The name of the poor vegetable begins with the word ‘bitter’ which immediately drops it down to the least favourite foods list for many people. The Urdu/Hindi name for it, karela, is also proverbially used as an example of extreme bitterness and bad temper.
One wonders, what chance does it really stand of making it to a family meal!

Though eating karela is an acquired taste but ,surprisingly, in South Asia there are many curries to which it is added and actually relished by many people. Fortunately, I always had the tastebuds to enjoy a good bitter gourd curry recipe – with meat, with Bengal gram lentils or simply with onions. In fact my husband and I love it cooked the simplest way in an onion and tomato masala.

There is no doubt that bitter gourds are really very bitter but there are ways to make them palatable for more people. One of the most effective is to marinate them with salt and lemon juice for a while. It draws out most of the bitter juice and almost neutralises the bitterness. The sweetness of caramelised onions in this particular curry not only balances but actually compliments whatever slight bitterness is left after marinating the karelas. And addition of spices, tomatoes and lemon juice at the end turns it into an enjoyable curry.

We are usually so busy disliking the bitter gourd for its bitterness that we overlook the amazing range of health benefits it offers. It is one of the best foods to control diabetes. I’m not saying this just because I’ve read it somewhere, I know because my grandmother, who got diabetes at very young age, used bitter gourd in her diet regularly to maintain her blood sugar levels stable. She not only enjoyed it cooked in curries but also consumed the peel and seeds, dried them under sunlight and ground to a powder like consistency to eat as a natural medicine. She lived a long and very active life.

Bitter gourd also contains twice the calcium of spinach, potassium of banana and beta-carotene of broccoli; making it great for eyes, skin, hair and immune system. It cleanses the liver too and is considered helpful in removing fat cells and hinders the growth of new fat cells. But mostly we add so much oil while frying bitter gourds and making any bitter gourd curry recipe that we almost kill all the natural goodness out of it. In this recipe I use minimum oil, preferably olive oil, by cooking the karelas covered first till they are tender and then adding them to cooked masala, also made with very little oil.

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this post will exonerate bitter gourds and you guys will appreciate and enjoy it as an amazing gift of nature that it truly is!


1 kg bitter gourds
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup lemon juice
3-4 green chilli peppers
2 large onions
3 tomatoes
3-4 cloves garlic
1 inch piece ginger
1 teaspoon red chilli powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
3 tablespoons olive or sunflower oil
Fresh or dry mint leaves

This Is What You Do:

Peel bitter gourd, make a slit on the sides, lengthwise and remove the seeds and pith from inside with a teaspoon or your thumb. Cut them into 1/2 inch thick rings.

Sprinkle 1 teaspoon salt and pour half of the lemon juice over karela/bitter gourd. Set them aside for 10-15 minutes to draw out the bitter juice.

Meanwhile prepare the other ingredients for curry. Slice onions, crush and chop garlic, cut ginger into thin strips and dice the tomatoes.

After 15 minutes, rinse the bitter gourds thoroughly and squeeze out all the water from them. Pat them dry on a kitchen towel.

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a deep frying pan. Add bitter gourd rings and cook covered on medium low heat for 5-6 minutes or till they are tender.

Remove Iid, add sliced green chill peppers. Fry on medium heat till bitter gourds are crispy. It will take longer than when you cook them with more oil but this is the healthier option. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add 1 tablespoon more oil to the same pan. Add onions and sauté till golden and caramelised . Add ginger, garlic and tomatoes. Add red chillies, cumin and turmeric with a splash of water. Cook covered on medium heat till the tomatoes are soft and the juice from them is reduced.

Add the bitter gourds and green chilli peppers back to the masala in the pan. Season with salt and the remaining lemon juice. Cook another 3-4 minutes or till the curry is dry.

Garnish with mint, serve hot with roti.

Serves 4

2 Replies to “Karela Pyaz, Bitter Gourd Curry Recipe”

    1. Waalakum assalam, dear Anjum! Hope you and family are quite well.
      It’s very easy to add chicken to this same recipe. Just follow the recipe according to the instructiins above, when you reach the part where we fry onions, make a few simple changes.
      *take out half of the fried onions and add to fried bitter gourd.
      *to remaining half onions in the pan, add 1/2 kg chicken with the rest of the ingredients.
      *if boneless chicken, add 1/4 cup water, if bone in chicken, add 3/4 cup water. Cook till chicken is done and masala has no extra liquid.
      Add fried bitter gourd and fried onions that we set aside before.
      Garnish and serve as written in the recipe above.
      Hope this helps. 😊

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