and while they don't cause any issues if they are in the salad usually, I do try to remove as many as I can by running my scoop along where the seeds are are removing them. They make a great treat for my chickens!
You will need about 4 cups of watermelon that are 1-2" pieces. You can either cut little bite size squares or use a small scoop like I did.
I like to mix the salad in a separate bowl even if I am using the watermelon rind to serve. You will need a bowl that can comfortably hold at least 10 cups to make mixing the salad easy.
I leave the skin on my cucumbers, but you can certainly remove it if you prefer. Chop about 1-1½ cups of cucumber into small ½" cubes and add to the watermelon. Thinly slice the onion (I used ½ of a medium size red onion) until you have about ¾ cup and add to bowl.
Break up the fresh mint with your hands and add to the bowl. Crumble 4-6 ounces of feta (I like large crumbles) into the salad.
In a separate bowl or in a blender, add the balsamic vinegar, honey, salt, and zest and juice the lime. I used 1 small lime and ended up with 2 Tablespoons of juice, if your lime is larger only use 2 Tablespoons of the juice or you might end up with too much lime flavor that can really change the balance of the dressing. When zesting the lime make sure you don't zest the white part, that is the pith and it's very bitter.
Add in the olive oil while whisking. The amount you use is up to you, so give it a taste after the first 3-4 Tablespoons. I found 6 Tablespoons was perfect for me. The dressing will get thicker as the olive oil emulsifies with the other ingredients.
Pour the dressing over the watermelon salad and toss to combine. Refrigerate until use or serve immediately.
Either serve in the bowl you use to mix it or transfer it back into the hollowed out watermelon rind. Enjoy!
Watermelon Feta Salad
- 4 cups watermelon 1-2" cubes or scoops
- ¾ cup red onion thinly sliced (½ medium red onion)
- 4 ounces feta cheese
- ¼ cup fresh mint
- 1½ cups cucumber in ½" dice (½ large cucumber)
- 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1 lime zest and 2 Tablespoons of juice
- ½ teaspoon fine grind sea salt
- 6 Tablespoons olive oil
- Scoop out the watermelon into 1-2" balls or cubes and add to a large mixing bowl. Thinly slice the onion and chop the cucumber into ½" pieces and add to the bowl. Break apart the mint leaves and add to the bowl with the crumbled feta.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine the balsamic vinegar, honey, zest from 1 lime, 2 Tablespoons of lime juice, and salt. Stir to combine. Add in the olive oil and whisk until the olive oil creates an emulsion with the other dressing ingredients and thickens.
- Pour over the watermelon salad and toss to combine. Serve & Enjoy!