Watermelon Rind Bhaji

updated Jul 16, 2023
summer
Watermelon Rind Bhaji

This basic side dish is one of the best, tastiest ways to repurpose watermelon rinds. It's quick to throw together, and perfect as part of a hurried weeknight dinner. 

Serves1 to 2

Prep10 minutes

Cook20 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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Cooked Watermelon Rind Bahji in skillet.
Credit: Food: Tara Donne | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Long before it piqued the fancy of restaurant chefs, kitchens in India have been repurposing scraps. Sustainable, no-waste cooking has always been deeply ingrained within our communities — both in vegetarian applications using scraps like potato peels, as well as meat-heavy dishes featuring goat livers and brain.

Among the most favored of my meat-loving Parsi community is chora ma khariya, a cobbling together of beans and goat trotters. In Mumbai’s Bohri Mohalla, known for its excellent street food of the Muslim Bohri community, udders are amongst the most sought-after dishes. And fishy bits and bobs are as beloved as they are ubiquitous in Bengali cooking. A classic dish being muror dal, strongly spiced lentils shored up with fish head).

Making Use of Fruit Scraps

Fruit scraps are widely used as well. The Jain community prepares a banana peel dish strewn with just chili powder, turmeric, cumin, and coriander. The southern state of Tamil Nadu makes an orange peel kozhambu, a savory chutney-like dish usually eaten as a side with yogurt-rice. This recipe, meanwhile, is about watermelon rinds, one of the most versatile scraps I know.

Credit: Photo: Tara Donne | Food Stylist: Cyd McDowell

Ingredients for Watermelon Rind Recipe

Before I got to work creating a watermelon rind recipe, I sent a text to a few friends, asking them how they used watermelon rinds in their kitchens. The replies flooded in, yielding far too many responses to fold fully into these paragraphs, but here is a précis.

I learned of watermelon rind furled into polo (a sort of dosa from Karnataka state) and of saasmi, an Udupi-style gravy dish underpinned by the warmth of freshly ground coconut and grated watermelon rind. It’s used in barfi (a dense, milk-based confection), slivered into

chutneys

Usha’s Pickle Digest features watermelon rind speckled with onion, split black gram,
onion, and tamarind). Some of these are venerable dishes handed down through generations, others are riffs on a classic.


I cooked my way through most of these recipes, but the one I finally settled on is a watermelon rind bhaji. In this context, bhaji refers to a vegetable dish. Here,
watermelon rind is fried in a hot pan with a number of spices, including black mustard seeds,

cumin seeds

asafoetida, ground
turmeric, and a dried red chile.

Thanks to its sponge-like qualities, the watermelon rind readily absorbs all the flavors of the spices, and it softens a bit, losing its cucumber-like crunch. It’s fast, it’s fragrant, and it’s unbelievably delicious.

Ways to Serve Watermelon Rind Bhaji

I like to serve this bhaji as part of a hurried

weeknight dinner

Watermelon Rind Bhaji

This basic side dish is one of the best, tastiest ways to repurpose watermelon rinds. It's quick to throw together, and perfect as part of a hurried weeknight dinner. 

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 20 minutes

Serves 1 to 2

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Trim off any red flesh from 1 pound watermelon rinds, then cut the rinds into 1-inch pieces until you have 2 cups. Trim the stem end from 1 dried Kashmiri chile.

  2. Heat 1 tablespoon ghee or grapeseed oil in a medium or large nonstick frying pan over high heat. The pan is ready if you add 1 black mustard seed and it crackles at once. Reduce the heat to medium and add 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds, followed quickly by 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon asafoetida, 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric, and the chile. The spices will sputter and spit hot oil, so be careful!

  3. In a few seconds, the spices will slightly darken in color. Add the watermelon rind, stir to coat in the spices, and spread into an even layer. Fry without flipping until the bottom is light golden brown, about 10 minutes. Flip the pieces and fry until the second side is golden-brown, 7 to 10 minutes more. Taste and season with kosher salt as needed. This is best eaten fresh plain or with a phulka or roti.

Recipe Notes

Watermelon: A large watermelon (about 6 1/2 pounds) would yield about 2 pounds rind, so choose your fruit accordingly. If you have leftover rind, it can easily be repurposed into a pickle (see headnote).

Storage: This is best eaten immediately, but leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container up to 4 days.