Grilled Watermelon Salad from Chef Hugo Ortega

A refreshing and cool way to enjoy watermelon - perfect for picnics.
By / Photography By Paula Murphy | July 17, 2016


Peel watermelon and cut into squares approximately 1½ by 1½ inches. Preheat a skillet over high heat. Brush watermelon lightly with olive oil and place in skillet and cook 30 seconds each side. The watermelon should remain firm but brown slightly. Remove from pan and let cool.

Place all greens in a bowl and add lime juice and pinch of salt and toss the greens evenly. Peel avocados, remove seed, cut each half into four pieces and set aside.

To arrange salad place 1 ounce of grapefruit dressing in the center of the plate and make a circle. Around that circle place three or four grilled watermelon squares alternating with one piece of avocado. Place equal amount of salad in the center of each plate, garnish with edible flowers, hearts of palm and root vegetable chips.

Grapefruit Dressing

Place all ingredients except olive oil in a blender and blend until incorporated. While the blender is still on slowly add the oil in a steady stream and season to taste. Good in refrigerator for up to 5 days.

About this recipe

This mouthwatering grilled watermelon salad is bound to become a staple in your home kitchen this summer. Use seasonal Texas watermelon, seeds removed and cut into squares. The recipe—kept original—is by Chef Hugo Ortega (finalist for Best Chef of the Southwest James Beard Awards five years in a row) and is on the menu at Hugo’s (, located at 1600 Westheimer Rd., Houston.


  • 1 mini seedless watermelon
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • 2 cups mache greens
  • 2 cups watercress
  • 1 cup purslane
  • ¼ cup celery leaves
  • ¼ cup parsley leaves
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 avocados
  • Grapefruit dressing
Optional garnishes
  • ¼ cup thinly sliced heart of palm
  • Edible flowers
  • Root vegetable chips
Grapefruit Dressing
  • ½ cup fresh grapefruit juice
  • 2 strawberries
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ cup olive oil
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