My Mexican Melon Salad with juicy diced watermelon, cantaloupe, and honeydew has a hint of chile, and a pop of fresh lime ~ it’s ¡deliciosa!
melon salad is an unexpected summer side
Are you looking for something a little different to serve with your burgers at your next cookout? My melon salad is a Mexican inspired fruit salad with an attitude. This unique salsa-style salad adds a colorful fresh crunch to everything you’re serving. If you’re not a fan of spice you can leave it out, but why would you? Sweet juicy melon paired with the mild warmth of chiles are a favorite in a country that knows how to eat to beat the heat.
did you know?
Melons are native to Africa and the Middle East, and were brought to the Americas by Spanish explorers. Mexican melon salads are known for their vibrant colors, refreshing flavors, and the incorporation of contrasting flavors like citrus, chile, and herbs. Melons are among the most hydrating fruits, with watermelon containing a whopping 92% water!
melon salad ingredients
- Where to start? There are so many classic melons varieties out there, with new (and heirloom) varieties available, depending on where you live, so check those farmers markets!
- I used seedless watermelon, honeydew, cantaloupe, and Tuscan style cantaloupe, because that’s what they had at my supermarket and I like the combination of colors.
- You don’t have to mix your melons for this salad, a single variety can be just as effective and delicious. Check out my Watermelon Salsa for inspo.
- fresh lime juice is the ‘dressing’ for this salad. The acidity of the lime balances out the sweetness of the melon. No oil is necessary so this is a low cal side dish option.
- the slight sharpness from the onion complements the sweet melon. If you find the raw onion flavor too strong, you can soak the sliced onions in cold water for a few minutes to mellow their taste.
- you know me, I’ll add jalapeño to just about anything, but here it makes lots of sense. Remember jalapeños aren’t super spicy, but their savory warmth adds nice depth to the salad.
- is any ingredient more polarizing? If you love it you’ll understand what it’s doing here. If you loathe it, leave it out and substitute fresh mint.
- You want actual ground chile, which is simply dried chiles, ground into a powder. It can be mild or spicy, depending on which variety you buy. I used chipotle chile powder, which is hot. But I only add half a teaspoon, so don’t be afraid of it.
chile powder vs chili powder
Spelling matters: chile powder and chili powder are different ingredients. For this melon salad you want chile powder (I always keep both in my spice cabinet)
- Chile Powder: It refers to ground dried chili peppers, specifically in Latin American and Mexican cuisine. The specific pepper used can vary, such as ancho, guajillo, or pasilla. Chile powder adds distinct flavor and heat to traditional Mexican dishes.
- Chili Powder: It’s a spice blend commonly used in American cuisine, containing ground chili peppers, along with spices like cumin, garlic powder, and oregano. It has an earthy, mildly spicy flavor and is used in dishes like chili con carne and Tex-Mex cuisine.
In recent years, there has been a growing trend to introduce more melon varieties to the market, with California, Arizona, Texas, and Florida leading the charge. These new melons offer different flavors, textures, and colors, providing consumers with more options and variety. Look for Honey Kiss, Galia, Canary, Crenshaw, and Orange Honeydew, among others. There are also newer seedless watermelon varieties like Sugar Baby which have a more vibrant flavor and would be perfect for this salad.
more summer melon recipes to try
how to petite cut your melon
For most melon salads the fruit is cut in irregular chunks. This makes sense, as melons are round, with thick rinds, and aren’t conducive to cutting into regular shapes. On top of that most of them have seed cavities in the center, making it. Watermelon is the easiest, since there’s no central cavity and you can slice and dice thin slabs of fruit into small cubes. I use my favorite Alligator Chopper for the job.
It’s a little more difficult with other melons, but I follow the same principle ~ removing the rind and creating rectangular slabs that I can dice.
One nice thing about this salad is you can serve it in individual glasses for elegant entertaining, or dish it up in plastic cups for a barbecue. People will be looking for seconds, I guarantee it.
FAQS and TIPS about Mexican melon salad
Is Mexican melon salad spicy?
- Mexican melon salad can have a mild to moderate level of spiciness, depending on the type of chile powder used. The chile powder (or Mexican spice mix Tajín,) adds a hint of spiciness but is generally not overwhelming. You can adjust the spiciness to your liking by adding more or less chile powder.
What other types of melon can I use?
- Canary: Similar to a cantaloupe, but with a distinct sweetness
- Galia: The look of a cantaloupe with the taste of a honeydew
- Hami: Sweet, floral aroma with a firm and crunchy texture
- Lemon Drop: Tart and sweet in flavor with a hint of juciness
- Orange Honeydew: A sweet combo of honeydew and cantaloupe taste
- Honey Kiss: The interior flesh is a pale, peach color and is crisp and juicy.
What else can I add to this melon salad?
- Some popular additions include diced pineapple, sliced strawberries, or even chunks of jicama. You can also add diced cucumber.
Can I add cheese to Mexican melon salad?
- Yes, adding cheese is a common variation of Mexican melon salad. Crumbled cotija cheese or feta cheese can be sprinkled on top.
Do I have to cut the melon in small cubes?
- No, you can slice the melon, or cut it in rough chunks. Use a melon baller, if you like. I’ve seen beautiful versions made with very thin wedges of melon.
Is Mexican melon salad a side dish or a dessert?
- Serve Mexican melon salad as a side dish or a light dessert. If serving as dessert you might consider swapping the cilantro for fresh mint.
How could I spike this?
- I’d add a drizzle of rum or Prosecco just before serving in pretty cocktail for wine glasses.
How far ahead can I make this salad?
- Make it up to an hour or two ahead. I don’t recommend making it the day before, as the fruit will start to deteriorate once cut and the salad will get watery.
Melon Salad with Chile and Lime
- 4 cups seedless watermelon, cut in small dice
- 2 cups cantaloupe, cut in small dice
- 2 cups honeydew melon, cut in small dice
- 2 cups Tuscan melon, cut in small dice
- 1/3 cup red onion, minced
- 1 jalapeño, finely minced, optional
- the juice of a large lime, or more to taste
- 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped*
- 1/2 tsp chipotle chile powder
- Toss everything together in a large bowl. Taste to see if you'd like to add more lime juice, or chile powder.
- The salad can be served immediately, or chilled until needed. I recommend chilling for an hour or so which will make the salad more refreshing. Juices will collect at the bottom of the bowl, so I gently toss again before each serving.
- Store leftover melon salad covered in the refrigerator. Best eaten the same day it's made.