This Stunning Watermelon Salad Is Full of Delicious Surprises

published Jun 23, 2022
Recipe Review
Watermelon Salad with Shiso, Plum, and Salt Recipe
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A graphic of Jess Damuck and her watermelon salad recipe
Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne; Headshot: Linda Pugliese

When I found out that a cookbook was being published with the same title of what all my friends used to call me in college — Salad Freak — I knew I needed to get my hands on a copy of it. It was also around this same time that I was gathering watermelon salad recipes for a showdown (as one does), so I checked to see if author Jess Damuck included her take on the summer classic. And lo and behold, I found an intriguing version with plums, shiso, and salt.

Most of the other watermelon salad contenders were pretty classic, so I thought it would be fun to try a recipe that pushed the limits a bit. Would my watermelon salad game be forever changed by mixing things up, or was keeping it simple the way to go? I headed to the kitchen to find out.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne; Headshot: Linda Pugliese

How to Make Jess Damuck’s Watermelon Salad with Shiso, Plum, and Salt

This salad comes together in about five minutes. On a platter, arrange triangular slices of watermelon (rind on) and thin slices of black plum. Top with sliced shiso leaves, whole shiso leaves, togarashi, and flaky salt. Admire this work of art and enjoy it immediately.

My Honest Review of Jess Damuck’s Watermelon Salad

This was unlike any watermelon salad I’ve had before (definitely not the summertime salad I remember eating in my backyard by the pool), and frankly, I think that’s exactly the point of it. The dish was new and exciting and I couldn’t get enough. I bought shiso leaves and togarashi seasoning from my local Japanese market. 

If you’re unfamiliar with shiso, you may recognize it as a leafy green that is often added to sushi boxes. It has a jagged edge and a slightly bitter taste that somewhat straddles mint and basil. Pairing shiso with fresh watermelon is ingenious — the sweetness and juiciness of the watermelon perfectly complements the powerfully tart flavor of the shiso.

The black plums were a great addition too, although I feel like any ripe stone fruit (peaches, nectarines, etc.) would be delicious. I loved the togarashi on this salad. The Japanese seasoning blend added acidity, umami, and a little bit of heat.

This watermelon salad was the only showdown contender that called for rind-on watermelon, which encourages you to eat this salad with your hands. I wiggled a plum slice and a shiso leaf onto the triangular wedge and ate all the components in one harmonious bite. If I’m in my bathing suit and just want a simple snack while I float in the pool, give me this handheld watermelon salad. Save the one with feta and onions and olives for the dinnertime barbecue.

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Barrett Washburne

If I Were to Make Jess Damuck’s Watermelon Salad Again

My only suggested addition to this salad is a simple one: a quick drizzle of olive oil. The fruit was well-seasoned and packed with savory, spicy flavor. I just wish it had a little bit of fat to round it all out.

Overall rating: 9/10

Watermelon Salad with Shiso, Plum, and Salt Recipe

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


  • 1

    small seedless watermelon (about 4 pounds)

  • 3

    black plums (or a green one if you can find it!)

  • 10

    fresh shiso leaves

  • Lots of flaky salt

  • Sprinkle of togarashi (optional)


  1. Prep: Cut the watermelon in half. Cut in half again, and thinly slice.

  2. Assemble and serve: Shingle the watermelon on a platter. Thinly slice the plums and snuggle them into the watermelon. Roll 5 shiso leaves up like a little cigar and run the blade of your very sharp knife over them to slice them extremely thinly. Do this with the remaining 5 leaves. Sprinkle your chiffonade over the watermelon and plums. Sprinkle with a generous amount of flaky salt and a little togarashi, if using.

Recipe Notes

Reprinted with permission from Salad Freak by Jess Damuck copyright © 2022. Published by Harry N. Abrams.