If you’re looking for a refreshing and vibrant summer side, this watermelon basil salad is it! It has less than 10 ingredients, including juicy watermelon, crisp cucumber, and fragrant basil leaves that are tossed in an easy homemade white balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Whether you’re hosting a barbecue or seeking a light and healthy dish for your next meal, this simple gluten-free recipe is a must-try – make it the morning of then chill it for the day and watch your friends and family devour it for dinner.
Is watermelon good on its own?
But it’s better in this salad.
If you’re constantly in search of good side dishes, I get it.
We grill a lot, especially in the summer, and I’m always on the lookout for sides that are easy to make and taste great with grilled meats.
This watermelon basil salad is exactly that.
Make it tonight and see for yourself.
Grab these ingredients!
(Note: the full ingredients list, including measurements, is provided in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.)
For the salad:
- Watermelon – I recommend a seedless watermelon so you don’t have to spend time digging the seeds out. You could also buy pre-cut watermelon if you want to cut down on the prep work.
- Cucumber – again, you may want to buy the seedless cucumber though any cucumber will work just fine. Err on the side of a skinnier cucumber rather than a thicker one as the thicker one will have more and/or larger seeds.
- Basil – you want fresh basil here, not dried. When buying it, double-check to ensure the leaves aren’t brown or wilting.
For the white balsamic dressing:
- White balsamic vinegar – not to be confused with regular (dark) balsamic vinegar, this version is milder and has a very light, almost clear color. It’s great for fresh fruits and salads. I am able to find it in my local grocery stores, but you can always order it from Amazon if you need to.
- Oil – use a mild oil for this dressing. I prefer to use avocado oil but if you like the taste of extra virgin olive oil you could use that too.
- Honey – you don’t need much honey as the white balsamic vinegar is already slightly sweet. If your honey is very thick or has hardened a bit, warm it up in a small microwave-safe dish before adding it to the dressing so it incorporates more easily.
- Kosher salt – This recipe calls for Diamond Crystal kosher salt, which is my preferred salt. It is less salty by volume than other salts which means it leaves a little more room for error when salting your food. If you are using a different type of salt (kosher or otherwise), you’ll want to use this salt conversion chart from Epicurious to determine how much salt to use.
How to make watermelon basil salad
(Note: please see the recipe card at the end of this post for the complete written instructions.)
Making this salad is quite easy – you just follow three main steps:
- Make the dressing;
- Cut the veggies; and
- Combine it all together.
How do you cut a watermelon salad?
There are several ways to cut watermelon, and it depends on how you’ll be eating the watermelon. You can cut it into wedges, sticks, or cubes. Below I’m providing instructions for how I cut it into cubes, but you can also view this video for how to cut watermelon three different ways.
If you make this watermelon and cucumber salad recipe, then don’t forget to leave a star rating and let me know how it went in the comments below!
Light & Fresh Watermelon Basil Salad
- A small mason jar with a lid
- ½ tbsp white balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp oil
- ⅛ tsp Diamond Crystal salt
- ¾ tsp honey
- 1 medium seedless watermelon between 6.5 and 7 lbs, or about 4 lbs of cut watermelon
- 1 cucumber about 12 ounces
- 10 basil leaves medium- to large-sized
- Make the salad dressing first. Measure out each ingredient with the appropriate measuring spoon and place it into that jar.
- Secure the lid on the jar and shake it until the ingredients are thoroughly combined. Set aside while making the salad.
- Next cut up the watermelon. Start by slicing it in half on a large cutting board with a large sharp knife. Slice that half into half again so you have a quarter of the watermelon. Set it on one side and cut large slices of the watermelon, about 1 inch thick. They will be shaped like half-moons. Take one of the slices and cut it in half so you have two wedges. If there are more seeds in the watermelon than you’d like, use the tip of the knife to gently dig them out of the watermelon.
- Make cuts an inch or so apart down one side of the wedge all the way to the rind, then along the other side to cut out inch-sized pieces. Place the pieces in a large bowl and discard the rind. Repeat the process until all of the watermelon is cut.
- Cut up the cucumber next. Rinse the cucumber off then place it on the cutting board and slice the rounded ends off with the large sharp knife. Cut the body of the cucumber it into roughly inch-sized slices. Cut each slice into four pieces and add the pieces to the bowl of watermelon. Repeat until all of the cucumber is cut up.
- The final item to chop is the basil. Take half of the leaves and stack them on top of each other. Roll them tightly together then use a sharp knife to thinly slice the leaves into little ribbons. Do the same with the other half of the basil, then use your fingers to unfurl the ribbons. If they’re too long you can chop them up a bit with the knife, then sprinkle them over the fruit in the bowl.
- Shake up the dressing then unscrew the lid and drizzle it over the salad. Use a large soft spatula to gently stir the salad together. You can either serve it immediately or cover the salad with a lid or plastic wrap and store it in the fridge to serve later.
- This salad is best served the day of, after being chilled for an hour or two, though it can be served immediately after being made.
- Don’t drain the liquid out of the salad – this helps keep the watermelon juicy.
- The salad will be okay to eat for several days after making it when stored in an airtight container in the fridge, however both the watermelon and particularly the cucumber will start to soften.
- If you don’t like cucumber, you can simply omit it from the recipe. Still use the same amount of watermelon, basil, and dressing.