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.
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).
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 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.
FAQs about this watermelon panzanella with sourdough croutons
Yes. Any rustic white bread would work well for this panzanella.
Yes, you could sub the more classic chopped basil for the mint. Or use parsley if cilantro tastes like soap to you.
Yes, this recipe is for a vegan panzanella and vegan croutons.
Go right ahead. I’d personally pick feta or a goat cheese.
I served this with just a simple roasted sausage, and it would pair well with any simple roast or grill.
Yes, croutons freeze well. I’d recommend tossing them back into the oven for a few minutes before starting to prepare this recipe.
You can, of course, use them on a salad. Or turn them into stuffing. Or a garnish for 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 panzanella to a BBQ or picnic, just keep the croutons separate until prior to serving.
Watermelon panzanella with homemade sourdough croutons
- 1 lb (about 6 cups) sourdough bread, crust removed and cut or torn into 1/2-1" cubes
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- ¼ tsp salt
- 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
- ½ small to medium red onion, sliced thinly
- ½ cup (10-12) cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 tbsp mint, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
- ¼ cup olive oil plus more to taste (see note)
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- ¼ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp 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.
- 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.
If you make this panzanella or the sourdough croutons, please comment and/or share a pic!
Just want to make bread instead?