How To Make a Watermelon Roll Just Like Friendly’s

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

A watermelon roll is a sherbet-meets-ice cream treat made famous by Friendly’s restaurants, but at home this refreshing treat is the kind of pure fun that makes you the hero of the neighborhood pool party.

A watermelon roll is made by layering watermelon sherbet (easily made in the blender) with vanilla ice cream (make your own or use store-bought) and studded with chocolate chips to create the appearance of a watermelon with a cool and creamy twist. This homemade watermelon roll recipe is easy to make and heavy on the fun. Here’s how it’s done.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

What Is a Watermelon Roll, and Why Should You Make One?

A watermelon roll is a frozen dessert made famous by Friendly’s restaurant chain. It’s so popular that you can also find it in some grocery stores — especially in the Northeast where the Friendly’s chain originated. Essentially layers of ice cream and sorbet frozen to resemble a watermelon, this watermelon treat makes for an incredibly refreshing dessert. It makes enough to serve a crowd too, making it perfect for your neighborhood pool party.

Here are the basic assembly instructions for a watermelon roll.

  • Soften ice cream and tint it green with food coloring. Tamp this into the pre-chilled bowl to become the “rind” of the watermelon roll.
  • Make a quick sherbet of fresh watermelon and sweetened condensed milk. Churn it and add mini chocolate chips.
  • Freeze the watermelon roll until solid and then invert on serving dish. Cut into wedges of delight.

(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

The Step-by-Step Guide for Building This Watermelon Roll

For this watermelon roll, you are essentially making two frozen components and bringing them together. The first is a rind made from store-bought or homemade vanilla ice cream. The second is an easy watermelon sherbet made in a blender and churned in an ice cream maker.

  • Use two mixing bowls as the mold for shaping the cake.

    First, get the bowl of your ice cream maker chilling before you even get started. You’ll want to chill two mixing bowls too. Ideally you’ll have one 2 1/2-quart bowl and a smaller 1-quart bowl that can comfortably nest inside of it. We like a glass bowl with smooth sides for this, but almost any bowl will work as the mold for this frozen dessert. Line the large bowl with plastic wrap to make removal easier.

  • Paint or tint vanilla ice cream for the rind. Soften a quart of vanilla ice cream (we suggest store-bought for ease) and then either paint the plastic wrap lining the large bowl with green food coloring or tint the ice cream with a few drops of the same. We painted on our green rind to mimic the Friendly’s version, but tinting the ice cream is less messy.
  • Chill between steps. Once you’ve spread the softened vanilla ice cream into the bowl-mold and pressed the smaller bowl inside, be sure to refrigerate the “rind” for at least 30 minutes while you make and churn the watermelon sherbet.
  • Make a fast (and super-easy) watermelon sherbet. While the vanilla rind is freezing, purée watermelon with — get this — sweetened condensed milk! After blending, take the watermelon sherbet base for a whirl in your ice cream maker. The result is a creamy watermelon sherbet that tastes as good as it looks. Before pouring the soft sherbet into the vanilla rind’s cavity, fold in mini chocolate chips that will look like seeds in the finished roll.
  • Invert to serve. Freeze the watermelon roll for at least four hours. When ready to serve, invert the roll onto a rimmed plate, remove the bowl and plastic wrap, and cut into wedges to serve.
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How To Make a Watermelon Roll

Serves12 to 16


  • 4 drops

    green food coloring

  • 3 cups

    (18 ounces) vanilla ice cream, softened to soft-serve consistency

  • 6 cups

    (1-inch) seedless watermelon cubes (2 pounds; from 1/2 personal seedless watermelon)

  • 1 cup

    sweetened condensed milk

  • 1 tablespoon

    freshly squeezed lime juice

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup

    mini semi-sweet chocolate chips


  • Ice cream machine

  • 1

    (2 1/2-quart) mixing bowl

  • 1

    (1 1/2-quart) mixing bowl

  • Blender

  • Plastic wrap

  • Pastry brush


  1. Chill the bowls. Depending on your ice cream machine, you may need to chill its bowl in the freezer for 15 to 24 hours before churning the watermelon sherbet. Place 1 (2 1/2-quart) and 1 (1 1/2-quart) mixing bowl in the freezer to chill.

  2. Build the rind of the watermelon roll. Remove the 2 mixing bowls from the freezer. Line the inside of the 2 1/2-quart bowl with plastic wrap, leaving several inches of overhang. Paint streaks of green food coloring onto the plastic wrap up the sides and on the bottom of the bowl. Spoon the ice cream into that bowl. Line the outside of the 1 1/2-quart bowl with plastic wrap. Press it inside the large ice cream-filled bowl. The ice cream should form an even 1/2- to 1-inch-thick layer between the bowls. Freeze for 30 minutes or until firm.

  3. Make the watermelon sherbet base. Blend the watermelon, sweetened condensed milk, lime juice, and salt in a blender until smooth.

  4. Churn the watermelon sherbet. Pour the watermelon sherbet base into the chilled bowl of your ice cream machine and churn to a soft-serve consistency, according to manufacturer's instructions. For many ice cream machines, this process will take about 20 minutes. Add the chocolate chips during the final 2 minutes of churning.

  5. Finish building the watermelon roll. Take the ice cream-filled mixing bowl out of the freezer and remove the smaller bowl and plastic wrap. Pour the watermelon sherbet into the hollowed-out area. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

  6. Serve the watermelon roll. Discard the top layer of plastic wrap and invert the bowl onto a serving platter. Remove the bowl and the outer layer of plastic wrap. Cut into wedges and serve immediately.

Recipe Notes

  • Make ahead: The watermelon sherbet base can be made 2 days in advance and refrigerated until you are ready to churn. Whisk before churning, as the sweetened condensed milk may have sunk to the bottom.
  • Storage: Watermelon roll can be stored in the freezer for up to 2 weeks. Keep it tightly wrapped to prevent the formation of ice crystals. If the watermelon roll has kept its shape and not melted significantly, leftovers can be returned to the 2 1/2-quart bowl — just be sure to line it with fresh plastic wrap first.