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!
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.
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.
How to Make Bitter Gourd Curry (Stepwise Photos)
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).
3. Add curry leaves, 1 medium to large chopped onion and green chilies (optional). I have not used chilies.
4. Saute the onions well until they turn pink or transparent. We don’t need to bown them.
Make Karela Sabzi
5. Add bitter gourd slices and sprinkle ¼ teaspoon salt. Saute well for 2 to 3 mins.
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.
7. This is how karela looks.
8. Add 1 teaspoon fennel powder, 1 tablespoon coriander powder and 1 teaspoon red chili 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.
11. Turn off the stove and squeeze in some lemon juice. This helps to subside the bitter taste a bit.
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.
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)
- ⅛ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder
- 1 tablespoons coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon fennel powder / Saunf powder
- ⅓ 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.
Alternative quantities provided in the recipe card are for 1x only, original recipe.
For best results follow my detailed step-by-step photo instructions and tips above the recipe card.
NUTRITION INFO (estimation only)
© Swasthi’s Recipes
Bitter gourd curry first published in December 2016. Updated & republished in February 2022.