Watermelon Panzanella turns fresh watermelon and homemade sourdough croutons into a fresh summer salad that’s a variation on a classic. It’s the perfect side to bring to a potluck, take on a picnic, or just serve alongside whatever you grill all summer long.
This watermelon panzanella recipe was inspired by an unfortunate sourdough that rose poorly in the car during our evacuation from the 2021 Cedar Creek fire. But add to that a large watermelon sitting on my countertop, and that lemons to lemonade situation became this delectable watermelon bread salad.
Panzanella is a traditional Italian bread salad made with tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and basil. In this watermelon version, sourdough croutons soak up ripe and juicy summer watermelon, and mint subs in for basil.
- Stale bread is better than fresh when making homemade croutons!
- Watermelon – critical for a watermelon panzanella! Make this bread salad only when watermelon are at their ripest. Here’s how to tell when a watermelon is ripe.
- Cucumber – use a seedless cucumber or a slicing cucumber and remove the seeds (see below).
- Red onion – red onions are milder than other onions. Sub a shallot if you do not have a red onion.
- Tomatoes – halved cherry tomatoes look best, but you can use any tomato.
Please see the recipe card below for complete information on ingredients and quantities.
Variations and substitutions
- Use any rustic white bread like a no-knead bread or this semolina bread recipe.
- Use the more classic chopped basil for the mint. Or use parsley if cilantro tastes like soap to you.
- Add mozzarella or a less traditional cheese like feta or goat cheese.
Tips and tricks
I find that it’s easiest to cut or pull off the crust with your hands and then slice the naked bread loaf into cubes.
It may take more or less time for your croutons to cook depending on the size of the cubes and the staleness of your bread. Stale bread is drier and so will need to cook for less time.
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.
The easiest way to seed a cucumber is to slice it in half and then use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds.
We always save jam jars to use for salad dressing, pesto, simple syrups, etc. The salad dressing recipe for this watermelon bread salad is my go-to dressing, sometimes adding a half teaspoon each of mustard and honey.
Note that our family prefers a two to one ratio of olive oil to vinegar or equivalent, rather than the classic three to one ratio. Please feel free to add more olive oil to this recipe if vinegar-y is not to your taste.
What to serve with panzanella
- Serve this watermelon panzanella with a simple roasted sausage, cast iron chicken breasts, or just about any simple roasted meat.
- Grilled vegetables or ratatouille would work for a vegetarian option.
- Go light with a soup and salad combination with this pasta e ceci-inspired garbanzo bean soup.
- If we’re drinking, serve with a crisp white Italian wine like a pinot grigio or an Aperol Negroni.
Yes. If you skip the optional cheese, this recipe is for a vegan panzanella.
Yes, croutons freeze well. I’d recommend tossing them back into the oven for a few minutes before starting to prepare this recipe.
Homemade croutons would of course work on another salad. Or you can also use them in your Thanksgiving stuffing or as a garnish for something like this roasted broccoli almond soup.
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 watermelon panzanella to a BBQ or picnic, keep the croutons separate until just before you’re ready to serve.
Related salad recipes
Check out other salads and simple salad dressings in the Ugly Duckling Bakery archives for other summer salads like:
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-heart 💜💜💜💜💜 rating in the recipe card below. Let me know how much you loved it, or any problems you had, in the comments section further down.
Watermelon Panzanella with Sourdough Croutons
- 1 pound (about 6 cups) sourdough bread, crust removed and cut or torn into half to 1 inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 6 cups watermelon, seeded if necessary and cut into half to one inch cubes
- 1 cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into half inch half moons
- ½ small to medium red onion, sliced thinly
- ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved about 10 to 12
- 1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
- ¼ cup olive oil plus more to taste (see note)
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- 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.1 pound (about 6 cups) sourdough bread, crust removed and cut or torn into half to 1 inch cubes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, ¼ teaspoon salt
- Bake for 15 to 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.6 cups watermelon, seeded if necessary and cut into half to one inch cubes, 1 cucumber, peeled, halved, seeded, and cut into half inch half moons, ½ cup cherry tomatoes, halved, ½ small to medium red onion, sliced thinly
- Combine all of the salad dressing ingredients (olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper) in a small lidded jar.1 tablespoon white wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon pepper, ¼ cup olive oil
- 10 to 30 minutes prior to serving, add the cooled croutons and chopped herbs to the serving bowl with the watermelon and vegetables. Toss gently.1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped, 1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped
- 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.
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