Bitter Gourd Curry | Karela Sabzi

Updated: February 28, 2022, By Swasthi

Bitter gourd curry, this surprisingly not-bitter curried dish is made with one of the most popular Asian veggie known as Bitter melon or Bitter Squash. It is known as Karela in Hindi, Kakarakaya and Pavakkai in South Indian regional languages. Despite its off-putting taste, In Indian kitchens you’ll find bitter gourd in stews, curries, pickles, and even served as chips & pakora. Many foodies will probably wrinkle their noses in distaste at the mere mention of karela, reminded of its bitterness. However, one bite of my flavorsome karela sabzi, and you will change your mind!

bitter gourd curry karela recipe

Recipe Comments

Like many foods that sting our taste buds but pack a ton of nutrients, this vegetable with a scaly green exterior is great for controlling blood sugar levels naturally. Since very long, karela has been used traditionally for various medicinal purposes.

If you’re looking for ways to add karela to your diet, this bitter gourd curry is a good starting point.

About Bitter Gourd Curry

Bitter gourd curry, more commonly known as Karela sabzi in India, is a semi-dry side dish where sliced or chopped bitter gourd is cooked with onions and ground spices. A typical tempering with cumin seeds, curry leaves and a gentle sprinkling of warm spices is all it takes to turn this into a mouthwatering side.

A healthy & diabetic-friendly dish, this bitter gourd curry pairs well with rice, roti, chapati or as a side in any Indian meal. It makes a great addition to lunch boxes and weekly meal prepping as it stores well. The recipe is uncomplicated and quick to make.

Do you want to know what’s the best part about this dish?
Ingredients like jaggery/ sugar, tamarind or tons of spices are not added here as the cooking process blunts the bitterness on its own.

If you are a newbie, you may want to know more about Bitter gourd.

About Karela

It is best to avoid Bitter gourd if you are pregnant. At home, we also don’t serve this veggie to young kids.

If you eat bitter gourd often, discard the seeds before cooking as consuming them in large quantities and often is said to be toxic.

Avoid using soft and ripe bitter gourd that has red seeds as they are toxic. Karela should be firm and unripe.

If you are on a medication to lower your blood sugar, consult your doctor before you include bitter gourd in your diet.

How to reduce bitterness in Karela? Some bitter gourds taste extremely bitter. To reduce the bitter taste, you may sprinkle salt to the chopped or sliced pieces and rest aside for 30 minutes. Later squeeze them in between your palms to extract some of the juice. The bitter taste reduces but also note that the medicinal values are reduced in the karela.

Another trick is to soak the karela in Indian buttermilk for 20 to 30 mins, drain and lightly squeeze to extract some of the juice. Then cook them right away. This step also adds a unique flavor to the dish.

For more vegetable recipes you can check these collections
Potato recipes
Palak recipes
Capsicum recipes
Cabbage recipes

For more simple veg curry recipes, you may like to check,
Mushroom pepper fry
Stuffed brinjal curry
Capsicum curry

Photo Guide

How to Make Bitter Gourd Curry (Stepwise Photos)

Prepare Karela

1. Wash 250 grams bitter gourd thoroughly under running water. I usually soak them up in a large pot filled with salted water. Leave for about 30 mins. Brush off with a vegetable brush. This step reduces some bitterness naturally. Rinse thoroughly and trim off both the edges. Then slice them thin or chop them to bite sized pieces. I prefer to keep the seeds, eating them occasionally is harmless. You may deseed if you eat this veggie often


2. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a pan. Once the oil turns hot, add half teaspoon cumin seeds. You will see they begin to crackle soon, at this stage add hing (optional).

adding oil

3. Add curry leaves, 1 medium to large chopped onion and green chilies (optional). I have not used chilies.

adding onions

4. Saute the onions well until they turn pink or transparent. We don’t need to bown them.

saute onions

Make Karela Sabzi

5. Add bitter gourd slices and sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt. Saute well for 2 to 3 mins.

Adding bitter gourd

6. Cover and cook on a low heat until the gourd is slightly tender or half cooked. Keep stirring in between and sprinkle some water if the pan is too dry. I don’t add any water at this stage. But if the veggie is not tender, you may need to splash some water.

cooking bitter gourd

7. This is how karela looks.

cooking bitter gourd

8. Add 1 teaspoon fennel powder, 1 tablespoon coriander powder and 1 teaspoon red chili powder.

adding chilli powder

9. Mix everything well and saute for a min. Cook covered on a low flame until bitter gourd is completely soft cooked. If the veggies look very dry, sprinkle some water and cook. Taste test and add more spices or salt to suit your taste.


10. Add coriander leaves. Saute for a minute.

Adding coriander leaves

11. Turn off the stove and squeeze in some lemon juice. This helps to subside the bitter taste a bit.

adding lemon juice

Serve bitter gourd curry with plain rice, roti or phulka. There are not many bitter gourd recipes on the blog yet except this bitter gourd stir fry which you may like to check.

bitter gourd curry karela recipe

Related Recipes

Recipe Card

bitter gourd curry karela recipe

Bitter Gourd Curry | Karela Sabzi Recipe

4.99 from 67 votes
Bitter gourd curry is an easy and healthy side dish made with bitter melon known as Karela in Hindi.
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For best results follow the step-by-step photos above the recipe card

Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time15 minutes
Total Time20 minutes

Ingredients (US cup = 240ml )

  • 250 grams karela (bitter gourd/bitter melon)
  • 1 onion medium to large , chopped finely
  • 1 green chilli slit (optional)
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 pinch asafoetida (optional)
  • teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
  • 1 tablespoons coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon fennel powder / Saunf powder
  • teaspoon salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons Lemon juice (adjust to taste)
  • 3 tablespoons coriander leaves finely chopped


How to Make Karela Recipe

  • Wash and slice bitter gourd thin. Or you may chop them to bite size pieces. You can also discard seeds if you prefer.
  • Heat oil in a pan. Add cumin seed. when they begin to sizzle, add hing.
  • Add chopped onions and curry leaves. Saute until the onions turn pink/ transparent.
  • Add bitter gourd slices and sprinkle salt. Saute for 2 to 3 mins on a medium heat.
  • Cover and cook on a low heat until slightly tender, half cooked. Keep stirring in between. If the pan is too dry, you may sprinkle some water and mix.
  • Then the bitter gourd is slightly tender, add turmeric, fennel powder, coriander powder, red chili powder. Mix every thing well.
  • Cover and cook again on a very low heat until soft cooked. If the curry looks very dry sprinkle very some water. Taste test and add more salt or spices to your liking.
  • Turn off the stove. Squeeze in some lemon juice & stir. Garnish bitter gourd curry with coriander leaves. Serve with rice or roti.


NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)

Nutrition Facts
Bitter Gourd Curry | Karela Sabzi Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 120 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Sodium 23mg1%
Potassium 359mg10%
Carbohydrates 8g3%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 740IU15%
Vitamin C 91.3mg111%
Calcium 44mg4%
Iron 1.3mg7%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Tried this recipe?Mention @SwasthisRecipes or tag #swasthisrecipes!

© Swasthi’s Recipes

Bitter gourd curry first published in December 2016. Updated & republished in February 2022.

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About Swasthi

I’m Swasthi Shreekanth, the recipe developer, food photographer & food writer behind Swasthi’s Recipes. My aim is to help you cook great Indian food with my time-tested recipes. After 2 decades of experience in practical Indian cooking I started this blog to help people cook better & more often at home. Whether you are a novice or an experienced cook I am sure Swasthi’s Recipes will assist you to enhance your cooking skills. More about me

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Hi Swasthi,
I will definitely try this recipe. I can buy Karela locally and have tried it before but found that it had a, not unpleasant, but intense and highly perfumed flavour. I could still taste it 4 hours later!
I find it interesting that yo do not peel them as the few recipes that I’ve found all recommend peeling. None have mentioned salting the Karela so perhaps that is the key.

Hi Swasthi,
Again, Thankyou , you are a mine of knowledge. You have given me the courage to try this veggie again. I can understand your reason for not peeling as with most veggies, the nutrients lay just under the skin.
I really mean this, discovering your site has been a real tonic for me

5 stars
Recipe is good, preparation method is explain in a very easy and understable one. Clearly mention the different names which are generaly used in different parts of the country. Thank you.

5 stars
Hi.., what all vegetables go well with bitter gourd…, this is always I do.., I wanted to add some other veggies too.., any suggestions .,

Thank u

5 stars
I will try.. Thank u for the reply.., ?

Tried this today. A simple and healthy recipe which was good.

Made the karela veg today it was very good thank you so much

Just to find out. Does the bitter gourd cook well without addition of water.

5 stars
I made it , delicious,now is in my weekly menu for myself,I even eat real ???

5 stars
I tried this and it was so simple to make and very tasty to eat. Plus very healthy. Thanks!

4 stars
Have not had Karela in a very long time. This was relatively easy to make and tasted good

Very dry and lacking in flavor.

5 stars
Dear swasthi I like all your recipes