This watermelon granita recipe is the ultimate watermelon summer refresher! Plus, it can be made with as little as ONE ingredient - fresh watermelon. However, I’ve included a whole list of optional add-ins and variations! Best of all, watermelon shaved ice requires just minutes of hands-on prep before freezing, fluffing, and enjoying.
Juice the watermelon. To do so, just scoop out the watermelon flesh from the rind, place it in a large bowl, and use an immersion blender or a large blender/food processor. Blend until smooth.
I then sieve the juice to eliminate excess pulp and seeds, but this isn't necessary if you use seedless watermelon.
Pour the watermelon juice into a large, shallow tray or dish (as large as possible for your freezer).
Step 2: Freeze the mixture
Transfer the dish to your freezer and allow it to freeze for 4-6 hours or overnight.Just note that the freezing time will differ based on the size of the dish used, so it's best to check after 4 hours, then every 2 hours after, until it's almost entirely frozen but still "scrapeable."
If you want chunkier watermelon granita, there's no need to touch the melon at all during this time. Otherwise, you can remove it from the freezer every 2-3 hours and agitate/scrape with a fork for a smoother texture, or every 1-2 hours for the smoothest option.During this time, the juice shouldn't freeze entirely due to its natural sugars (especially if adding more sugar), which naturally inhibits the freezing process. Agitating it at least 1-2 times during the freezing process will make it easier to "fluff up" at the end, too.
After freezing, it's time to scrape the mixture into the watermelon ice. To do so, you can simply use a fork and scrape against the mixture until it fluffs up.
To serve, transfer the watermelon granita to your bowl or glass of choice, serve with a lime wedge (just a squeeze or two tastes delicious over the watermelon ice mixture!), and some fresh mint leaves. I also topped mine with a dash of tajin (a combination of chili, lime, and salt).
How to Store Watermelon Granita
Once "scraped"/fluffed up into watermelon granita texture, you can keep the mixture in a container in the freezer for up to 5 days. Then, just re-fluff it a little bit just before serving, and you're good to go!
There's no need to strain the juice: I do so for smoother watermelon ice and to remove any seeds. However, it's not necessary (especially when using seedless varieties).
Sweeten to taste: if your watermelon is super sweet, I recommend skipping the simple syrup entirely. Otherwise, you can add it to the watermelon juice to taste. I recommend whipping up a large syrup batch and storing the leftovers in the fridge for lemonade and other uses.
Save the watermelon rind: to make watermelon rind pickles (it's on my to-do list!)
What's the best dish to use for freezing? I recommend using a dish that won't chip while you scrape the watermelon granita. Glass or ceramic would likely work best.
Optional Add-Ins and recipe variations:
Simple syrup: I don't add any when the watermelon is at its sweetest but do so if it needs a little help (or if you have a sweet tooth). I recommend ¼ cup simple syrup but increase to taste. Use unrefined sugar (like coconut sugar) to make it if preferred – just be aware that each sugar will affect the flavor. OR Sugar: alternatively, you can simply add the granulated or liquid sugar of your choice - cane sugar, coconut sugar, maple, honey, agave. For a sugar-free option, you could even use erythritol or stevia. Add it to the watermelon when blending.
Herbs: I added this below the syrup as I find the easiest way to infuse the watermelon shaved ice with herby flavor is by making a simple herby syrup (add the fresh herbs to the pan when heating the mixture). I recommend basil or mint. You can also serve it with herbs.
Lemon/Lime: I also already serve this granita with lime. However, if you're using simple syrup, adding a tablespoon of lemon/lime juice (and even possibly a tsp or so of zest) should be mixed directly into the liquid when freezing.
Strawberry: I recommend adding one cup of hulled, chopped strawberries for additional flavor.
Rosewater: Just a little rosewater (or rose extract) will help to subtly fragrance the watermelon shaved ice. I recommend adding it to taste, as everyone's palette is different.
Alcohol: vodka, gin, and tequila make for delicious boozy additions to this watermelon granita. Just be aware that, like sugar, alcohol impacts how well the juice freezes. I recommend ¼ cup maximum, though I imagine that ½ cup would work but will yield a looser, slushier texture.
Mini chocolate chips: this is more of a visual addition. When serving, a few "studded" chips added to the bowl/cup look like watermelon seeds (and practically everyone loves chocolate).
Watermelon kaki Gori: Kaki Gori is the Japanese version of shaved ice, which serves the dish with condensed milk (or condensed coconut milk for a vegan version). In this case, you can simply spoon some over the watermelon shaved ice when serving.