Tap Into Watermelon's Versatility

Watermelon continues to grow on foodservice menus, and there is room for more growth. A 2022 watermelon at foodservice consumer survey by Menu Matters revealed 72% of consumers agree that “fresh watermelon is under-appreciated, and that restaurants should be doing more to use fresh watermelon in new and interesting ways.” Summer is peak watermelon season, but opportunities exist to extend the availability of watermelon on menus both from a consumer and sourcing perspective. From mid-spring to early fall, watermelon is available from more than 30 states across the U.S.; from fall to early spring, watermelon is available from Central and South America.

Watermelon is 100% usable and appeals to all of the senses. The popular flesh has a sweet, fruity flavor with cucumber notes, beautiful color and crisp juicy texture. Also consider the rind, with its crunchy texture and slight tartness that can be used like soft- and hard-shell squash. Using the whole watermelon is a sustainable way to capture customer attention and lower food waste at the same time.

Fresh watermelon’s color, crunch and flavor add customer appeal to salads and salsas, but consider surprising your guests by roasting, grilling, smoking, or compressing their favorite melon to build craveable flavors in dishes like tea-smoked watermelon bao, grilled watermelon kebabs, watermelon carpaccio or chirashi don. Experiment with cooking techniques that reveal the fruit’s culinary potential.

Watermelon is a versatile ingredient that adds a unique sensory appeal to alcoholic drinks, as well as no- and low-alcoholic beverage choices. Puréed watermelon and watermelon juice add texture and a delicious, almost savory, flavor to classic beverage offerings, like refreshing granita punch, icy spicy mojito and easy-to-drink paloma. It also puts a spin on the Negroni with fresh watermelon-infused Campari.

Watermelon rind has potential, but consumer acceptance will likely be pushed by chefs showcasing the rind on menus. The rind can be the star in savory recipes, such as North African preserved chutney, kimchi, slaw, plant-forward Massaman curry, and the classic Southern watermelon rind pickle. The rind can also be candied for dessert and drink garnishes.

Think about the harmony of flavors when considering new ways to use watermelon. Choir directors understand how voices blend, accentuate each other and create a sound that is better together. Layering ingredients is very similar. Think of watermelon’s formats as the tasting base and how its flavor and texture can create synergies with ingredients from around the globe as you consider building new flavor experiences for your patrons. Although nostalgic, most consumers believe watermelon can be an on-trend ingredient.

For example, watermelon is a natural in Middle Eastern or Greek cuisine – but take it beyond feta and use watermelon with the fattiness of tahini, the herby and slightly nutty notes of za’atar, or the umami of preserved lemon. Now imagine the possibilities with the rind, flesh or juice across the menu.

Explore watermelon’s versatility by combining flavors and textures in complementary and contrasting ways to create new food and beverage offerings your patrons will crave throughout the year.

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