Love Italian ice (aka water ice)? Learn how to make this refreshing Watermelon Ice at home to cool you down as the weather gets hotter. Vegan, eggless, and dairy free!

Watermelon Ice with wooden spoon in white ramekin

As a kid, I never really liked watermelon.

It wasn’t so much that I hated it; rather, it just tasted like, well, water.

I’d rather have the sweet, assertive taste of mango or pineapple if I wanted some juicy fruit to snack on.

Then one hot, blistering summer day years ago, I wasn’t feeling well due to the heat. My parents were with me and had just bought fresh, cubed watermelon from the store.

Considering we didn’t have anything to drink in the car, I gave in and ate a few pieces, just enough to get me through the trip.

That’s when I realized that watermelon isn’t so bad after all. Still watery like I remembered but also a little bit sweet.

Later that summer, I bought a few watermelon slices of my own and made sriracha shrimp tacos with watermelon salsa.

Summer soon ended, and that was the last of the watermelon for the year.

Fast forward to this summer and I wanted to take watermelon into a new direction. It’s not an ingredient you typically bake with, considering how watery it is.

As I racked my brain for dessert ideas, frozen treats kept coming to mind.

I made watermelon ice cream but wasn’t crazy about it. Watermelon yogurt pops taste great with dairy, but the ice cream seemed too heavy.

Then it hit me – Watermelon Ice.

And let me tell you – it is the most amazing watermelon dessert I’ve had so far.

Not that I’ve had many watermelon treats, but I was blown away at how good this was. Far greater than expectations I had for it.

It’s a vibrantly pink watermelon Italian ice made with 5 ingredients – water, sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and of course juicy watermelon.

This watermelon ice recipe is light and refreshing for when it’s just too darn hot outside.

So whether you eat your weight in watermelon or whether you just nibble on it here and there, just promise you’ll give this Watermelon Italian Ice a try.

Watermelon Italian Ice in a white pan with scoop

What is Italian ice?

Italian ice is a frozen dessert made with fruit puree/juice and a simple sugar syrup. There’s no dairy and no egg, making it 100 percent vegan.

The texture is very similar to eating ice (hence the name) but not quite like a snow cone or shaved ice. Think of a snow cone but with finer ice crystals.

It’s very similar to watermelon sorbet but not as smooth. It’s also a bit firmer than a watermelon slushie.

Although the origin dates all the way back to Sicily, it really boomed in Philadelphia (where they call it water ice instead of Italian ice). I was there a few weeks ago and naturally had to buy some locally for myself.

If you still have no idea what I’m talking about, just make a batch. You won’t regret it.

Watermelon Ice in a ramekin with wooden spoon

Ingredients For Watermelon Ice

To make homemade Italian ice, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Water: Used to make the simple syrup to sweeten your ice
  • Sugar: Needed for the simple syrup
  • Watermelon: The juicier, the better
  • Lemon zest and juice: Adds a pop of acid so your ice isn’t too sweet

Can I reduce the sugar in Italian ice?

If your watermelon is really sweet, you may want to cut back on the sugar syrup.

The ratio is 1:1, so if you cut it back to 1/4 cup sugar, you’ll also want to make the water 1/4 cup.

Don’t leave it out altogether! You do need some sugar so your ice isn’t rock hard with crystals.

How To Make Italian Ice

Here are the easy steps for making watermelon ice:

  1. Make your simple syrup by boiling together the water and sugar in a saucepan.
  2. Blend together watermelon, lemon zest, lemon juice, and simple syrup until smooth.
  3. Freeze until firm, about 4 hours or overnight.

Watermelon Ice in a ramekin with wooden spoon

More Watermelon Recipes

Since you’re buying a whole watermelon for making Italian ice, here are more watermelon recipes to make with the leftovers:

Watermelon Italian Ice

Watermelon Italian Ice

Yield: 1 pint
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Freeze Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 15 minutes

Love Italian ice (aka water ice)? Learn how to make this refreshing Watermelon Ice at home to cool you down as the weather gets hotter. Vegan, eggless, and dairy free!


  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cups cubed watermelon
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water and sugar to a boil. Cook until the sugar dissolves and the liquid is clear. Remove from the heat.
  2. In a blender, add the watermelon, lemon zest, lemon juice, and simple syrup (sugar water). Pulse a few times until smooth (don't overblend).
  3. Pour into a freezer-proof container. Cover and freeze until firm, about 4 hours or overnight.


  • If your watermelon is super sweet, you can cut both the sugar and water back to 1/4 cup each. However, don't leave it out completely as the sugar keeps it from turning into a solid block of ice.
  • Enjoyed this recipe? Check out Watermelon Sorbet and Watermelon Slushies.

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First published May 14, 2019