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Mustard? Good. Watermelon? Great. Mustard on watermelon?
Originally spurred by Young Yuh (@yayayayummy) on TikTok, mustard and watermelon isn’t necessarily a combination everyone is bursting to try. In fact, this is one I was resistant to test. Even Lizzo’s recorded reaction to the trend wasn’t super comforting. In a TikTok, she bites into the mustard-covered watermelon slice, chews, and looks into the camera with a resounding, “Huh?!”
When reaching out to Young, I first asked how and why he thought of the combination.
“I love mustard – specifically French’s,” trend creator Young says. “In middle school, the lunch sets used to have watermelon slices, and the school also provided those small packets of ketchup and mustard. I was bored one day (as a kid usually is) and I put ketchup on the watermelon. It was too sweet, so I then tried the mustard and that tang was perfect!”
To Young, this isn’t a trend, but an everyday snack. He regularly posts sneak peeks into his daily snacks, including mustard on watermelon, on his socials.
“I’ve always been someone who doused their hotdogs and hamburgers with mustard,” he says. “Watermelon is already an amazing fruit, but I love all things sour, tangy, and vinegary. Mustard is that everyday condiment that adds the perfect amount of zip.”
Many people boasting that mustard and watermelon is their new favorite snack also mention adding chile powder on top to give it an extra kick. That part isn’t new.
In Northern Italy, mostarda di frutta is often paired with savory meats like veal or served alongside cheese and charcuterie. The jam-like condiment is made by poaching fruits in syrup along with mustard seed or oil, for a sweet-meets-spicy result. While stories of the origin of mostarda conflict, most credit the earliest documentation of the recipe to Gian Galeazzo Visconti, the first Duke of Milan, some time around 1397 – significantly before Yuh’s viral TikTok.
Similarly, Asian cuisine has been mastering the marriage of sweet and spice for centuries. Popularized in Thailand’s northeastern region of Issan is green papaya salad, which replicates a similar sweet and heat result using green papaya, Thai chili, cherry tomatoes, roasted peanuts, fish sauce and more. Sweet, hydrating, sour and oftentimes ridiculously spicy all at once, it’s an explosion of reactions. Another more modern combination of heat and sweet is another one of Young’s favorite treats, Melona and Gochujang. Melona is a Korean honeydew ice cream, which Young says pairs wonderfully with a chili paste.
Mexican cuisine, too, has combined sweet and spicy for centuries. Vendors selling cups of chopped fruit topped with Tajin chile lime seasoning, chamoy sauce, and lime juice are a common sight.
Cook and food blogger Maricruz Avalos has fond memories of eating fruta con chile while growing up in Colima, Mexico.
“Spicy really works in fruits because the flavor is subtle and is more of a sensation,” Avalos says. “When you are eating fruit with chili powder, the chili flavor is barely noticeable, but the heat gets pleasantly calmed with the freshness and sweetness of the fruit, especially watermelon.”
But, while she loves a dash of spice on her fruit, Avalos wasn’t sold on the idea of mustard.
“Mustard has a strong taste that remains no matter what,” she says. “It is undoubtedly an amazing flavor, but it is too strong and totally covers the watermelon flavor or any fruit. It just doesn’t taste right to me.”
Nonetheless, I was committed to trying this combination. In preparation to take my palette where it has never gone before, I considered mustard’s main ingredients (in this case, stone ground mustard) Distilled vinegar, mustard seed, salt, turmeric, paprika, and garlic powder. Those earthy, vingary flavors might be essential on a hot dog, but they seem to contradict everything we love about watermelon, namely that it’s sweet, juicy and refreshing.
When I tasted it (my ‘recipe’ is below) I was almost angry at how much I liked it. I had been so sure this was going to be a miss, but I’m pleasantly surprised. My assessment, however, was clouded by the fact that I really enjoy watermelon by itself and I felt like I was doing a disservice to a naturally delicious fruit by coating it in all these toppings, but I could see how the flavors and textures worked well together. The mustard coating soaks easily into the fruit, melding the sweetness with the vinegary, tart flavors.
For me, the secret was to use just a small amount of the mustard topping. Too much will overwhelm the watermelon taste.
Personally, this made me think of watermelon in a watercress salad with vinaigrette, a meal I have every summer. I can see this being incorporated into a fun cookout spread. It might not be a hit with everyone, but it’ll certainly be the talk of the table.
How to Serve Mustard on Watermelon
- Cut watermelon into triangular slices.
- Whisk together mustard, honey, lime juice and Tajin seasoning in a small bowl.
- Drizzle sauce over the watermelon slices.