Not all watermelons are pink.
Slices of yellow watermelon
Credit: Kristada Panichgul

When faced with the sweltering summer heat, there's nothing more refreshing than a bright pink, juicy watermelon. But did you know, watermelons haven't always been pink? Watermelons ranging in color from yellow to orange exist too, and they've actually been around longer than their reddish-pink counterparts.

So, what's the difference between yellow and pink watermelons? And what makes yellow watermelons, well, yellow? Here's all you need to know to get ready for watermelon season.

What Makes Them Yellow?

Pink watermelons get their signature color from lycopene, which is the same antioxidant that gives a red color to grapefruits and tomatoes. Yellow watermelons on the other hand don't contain lycopene, preventing them from taking on this reddish-pink color. So the better question might be — what makes pink watermelons pink?

Yellow Watermelons vs. Pink Watermelons

Because bright pink watermelon flesh is synonymous with summertime, it may come as a surprise to learn that yellow watermelons were actually cultivated before pink/red watermelons. Yellow watermelons were first grown in Africa 5,000 years ago. After going through generations of selective cross-breeding for color, texture, and sweetness, pink varieties began to appear as the lycopene content of the hybrid varieties increased over time.

The difference between yellow and pink watermelon goes beyond just color. Yellow varieties are said to be sweet, and almost honey-like in taste. They also have a thicker rind than their red counterparts. But since both have green rinds, you probably won't be able to tell them apart from the outside.

In terms of nutrition, both types of watermelon are high in vitamins A and C. While yellow watermelon does not contain lycopene, it makes up for it with high levels of beta-carotene, an antioxidant that may protect against cancer.

Both yellow and pink watermelon can come in different varieties, including seeded and seedless varieties, thanks to natural cross-breeding. You can use yellow watermelon anyway you would use regular watermelon.

How to Pick Yellow Watermelon

If you're picking a watermelon, whether yellow or red, there are several ripeness indicators to look out for. A ripe melon should be heavy in weight with a creamy yellow patch on one side, also known as a "field spot." For more information on how to pick the right watermelon this summer, refer to our guide.