Watermelon jelly is made with the juice of ripe, juicy watermelon, and this vibrant homemade jelly will bring the sunny taste of summer to the table all year long.
While you’re less likely to find watermelon jelly on the shelves at most grocery stores, this sweet preserve is one the tastiest (not to mention the most unique) jellies I’ve ever had the pleasure of tasting. Imagine all the wonderful flavors of a vine-ripened watermelon concentrated into an almost shockingly pink jelly, used to spread on your morning toast or as a topper for creamy homemade ice cream.
Watermelon isn’t quite acidic enough for canning alone, but I’ve added enough citrus juice to balance the jelly flavor-wise and ensure safe canning.
Most of the recipes I’ve come across for watermelon jelly use lemon juice as an acid, but I’ve opted for lime juice in my version. If you’ve ever enjoyed fresh watermelon juice with a spritz of lime juice (and maybe a splash of vodka), then you know where I’m coming from.
Watermelon jelly makes a gorgeous gift, too, especially during the cold winter months, when ripe watermelon seems like an impossibility or, at the very least, a treat that’s far, far off in the distance. I mean, flowers and wine are always a lovely hostess gift, but a ribbon-wrapped half-pint of watermelon jelly is like bringing the summer directly into someone’s home when it’s most needed.
The best part about this recipe for watermelon jelly?
It’s super easy, requires only four ingredients, and allows you to opt out of canning altogether if you’d rather make a refrigerator or freezer preserve.
But I urge you, for the sake of your sun-starved selves during the cold and dark months of winter, to can at least one or two jars of the stuff—your future self will thank you!
Is Watermelon Safe For Canning?
Watermelon has an average pH of around 5.2 to 5.6, which is not acidic enough for safe canning. Fruits must be below a pH of 4.6 to be safe for canning, which is a good bit more acidic than plain watermelon.
To make this recipe safe for canning, you need to add quite a bit of citrus juice, either lemon or lime.
Adding 1/2 cup of bottled lemon or lime juice is sufficient to drop the pH for canning.
Even if you’re not canning, it’s a good idea to add citrus juice because it helps to balance out the sugar in this recipe. Watermelon jelly can be a bit insipid on its own, and really does need that acidity to add tartness so that everything tastes right.
Ingredients for Watermelon Jelly
The ingredient list for watermelon jelly is short, with juicy, ripe watermelon being the main ingredient!
You could also try making this jelly with a yellow watermelon-adjacent variety of melon, such as a Yellow Crimson or a Yellow Doll. Because yellow melons tend to be sweeter than most types of watermelon, you can decrease the amount of sugar called for in the recipe.
- Watermelon: For this recipe, you’ll need about 6 to 8 cups of chopped watermelon with the rind removed (or the equivalent of one small-ish watermelon)—the goal is 4 cups of watermelon juice.
- White granulated sugar ~The amount will depend on how sweet you like your watermelon jelly. Anywhere between 1 cup and 4 cups works well, see notes.
- Lime juice ~ Fresh or bottled, in which case I recommend using Santa Cruz organic or Lakewood organic. Their flavor is better, and they don’t have other additives or preservatives like some brands.
- Sure Jell low sugar pectin*
*Low-sugar pectin will allow you to use less sugar (if you prefer a less sweet jelly) without affecting the jelly’s ability to set. In general, I find Sure Jell low-sugar pectin to be the most fail-proof for home canning projects.
How to Make Watermelon Jelly
To make this watermelon jelly recipe, you’ll need about 6 to 8 cups of chopped watermelon, which should be the yield from one smallish watermelon.
To remove the rind and prep the watermelon quickly, slice off both ends of the melon, set it on one of the flat ends, and then use a sharp knife to shave the rind off from tip to tail—you’ll be left with intact watermelon flesh that just needs to be chopped into small pieces.
Don’t worry about seeds, we’re going to be pushing the watermelon through a cheesecloth or a jelly bag to strain out any clumps or bits of seed before we make the jelly.
Add the chopped watermelon to a blender and purée until the fruit is blended and smooth. If you have a smaller blender jar, work in batches to prevent accidental overflow during the blitzing process.
Line a fine mesh sieve with a folded strip of cheesecloth or a jelly strainer bag and place it over a large bowl or measuring cup with a lip. Pour the puréed watermelon through the lined strainer, using a wooden spoon or spatula to press the leftover watermelon pulp to extract the juice.
Measure out 4 cups of extracted watermelon juice (enjoy any remaining juice with a squeeze of fresh lime for a refreshing beverage). Add the juice to a saucepan along with 1/2 cup of bottled lime juice or 3/4 cup of fresh lime juice and stir to combine.
Next, stir in one package of Sure Jell low-sugar pectin, whisking to dissolve. Do not add the sugar at this point; if the sugar is added early, the jelly won’t set.
Bring the watermelon juice, lime juice, and low-sugar pectin to a boil. Set the timer for one minute, and boil the ingredients. After a full minute has gone by, now it’s time to add the sugar.
The amount of sugar you’ll add will depend on how sweet you prefer your fruit jellies as well as the sweetness of the actual watermelon.
As a general guideline, I recommend adding between 2 and 3 cups of white granulated sugar. Whatever amount you choose, whisk it into the watermelon juice mixture to dissolve, set the timer for one minute, and then repeat the timed boiling step from above once more.
When the timer goes off, carefully ladle the hot, liquid watermelon jelly into prepared jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace (a canning funnel is always helpful to have on hand for this stage of any canning recipe).
For jelly recipes, I like to use half-pint or pint jars—the perfect size for gifting with a cute little label and a ribbon or for keeping and bringing out whenever you or your family gets a hankering for late August produce.
Using a clean kitchen towel, wipe down the sides and rims of the jars and apply two-piece lids until fingertip tight.
At this point, the jelly will need 24-48 hours to set. You can transfer the jars to the refrigerator without canning, in which case they should be enjoyed within three weeks. For long-term storage, simply pop the jars into a hot water bath canner and let the jelly set up after the canning process has finished.
Canning Watermelon Jelly
To can watermelon jelly, load the jars into a hot water bath canner, covering them with at least one inch of water. Bring the water back up to a boil and process the jars for 10 minutes (or 15 minutes if above 6,000 feet in elevation).
When the timer goes off, carefully remove the jars from the hot water canner using tongs and place them on a clean kitchen towel, leaving at least an inch of space between each jar.
Allow the watermelon jelly to come to room temperature, for at least 12 hours, before checking the seal of each lid. Jars with unsealed lids should be stored in the refrigerator. Jars with sealed lids can be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight for up to 18 months.
Watermelon Jelly With Pomona’s Pectin
Both of those books use Pomona’s Pectin in their recipes, and they recommend 1 tablespoon of calcium water and 1 tablespoon Pomona’s Pectin to 4 cups of watermelon juice and 1/2 cup of bottled lemon juice.
Sherri uses 1 cup white sugar, while Marissa uses just under 2 cups agave syrup to sweeten. When using pomona’s pectin, the instructions are different, and you’ll want to follow the manufacturer’s steps using these proportions. (The calcium water is added to the juice, and the pectin is mixed in with the sugar.)
Ways to Use Watermelon Jelly
Watermelon jelly might be somewhat unusual in terms of preserves, but you can use it the same way you would use any other type of jelly (although, in all honesty, I would hesitate to make a PB&J with this particular jelly—but I’m happy to be proven wrong!).
The sweet, distinctly summery taste of this jelly means it’s just as at home on a thick slice of toast as it is spooned over yogurt, skyr, ice cream, or sorbet.
If you’re looking for other suggestions, watermelon jelly is also delicious piled onto waffles or pancakes, used to fill jelly donuts, layered into cakes, or even as the base for a fabulous watermelon cocktail (or, go alcohol-free and add a generous spoonful of watermelon jelly to seltzer water with lime juice and plenty of ice).
Watermelon Canning Recipes
Looking for more watermelon canning recipes?
A simple-as-can-be sunny, summery jelly made with juicy watermelon!
- 6-8 cups watermelon, chopped (rind removed)
- 2-3 cups white granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup bottled lime juice (or 3/4 cup fresh)
- 1 box Sure Jell low sugar pectin
- Add chopped watermelon to a blender and purée until smooth.
- Line a fine mesh sieve with a strip of folded cheesecloth or a jelly strainer bag. Pour the puréed watermelon through the sieve into a large bowl or measuring cup with lip.
- Measure out 4 cups of of watermelon juice. Reserve leftover juice (if any) to enjoy later as a beverage.
- Transfer watermelon juice to a saucepan and bring to a boil along with the lime juice and boxed pectin (do NOT add sugar yet). Whisk to dissolve.
- Boil the juice and pectin for 1 minute.
- After 1 minute, whisk in the sugar to dissolve. Boil for 1 more minute.
- Carefully ladle the watermelon and lime juice, pectin, and sugar mixture into prepared jars, leaving 1/4-inch headspace.
- Wipe down the rims and sides of each jar with a clean kitchen towel. Apply two-piece lids until fingertip tight.
- At this point, the jelly can be transferred to the refrigerator—enjoy within 3 weeks. The jelly will take 12-24 hours to set.
- To can this watermelon jelly: process jars in a hot water canner for 10 minutes (or 15 minutes if above 6,000 feet in elevation). Using a jar lifter, transfer jars from canner to a clean kitchen towel, leaving 1-inch of space between each jar. Let the jelly to come to room temperature before inspecting the seal of each jar—any unsealed jars should be transferred to the refrigerator. Sealed jars should be stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight for up to 18 months.
The lime juice is not optional in this recipe, and you must include it to preserve the jelly. Watermelon is not acidic enough on its own for safe canning. If you're not canning this preserve, I'd still recommend it because watermelon really does need some acidity to balance the flavor when you add sugar.
This recipe uses 1/2 cup of bottled lime juice, but you can substitute 3/4 cup fresh juice. You can also use lemon juice in place of lime for a more neutral flavor.
For a very neutral flavor, without any hints of citrus, you can use citric acid crystals. One Tablespoon of bottled lemon juice is equal to 1/4 tsp of citric acid. For this recipe, you'd need 2 tsp of citric acid to replace the lemon or lime juice.
Watermelon Jelly With Pomona's Pectin
Both of those books use Pomona's Pectin in their recipes, and they recommend 1 tablespoon of calcium water and 1 tablespoon of Pomona's Pectin to 4 cups of watermelon juice and 1/2 cup of bottled lemon juice.
Sherri uses 1 cup white sugar, while Marissa uses just under 2 cups agave syrup to sweeten. When using pomona's pectin, the instructions are different, and you'll want to follow the manufacturer's steps using these proportions. (The calcium water is added to the juice, and the pectin is mixed in with the sugar.)
Looking for more easy homemade jelly recipes?
Summer Fruit Canning Recipes
Putting up more fruit this summer? I have plenty of fruit canning recipes…