Kid-friendly Hawaiian Rainbow Watermelon Poke Bowls + Steamed Rice Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Recipe: Hawaiian Rainbow Watermelon Poke Bowls + Steamed Rice

Recipe: Hawaiian Rainbow Watermelon Poke Bowls + Steamed Rice

Hawaiian Rainbow Watermelon Poke Bowls + Steamed Rice

by Erin Fletter
Photo by zarzamora/
prep time
40 minutes
cook time
25 minutes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Hawaiian Rainbow Watermelon Poke Bowls + Steamed Rice

Poke (poh-KAY) is a classic Hawaiian pupu, or snack, and is a centuries-old tradition possibly dating as far back as the arrival of the first Hawaiians in the island chain. Back then, poke was a simple snack for fishermen of scraps of raw reef fish seasoned with sea salt and limu (seaweed) and mixed with roasted and ground kukui nut (candlenut). Historians dispute whether or not the meal was called poke then or if the name only took hold when it became popular on the mainland in the 1970s. One thing is certain—poke, meaning "slice" or "cut into pieces," is a quintessentially Hawaiian dish. Bring Hawaiʻi's favorite snack and "aloha" to your family today!

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

Equipment Checklist

  • Medium saucepan + matching lid
  • Dry measuring cups
  • Liquid measuring cup
  • Colander
  • Skillet
  • Small bowl
  • Measuring spoons
  • Whisk
  • Cutting board + kid-safe knife
  • Grater


Hawaiian Rainbow Watermelon Poke Bowls + Steamed Rice

  • 1 1/2 C white short-grain rice
  • 3 C water
  • 1 nori sheet **(Omit for SHELLFISH ALLERGY or sub roasted kale leaves)**
  • 2 T sesame seeds **(Omit for SESAME ALLERGY)**
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp sugar
  • 2 green onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 T soy sauce **(for GLUTEN/SOY ALLERGY sub coconut aminos)**
  • 4 tsp rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 T sugar/honey/agave
  • 1 T vegetable oil
  • 1/2 medium watermelon
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 1/2 ripe avocado
  • 1 small carrot, grated

Food Allergen Substitutions

Hawaiian Rainbow Watermelon Poke Bowls + Steamed Rice

  • Shellfish: Omit nori seaweed or substitute roasted kale leaves for furikake.
  • Nut/Sesame: Omit sesame seeds.
  • Gluten/Wheat: Substitute coconut aminos for soy sauce.
  • Soy: Substitute coconut aminos for soy sauce.


Hawaiian Rainbow Watermelon Poke Bowls + Steamed Rice


Aloha! We are making Poke (poh-KAY) today! Usually poke is made with raw fish, but today we're making it with watermelon!

measure + boil + simmer

Make the rice first! Rinse 1 1/2 cups of rice in water until the water runs clear. Then drain well in a colander. Place the rinsed, drained rice in a pot with a tight-fitting lid and add 3 cups of water. Over medium heat, cover and bring the water to a boil. Boil for about 2 minutes, reduce heat and simmer for another 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes, or until water has been absorbed. Let the rice stand for 10 to 15 minutes while you make the rest of your poke bowls!

tear + toast + whisk

Now it's time to make the "furikake," the dry Japanese seasoning sprinkled on cooked rice. Start by having kids tear 1 nori sheet into tiny bits. Next, quickly toast the torn nori bits in a dry skillet on your stovetop over medium heat until it's darkened and crispy—be careful not to burn! Then place the toasted nori in a bowl and have kids add 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon sugar. Whisk together until well combined and set to the side.

chop + combine + marinate

Now it's time to make the dressing. Have kids chop 2 green onions and 1 garlic clove into the smallest bits possible and place them in a small bowl. Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce, 4 teaspoons rice vinegar, 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, and 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Whisk well while counting to 5 in Hawaiian: 1 `Ekahi (ey-KA-hee), 2 `Elua (ey-LOO-ah), 3 `Ekolu (ey-KOH-loo), 4 `Ehā (ey-HAH), 5 `Elima (ey-LEE-ma). Let the dressing sit to marinate the onions and garlic.

cube + grate

It is finally time to make the poke! Cube 1/2 watermelon, 1 cucumber, and 1/2 avocado. Then grate 1 carrot. Place all of these fruits and vegetables into a large bowl.

pour + toss + sprinkle

Pour on the dressing, as much as you like, and gently toss. Sprinkle the furikake on top and serve over your cooked rice. "'Ono" (oh-no) or "delicious" in Hawaiian!

Surprise Ingredient: Watermelon!

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Photo by Jill Wellington

Hi! I’m Watermelon!

"Don't you love Watermelon!? Then you must love me—I'm a watermelon! I might seem hard to get to know, but if you cut or break me open, you'll see I'm really sweet inside. I can add so much joy and refreshment to everything, too, like summer picnics and yummy recipes like this one!"


  • Food historians think watermelon originated in the Kalahari Desert of Africa. However, the first recorded watermelon harvest was about 5,000 years ago in Egypt, illustrated on ancient walls in Egyptian hieroglyphics. From there, watermelon spread throughout countries along the Mediterranean Sea by way of merchant ships. 
  • Watermelons were one of the items put in the tombs of kings to provide for them in the afterlife.
  • Watermelon was grown in India in the 7th century and by the 10th century had made its way to China, now the world's number one producer of watermelons. 
  • In the 13th century, watermelon spread through the rest of Europe via the Moors. 
  • Southern food historian, John Egerton, believes watermelon made its way to the United States with enslaved Africans, and now Americans eat more watermelon than cantaloupe and honeydew. 
  • About 300 watermelon varieties are grown in the US and Mexico. They are of various weights, shapes, sizes, and colors like red, orange, yellow, and white. 
  • The world's heaviest watermelon, at 350.5 pounds, was grown by Chris Kent in Tennessee in 2013.


  • Watermelon is a fruit because it grows from a seed, has a sweet, refreshing flavor, and is loosely considered a type of melon (although it is actually a type of berry called a pepo). 
  • It can also be called a vegetable because it is a member of the same family as the cucumber, pumpkin, and squash. It is harvested and cleared from fields like other vine-growing vegetables. 
  • A watermelon contains about 6 percent sugar and 92 percent water by weight. 
  • Japanese scientists developed a seedless variety in 1939. However, seedless watermelons initially did not resist disease sufficiently, so they did not become widely available and popular until the 21st century.

How to Pick, Buy & Eat

  • When choosing a watermelon, look for one that is firm, symmetrical, and free from bruises, cuts, or dents. When you lift the watermelon, it should be very heavy for its size, as most of a watermelon's weight is water—the heavier, the juicier. Finally, the watermelon should have a yellow spot on it, where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.
  • Farmers in Japan grow watermelons in glass boxes so they develop into a cube shape. The farmers initially did this so the watermelons would be stackable and easier to store. However, they eventually became a popular novelty at twice the price.
  • In China and Japan, watermelon is a popular gift to bring to a host of a party or gathering.
  • In Israel and Egypt, the sweet taste of watermelon is often paired with the salty taste of feta cheese.
  • Watermelon rinds are edible but do not taste good unless pickled or cooked. The seeds are also edible. Don't worry, though—you won't grow a watermelon in your stomach if you eat the seeds with the flesh! However, if you remove the seeds, you can dry them out and roast them. You can also grind them into flour after roasting using a coffee grinder. 
  • You can eat watermelon alone or put chunks in fruit or green salads. You can also purée it to add to salsas, syrups, desserts (like popsicles and sorbets), and drinks (like smoothies and lemonade). Finally, you might try adding some to your BBQ sauce or even grill watermelon slices!


  • A watermelon's high water and electrolyte content make it ideal as a refreshing and hydrating summer thirst quencher that is good for our skin and helps clear toxins from our kidneys. 
  • Watermelons contain high levels of vitamin C, which boosts immunity and healing power, and vitamin A, which is good for eyesight. 
  • Watermelon is also high in lycopene, a carotenoid that makes some fruits and vegetables red or pink. Tomatoes are most often connected to lycopene, but watermelon has more than raw tomatoes. However, products made from cooked tomatoes have a higher concentration. Study results vary on lycopene's health benefits, particularly cardiovascular health.
  • Drinking watermelon juice may relieve your muscle soreness due to l-citrulline, an amino acid that protects against muscle pain. The rinds also have l-citrulline, and they are high in fiber. Watermelon seeds contain iron, zinc, protein, and fiber. 
  • Eating watermelon helps stop inflammation in your body that contributes to conditions like asthma, atherosclerosis, diabetes, some cancers, and arthritis.


What is Poke?

Photo by zarzamora/
  • Poke is sushi-grade raw fish that has been sliced or diced and marinated. It is then placed atop rice with veggies, seasonings, and sauces. Poke can be an appetizer or a main dish.
  • As other cultures came to the Hawaiian Islands, they transformed poke into a popular dish from the original leftover fish scraps. Easier access to deep-water fish saw ahi tuna replace reef fish as the most popular poke choice. The Japanese added shoyu (a soy sauce) to their poke recipes, and with time, sesame oil also became a popular ingredient. Tofu and octopus are now alternatives to ahi. 
  • Poke holds a fond place in the hearts of local Hawaiians. The dish is a staple of luaus, family get-togethers, tailgate parties, and other gatherings filled with family, friends, and aloha. Poke is to the islands what nachos are to the mainland—a quick, filling snack food, seen more as comfort food than a full meal.

Let's Learn About Hawaii!

Photo by Shutterstock
  • Hawaii, our 50th state, is the only one not part of North America. It is an archipelago consisting of 137 islands over 2,000 miles west of California in the Pacific Ocean. Honolulu is its capital and largest city.
  • Over 1,000 years ago, a group of people from the Marquesas Islands arrived on the islands, now known as Hawaii, after rowing in canoes for about 2,300 miles. Native people from what is now the Society Islands, part of French Polynesia, came 500 years later and a few hundred miles further away. 
  • The first Europeans arrived in the Hawaiian Islands in 1778 with the British explorer Captain James Cook. He christened them the Sandwich Islands to honor the 4th Earl of Sandwich, who sponsored the voyage. The local natives initially treated Cook as a god, bringing gifts. However, his crew fought with the locals on a later visit, and they killed Cook. 
  • Hawaii's first king,  Kamehameha, began his rule in 1810. His heirs continued to rule until 1874. Two more kings and one queen ruled before the 1893 overthrow and annexation by the United States, becoming the Republic of Hawaii in 1894. The 1993 US Congress passed a joint Apology Resolution which President Bill Clinton signed, apologizing for "the illegal overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii."
  • Hawaii became a US territory in 1898. It was named the 50th state in 1959, and to this day, you can still visit Iolani Palace—the only royal building on US soil!
  • Hawaii is also called the Aloha State after the Hawaiian word "aloha." In its simplest description, "aloha" is a Hawaiian way to say hello and goodbye. However, the term's deeper meaning is an "exchange of breath," in other words, mutual responsibility and how we treat one another, which includes love, compassion, affection, and empathy.
  • Hawaii is the only state composed of islands. Its total area, including land and water, is 10,931 square miles. The population is over 1.4 million. 
  • Only seven of Hawaii's islands are inhabited: Hawaii (also known as the Big Island), Maui, Molokai, Lanai, Oahu, Kauai, and Niihau. All of these, except Niihau, are open to locals and tourists. The Hawaiian Islands are called volcanic islands. They formed as the Earth's crust, made up of giant rocky slabs called tectonic plates, moved over a scorching spot in the molten layer beneath the crust, which melted the rock crust, turning it into magma. Then, once the magma broke through to the surface of the Earth's crust, it cooled and formed new land. 
  • Geologists continue to monitor six active volcanoes on the islands of Hawaii and Maui, especially Kilauea and Mauna Loa on the island of Hawaii.
  • No other US state besides Hawaii has two official languages: English and Hawaiian.
  • Barack Obama, our 44th president from 2008 to 2016, was born in Honolulu. 
  • The "hula" is a traditional dance brought to the islands by Polynesians that tells a story through hand movements. Hula dancers are barefoot and often wear grass skirts and leis. You can see the hula and hear traditional Hawaiian music at a "luau," a traditional Hawaiian feast often held to celebrate first birthdays, weddings, and graduations. 
  • The ukulele is often played during hula dances. It is a small 4-string instrument developed in Hawaii in the 1880s from small Portuguese guitars. 
  • The sport of surfing may have originated in Hawaii. A native Hawaiian, Duke Kahanamoku, made surfing popular. He also won five Olympic medals in swimming in 1912, 1920, and 1924. Today professional surfers ride waves over 50 feet high.
  • The Ironman World Championship Triathlon has been held in Hawaii since 1978, originally on the island of Oahu before organizers moved it to the less built-up Big Island in 1981.
  • Tourism is Hawaii's largest industry. Pineapple, sugarcane, and honeybees are lucrative exports. 
  • Hawaii's cuisine has influences from native Hawaiians and immigrants from Polynesia, Japan, the Philippines, Korea, China, Puerto Rico, Portugal, and North America. One of Hawaii's traditional dishes is "poi," made from "taro," a starchy root vegetable. After cooking the taro, it is mashed, and water is added, the amount dependent on the desired consistency and thickness. The result is a light purple, creamy paste that resembles yogurt or dip. It can be eaten right away or allowed to ferment for a week, which results in a more sour flavor.

THYME for a Laugh

What did the rice say to the watermelon? 

"Don’t be a slow-POKE!"

That's Berry Funny

When do you go at red and stop at green? 

When you’re eating a watermelon!

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