Watermelon-Basil Agua Fresca

By: Jody Paglia Tanzman, RD,LDN,CLC

Perhaps you are like me and you had a bumper crop of basil this year (and are tired of making pesto to use it all up!). Or you are looking for a refreshing drink to make the summer linger even as autumn moves in. Look no further than this watermelon-basil agua fresca! A traditional drink in Latin cultures, agua fresca (literally “fresh water”) can be made with any kind of juicy fruit. Watermelon is a natural choice, with its high water content and appealing pink color, thanks to its large proportion of heart-protective lycopene. The basil adds a spicy, fragrant note that elevates the subtlety sweet taste of the watermelon (and provides a healthy dose of vitamin K!), and the lime juice and sweetener balance the flavors perfectly.


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  • 2 lbs (1kg) fresh watermelon flesh, cut into chunks
    (keep some of the white rind on the flesh for
    maximum nutrition)
4 oz (125 ml) cold, filtered water
1/2 cup basil leaves, chopped
    (mint or cilantro also work well)
  • 3 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 – 2 tbsp pure maple syrup
    (or you may use a simple syrup sugar solution of
  • 1 tbsp coconut sugar mixed with
  • 1 tbsp hot water – stir until the sugar has dissolved)


  1. Divide the watermelon in half. Put the 4 oz of water in a blender and add half of the watermelon chunks.
  2. Puree until smooth, about 30 seconds. Pour the mixture into a bowl, leaving about 4 oz of liquid at the bottom of the blender. Add the remaining watermelon chunks, again pureeing until smooth.
  3. Pour the second batch into the first batch in the bowl. Skim off any foam. Whisk in the chopped basil, lime juice and sweetener. If you are feeling lazy you can add the lime, sweetener and whole basil leaves to the blender while you are pureeing the watermelon (but it will turn the juice a darker, less pink color). Be sure to taste the agua fresca and adjust the basil, lime juice and sweetener to your taste.
  4. If you prefer the look of a clear, pink liquid, you may strain the watermelon puree before adding the basil, lime and sweetener. When I am serving this agua fresca for guests, I do it this way. When I am making this for myself, I prefer to leave in the pulp for extra fiber and nutrition. Either way, the agua fresca will naturally separate upon standing. Simply stir the agua fresca before serving, pour over ice and enjoy!

NOTE: If you would like some bubbles in your agua fresca, use only enough water to process the watermelon. Portion out the agua fresca into glasses, and top off with sparking water.

  • Nutrition per serving:
  • Calories90
  • Fat0 g
  • Saturated Fat0 g
  • Cholesterol0 mg
  • Sodium0 mg
  • Carbohydrates22 g
  • Fiber0 g
  • Sugars18 g
  • Protein 3 g

Yields and nutritional information are estimated and will vary depending on produce size and equipment used.

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Jody Paglia Tanzman, RD,LDN,CLC

Jody is a Registered Dietitian and trained professional chef. She is a graduate of Boston University and received her post-baccalaureate degree in dietetics at Hunter College. She also attended the Institute of Culinary Education in Manhattan. Jody has cooked for numerous well-known restaurants and catering companies throughout NYC, including Gramercy Tavern and the green, sustainable catering company, The Cleaver Co. Jody is a frequent recipe contributor to several online blogs. Her articles on gluten and celiac disease have been referenced on numerous websites, and she is currently at work on a gluten-free cookbook. Jody also works as a Culinary Advisor for Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, creating new, high quality menu items that meet strict parameters for nutrition and wellness. Her most favorite job, however, is being a mom to two boys.

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