Watermelon Panzanella with Sourdough Croutons

Watermelon Panzanella with Sourdough Croutons

This watermelon panzanella is a marriage between a poorly risen sourdough (a long story) turned into homemade sourdough croutons and a large watermelon that happened to be sitting on my countertop. And that happy union became a variation on a classic summer salad.

Traditional panzanella is an Italian bread salad made with tomatoes as the primary ingredient. In my version, sourdough croutons soak up summer flavors from the ripe and juicy watermelon.

Some notes and tips about this recipe

I find that it’s easiest to cut or pull off the crust with my hands and then slice the naked bread loaf into cubes.

A cutting board with a bread knife and a crustless loaf of bread cut into cubes.

It may take more or less time for your croutons to cook depending on the size of the cubes and how stale your bread is (i.e. stale bread = dry bread = less cook time).

A baking sheet filled with sourdough croutons

The cucumber is seeded in order to reduce the liquid provided by the cucumber, since we want the bread to soak up as much watermelon as possible.

A cutting board with a knife and a cucumber sliced in half

The easiest way to seed a cucumber is to slice it in half and then use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds.

A spoon removing the seeds from a cucumber cut in half

We always save our jam jars to use for salad dressings, simple syrups, etc. The salad dressing recipe for this panzanella is my go-to dressing, sometimes adding a 1/2 tsp each of mustard and honey. Note that our family prefers a salad dressing that has a 2:1 ratio of olive oil:vinegar (or equivalent) rather than the classic 3:1 ratio, so feel free to add more olive oil to this recipe if vinegar-y is not to your taste.

A jar filled with salad dressing that has partially separated

FAQs about this watermelon panzanella with sourdough croutons

Could I use a different bread for the croutons?

Yes. Any rustic white bread would work well for this panzanella.

Can I substitute other herbs in this recipe?

Yes, you could sub the more classic chopped basil for the mint. Or use parsley if cilantro tastes like soap to you.

Is this vegan?

Yes, this recipe is for a vegan panzanella and vegan croutons.

What if I wanted to add cheese?

Go right ahead. I’d personally pick feta or a goat cheese.

What would you serve alongside this watermelon panzanella?

I served this with just a simple roasted sausage, and it would pair well with any simple roast or grill.

Can you freeze croutons?

Yes, croutons freeze well. I’d recommend tossing them back into the oven for a few minutes before starting to prepare this recipe.

What else can I do with homemade croutons?

You can, of course, use them on a salad. Or turn them into stuffing. Or a garnish for soup.

How long will the panzanella keep?

Bread salads are really best when served soon after tossing the croutons with the dressing and other vegetables. If they sit too long, the croutons will get soggy and sad. If you are bringing this panzanella to a BBQ or picnic, just keep the croutons separate until prior to serving.

a loaf of sourdough bread, three slices, and a bread knife
a serving bowl containing watermelon panzanella made with sourdough croutons

Watermelon panzanella with homemade sourdough croutons

uglyducklingbakery.com
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Resting time 10 mins
Servings 6

Ingredients
  

Croutons

  • 1 lb (about 6 cups) sourdough bread, crust removed and cut or torn into 1/2-1" cubes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Watermelon panzanella

  • 6 cups watermelon, seeded if necessary and cut into 1/2-1" cubes
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into 1/2" half moons
  • 1/2 small to medium red onion, sliced thinly
  • 1/2 cup (10-12) cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 tbsp mint, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

Salad dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil plus more to taste (see note)
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

Instructions
 

Croutons

  • Preheat the oven to 375°F.
  • Combine olive oil and salt together on a baking sheet and then add the bread cubes and toss to coat.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the croutons are lightly browned.
  • Remove from the oven and let cool on the baking sheet.

Watermelon panzanella and assembly

  • While the croutons are in the oven, cut the watermelon, cucumber, red onion and tomatoes and add them to a serving bowl.
  • Combine all of the salad dressing ingredients (olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper) in a small lidded jar.
  • 10-30 minutes prior to serving, add the cooled croutons and chopped herbs to the serving bowl with the watermelon and vegetables. Toss gently.
  • Shake the salad dressing jar (make sure the lid is on well!) and pour it over the panzanella. Toss gently and let it sit at room temperature until ready to serve.

Notes

Our family likes a more vinegar-y salad dressing, so we use a 2:1 ratio rather than the classic 3:1 ratio. Please adjust the olive oil in the dressing to your tastes.

What next?

If you make this panzanella or the sourdough croutons, please comment and/or share a pic!

Just want to make bread instead?

Or if you’re looking for other summer salad ideas, check out this spinach caprese salad with its cherry vinaigrette.

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a plate with a roasted sausage and some watermelon panzanella made with homemade sourdough croutons



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