Watermelon Tomatillo Salad


Summertime Watermelon & Tomatillo Salad: Beat the Heat!

This year I promised my boys we would plant goodies in the backyard to harvest ourselves. At the nursery, jumping up and down as in a candy shop, they dragged so many plants to the counter, I had to give an absolute NO to half of them.

We ended up with thyme, oregano, bay leaves, rosemary, mint, parsley, and cilantro.  Ok, and tomatoes, cherry and roma. Fine… corn too, don’t know what I was thinking. And wait! We couldn’t leave without jalapeños, which led me to run for some tomatillos. And scallions. I stopped there. I did.

Then Sami came back with a little watermelon plant.  That was the wildest idea, oh, that monster of mine. We’ve no room to grow watermelon. I told him about the big wide fields in Northern Mexico, in states like Sonora, Chihuahua, Jalisco and Sinaloa where watermelon is grown extensively. Our backyard is… not so big.

Beats me.

We brought home Sami’s watermelon plant.

chopped up watermelon
As the weeks went by, we saw many of the plants thrive, except the watermelon which seemed to take an awful long time to  grow. Then one day the editors from Babble asked me for a custom recipe. By then, I was eagerly thinking about what would make the sweet, watery crunch from that soon to grow watermelon shine the most.

This is what I came up with…

Thinly sliced, raw, punchy and tart tomatillos. Much firmer than the watermelon, and just look at the color contrast. Not to say about the flavor combination.

To coat this unconventional pairing, I wanted a vinaigrette with some some gentle heat. I got it from the jalapeños, which you will never have trouble finding in our backyard as Juju made markers for each plant… I am proud to say, the boy knows his Ñ’s.

jalapenos in the garden
I coarsely chopped the chiles, as I like to feel their friendly bite. But you can give them a finer chop and even remove the seeds.


With the already unusual watermelon and tomatillo pairing, I went unusual again, and added some chopped fresh mint.

Mint  has been growing wild here, as all mint tends to… Although we planted ours in the ground while still in their protective pots, to keep them in check. It doesn’t seem to give a hoot. Its wild.

Soaked the jalapeño and the mint with fresh squeezed lime juice, a bit of straight forward white distilled vinegar which makes everything it coats more crisp, the oils and salt… Gave it a bit of time, 5 to 10 minutes, to sit and get acquainted.

Poured the vinaigrette over the red and green. Yet not only was the salad screaming for some white (partly to round the colors of the Mexican flag, for one thing…) but also for some salty taste with some heartiness to it. Hence the Feta Cheese. Now you can go for anything tangy, salty and crumbly: queso fresco or farmers’ cheese works well too.

feta cheese
While we had the chance to harvest and eat the jalapeño, mint and tomatillos from our backyard, that watermelon never came to be… some bunnies got to it before we did.

But just day dreaming about it made me come up with one of my favorite recipes. It is so bright, so alive, so peppy and so summery!

Luckily there are plenty of amazing watermelons at the stores… we will have to give it another go next summer to harvest our own.

watermelon and tomatillo salad
Meanwhile I can’t help but repeat this salad that hits all the taste buds!  Sweet from the watermelon, salty from the cheese, spicy from the chile, tart from the lime and tomatillos and refreshing from the mint. Oh, you just have to give it a try…

Summertime Watermelon & Tomatillo Salad

Ensalada de Sandía y Tomate Verde

Recipe Yield

4 servings

Cooking time

20 minutes

Rate this recipe

4.34 from 6 votes


For the salad:

  • 4 cups watermelon cut into bite size chunks or cubes
  • 2 cups, about 1/2 pound tomatillos husks removed, thoroughly rinsed, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 2/3 cup, about 3 ounces mild feta or queso fresco crumbled or cut into small dice

For the vinaigrette:

  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves about 5 to 6, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon jalapeño or serrano chile or to taste (seeding optional)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

To Prepare

  • Place the watermelon cubes and tomatillo slices in a large bowl.
  • In a small bowl, add the chopped mint and jalapeno. Squeeze the fresh lime juice on top, stir in the vinegar, sprinkle the salt and mix. Pour the olive oil and vegetable oil, and mix with a whisk or fork until well emulsified.
  • Pour the vinaigrette on top of the watermelon and tomatillos, toss well and sprinkle the cheese on top.


33comments inSummertime Watermelon & Tomatillo Salad: Beat the Heat!

  1. Janet Gomez Canaday

    Jul 12

    Buenos Dia Senora Pati,

    I will continue in English… 🙂

    I made this salad on July 4th for my family and we all loved it tremendously! So refreshing and tasty.
    Will always love you, your smile and your boys.
    Dios de Bendiga y Gracias para los recitas…

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 25

      Muchisimas gracias Janet, que amable y que lindas tus palabras, te mando un abrazo.

  2. James D.

    Jun 23

    Hello Pati, Love your show I love to learn about other cultures and your shows to Mexico are AWESOME especially the episode to Sinaloa. Show this recipe and tried it now our go to summer salad used Fresno chilies from my garden. Keep up the great work. THANKS

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 03

      Thanks for the kind words James, such a great idea to use Fresnos in this salad, yum!

  3. Sharon P.

    Jun 21

    I know this will be my new favorite summer salad and I haven’t even tasted it. Every ingredient makes my mouth water.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 22

      Hope you’ll fix it soon Sharon, thank you!

  4. Miguel Romo

    Jun 21

    Excelente receta, gracias y está muy sabrosa

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jun 22

      Que bueno que te gusto Miguel, saludos!

  5. Tcavenaugh@hotmail.com

    Jun 21

    Ir looks delicious.
    I have to try it. I never had tomatillos in a salad 😋

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 03

      You will be amazed by the tomatillos here, enjoy!

  6. Amber

    Sep 07

    Made this last night and I’m so glad I did! I’m only sad I didn’t try it sooner. I should have been enjoying it all summer. It is so delicious and refreshing! A new favorite, go to summer salad. Thank you Pati!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Sep 07

      Enjoy it for the rest of the summer, Amber!

  7. Michellery

    Jul 27

    Fabulous. My go to potluck salad for the rest of the summer!

    1. Pati

      Jul 29

      Awesome! Enjoy your summer, Michellery.

  8. Patricia

    Aug 27

    Hola Pati,
    I can’t wait to try this recipe. I grow my own tomatillos from seed and love the taste so much. I was inspired to look on your website for a recipe after seeing your Pinata Party episode when you put tomatillos, watermelon and feta cheese on skewers with a sauce for dipping. I couldn’t find that recipe, but this one sounds so much better.
    Love your show. First saw you on the Chew and was very impressed with the fact that you talk like a regular person. You made me feel like I was learning to cook from a neighbor or close friend. Thank you for being so real and not pretentious.

    1. Pati

      Aug 31

      Hola Patricia, Thank you so much for your message and for watching my show! How lucky you are to have tomatillos growing in your garden. The salad is fabulous! If you decide you also want to try the skewers, the recipe is here: http://patijinich.com/pati_2020/2014/01/watermelon-tomatillo-and-mozzarella-skewers-with-lime-honey-vinaigrette/

      1. Cristina

        Jul 19

        Hi Patti! The link to the recipe for the skewers is not working.

  9. Linda Pefanis

    Jun 21

    Just watched your show for the first time and I can’t wait to try all the recipes plus the watermelon and tomatillo salad I found on your website. My tastebuds are dancing.

    1. Pati

      Jun 21

      Good to hear, Linda!

  10. Joey

    Sep 09

    ¡Hola, Pati!
    Great idea for tomatillos.
    ps- love your show.

  11. Daniel

    Sep 07

    Pati, I love your show and enjoy reading your recipes. Gracias!!

  12. Teresa

    Aug 28

    What colorful dish! Yummy! Next year, let the ninos start watermelon seeds in cups and transplant them when the ground is warm. It takes more than one plant to harvest watermelons.

  13. Carla B.

    Aug 19

    Well, finally tried it, and YES! It really, really works. Could I have possibly even doubted that it would? I should know better by now, Pati; all your recipes are excellent!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Aug 20

      Gracias Carla!! So glad you liked it!!

  14. Douglas

    Aug 16

    What a fantastic show, but it makes me so hungry!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Aug 16

      Douglas, I will take that as a good sign!! 🙂

  15. Olivia

    Aug 12

    I was reading the blog and even before I got to the feta I thought “feta would be good in this”…then there it was…FETA!
    This sounds yummy! Can’t wait to try!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Aug 15

      Olivia, I so hope you enjoy the salad! It really will be a relief from the summer heat!

  16. Carla B.

    Jul 30

    Oh, wow! Gotta try this. I must admit, I’ve slacked off frequenting your blog because I’ve been doing a low-carb diet. But not an extreme version that avoids fruits, so this recipe is on my to-make list, for sure. It’s rare to find a raw use for tomatillos, though I’ve often thought they’ve got potential that way.

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 31

      Hola Carla! Welcome back : ) I am hoping you’ll love the combination of the sweet watermelon with the tart and punchy raw tomatillos… and it is all juicy and fresh.

  17. Irene Raymond

    Jul 30

    This sounds TERRIFIC! I’m going shopping for the ingredients today! GRACIAS, Pati!

    1. Pati Jinich

      Jul 31

      Oh, it is my pleasure!

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