This watermelon jalapeño salad combines juicy pieces of watermelon, charred corn, fresh herbs, and crushed corn nuts in a spicy lime dressing. It's a quick, fresh, and flavorful vegan side dish on a hot summer day!
This spicy summer salad is SO easy and delicious! I'm a big fan of using incorporating fruit in savory dishes, and this recipe is no exception.
Growing up, we'd always eat grilled corn rubbed with chili, and lime, and this dish is inspired by those delicious spicy and tangy notes.
Why You'll Love This Recipe
This spicy watermelon salad features a combination of corn, jalapeño, and lime — a flavor profile typical of Indian or Mexican cuisine.
- It's Quick: This recipe comes together in just under 15 minutes!
- It's Easy: You only need 5 ingredients to get started.
- It's Flavorful: Juicy watermelon melds with charred corn, fresh herbs, lime, and jalapeños. An optional topping of corn nuts adds a salty crunch.
The fresher your ingredients, the more delicious your salad will taste!
- Watermelon: Fresh watermelon is the star of the dish, so make sure to pick a juicy, ripe fruit. Select a good watermelon that appears dull and is free of bruises, dents, or cuts. A creamy, yellow spot indicates ripeness (if it's white, it's likely underripe).
- Corn: I like to purchase unhusked corn and husk it myself to guarantee freshness.
- Herbs: Use your favorite combination of fresh, soft herbs, including cilantro, scallions or mint. I find using 100% cilantro can produce a very intense flavor, so I like to mix in some scallions or fresh mint.
- Jalapeño Pepper: Chopped raw jalapeños add a nice lingering heat to the dish. These peppers can vary considerably in heat, so if you're sensitive to spice, you'll want to de-seed it first.
- Corn Nuts: Optionally, a topping of corn nuts adds a nice crunch to the salad. They are available in South American grocery stores (and larger grocery chains like Whole Foods).
Swaps and Substitutions
- Nuts: Instead of corn nuts, try adding toasted, chopped cashews or peanuts!
- Herbs: Swap in fresh basil for the cilantro.
- Fruit: Use a 50/50 mix of fresh watermelon and pineapple for a tropical twist!
- Vegetables: Red onion and cucumbers would make wonderful add-ons here.
How to Make This Dish
Step 1 - Carefully cut the kernels off the cob with a sharp knife. I like to hold the cob over a large bowl as I'm slicing to make it easier to collect the kernels.
Step 2 - Cook the corn: Heat a large skillet with oil over medium-high heat. Add the kernels, and saute, stirring occasionally until they're nicely charred, about 5 minutes. Cool completely.
Note: You can also grill the corn on an outdoor grill! In this case, do not cut the kernels off the cob. Instead, cook the whole ear of corn directly on the grill until charred on all sides. Cool completely before cutting the kernels off the cob.
Step 3 - Prepare the dressing. In a small bowl with a lid (or a mason jar), combine oil, jalapeño, fresh lime juice, and lime zest.
Shake to combine, and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Step 4 - Serve. Transfer the corn kernels and watermelon cubes to a large, shallow dish. Pour lime juice mixture atop the watermelon, and toss to combine. Garnish with chopped corn nuts (if using), and sprinkle with a bit of flaky sea salt. Serve immediately.
The best way to keep watermelon from getting soggy is to cut and serve it fresh! But, if you need to prep ahead of time, I recommend storing the cut watermelon in a colander over a bowl, so excess juices will be strained out. Make sure to tightly wrap the colander with plastic wrap to prevent the fruit from oxidizing.
I don't recommend letting this sit for too long as the dressing can make the watermelon a bit soggy. However, you can prepare the components separate until ready to serve (i.e., keep the watermelon and corn in a bowl, store the salad dressing in a separate container, and keep the corn nuts in a plastic bag).
For even more cozy recipes, be sure to subscribe to my newsletter.Happy eating! Love, Karishma
Spicy Watermelon Jalapeño Salad
- 1 tablespoon neutral oil
- 1 ear of corn, husked
- 1 ½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, or avocado oil
- 1 lime, zested and juiced
- 1 large jalapeño pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped | you can leave the seeds in if you like a lot of heat
- ½ cup mixed finely chopped herbs, such as cilantro, scallions, or mint
- Salt and black pepper
- 1 pound watermelon, cut into bite-sized chunks to yield 1 ½ to 2 cups fruit
- ¼ cup corn nuts, optional
- Chili powder, optional, for more heat
Cook the corn:
- Strip the kernels: Hold 1 ear of corn over a large bowl. Use a sharp knife to slice off the kernels in a downward, sawing motion into the bowl.
- Set a cast-iron pan or large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon neutral oil, and stir in the corn kernels. Saute for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until corn is fully cooked and charred on multiple sides.1 ear of corn
- Remove the corn from the heat and cool to room temperature.
Prepare the dressing:
- In a small jar with a lid (or a small bowl), mix together 1 ½ teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, the juice and zest of 1 lime, the chopped jalapeños, and ½ cup mixed finely chopped herbs. If using a jar with a lid, you can shake to combine. Season the dressing with salt and pepper. Note: The dressing should taste slightly spicier, more acidic, and saltier than you'd like since it'll mellow out when tossed with the salad ingredients.1 tablespoon neutral oil, 1 lime, 1 large jalapeño pepper, ½ cup mixed finely chopped herbs, Salt and black pepper
Toss the salad:
- Add the watermelon and corn to a large, shallow bowl. Toss with the spicy lime dressing. Taste again, and season as needed.1 pound watermelon
Optional: Prepare the corn nut garnish
- If using corn nuts, place ¼ cup corn nuts in a sealed zip-loc bag.Crush them with the bottom of the small jar, a rolling pin, or a can. You're looking for pea-sized pieces (nothing smaller) for just a bit of crunch.¼ cup corn nuts
- Sprinkle corn nuts (and a pinch of chili powder if desired) on top of salad and serve immediately. Or, if you'd like to chill the salad further, you can place it in the fridge (without the corn nuts) up to 30 minutes before serving. Just before serving, top with the corn nuts.