Stuffed Bitter Gourd {bharwa karela}

by Kiran on March 30, 2012 · 40 comments

in Indian, Sides, Vegetarian

Happy Friday!!!

The Husband wants to personally convey “thank you” to each and every one of you for the birthday wishes !!! The idea of saying thanks over blog isn’t ideal in his opinion.

But we can only make-do over the blog. If we ever meet in real life, a hug is due 🙂

Enough of sweet talk and let’s talk bitter for a change.

Many grew up ingesting home-remedies to cure common cough, flu, stomachaches, headaches etc. I grew up occasionally ingesting bitter gourd’s raw bittery juice. Yuck!

But’s its good for me“, that’s how my mom worked her magic. I doubt that mommies these days can get away with such sentences.

Scraped, slitted and boiled bitter gourd

Sweet, bitter, sour, salty, spicy & umami. There are 6 sense of taste-buds, but often bitter is ignored.

“Umami” is originally the Japanese word for “meaty” or “savory”. Not surprisingly, it is characteristic of many oriental dishes. The MSG amino acidproduces a strong umami taste. — Wikipedia

And to top it off, the title of this post definitely didn’t had the spunk in flavorville, no? Let me show you how easy it is to introduce delicious “bitterness” into your flavor profile.

Remove seeds after bitter gourd cools

Spiced stuffing!

Stuffed bitter gourds

Shallow fry

And there you have it. Easy, yummy stuffed bitter gourds or some refer to it as bitter melon 🙂

Print This Recipe Print This Recipe


  • 6 medium bitter gourds (karela)
  • Juice from quarter of lemon
  • salt for boiling water
  • water enough to cover gourds
  • 2 heaping tbsp mustard oil – for frying

Dry-roasted spices:

  • 1/2 cup raw peanuts
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 dry red chilis
  • 2 tsp kasori methi


  • 2 tbsp mustard oil
  • 1 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp grated garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 8 to 10 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 2 heaping tbsp fresh cilantro, finely chopped


  1. Using a peeler, peel away the hard skin of bitter gourds. Wash and pat dry.
  2. Make a slit on each gourd for stuffing, ensuring it’s not slited all the way.
  3. In a large pot, add cleaned and slited bitter gourds. Cover it with enough water, salt, lemon juice and boil over medium to high heat for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, use a dry non-stick skillet, heat on low-medium to dry-roast raw peanuts.
  5. Stir peanuts often to avoid burn. Roast peanuts until browned and edible, between 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Once peanuts are almost done roasting, add dry-roasting spices (coriander, cumin seeds, red chili & kasori methi) and roast for 2 more minutes.
  7. Remove dry-roasted spices to cool before grounding it in a spice blender.
  8. Once the bitter gourds are boiled, strain it over a colander to cool.
  9. While bitter gourd cools, prepare tempering ingredients.
  10. In a small non-stick skillet on medium heat, add 2 tbsp mustard oil. Wait for the oil to heat before adding finely chopped onions.
  11. Fry onions until translucent before adding grated ginger + garlic and salt. Cook till fragrant.
  12. Once onions are slightly browned, stir in curry leaves and garam masala.
  13. Remove tempered ingredients from heat, add finely chopped fresh cilantro.
  14. Combine dry-roasted grounded spices with tempered ingredients to form stuffing.
  15. Using a small spoon, carefully remove seeds from cooled bitter gourds.
  16. Pat dry, add stuffing and be careful not to over-stuff to avoid tearing the shells.
  17. In a small non-stick skillet, add 2 tbsp mustard oil. Once heated, shallow fry each shells until golden on the sides.
  18. Remove bitter gourds onto paper towels to drain access oil.
  19. Serve hot with fresh naan, steamy basmati rice and daal (lentils).


If the bitter gourds shells do tear while stuffing, forgive yourself and move on. It’ll still taste delicious, not a biggie 😉

I’m excited to participate in a month long event aptly named Indian Food Palooza, brought to you by the blogging community to celebrate Indian food and cooks like you + me.

Have a great weekend friends and don’t forget to shower some “bitter” love onto your taste palate 🙂

What’s your favorite sense out of all the 6ers? Sweet? Bitter? Sour? Salty? Spicy? Umami?


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Comments on this entry are closed.

1 Caroline March 30, 2012 at 1:59 PM

I’m so intrigued..never seen anything like this before, but it sure looks delicious. Happy belated birthday to your hubby!! Gorgeous cake you made him. 🙂
Caroline recently posted..a better place. [shredded chicken and tomatillo tacos w. queso fresco & red cabbage]

2 Margarita March 30, 2012 at 2:10 PM

Back in the Philippines, we had bitter gourds all the time. My mom stir fried with soy sauce, garlic, onions, lots of ground meat, and eggs to tamper the bitter taste. I loved it and miss it so because I cannot find them here. I would never have thought that they can be made into something new and interesting like this. All these ingredients and delicious looking pictures are making my mouth water.
Margarita recently posted..Joy the Baker Love: Orange-Chocolate Yogurt Pound Cake + Saturday Story

3 pavithra March 30, 2012 at 2:28 PM

I looooooooooooooove Karela and its my very fav veggie that too if it is stuffed…mmm. I am in love with that last comforting spread on the plate Kiran. Love it…


4 the wicked noodle March 30, 2012 at 3:16 PM

Not many people could convince me that bitter can be delicious, but if anyone can, it’s you 🙂

And your photos, as always, are just stunning!!
the wicked noodle recently posted..pico de gallo

5 Asmita March 30, 2012 at 3:23 PM

I used to never like karela as a kid but enjoy it now. It’s funny how our tastes keep changing.
This dish looks amazing with the stuffing. I love the spices you have used. Yum!
Asmita recently posted..Paneer Rolls

6 Sukanya March 30, 2012 at 3:23 PM

This is the only way I enjoy karela, to the same stuffing we also add coconut making it little sweeter, the bong way 😀
loving your homely and comfy lunch spread…delicious
Sukanya recently posted..Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting and infused with orange flavours

7 Sophie March 30, 2012 at 3:25 PM

Waw, What a great dish! So special too! 🙂

Dear Kiran, I just gave you an AWARD! Why? You can read it all at my latest blog post! Come over & collect it! Yeah!
Sophie recently posted..A rustic spinach & green asparagus soup, some latest awards!!!

8 Feast on the Cheap March 30, 2012 at 5:18 PM

haven’t worked with half of those ingredients but your photography is so beautiful I’m convinced to get out there and at least give it a whirl. Just beautiful, as always.

9 Rosa March 30, 2012 at 5:58 PM

A delicious speciality! I’ve never had bitter gurd, but I would definitely like to try that veggie. Great clicks, especially the first one.



10 Ansh March 30, 2012 at 6:19 PM

This used to be my favorite veggie growing up. A kashmiri yakhni made with karela was the ultimate thing anyone could cook for me.

Beautiful pictures!!

11 Kavi March 31, 2012 at 12:35 AM

Hi Kiran! 1st time here.. You have a fantastic blog! The pictures are mindblowing! 🙂 Loved spending time here..
Kavi recently posted..Medu Vadai | Black Gram Dumpling | *200th Post*

12 chinmayie @ love food eat March 31, 2012 at 3:42 AM

The one and only vegetable I don’t enjoy has to be bitter gourd 🙁 My dad loves it and tried to get me to enjoy it for several years but finally gave up.
I think I should try it once again now as an adult before i make up my mind about bitter gourd.
These stuffed ones look pretty tasty 😉
chinmayie @ love food eat recently posted..My Favorite Bengali Aloor Dum

13 Cher March 31, 2012 at 7:06 AM

That looks interesting. I have never had (or seen) bitter gourd before, but the flavors in the stuffing sound really good.
Lovely pictures
Cher recently posted..Giddy (FFwD: Crab-Grapefruit Salad)

14 mycookinghut March 31, 2012 at 2:37 PM

A very interesting way to cook bitter gourd!
mycookinghut recently posted..easter giveaways from hotel chocolat

15 Charles March 31, 2012 at 7:41 PM

This may be a strange question, but can one eat the “shell” – the bitter gourd itself? I never tried it, or even saw them before I think, so I have no idea about them – it looks really delicious though – I’m so curious as to how it tastes!
Charles recently posted..Seed Cake

16 Honeywhatscooking March 31, 2012 at 10:05 PM

Kerele. That’s one subzi I don’t know how to make but I’ll eat it when my mom makes it. She makes karele Alu. I’ve heard this vegetable helps clear the toxins. Gorgeous photos.
Honeywhatscooking recently posted..Friday’s Favorite Things – 3.30.12

17 tania@mykitchenstories April 1, 2012 at 3:56 AM

I haven’t seen bitter gourds like this before. I love the photos you have taken and the recipe looks delicious
tania@mykitchenstories recently posted..Organic Bread Bar

18 Deeps @ Naughtycurry April 1, 2012 at 1:04 PM

i love bittergourd.. infact its one of my fav vegetables haha. bharwaan karela is now on my next to-cook list. looks scrumptuous
Deeps @ Naughtycurry recently posted..Mushroom Feta Tarts- DHSP Challenge # 7

19 Srishti@Prolific Cooking April 1, 2012 at 1:55 PM

Hi KIran, Visited your blog first time today. Really liked the recipes and specially the photographs. I love bharwa karela and it is one of my fovorites with rice and dal :). We make it in pressure cooker. The method of cooking is slightly different than yours. Will surely try this one also!
Srishti@Prolific Cooking recently posted..Gobhi Aaloo with Methi

20 Simply Life April 1, 2012 at 6:01 PM

wow! I didn’t even know what these were! wonderful photos as well! 🙂
Simply Life recently posted..Blog Better Boston Conference!

21 Reem | Simply Reem April 2, 2012 at 1:58 AM

You if any vegetable which scares me this is the one…
My parents really love it but I am not a big fan…
After seeing urs I am thinking may be I should try it again, who knows???
Beautiful Pics!!!

22 Denise April 2, 2012 at 5:46 AM

Naver had it, never made it, but now I’m intrigued! It looks like a dish I’d really like, so I need to try this!
Denise recently posted..Baked Eggs with Tomato Sauce and Parmesan

23 Lubna Karim April 2, 2012 at 6:20 AM

My grandma use to boil the bitter gourds in butter milk with salt and turmeric….and she use to stuff and fry by tying a thread around so that the stuffing keeps intact… it….looks extremely yum…..we use dry coconut too in the stuffing…love to try this version… are mind blowing and makeing me carve for some right now…
Lubna Karim recently posted..Guest Blogging – Food Photography #12

24 vianney April 2, 2012 at 11:06 AM

I have always wanted to try bitter gourd, you make it look so easy… and yummy!!
vianney recently posted..Sopes

25 Namitha April 2, 2012 at 11:52 AM

Belated happy birthday to your husband ! Loved all your pictures ! I like stuffed veggies a lot,though never tried stuffed bitter gourd before. I love your stuffing Kiran 🙂
Namitha recently posted..Meyer Lemon Bars

26 Cass @foodmyfriend April 2, 2012 at 8:53 PM

Very different but delicious all the same. Beautiful pictures, as usual!
Cass @foodmyfriend recently posted..5 Layer Rainbow Cake

27 Sihi April 2, 2012 at 11:29 PM

Love the pics and the recipe. Awesome!
Sihi recently posted..Lemon Cream and Saffron Petits Fours

28 Andi at The Particular Traveler April 2, 2012 at 11:52 PM

I’ve had bitter gourd as a side dish quite a bit when visiting India, but have never seen it prepared as deliciously as you’ve done here. The photo with the rice, dal, and stuffed bitter gourd has me salivating!
Andi at The Particular Traveler recently posted..My Hotel Room "Fix-It" Kit

29 Amrita (Beetlebuggy) April 3, 2012 at 12:17 AM

Wow! I’ve always been scared of Karela’s because I can never get past their bitter taste. Looking at your recipe with the spiced stuffing, makes me want to give Karela another try. And I think it’d be perfect with Dal rice like you’ve shown in your pictures!
Amrita (Beetlebuggy) recently posted..Candied Sweet Potatoes by Elizabeth Andoh

30 Choc Chip Uru April 3, 2012 at 3:10 AM

This is like the classier version of stuffed zucchini – love it 😀

Choc Chip Uru
Choc Chip Uru recently posted..A Bleeding Cake Due To My Mistake

31 Kathryn April 3, 2012 at 7:11 AM

Lovely! I’m not sure that I’ve ever had bitter gourds although I’m sure my mother has a recipe for them somewhere so I’m really excited to try this!
Kathryn recently posted..march photo a day

32 Tenille @ My Family Table April 3, 2012 at 8:35 AM

This looks amazing. I haven’t eaten gourd before, and I’m not even sure where I’d find some, but I think it would be worth looking.
Tenille @ My Family Table recently posted..Olive & Fetta Cake

33 Angie@Angie's Recipes April 3, 2012 at 10:01 AM

I have never tried stuffed bitter gourd…they sound and look very tasty!
Angie@Angie’s Recipes recently posted..Blood Orange Spelt Loaf Cake

34 NikS April 3, 2012 at 9:42 PM

My mom used to make these when we were kids and I always avoided them. Now however, I am always looking for karela at my local Indian store. Beautiful photos!
NikS recently posted..dry mango spiced pulled pork sliders with cumin and lime coleslaw

35 balvinder ( Neetu) April 4, 2012 at 2:16 PM

As a kid I never used to like bitter gourds, but now I do. I use the same spices you have used even roasted peanuts but I do not boil the shells, instead bake it in the oven. I guess I should try your version as well.
balvinder ( Neetu) recently posted..Alton’s Granola & The ABC Award

36 Carolyn Jung April 4, 2012 at 11:52 PM

I eat almost anything, but I have to say I’m still not the biggest fan of bitter melon. My family grew up eating it, but I never acquired a real taste for it. But this looks so scrumptious, it might just sway me. 😉
Carolyn Jung recently posted..A Chef Worth Getting to Know in Sonoma County

37 Nami | Just One Cookbook April 5, 2012 at 4:00 AM

Bitter gourd is very famous vegetable and mostly raised and consumed in Okinawa, so I haven’t had a chance to eat this veggie yet. I saw it in an Asian market so I should try tasting it. I’ve never seen “stuffed” bitter gourd recipe before. This is so cool!
Nami | Just One Cookbook recently posted..Flambéed Pear Purses with caramel sauce and ganâche – Guest Post by Five Euro Food

38 Magic of Spice April 10, 2012 at 11:49 AM

Oh goodness that looks delicious! I have seen these veggies around but have only had them in a curry dish before…will have to give this a try 🙂
And love that spiced stuffing!
Magic of Spice recently posted..Food Photography "A Perspective"~ Food Styling with Nancy Lopez-McHugh

39 susan September 9, 2012 at 10:59 AM

I love this and reminds me when mummy used to make this, but she used to steam cook it so u do not loose te flavors……

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