Watermelon is so quintessentially summer so I figured I had to share at least one new watermelon recipe this summer. Enter this Watermelon Cucumber Salad with Mint and Basil. It’s refreshing, packed with natural sweetness, and full of fresh flavor!
Here, crisp cucumbers pair beautifully with cubes of juicy watermelon, and get a little more pizzaz from summer apricots, oranges, lots of fresh basil and mint, as well as olives and avocados for some healthy fats.
Why you’ll like this recipe
Summer perfection. Crisp cucumbers and juicy watermelon pair classically with fresh basil and mint, with extra flavors and textures from oranges, apricots, olives, and avocados. It’s light, healthy, and refreshing, and perfect for those scorching hot summer days. Take it on a picnic, bring it to a barbecue, or enjoy it for any other al fresco dining occasion.
Almost too easy to make. If you know how to chop up vegetables and fruits, you will have no problem making this salad! That’s all you need to do. Chop and mix.
Unique. If you’re tired of eating the same boring salads, this is a non-traditional salad that will surprise and delight your tastebuds.
Healthy. This extremely hydrating salad (watermelon and cucumbers are each over 90% water) is vegan, gluten-free, and has no added sugar. It’ll keep you feeling light and energized during those hot days that zap your energy.
Watermelon. I used a mini watermelon for this because an enormous watermelon is too big for me to carry home from the market (the only downside to not having a car). I also love mini watermelons because they’re juicy yet crisp and very sweet.
I also love that the rind on a mini watermelon is less thick than a standard watermelon, so it’s easier to slice through. And most of them are seedless, so you don’t have to worry about de-seeding them.
Also, Max isn’t a huge fan of eating fruit (I know, I need to work on him), so buying an enormous watermelon for just 1 person is not a great idea.
Cucumbers. I recommend using English cucumbers (AKA, a hot house cucumber). They are crunchy and crisp, and significantly tastier than regular cukes. Or, if you can find Persian cucumbers, you can use those instead (I LOVE these mini cukes; see my other recent summer salad, Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad).
Please do not use a regular cuke (AKA, a pole cucumber). They’re waxy on the outside, extremely watery on the inside, and bland but somehow a little bitter in flavor. I think they belong in spa water and pretty much nothing else.
Also please note that while cucumbers can be bought year round, they are best in season (like all produce). Their peak season is the summer. Which is why I’m sharing this salad right now. Because it’s summer. And also, it’s watermelon season.
Apricots. Apricot season is just gearing up here in NYC, and I am very excited about it. I love their velvety skin and flesh, and they’re smooth and sweet. I like apricots in this salad because they’re not watery, which provides a nice contrast texture to the watermelon and cucumbers, which are quite watery.
Oranges. I used Cara Cara oranges because they are my favorite citrus fruit. They’re extremely sweet and less acidic than standard navel oranges.
I really like the juicy sweetness of oranges in this salad, but if you don’t feel like peeling and slicing oranges, you could use tangerines or mandarins. Or, sub with your favorite summer fruit, like strawberries!
Arugula. This is not a traditional salad, so arugula is not the “base” in this salad, but a cup or two adds slightly spicy and bitter undertones that contrast well with the sweetness of the fruit.
Fresh Basil and Mint. I love using fresh herbs in salads, especially nontraditional salads like this one. And watermelon + basil + mint is such an amazing classic combination that gives so much flavor and interest to this salad.
Castelvetrano olives. Since this salad is so light and fresh, I wanted to bring in some healthy fat sources to make this salad a little more sustaining. Castelvetrano olives are my absolute FAVORITE. They are firm, crisp and tender, and not overly salty like many olives. They are mild in taste yet creamy and buttery, and they remind me of al fresco dining in the Mediterranean (they are so good paired with a crisp glass of rosé wine).
Avocados. Another healthy fat source that also adds some incredible creaminess to this salad.
Simple Lemon Vinaigrette. When you use fresh seasonal ingredients that are at the peak of their season, you don’t need much to flavor! This vinaigrette is just fresh lemon juice, extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Tips for making this salad
Since watermelon and cucumbers are both quite watery, I recommend patting dry both of them after slicing. Otherwise, this salad can get quite water-logged if it rests for awhile.
This salad makes A LOT of food, so unless you’re serving it to a crowd or planning to eat it all within a few hours, I recommend (1) dressing only the amount of the salad you plan to eat within a few hours and (2) storing the rest of the salad without the vinaigrette, avocado, and olives. Otherwise, the salad can get too watery as it rests in the fridge.
Or, if you’re making it for a smaller group, just cut the recipe in half :)
This is a great starter salad for any of your entertaining needs, or a fancy yet casual side dish for any dinner. Or, you can just bring this delicious salad to your next potluck or picnic for everyone to share. If you want to turn this salad into a complete meal, you can toss in some cannellini beans, chickpeas, or French green lentils for protein.
Substitutes for this Watermelon Cucumber Salad with Mint and Basil
If you can’t find Castelvetrano olives, I wouldn’t just substitute any other olive. For instance, black olives would be very strange in this salad. According to the internet, the best substitutes for Castelvetrano olives are a table olive, such as Picholine olives, or Manzanilla olives.
If you don’t feel like peeling and slicing oranges, you could use tangerines or mandarins. Or, substitute with your favorite summer fruit, like strawberries!
If apricots are not in season in your area, nectarines would be a fabulous substitute. Nectarines tend to be sweeter than apricots, so you might need to add any oranges.
More vegan salads perfect for summer
Hungry for even more salads? Give these a try:
- Spicy Korean Cucumber Salad
- Sweet and Spicy Smashed Cucumber Salad
- Charred Corn Salad with White Beans
- Instant Pot Pearl and Couscous Salad
That’s all you need to know about this Watermelon Cucumber Salad with Mint and Basil. If you give recipe a try, be sure to tag me on Instagram with your recreations and please comment with your feedback below!
- 4-5 cups cubed watermelon (seedless, or remove black seeds)
- 2 medium English cucumbers (halved lengthwise, then sliced)
- 2 medium Cara Cara oranges, segmented
- 3 apricots, sliced into wedges
- 1/4 cup fresh mint, thinly sliced + more to taste as needed
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced + more to taste as needed
- 2 cups arugula
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
- 1/4- 1/2 cup pitted Castelvetrano olives, sliced (depends on how much you like olives)
- 2 medium ripe avocados, diced
- Pat dry the cubed watermelon and the sliced cucumbers to remove excess water. This will help the salad be less watery.
- Combine the cubed watermelon, sliced cucumbers, orange segments, sliced apricots, basil, mint, and arugula in a large serving bowl. Toss to combine.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil until emulsified. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Drizzle on top of the salad and toss well to coat all the ingredients.
- Add in the sliced olives and diced avocado and gently toss. Serve immediately.1. NOTE: I recommend (1) dressing only the amount of the salad you plan to eat within a few hours and (2) storing the rest of the salad without the vinaigrette, avocado, and olives. Otherwise, the salad can get too watery as it rests in the fridge.