Don't Throw Out Your Watermelon Rinds — Make Kimchi Instead

Watermelon is arguably our favorite summer fruit, with good reason. It's juicy and refreshing, the kiddos think it's dessert, and its versatility allows for myriad recipes, from salads to juices and smoothies. U.S. consumption of watermelon in 2022 was a whopping 14.1 pounds per person, making it the top melon in our grocery carts. Recently, watermelon trends have favored using the whole melon, rinds included. As we focus on minimizing food waste and better nutrition (watermelon rinds are rich in fiber, vitamins A and C, potassium, and magnesium), some innovative recipes are using what we previously acknowledged as scraps. Enter watermelon rind kimchi.

We don't know the exact origins of watermelon rind kimchi, but we're not mad about it. Our growing devotion to Korean kimchi may stem from a love of all things pickled. In the South, pickling and brining various fruits and vegetables is a way of life, especially in summer. Pickled watermelon rinds are a popular dish that can easily be tweaked to make fresh kimchi. 

Job one for making your watermelon rinds usable is to cut off the skin of the rind. This part is too tough to eat, so you'll want to use a sharp knife to peel off the outer green area. Next, cut the watermelon rind into one-inch pieces. Rub the rinds with some coarse salt and allow them to sit for 30 minutes to draw out any excess moisture.

Make the marinade, add the umami

To make the marinade for your watermelon rinds, you can start with a classic kimchi recipe, minus the cabbage. Kimchi can be made fresh or you can allow it to ferment, but we suggest eating watermelon kimchi fresh. You'll need Himalayan salt, carrots, radishes, scallions, ginger, garlic, sugar, fish sauce, and red pepper flakes. Combine all ingredients in a glass bowl.

Rinse the salt from the watermelon rinds and gently squeeze them to eliminate any extra water. Add the rinds to the dressing and thoroughly toss (we use our hands, with gloves). Place the kimchi in a glass jar, and refrigerate. Watermelon rind kimchi is best served chilled and will taste even better after the ingredients have time to marry.

If you have Korean chili powder, use it. It's called gochugaru, and can be found in Asian markets and many grocery stores. This fine chili powder gives a depth of flavor that pepper flakes don't. If you want a slightly sweeter, less pungent kimchi, you can eliminate the fish sauce, but we think it creates a great balance, and if you're already a kimchi lover, you'll want to leave it in.

We recommend pairing your watermelon rind kimchi with meat. It's an amazing accompaniment to anything you've got on the grill, from burgers to baby back ribs. You can also serve it with some homemade Korean bulgogi or simply eat it straight out of the jar.