Watermelon Poke Bowl

This vegan poke bowl recipe swaps cubed watermelon for raw fish. Its pink color mimics the fish perfectly, and it makes these bowls refreshing & fun!

Watermelon Poke Bowls

There’s a new poke bowl shop in town called Poke Poke, and we’re just a little obsessed. Jack and I have eaten there at least 2x per week since it opened. In fact, we’ve just returned from eating lunch there. We might be late to jump on the poke trend, but there’s something so crave-able about these sort of deconstructed sushi bowls. Please tell me that we’re not the only ones that get hooked on the same type of food for weeks on end?

What is a poke bowl?

The easiest way for me to describe a poke bowl is as I did above, as “a deconstructed sushi bowl.” It originated in Hawaii, and the bowls usually consist of a base of rice, cubed raw fish, seasonings like green onions and sesame seeds, and other toppings. A salty soy sauce and sesame oil marinade often finishes them off. Hawaiian poke is available all over the place – from grocery stores to food trucks to high-end restaurants – but here, poke bowl shops are just starting to pop up.

Even though Poke Poke is close to our house, I wanted to make a poke bowl recipe at home to share with all of you. Only I didn’t want to use fish because, well, this is a vegetarian blog. Also, I’m not a big fan of getting sushi grade fish at the grocery store. Enter – watermelon. I first saw the idea here and I was intrigued. While it doesn’t taste like ahi tuna, it sure looks like it, and it’s fresh, fun, and delicious.

Watermelon Poke Bowl Recipe ingredients

My Poke Bowl Ingredients

In my poke bowl recipe, I skipped the rice. You could easily add some, but I found the grain-free bowl to be the perfect light meal on a hot summer day. Here’s what made it so refreshing:

  • Watermelon acts as the fish. It’s cooling, juicy, crisp & sweet – delicious!
  • Pickled ginger adds a little sweet/tangy pop.
  • Cucumber gives it a cooling crunch and pairs perfectly with the melon.
  • Macadamia nuts are a Hawaiian staple, and they add delectable richness and crunch.
  • Jalapeño spices it up.
  • Scallions are a classic poke bowl ingredient, and they cut through the sweetness of the watermelon.
  • Avocado gives this bowl essential creaminess, balancing the sweet & sharp flavors.
  • A tangy tamari-sesame-lime sauce ties it all together.
  • And furikake – a toasted nori and sesame seed condiment – is the perfect nutty, toasty finishing touch.

Poke Bowl Recipe Variations

Customizing your bowl is one of the best parts of eating poke, so don’t hesitate to fix yours to your liking. If you need ideas to change this recipe up, here are a few suggestions:

  • Make a more traditional poke bowl by adding a base of rice. Jasmine rice is customary, but brown rice or even quinoa would be good too.
  • Swap the watermelon for diced mango, marinated or baked tofu, or sashimi grade fish if you’re not vegetarian!
  • I like the macadamia nuts for a little Hawaiian flare, but if they’re not your thing, omit them entirely, or replace them with another nut, crisp fresh corn kernels, or steamed shelled edamame.
  • Add a handful of cilantro, mint, or basil.
  • Try using the sauce from this recipe!

Let me know what variations you try!

If you love this poke bowl recipe…

Try another refreshing watermelon recipe like watermelon gazpacho, watermelon tomato salad, watermelon feta salad, or a watermelon margarita!


5.0 from 3 reviews

Watermelon Poke Bowl

 
Prep time
Total time
 
This watermelon poke bowl recipe is super refreshing & fun! Add a base of rice if you wish, but for me, the light, grain-free bowl is perfect on a hot summer day.
Author:
Recipe type: Main dish
Serves: 2-4
Ingredients
dressing:
  • 1 tablespoon tamari
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon cane sugar or agave
  • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
bowls:
  • 5 cups cubed watermelon
  • ¼ cup chopped scallions
  • 1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup macadamia nuts
  • 2 tablespoons pickled ginger
  • 1 small jalapeño or thai chile, diced
  • ½ ripe avocado, pitted and diced
  • Furikake (recipe below) or toasted sesame seeds
  • Handful of microgreens, optional
furikake (toasted nori topping):
  • 1 sheet nori
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon sugar
Instructions
  1. Make the furikake (if using): Toast the nori over a gas burner by waving the sheet above the burner until it’s darkened and crispy. Cut into small pieces. Place the toasted nori in a food processor with the sesame seeds, salt and sugar. Pulse until everything is well chopped up.
  2. Make the dressing: In a small bowl combine the tamari, garlic, lime juice, rice vinegar, sugar and sesame oil.
  3. Toss the watermelon with the scallions and a bit of the dressing. Assemble bowls with the watermelon, cucumber, macadamia nuts, pickled ginger, jalapeño, avocado and microgreens, if using. Pour on more dressing (as much as you like) and gently toss. Serve with furikake sprinkled on top.
Notes
Note: you can serve this in individual bowls, as pictured, or toss everything together in one large bowl.

Use leftover furikake topping on rice bowls with grilled or roasted vegetables.

16 comments

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  1. Please explain this “poke bowl” phenomenon to a poor expat in rural France, where the choices are French food or French food (not bad choices, but no poke bowls to be found).
    What is the poke factor in this recipe?

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.08.2016

      It’s kind of a deconstructed sushi bowl, usually made with raw tuna.

      • Hokulani
        07.30.2018

        Aloha! Super late comment but as a Hawaiian I feel the need to answer. 🙂

        Poke is a Hawaiian word and is pronounced POH-keh. Many people mispronounce it as the English word “poke”. In Hawaiian poke means to slice or cut crosswise into pieces/cubes.

        Traditional Hawaiian poke is usually made with cubed raw fish (such as ahi), soy sauce, and other seasonings.

  2. So much summer love packed into this bowl, and I love that you did a veggie version!

  3. Oh wow this is such a beautiful recipe and a beautiful farewell to summer!!! I can not wait to try this recipe. I just love how watermelon has become such a great savoury addition this season. Thank you for sharing 🍐

  4. Kim
    09.06.2016

    Hello!! I was wondering, it says that the recipe serves two, but mentions to divide the four cups of watermelon into four bowls. It also mentions to increase watermelon from 4 to 6 cups to serve four as a side. Is this correct or is there an error somewhere? Thanks!

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.07.2016

      Sorry, that was confusing. It’ll make 2 big bowls, or 4 smaller bowls.

  5. What a great alternative to poke bowls! They seem so intimidating, though I can’t get enough of them. This looks so refreshing and perfect for the remaining hot weather before fall.

  6. Mmm, I love this idea! Also, good to hear you liked Poke Poke – I’m in Austin too and have driven by a couple times but haven’t gone yet 🙂

    • Jeanine Donofrio
      09.08.2016

      you should go, it’s really good 🙂

  7. Andrea from pressurecooker101.com
    09.09.2016

    It looks so pretty! I bet it tastes amazing too (of course it does because it has watermelon and avocado in it!)

  8. Terry from cashmereapron.com
    09.11.2016

    Poke bowls are definitely the rage here in So. Cal as well. I love your idea to use watermelon as this something my family will eat <3. Love the creativity.

  9. Salomon from salomonchaussuress.fr
    01.04.2017

    I can not wait to try this recipe. I just love how watermelon has become such a great savoury addition this season.

A food blog with fresh, zesty recipes.
Photograph of Jeanine Donofrio and Jack Mathews in their kitchen

Hello, we're Jeanine and Jack.

We love to eat, travel, cook, and eat some more! We create & photograph vegetarian recipes from our home in Chicago, while our shiba pups eat the kale stems that fall on the kitchen floor.