Spicy watermelon salad with feta and pan-roasted shishito peppers

Watermelon salad with pan-roasted shishito peppers and feta

Summer salad, perfected!

Sweet, cool watermelon and salty feta is a winning combination… but add roasted shishito peppers (a Japanese heirloom pepper) to the mix, and you’ve got a positively addictive salad. Plus, the colorful salad is drizzled with a tangy lime vinaigrette that keeps all the flavors in check. It’s then garnished with tender, aromatic fennel fronds.

Succulent shishito peppers add just the right amount of heat

If you’ve never cooked with shishito peppers, I urge you to try them, especially when you can find the heirloom kind (see Viviane’s tip below). Pan-roasted until blistered, the thin-skinned peppers become succulent. When picked young (about 3″ in size), they’re sweet with just a hint of heat. When larger, they can be hotter.

This simple salad is not only mouthwatering; it’s also absolutely stunning … Enjoy!

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Shishito peppers

Food & wine pairing: Rosé with spicy watermelon salad

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Pour a dry, fruity rosé with this mouthwatering salad… either still or sparkling!

Watermelon salad with pan-roasted shishito peppers and feta

serves 4
active time: 30 min

For the roasted shishito peppers

  1. 4 oz (115 g) shishito peppers – left whole (see Viviane’s tip)
  2. 2 tablespoons olive oil
  3. sea salt to taste

For the salad

  1. 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lime zest (use a microplane grater)
  2. 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  3. 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  4. 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  5. freshly ground white pepper to taste
  6. 2 lbs (455 g) seedless watermelon – rind removed and cut in 1″ x 1 1/2″ wedges
  7. 8 oz (225 g) feta – cut in 1/2″ cubes
  8. 6 to 8 small fennel fronds as garnish (basil or tarragon leaves are good substitutes)

  1. Step 1: Before cooking the peppers, make a small slit in each pepper with a paring knife. This will prevent them from bursting when they cook. Heat a large heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the oil and peppers and toss well. Sauté for 4 to 5 minutes until the peppers are golden-brown and blistered, tossing only occasionally. Transfer to a tray lined with paper towels and sprinkle with the salt. Set aside.
  2. Step 2: Place the lime zest, lime juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl and whisk until well blended. Arrange the watermelon and feta on a large platter (or 4 plates if serving individual portions). Top with the shishito peppers and drizzle with the vinaigrette. Garnish with the fennel fronds and serve immediately.

Viviane’s tip
  1. You can likely find heirloom shishito peppers at your farmers’ market. They’re becoming more popular, and therefore a bit easier to find. Hybrid shishitos can also be found in Korean markets, where they are called “twist peppers.” I find these to be only an adequate substitute, though, as they’re often much hotter and tougher than the heirloom kind. So make sure to pick the smallest peppers you can find.
  2. But other peppers are delicious in this recipe, too. For peppers that have a bit of heat, you can use pimientos de Padrón (another heirloom pepper, this one from Spain) or small Cubanelle peppers. For mild peppers, use Hungarian wax peppers or mini sweet (or bell) peppers.
  3. All the peppers mentioned above can be purchased online at Melissas.com.

Watermelon salad with pan-roasted shishito peppers and feta

salad, watermelon, shishito peppers


  1. So simple yet so good! I would love to have some for my lunch.

  2. Sounds delicious! Can’t wait to try it… will jalapenos or serranos work too?

    • Viviane Bauquet Farre

      Hi Leon! Jalapeños and serranos will work, but they’ll be considerably hotter than shishitos… as long as you love hot peppers, you’ll be fine!

  3. This is my kind of salad! Watermelon and chile sounds awesome! I’m growing a variety of chiles this year and any of them would be great in this salad. Great recipe Viviane!

  4. I brought home a watermelon just for the holiday weekend. After all, it wont be too long before all the seasonal melons vanish from the grocery stores. This wonderful salad is just the recipe I need to spice up this weekend’s menu and put that watermelon to good use!

  5. I love watermelon and feta salad and you’ve definitely taken it to another level. A little heat sounds like the perfect addition with these shishito peppers. Now to track some down!

    • Viviane Bauquet Farre

      Thank you, Liz! The farmers’ markets are the best venue for shishitos… unless you decide to grow some!

  6. Pingback: Boston lettuce and radish salad with grilled fingerling potatoes — food & style

  7. The best variant on this classic, not sure i ever had shishito peppers but want to try them now.

  8. Padron peppers are the local favorite at farm stands and markets. We pop them in skillet with a touch of hot oil, roast and finish with large flakes of sea salt. Adding these gems to a watermelon salad is inspired! A recipe that captures summer on a plate with perfection!

  9. You make the simply dishes look so inviting and delicious.

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