Keep cool with our sweet savoury Watermelon Panzanella Salad this summer. Our twist on the classic Italian tomato bread salad, this is a refreshing combination of sweet juicy watermelon, toasted bread, cucumbers and mint. Perfect easy side salad to take to cookouts and barbecues.
- Why You’ll Love Our Watermelon Panzanella
- Where Did Panzanella Originate?
- Why Is It Called Panzanella?
- How To Pick A Good Watermelon
- Recipe Overview
- Variations and Substitutions
- How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)
- Great Mains for This Salad
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why You’ll Love Our Watermelon Panzanella
I’ve always enjoyed the classic Italian panzanella salad. Being a big fan of tomatoes and basil, the delicious combination with crusty bread to soak up the dressing and natural juices really appeal. Plus, it really signals that summer is here with all the fresh in-season ingredients.
So I wanted to create another version of an easy summer panzanella salad to enjoy on those balmy nights.
My watermelon panzanella is a delicious spin-off on the traditional bread salad recipe. Instead of using tomatoes, I substituted them with juicy sweet watermelon. It is perfect for sharing at summer cookouts, barbecues or holiday celebrations that you need to bring something to.
The perfect summer salad of delightful watermelon, crunchy toasted bread, refreshing cucumber and finished with salty capers and fresh mint, plus an easy lemon garlicky dressing.
This watermelon panzanella bread salad recipe is a delicious combination of sweet and savoury. Even with toasted bread, it feels so light and fresh. My kids absolutely love it.
Where Did Panzanella Originate?
Originating from Tuscany, panzanella is a popular Italian summer salad that combines a delicious mix of bread, tomatoes, onions and cucumbers with a simple olive oil and vinegar dressing.
What we understand is that panzanella, also known as Italian bread salad, was invented so that villagers could use up their stale bread and what a great idea it was!
Of course, there are many modern variations to the classic dish, including our watermelon panzanella. Using the same principles of combining leftover stale bread with delicious sweet fruit or vegetables and a simple dressing.
Why Is It Called Panzanella?
The term panzanella comes from two Italian words – pane (bread) and zanella (a soup bowl or deep plate).
How To Pick A Good Watermelon
For this simple panzanella salad, we rely on the freshest of ingredients. Having sweet juicy watermelon makes a huge difference to the overall flavour profile. The last thing you want is bland chunks of fruit mixed with bread.
Watermelon is best when in season so, which means the warmer summer months. For Australia, it will generally be between December to April. For our friends in the Northern hemisphere, it will be May to September.
Watermelons are the sweetest when left to ripen on the vine. They do continue to ripen when harvested but not with the same amount of nutrients coming from the vine.
It is not always easy to choose a sweet juicy watermelon, but here are three tips that will help:
- Look for the large field spot on the watermelon. The field spot is where the watermelon was resting on the ground. If it is a creamy colour, then that’s a good sign that it has been growing on the vine for a good amount of time. If you don’t find any large creamy spot or it is white, then the watermelon was picked too soon.
- Check the weight – if the watermelon is heavy for its size, then that is good.
- Give it a tap with your knuckle. If the watermelon sounds hollow, then that is good and the rind is not too thick.
Flavour/Texture: The sweet watermelon is a perfect match with the toasted bread. I love how the sweet meets the savoury. Plus, the capers and mint add a little extra oomph in flavour.
With a combination of juicy fruit and crunchy toasted bread textures together, you will be excited each time you take a bite.
Ease: Very simple recipe to follow. I used my oven for toasting bread but you can also toast on a griddle pan or even in an air fryer.
Time: The only cooking involved in toasting the bread, so you can easily do this whilst prepping the other ingredients. This salad will take less than 20 minutes.
These are the ingredients you need for watermelon panzanella salad:
Bread: I used a couple of days old leftover pane di casa for the toasted bread in the salad. Other types of bread you can use are sourdough or ciabatta.
This is a great recipe to make use of leftover bread, so feel free to toast whatever you have in your pantry but make sure to choose one that will not break down too easily in the juices and dressing.
Watermelon: We want juicy chunks of watermelon for this salad. If you find cutting a large watermelon intimidating, you can use pre-cut watermelon.
Cucumber: My go-to cucumber is normally Lebanese (Persian) cucumbers. You can use garden cucumber or even snack sized as we are cutting the cucumber up into bite-sized pieces.
Mint: Fresh mint totally adds a whole level of freshness and summer goodness.
Capers: For an extra pep of salty flavours, I always have a jar of capers in the pantry. So versatile to add to salads, pasta or sauces.
Garlic: It’s not essential but the garlic in the simple dressing elevates the overall flavour.
Variations and Substitutions
Different types of fruit: The classic panzanella recipe can be adapted with other types of fruit or vegetables. Definitely go with what’s in season.
For another version of summer panzanella, try ruby grapefruit, peaches, nectarine or even mango. For a fall/winter panzanella, I would go with a selection of roasted vegetables like squash, sweet potato or Brussels sprouts.
Additional ingredients: Watermelon and feta is a classic pairing. The creamy salty flavours of feta work a treat on watermelon. You can see why crumbled feta is sometimes added to a watermelon panzanella.
You can add your own twist by including other ingredients like cherry tomatoes, red onion, avocado, spinach or even prosciutto.
Step by step instructions for how to make watermelon panzanella salad:
How to Toast the Bread
Preheat oven to 200°C or 400°F.
Roughly chop or tear chunks of bread into bite-sized cubes.
In a large mixing bowl, drizzle bread cubes with extra virgin olive oil.
Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
Once done, remove from the oven to cool down.
How to Prepare Rest of Salad
Cut watermelon into small cubes similar size to the bread.
Cut cucumber into small bite-sized pieces.
Wash and roughly tear mint leaves.
How To Make Garlic and Citrus Vinaigrette
Add minced garlic, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil in a mason jar.
Season with salt and pepper.
Shake well until combined.
How to Assemble the Salad
In a large mixing bowl add all salad ingredients, watermelon, cucumber, capers, mint and toasted bread.
Zest lemon over salad.
Drizzle dressing over salad and toss together.
Let the salad mingle with the dressing for about 10 minutes before serving.
How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)
Cut similar sized pieces: I find with this salad if the watermelon and toasted bread were similar sizes, the overall texture feels better.
Toast the bread: This step is not traditional for panzanella but one step I would not skip now. Toasting the bread before assembly stops it from turning into a pile of soggy mush when left with the watermelon.
Served chilled: If you are prepping this salad ahead of time, leave the watermelon cubes in the fridge until ready to serve. Warm watermelon salads are not the best.
Dress the salad when ready to serve: As much as I like the salad dressing to mingle with the ingredients, leaving the toasted bread for too long in the dressing will make it soggy. I like to still have some crunch when eating watermelon panzanella so don’t dress the salad too soon.
Great Mains for This Salad
What to serve with watermelon panzanella salad? Try these delicious main dish recipes:
A salad as refreshing as this watermelon panzanella, should be served up with very flavoursome dishes. This country style boneless pork ribs are low in carbs and only takes 30 minutes too cook up.
For our seafood lovers and true summer dining, this grilled shrimp tacos with coconut chili sauce so absolutely delicious and makes for a great casual meal. While this Huli Huli chicken with pineapple is absolutely yum!
Frequently Asked Questions
You can prep the panzanella salad ingredients in advance but assemble when ready to eat.
This recipe is best on the day. The salad will not keep well overnight.
I do prefer to toast my bread first but it is a personal preference as the traditional method of making a panzanella does not involve toasting the bread. In fact, you would normally soak stale bread in water before mixing it with tomatoes.
I do find the method of soaking the bread first causes it to break down too quickly in the panzanella. I like to have some crunchy bites in my bread salad so I like to toast it first. Not only better for texture but I also love the slightly charred flavour it adds.
I love how easy it was to prepare this refreshing watermelon panzanella salad recipe.
Plus the bright colours looked amazing on the table. We will be keeping cool with this refreshing watermelon bread salad all summer long. Great for any upcoming alfresco dining and entertaining with friends.
More Summer Salad Recipes:
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Watermelon Panzanella Bread Salad
- 3 cups bread, chunks
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 3 cups watermelon, cubed
- 1 cucumber, Lebanese
- ⅓ cup mint
- 2 tbsp capers
- ½ lemon, zest
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Preheat oven to 200°C or 400°F.
- Roughly chop or tear chunks of bread into bite-sized cubes. In a large mixing bowl, drizzle bread cubes with extra virgin olive oil. Toast in the oven for about 10 minutes or until golden brown.
- Cut watermelon into small cubes.
- Cut cucumber into small bite-sized pieces.
- Wash and roughly tear mint leaves.
- Add minced garlic, lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil to a mason jar.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Shake well until combined.
- In a large mixing bowl add all salad ingredients, watermelon, cucumber, capers, mint and toasted bread.
- Zest lemon over salad.
- Drizzle dressing over salad and toss together.
- Let the salad mingle with dressing for about 10 minutes before serving.
- Classic panzanella recipe can be adapted with other types of fruit or vegetables. Try ruby grapefruit, peaches, nectarine or even mango for a summer panzanella. For a fall (autumn)/winter panzanella, try squash, sweet potato or Brussels sprouts.
- You can add your own twist by including other ingredients like feta, cherry tomatoes, red onion, avocado, spinach or even prosciutto.
- Toasting the bread before assembly stops it from turning into a pile of soggy mush when left with the watermelon.
- If you are prepping this salad ahead of time, leave the watermelon cubes in the fridge until ready to serve. Dress the salad when ready to serve.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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