Candied Pickled Watermelon

Servings: 2

Time: 1hr 30mins

Difficulty: Moderate

Developing this recipe was an adventure. I sought out to create a fun take on a memorable treat from my teenage years—the sweet-spicy mangoes I’d pick up from street vendors on Fordham Road in the Bronx—only to land on a surprising Latin-Asian fusion confection. 

On Fordham Road (and as I’ve learned, the treat is popular in Miami, too), juicy mangoes were deliciously sweet and coated in salt and pepper and spicy hot sauce for a kick. I envisioned replacing mangoes with home-grown watermelon cubes, and encasing the flavorful fruit in a glass-like sugar coating. Turns out, candy-coating fruit is a popular snack in Chinese cuisine, called tanghulu!

Here, I’ve adapted a tanghulu recipe from Mellawnie ASMR 멜라우니 to include a pickling technique inspired by the nostalgic mango dessert. The result is a sweet, smoky, juicy bite with one helluva crunch.


  • 1 cup watermelon, cubed
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder 
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp. hot honey


Add watermelon cubes to a medium-sized bowl. In a separate bowl, combine vinegar, chipotle chili powder, black pepper, and salt and whisk until well combined. Pour the mixture over the watermelon and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator for about an hour. 

Strain watermelon and gently pat dry. Place on a wire rack lined with paper towel while you prep the sugar mixture. (Since the watermelon is packed with water, naturally, this will help to keep the cubes as dry as possible, allowing the sugar coating to adhere to the cubes.)

Add sugar, water, and hot honey to a saucepan and place on low heat, allowing the sugar to fully dissolve. The hot honey will help keep the sugar from crystallizing—plus, it adds another note of heat. Remove the mixture from heat once it starts to golden and thicken.  

Pierce the watermelon cubes with skewers or chopsticks, and dip into the mixture while hot. Stand them upright while they cool. Once hardened, slide the cubes off of the sticks and enjoy!

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