10-Minute Summer Salad Recipe: Spicy Watermelon-Cucumber Salad

Inviting some pals over to hang out can quickly turn stressful when you realize they’re going to expect some food. Before you reach for your phone to order delivery, take a few deep breaths. Homemade eats don’t have to be difficult. With original recipes from our Everyday Appetizers series, you can pull off showstopping starters without losing your cool. 

Even though it’s a silly buzzword, superfood is definitely an accurate term for watermelon. We’re only half talking about the nutritional benefits because this all-star fruit is packed with sweet, juicy flavor that most of us crave all summer. But you can only make so many renditions of watermelon salad with feta and red onion before you start to get bored, so we’re introducing you to your new favorite way to use the fruit with this sweet and spicy summer salad recipe.

About this recipe

overhead shot of spicy watermelon-cucumber salad

Spicy watermelon-cucumber salad | Christine Skopec/Culture Cheat Sheet

All great summer salads have bold flavor, lots of crunch, and a hefty dose of acid. It sounds easy enough, but maintaining all three of these criteria at the same time is actually kind of tough. Taste and acidity were the easiest to take care of. By adding some spicy serrano and fresh herbs to the fruit, you get a phenomenal amount of flavor. Lime juice was a clear choice for the acid component because it has more pucker than lemon without washing out the rest of the salad the way vinegar sometimes can.

By far and away, the biggest problem with watermelon salads is texture since the fruit expels so much moisture. Your once-crisp greens suddenly turn soggy after a quick toss. We avoided this problem by skipping lettuce entirely, opting instead for raw cucumber and snap peas. Follow this method, and you’ll have the most refreshing, crunchy salad for an easy appetizer or even a light lunch.

spicy watermelon-cucumber salad close-up

Detail of spicy watermelon-cucumber salad | Christine Skopec/Culture Cheat Sheet

After cutting the watermelon and cucumber, keep them in separate bowls. Both ingredients start to leech out water once chopped, so you’ll want to be able to drain any accumulated liquid off before tossing everything together. Some recipes get around this problem by salting the produce, then letting it drain beforehand. This is definitely an option, but you lose some of the freshness and it makes the process lengthier. As long as you truly wait until the last minute to toss, you don’t need to worry about it.

Before we get to the salad, though, it’s time to make the dressing. Just whisk together the lime juice, minced serrano chile, a bit of salt, then the olive oil. It might sound a little strange to add the serrano to the dressing rather than the other veggies, but it’s not completely random. The heat from the chile leeches out into the dressing, so you’ll end up with an even spice level throughout the whole salad.

This dish is designed to be moderately spicy, but it really depends on your specific chile. Some of them are shockingly hot while others are almost as mild as a bell pepper. If you’re worried about too much heat, remove the ribs and seeds before adding the serrano to your dressing. You can also substitute with a jalapeño.

The best way to get rid of the excess liquid from the cucumbers and watermelons is to use a colander, so give both of them a quick drain before transferring to a large bowl. Add your peas, dressing, and start tossing. We like to add the herbs right at the end to make sure they don’t get too bruised. Adjust the salt level, give one final toss, then serve this salad as soon as possible. We won’t judge if you eat it straight out of the bowl.

Spicy Watermelon-Cucumber Salad

individual portion of spicy watermelon-cucumber salad on a plate

Serving of spicy watermelon-cucumber salad | Christine Skopec/Culture Cheat Sheet

While this salad is best eaten right away, you definitely shouldn’t throw out leftovers. Just drain off the liquid, then adjust the taste with additional lime juice, olive oil, and salt. This recipe makes enough to serve 4.


  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 1 serrano chile, minced
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 pound peeled, seedless watermelon, cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 small English cucumber, seeded and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 1 cup sugar snap peas, cut into ½-inch lengths
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh mint

Directions: In a small bowl, combine lime juice with minced chile and a hefty pinch of salt. Let sit for 2 minutes, then whisk in olive oil.

Using a colander, drain off accumulated liquid from watermelon and cucumber pieces. Transfer watermelon and cucumber to a large bowl, add peas, and season with salt. Drizzle dressing over top and toss. Add herbs and toss once more. Season with more salt, if needed, and serve at once.

Follow Christine on Twitter @christineskopec

More from Culture Cheat Sheet: