Watermelon Salad with Habanero-Pickled Onions and Lime Salt

Bold, crunchy, and tangy, this recipe is everything you want in a summer side dish.

  • Serves


  • Cook

    4 hours 20 minutes


By Carla Hall

Updated on June 14, 2024

Red food and drinks are a fixture of Juneteenth gatherings, both a symbol of the hardships overcome by enslaved people and a celebration of traditional red-tinged special-occasion ingredients from Africa, such as hibiscus and kola nuts. Watermelon and spice are also found at many Juneteenth parties, and this recipe, adapted from chef and TV personality Carla Hall, combines both for a refreshing summer salad with a tangy bite.


For the pickled onions:

  • ½ medium red onion (4 oz.), thinly sliced
  • 1 fresh or dried bay leaf
  • 1 habanero chile, stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • ¼ tsp. kosher salt
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar

For the lime salt:

  • 1 Tbsp. kosher salt
  • 2 tsp. finely grated lime zest

For the salad:

  • 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 7 medium red radishes (5 oz.), thinly sliced
  • 4½ lb. seedless watermelon, rind removed and flesh cut into 1-in. cubes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh mint leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling


Step 1

Make the pickled onions: In a small bowl, stir together the onion, bay leaf, habanero, sugar, and salt. Transfer to an 8-ounce jar, then add the vinegar, cover tightly with a lid, and shake well. (The pickling liquid may not cover the onion mixture at first, but the onions will wilt over time and end up immersed.) Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 1 week, shaking occasionally.

Step 2

Make the lime salt: In a spice grinder or small food processor, pulse the salt and lime zest until well combined. Transfer to an airtight container and set aside. (The lime salt can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 months.)

Step 3

Make the salad: Fill a medium bowl with ice water and stir in the salt until dissolved. Add the radishes and set aside until very crisp, about 5 minutes. 

Step 4

Drain the radishes through a fine-mesh strainer, discarding the soaking liquid, then return the radishes to the bowl. Drain the onions through the strainer, discarding the pickling liquid and the bay leaf, then add them to the bowl with the radishes. Add the watermelon, season to taste with black pepper, and gently toss with your hands until well combined.  

Step 5

Transfer to a platter and top with the mint and a drizzle of oil. Sprinkle with lime salt to taste just before serving.

Continue to Next Story

Want more SAVEUR?

Get our favorite recipes, stories, and more delivered to your inbox.