How to Make Watermelon Rind Pickles – Canning Recipes

by heather

Pickled Watermelon Rind

So, we’re all eating a lot of watermelons right now. They’re a summer staple, and I would probably wither up and die if I couldn’t inhale them on hot summer afternoons.

They. Are. Bliss.

Well, did you know that you don’t have to throw the rind away? Nope, you don’t. Thanks to my burdgoning love affair with canning, I discovered that you can pickle and eat watermelon rind.

Who knew?

As soon as I read the recipe my sense of adventure kicked in (always a danger sign) and I had to try it.

So, here we go…

Recipe for Cinnamon Watermelon Rind Pickles

courtesy Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving


  • 16 cups sliced, peeled watermelon rind (2 in. by 1 in.)
  • 1 cup pickling or canning salt
  • 8 cups cool water, divided
  • 6 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 cups white vinegar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks, broken in half

Day One

1. In a large crock, glass or stainless steel bowl, layer peeled watermelon rind and salt. Add 4 cups cold water. Place a large inverted plate on top of rind and weigh down with 3 qt. jars filled with water and capped. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerator overnight or 8 hrs.

Sidenote: It’s much easier to peel the watermelon rind if you cut them into narrow, long slices. Peel them with a vegetable peeler, and THEN cut them into 2 in. by 1 in. squares.

Here are some pictures:

Peeling the watermelon rinds

Cut up watermelon rind...

Weighting down the rind with water-filled jars...

Day 2

1. Transfer rind to colander in sink. Drain and rise in cool water. Drain and rinse again. Drain thoroughly.

2. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine rind with remaining 4 cups water. Bring to boil over med/high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently until rind is fork-tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

3. In a clean large saucepan combine sugar, vinegar and cinnamon stick halves. Bring to a boil over med/high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat and boil gently for 5 minutes, until cinnamon has infused liquid. Add drained rind and return to boil. Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour. until watermelon is translucent. Discard cinnamon sticks.

4. Meanwhile, prepare canner, jars and lids.

5. Pack hot rind into hot jars, leaving generous 1/2 inch headspace. Ladle hot pickling liquid into jar to cover rind. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if you need to. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar, and screw band on.

6. Place jars in canner, ensuring they’re completely covered with water. Bring to boil, and process for 10 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool, and store.

Just starting to boil the watermelon rinds...

Our sugar, vinegar and cinnamon pickling mixture

The watermelon rind is becoming translucent

So How Did They Come Out?

Well, as you can see from the very first picture on the post, they came out beautifully.


They. Tasted. Disgusting.

Now, before you click away in disgust, furious at me for putting up a recipe that didn’t turn out, let me explain.

The disgusting-ness of the watermelon rind pickles was entirely my fault.

What I Did Wrong…

I would love to think that I’m the next “Julia Childs” of canning. After the delicious, smashing success of my strawberry jam, I have to admit that I was a little “laissez-faire” with this recipe. I was like, heck, I know what I’m doing, what could go wrong?

Famous last words.

Problem #1: My watermelon was too small

The recipe calls for 16 cups of watermelon rind. I had a smaller watermelon, so my rind only yielded 12 cups.

Can you see where this is going?

Problem #2: I’m not good at math

So, I have 25% less watermelon rind than the recipe calls for. Easy enough, right? I’ll just adjust all the other ingredients by 25% and we’ll be set.

Important Side Note: writers should never do math in their heads, even when they’re dumbing down ingredients by 25%. At least, this writer shouldn’t. It’s obvious from the sickly-sweet taste of my pickles that I put in WAY too much sugar and not NEAR enough vinegar.


So Why the Heck Did I Post This Recipe?

Please don’t tar and feather me. I posted this recipe for a good reason.


Because these things smelled DELICIOUS when they were cooking down. I’m serious. I could not wait to eat them; the whole house smelled divine. I even choked myself numerous times, standing an inch over the pot, inhaling vinegar fumes they smelled so good.

There is no way that Ball put out a disgusting recipe, I just know it in my heart. I messed this one up. Yes, they look beautiful, but I had to toss them all out, much to my dismay.

This recipe is posted word-for-word from the Ball recipe book. If you have the correct proportions, it will turn out.

You can bet your bottom I’m trying this one again. I just know they’re astoundingly delicious; anything that smells THAT good when it’s cooking can’t be bad. So, I’m going to go out and find a big honking watermelon for 4th of July weekend. Shouldn’t be too hard; you practically trip over them at the grocery store these days.

When I have success, I’ll be sure to let you know.

If you’ve ever made watermelon rind pickles, please chime in and let me know how they turned out! I appreciate any tips you might have.

{ 4 trackbacks }

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Chad June 30, 2010 at 1:36 pm

My easy way to make pickles will probably work for watermelon rinds, too. I buy the big jars of dill pickles from the grocery store, and save the liquid and jar in the refrigerator. Then I slice up fresh-picked cucumbers lengthwise into spears, and pack them loosely in the jar. Refrigerate for at least 2 days, and vioala!- fresh, mild pickles. Even if some of the cucumbers were picked too early, the vinegar removes the bitter taste. I’m going to cut a couple of flower-heads off of my dill plants, and drop them in to make the flavor a little more like “homemade”.

Melissa June 30, 2010 at 1:37 pm

I love that you were honest about the outcome of your experiment – that cracked me up! The concept sounded really weird at first, but then kind of appealing….I hope someone else tries it, follows the recipe exactly 😉 and describes how they taste! I’m so curious.

heather July 1, 2010 at 6:21 am

@Chad, that’s a really great idea! Making dill pickles is another thing on my list, but I need 32 cucumbers (or roughly 8 lbs) to make several jars. So until I find them cheap at Farmer’s Market, I’m going to try your method. Thanks so much for sending it in!

heather July 1, 2010 at 6:23 am

@Melisa-Like I said, I’m definitely trying this again. They smelled divine when they were cooking down, so it’s GOT to be good. I’ll definitely leave a comment here when I’ve had a success! 🙂

Isabelle Vesey July 1, 2010 at 8:48 am

Too funny!! I’m also really curious about how they taste — “watermelony” or something totally new. Wonder if I’ll see any at the Farmer’s Market?

heather July 2, 2010 at 9:04 am

@Isabelle- Mine didn’t taste “watermelony” at all; it was a completely different flavor. The rinds absorbed the sugar and vinegar; they had excellent, interesting texture, but the taste was messed up b/c I messed up the proportions. So, I still don’t know!

Patricia July 4, 2010 at 7:00 pm

I save all my sweet pickle juice. I slice my cucumber and alternate sliced onion with each slice of cucumber. Takes a few days to meld the flavor. Very good. I also put canned beets in the pickle juice too, or boiled eggs. All delicious. I suppose if one used fresh dill that would be like a sweetdill pickle. I would not know how much dill to add, but one could experiment.

alison July 6, 2010 at 10:02 am

@Chad: that’s a great method for regular pickles. Pickled watermelon rind, however, is a different kind of pickling. They’re really sweet, not salty like dill pickles. So it wouldn’t work for them. My husband’s family serves (store-bought) pickled rinds at Thanksgiving each year and they’re surprisingly tasty. Perhaps if you find store-bought ones you could save the juice from that and use your method.

Ruth July 11, 2010 at 11:17 am

Fear not! It is totally possible to make delicious watermelon rind pickles. I use the recipe from the Center for Home Preservation website, here:

I’ve made these pickles for the last three summers. They have become my go-to Christmas present for my 84-year old grandfather. Growing up poor, they didn’t let anything go to waste, including the under-appreciated watermelon rind.

Sandy July 12, 2010 at 1:39 pm

We have a huge garden and made 21 qts of dill pickels Saturday. Had some leftover sauce and thought we would try a couple of jars useing banana peppers. The attempt was to make mild banana peppers like you buy in the store as I make a Greek Salad that takes quite a few. They actually turned out pretty good and will make more but will slice and not leave whole.
I had just seen the Ball recipe for the “Rinds”! I had the “Rinds” almost 30 years ago at a Christmas party hosted by a very Southern lady……they were wonderful! I am going to try this recipe and will post after we make them.

heather July 12, 2010 at 1:53 pm

@Sandy- That’s great! I just made Dilly beans last night, and will be posting that recipe this week. They turned out awesome; so beautiful! I bought 9 lbs. at Farmer’s Market yesterday.

I did do dill pickles two weeks ago, and they turned out AWFUL. 🙁 I’m going to try again!

I’d love to hear how your watermelon rinds turn out. That’s another recipe I’m longing to try again.

marialuisa July 14, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Hi…I loved your post and had a good laugh…laughing also at myself for the numerous times I’ve done the same kind of thing with other cooking ‘experiments’. I experiment all the time because it’s part of my job (I’m a chef) and because I love to. You’re right, tho, watermelon rind pickles are divine! I have a very easy recipe that doesn’t involve canning (you still use sterilized jars) and can be done in a few hours.
Check out the wholefoods market website…after clicking away to the recipe section…there it is. I Iove it. It’s simple, straightforward and delicious. I’ve tweaked it so many times that I’m not sure which is the original recipe. You can change the ingredients and spices abit. Fun to play with.Enjoy.

Rachael July 18, 2010 at 11:04 pm

Honestly? I just tried this recipe myself – and they came out DISGUSTING too.

I had at /least/ 16 cups of rind (I filled 1 and a half 12C tuperwares). I salted them as directed, weighed them down, rinsed and rinsed and rinsed, boiled in water, then boiled in sugar/vinegar/cinnamon sticks as directed… And when it was done?

SALTY. OMG SALTY. INEDIBLY SALTY. >.< They look remarkably gorgeous in the jar! But they taste /horrible/.


heather July 19, 2010 at 6:44 am

@Rachel- Oh NO! I thought it was just me! Wow, I’m so sorry about that. Well, at least we all know. That stinks! 🙁

Sarah August 2, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I haven’t made any yet, but my mother always did when I was a child. My recollection was that we made them in the summer (obviously), but we never ate them until Christmas. I remember having them at Thanksgiving one year because us kids begged and they were awful! My mother put quietly put them back in the fridge and said we would have to wait for Christmas because the weren’t ready yet.
They are sweet pickles with a little vinegar taste, and taste nothing like watermelon.

joanna September 16, 2010 at 3:46 pm

+1, Sarah. I made watermelon rind pickles for the first time last year, and didn’t have enough sterilized jars, so I just set the leftovers in a regular jar and stuck ’em in the fridge. I tried them after they cooled down – and almost threw out the whole batch. Frugality won, however, so I kept them. At least two months passed before I took another stab at them, but somehow, during that 2 month period, they morphed into my childhood. Memories of my grandmother’s relish tray flew into my head. I was content. This year, I put a “do not use until” sticker on the jars.

heather September 16, 2010 at 4:19 pm

@Joanna- Thank you SO MUCH for writing that in! Maybe that’s what all of us are doing wrong! At least we know now for next year. I’m going to do another batch and let them sit like you suggest. I never would have thought that might be the problem.

Thanks again!

Cathy October 2, 2010 at 1:46 pm

Yes, you have to let them sit for a few months first. I’ve made them for years, and my mom did too. Her recipe is much the same as the Bell canning book. But, please process correctly, don’t want anyone getting sick.

kathi bailey April 29, 2011 at 1:42 pm

Hey I love your honesty! I was right there with you…loving the scents in the kitchen. Next time, make the syrup as the recipe calls. No matter how much product you have to put in it, you can always soak another type of fruit in the leftover syrup. Peaches, watermelon, even beets. Have you tried cloves in the syrup? They add another layer of flavor. I found out the hard way to NEVER overcook them, that is disgusting, all that soft, unappealing mush. I hope you tried again, the pickles are great.

lynn July 11, 2011 at 3:21 pm

Instead of using salt, try pickling lime — it keeps the chunks crisp, but does not give that salty taste. The chunks do get better with age, but they should taste OK to start with. I grew up boiling cinnamon sticks and cloves in the syrup, and putting a slice of ginger, one small cinnamon stick, and a blade of mace in each jar.

hope this helps.


Karolyn August 21, 2011 at 11:44 pm

My grandmother (my mother’s mother) mentioned Pickled Watermelon Rinds this weekend and that she wished she had her mother’s recipe for them. So, being the good granddaughter, I googled some recipes for her. What I didn’t realize until I saw some of the pictures of the pickled rinds, is that my other grandmother (my father’s mother who has since passed on) used to make pickles like these for us, but I never knew they were watermelon rinds! I LOVED those “pickles” as a kid, they were sweet and a bit tangy, I just always thought she had just cut up cucumbers differently and peeled them. They had the same texture. I do believe that the longer they sit, the better they are! Maybe try a different recipe? I know they’re delicious!

Lisa Myers May 27, 2013 at 2:46 pm

First of all, you probably did NOTHING wrong! They are supposed to be sickly sweet…I guess it’s a southern thing y’all! I just made a half batch using this basic recipe but tweaked it to what I remember from my own childhood. I added ground cinnamon (in addition to the sticks), ginger, nutmeg, cloves, allspice, red hot cinnamon candies and a little red food color too. The red hots and food color are completely optional but the spices are a must in my book! I kept a couple of little pieces out for my grandsons to sample and they loved it!

Judy seguin June 8, 2016 at 10:32 am

I just made them for the first time. Tgeyvare sweet and good. The Ball recipe I used had a spice bag with 3 cinnamon sticks, 1 T whole allspice, 1 T whole cloves and 1/4 t mustard seed. It also called for 1 thinly sliced lemon.
I recommend trying it again.

Vickie Overman June 29, 2018 at 6:38 pm

Watermelon rind pickles are not suppose to taste like watermelon. They are very sweet, spicy, and soft. In fact they are syrupy sweet. So I don’t think you did anything wrong. That is the way they are suppose to taste.

Sadie Gore August 21, 2018 at 10:50 am

I made them, the syrup tasted very good but just a little salty. I plan on making them again but instead of using a cup of pickling salt I will use a 1/2 cup and a little less sugar.

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