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Watermelon Rind Pickles (Gluten Free, Vegan)

watermelon rind pickles in a glass bowl

When melons are in season, the rinds usually end up in the compost pile, which is a shame because the rind is the healthiest part of the melon. So before you toss it out, try this old-fashioned Southern treat: Watermelon rind pickles.

Watermelon rind is a great source of Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Vitamin A, magnesium, and potassium. You can get even more vitamins and minerals in your watermelon by simply selecting the yellow flesh variety. The more yellow, the more nutritious it is.

Watermelon has higher concentrations of lycopene—an antioxidant that protects against cancer and cardiovascular disease—than any other fresh fruit or vegetable, and it also boosts the immune system.

For pregnant women, the benefits of watermelon rind go beyond just vitamins and minerals. The rind has also been proven to reduce heart burn or acid reflux, reduce swelling, and its natural sugars can even alleviate morning sickness and dehydration. 

In the third trimester, consuming watermelon rind can also reduce muscle cramps, as the amino acids citrulline and arginine contained in the fruit will help relax your blood vessels. So if you are pregnant, make sure you eat some watermelon rind from time to time.

Watermelon rind pickles have a sweet, sour, spicy, chutney flavor. All that soaking and cooking softens the rind to the consistency of a ripe pear.

The sugary syrup is, of course, pretty sweet, but the vinegar gives it a great tang, like a sweet Gherkin pickle. The cinnamon, pepper, allspice, and cloves add a lovely, autumn harvest flavor.

Normally, I like to lacto-ferment pickles, but traditional watermelon rind pickles need to be softened first by cooking, which unfortunately kills any bacteria that might do the pickling for you.

Traditional watermelon pickles are also sweet, and you really can’t get the sweet and sour, chutney-type flavor any other way than by using vinegar and sugar.

Other Pickle Recipes You’ll Love:

watermelon rind pickles in a glass bowl

Watermelon Rind Pickles

Watermelon rind is very nutritious, but usually gets thrown away! Use it up by making this delicious, old Southern treat: Watermelon rind pickles.
Print Pin
CourseSide Dish, Snack
CuisineAmerican, Fermented, Vegan, Vegetarian
DietGluten Free, Halal, Kosher, Low Lactose, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keywordwatermelon
Prep Time15 minutes
Cook Time1 hour 30 minutes
Chilling Time12 hours
Total Time13 hours 45 minutes
Servings16 servings
Calories201kcal

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Trim the pink flesh and the green outer skin from the watermelon rind.
  • Cut rind into small pieces, about 1" x 2" and measure out about 8 cups.
  • Put the rind into a large, nonreactive container and cover with brine made by combining 3 quarts filtered water and 3/4 cup sea salt. Refrigerate overnight.
  • In a saucepan, cover the watermelon rinds with the brine water and simmer until just fork-tender, about another 10 minutes. (Pay attention – Overcooking will cause the rinds to become rubbery.) Drain thoroughly.
  • Meanwhile, in a separate saucepan, combine sugar, vinegar, 1 cup water and spices. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, then add the cooked watermelon rinds to the pan.
  • Simmer watermelon rinds in the syrup until they become translucent, about 30 minutes.
  • Pack the hot watermelon pickles and syrup into clean, hot pint or half-pint jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
  • Wipe rims of jars with a dampened towel and apply two-piece metal canning lids. Without sealing, these pickles will last 2 weeks in the refrigerator.
  • To can and seal, submerge the full jars in boiling water (enough water so the jars are 1-2" below the surface); boil for 5 minutes (or slightly longer at higher altitudes).

Nutrition

Serving: 1oz | Calories: 201kcal | Carbohydrates: 50g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 5324mg | Potassium: 202mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 45g | Vitamin A: 685IU | Vitamin C: 10mg | Calcium: 51mg | Iron: 0.8mg

ENVIRONMENTAL INFO

Photo credit: Cantaloupe Alone

Updated June 15, 2021.

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About the author

Dawn Gifford

Dawn is the creator of Small Footprint Family, and the author of the critically acclaimed Sustainability Starts at Home - How to Save Money While Saving the Planet. After a 20-year career in green building and environmental sustainability, chronic illness forced her to shift her expertise and passion from the public sphere to home and hearth. Get the whole story behind SFF here.

16 Comments

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  • I briefly freeze my rinds( to soften slightly) then do a sweet lactoferment. They always come out great.

  • Actually, you can easily lacto-ferment raw watermelon rind in brine (no vinegar or cooking needed). I just did it last week. If you want them crunchy, they’ll be ready in 1-3 days at room temperature. If you want them soft, wait a few more days at room temperature… it’s not quite like the cooked version, but they are tasty in a different way, with a nice sour lactic acid bite.

    • Thanks for commenting! I was looking to make the traditional spicy-sweet pickles with lacto-fermentation in lieu of sugar and vinegar, but lacto-fermentation always makes things sour. The sour ones are very good too, but not the traditional Southern favorite.

  • This is also a favourite of Japanese people. Interesting how similar recipes turn up in different countries

  • You have me soooo intrigued! My first child will be one soon!!! How fast he is growing!!! I was SICK as a dog and also had really bad morning (all day) sickness every single day right up until I delivered him!

    So Im really going to try these! Love that you use coconut sugar!

    Can I make this with the seeded normal watermelons at my local farmers market? They aren’t yellow!

  • Wow, I’d never even heard of these! Can’t wait to give them a try, thanks for joining in on Real Food Wednesday!
    Kelly

    • Thanks Kelly! I hope you like them, the recipe is pre-Great Depression from the old South (with some adaptation on the type of sugar). You can also make them with slaked pickling lime, but I don’t particularly like that method. Enjoy!

  • Last summer my then-boyfriend made watermelon rind pickles. I didn’t grow up eating pickles that taste like this so I was never quite sure what to do with them, but I do like them. Maybe I’ll dig that jar out of the back of the fridge and figure out something to do with it this week 🙂 I’ll try this recipe next time, his used plain sugar.

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