bharwa karela | stuffed bitter gourd

Bharwa karela is a popular stuffed bitter gourd recipe from the North Indian Cuisine. This classic Indian recipe of bitter gourd stuffed with spice powders and sauteed with caramelized onions is made in Punjabi Households. A Vegan Dish.

Karela or bitter gourd is one veggie which is not liked by many. Personally, I know so many people who just hate this veggie. The reason is obvious… It has a strong bitter taste that many people don’t like.

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bharwan karela, stuffed bitter gourd

Bitter gourd was often made in our house and even while growing up I would just love the bitter taste. We would make Bitter gourd fry, stuff them or make chips. I have even had the bitter gourd juice many times. I can have cooked bitter gourd, but the juice would be too much for me 🙂

This recipe of bharwan karela is again from my mil’s fab Punjabi recipes collection. Very easy to prepare and just some onions and our regular Indian masalas/spice powders are required. Mil does not add fennel powder. But I strongly recommend adding fennel powder as its sweet flavors just enhance this dish.

The onions are browned and as a result, impart their sweetness in this dish. This takes away from the slight bitterness that is there in the dish if any. If you don’t have time to stuff the karela then try another variation of this recipe – karela sabzi (Punjabi style)

Punjabi bharwan karela

I have created a collage for the step by step bharwa karela recipe where two steps are shown. When I had made the dish a few months back, I had clicked vertical pics. By the time the dish was over, it already became night and the final pics were not good. recently I made these again and clicked the final pics in a good amount of day light.

You can keep the peel on if you want. In the step by step, I have removed the peels. However, in the final pics, I did not remove the peels.

Stepwise stuffed bitter gourd or bharwa karela

1: Rinse the bitter gourds. Wipe them dry. You can peel them if you want. I generally do not rub salt in the bitter gourds. If making for kids, then apply or rub salt over the karela and keep aside for some minutes. Later throw away the juices and rinse the gourds well. Wipe them dry. Make a cut on each karela vertically keeping the base intact. Remove the pith and seeds with your hands. Small karelas are best to make bharwan karela. Take all the dry spice powders in a plate or bowl and mix them well with salt.

bharwan karela ingredients

2: Stuff the karela with the dry spice powder mix with a spoon or with your hands. Stuff well and tighten the stuffed karela with a clean thread. Wrung the thread all around and tie a knot so that the thread does become loose while frying the karela. Heat oil and fry the karela on a low flame till they get browned and cooked well. Keep aside. I always fry on a low flame so that if in any case, the masala falls into the oil, they don’t burn.

stuff the karela

3: In the same pan, add extra oil if required or if there is too much oil, then remove it. You can even take a fresh batch of oil. Add the onions and begin to brown them. When the onions start to get browned, add the fried karela and saute for a few minutes till the onions are caramelized and crisp. If there is extra spice powder remaining, then add it in the pan and stir. The leftover spice powder is added towards the end, so that they don’t burn.

sauted onions for bharwan karela

4: While remove the threads. Serve the bharwa karela with soft phulkas. They also make a good side dish with dal and rice.

bharwan karela recipe
If you are looking for more veggie recipes then do check:

STEP BY STEP PHOTOS ABOVEMany of my recipes have detailed step by step photos and useful tips to help you make it easily and perfectly.

Bharwa Karela

3.67 from 9 votes
Punjabi bharwan karela is bitter gourd stuffed with spice powders and sauteed with caramelized onions.
bharwa karela recipe, stuffed bitter gourd recipe
Author:Dassana Amit
Prep Time:25 mins
Cook Time:35 mins
Total Time:1 hr
Course:side dish
Cuisine:north indian,punjabi
Servings (change the number to scale):3 to 4
(1 CUP = 250 ML)


  • 10 to 12 small karela (bitter gourd)
  • ¾ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ¾ teaspoon red chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon punjabi garam masala powder or garam masala powder
  • 1 teaspoon amchur powder (dry mango powder)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel powder
  • 2 medium sized onions - finely sliced
  • 3 tablespoon oil
  • few chopped coriander leaves for garnish (optional)
  • salt as required



  • Rinse and peel the karela (bitter gourd).
  • Make a vertical cut on each karela keeping the base intact.
  • Remove the seeds and pith with your hands or scrape with a small spoon.
  • Mix all the dry spice powders with salt.
  • Stuff the spice powder mix in the karela.
  • Tie a thread tightly around each karela.

making bharwa karela

  • Heat the oil and fry the karela in the oil till they are browned and cooked.
  • In the same oil, add the sliced onions and fry them till they begin to brown.
  • Add the karela and saute till they the onions become crisp and golden.
  • Add the rest of the spice mix, if there is a left over.
  • In case if you have added less salt in the spice mix, you can add them now.
  • While serving remove the thread and serve bharwa karela garnished with chopped coriander leaves.
  • Bharwan karela is best had with some rotis, phulkas or as a side vegetable dish with dal-rice.
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Dassana Amit

Dassana Amitnamaste and welcome to which i started in feb 2009 and is a pure vegetarian blog. i have been passionate about cooking from childhood and began to cook from the age of 10. later having enrolled in a home science degree greatly enhanced my cooking & baking skills and took it to a different level which i now share as foolproof recipes. i was formally trained both in mainstream indian as well as international cuisines.

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38 comments/reviews

  1. It seems to be a good recipe. I will try it. Can seeds be added to stuffing.

    • thanks. avoid seeds in the stuffing as seeds can create poisoning.

  2. hi ma
    its really super cooking, same like my mom she used to cook same recipe in my child hood thank u for every recipe each and every super.5 stars

    • thanks a lot pratibha ????

  3. plz tell if if it the dish has strong bitter taste because i don’t like it.
    can i apply salt (as many people do) before making to make it go away?

    • some bitterness is there as karela is inherently bitter. of course, you can apply salt on the karela and then rinse it.

  4. Hi Dassana
    I am trying ur recipes from last year. I tried veg kolhapur,veg handi & poodina rice.They turned out delicious.Everybody loved the taste.Hat’s off to recipes & fabulous way u explain them to readers.Today I am trying Bharwa Karela .I am sure it will taste as good as it looks in ur pics. Thanks for all ur recipes.Keep sharing.God bless u.4 stars

    • thank you akalpita 🙂 for your positive views. pleased to know you liked so many recipes from our blog. surely try bharwan karela and let us know how it was? you are welcome and god bless you too.

  5. I liked this recipe. Thank you for sharing Dasanna

    • thank you vanita 🙂 for your positive feedback.

  6. Can I just say I have & always will love Karela’s & I could eat them everyday but I usually make the filling separately from the outer shell which I lightly fry as too much oil & us Asians is a no no & I always pad out the filling so I can stuff theKarela’s to the max & then once made a reheat in the oven again is a healthier option

    • thanks for the suggestions darshan.

  7. Easy to.cook. recipes♥♥♥3 stars

    • thanks leena

  8. Made this for a dinner party last night. Did not have saunf powder so just substituted dhana/jeera powder instead. I thought I had purchased small Karelas but found the amount of masala to not be enough to stuff the Karelas. I was just able to rub the inside of each karela with the masala mix. I did not tie the karelas up since they did not looked stuffed with masala. I just fried them as instructed along with the onions. Once the onions were fried and caramelized, I pushed small amounts into the openings and continued frying them. The end result was amazingly delicious but have no idea what I could have done differently. My guests loved them and took the leftovers home but I am still curious to find out how small the Karelas should be in length for stuffing ? The ones I was able to purchase in California were between 3-5 inches long.3 stars

    • the spice blend for the kerala is always made depending on the size of the karela. mostly the smaller ones are between 2 to 3 inches in size. most of the times, i always have a few teaspoons of leftover masala. for next time if such a thing occurs, with the same proportions make another batch of the masala. its just mixing all the spice powders, so easy and not difficult. the masala has to stuffed evenly in the karela. the thread is tied so that the masala does not come out. along with the spices, its the caramelized onions that impart a really good taste and flavor in this recipe. so even stuffing karela with the onions will make them taste good.

  9. i think it is a good recipe.
    now Iam going to try this recipe

    • its a simple recipe. do try.

  10. I liked your recipe very much.. Wanted to ask you dont we need to add dhania powder to the masala ?

    • thanks radhika. no need. we don’t add it. but if you prefer you can add dhania powder. the punjabi garam masala powder has a good amount of dhania/coriander in it.

  11. Hi dassana,i love ur recipies ,i have just one question ,is there any other way measure the turmeric powder its 3/4 teaspoons ,isn’t it very small quantity for 10 to 12 karelas or i am getting wrong pl help2 stars

    • hina, if you put more turmeric powder then karela will have a strong taste and flavor of turmeric which will spoil the taste. some spices are used in less quantities like asafoedita, nutmeg, black cardamom, mace etc. take little less than 1 tsp to measure.

  12. I have always tried ur receipes it turns out very tasty thank u for sharing4 stars

    • welcome sylva

  13. Very nice dish4 stars

    • thanks vijay

  14. I love all your receipies.Big fan of urs.thanks.keep d good work

    • welcome samidha

  15. i love this recipe
    its just yamyyyyyyyyyyyyy……..
    Thank u soooo much3 stars

    • thanks deepa

  16. I like your receipes very much. Its very simple and tasty. Thanks for sharing.

    • thanks neerja.

  17. You are becoming my fav u got to stop doing this to me. More than I spend my time in my blog I am looking at ur site u have to stop it dear. There is some magic going on here well just kidding loving ur recipe plz keep up the good work.

    • thanks for all your wonderful comments janani.

  18. nice post dassana..
    in punjab a very popular filling in karelas is grated onion which is fried in pan and then all the masalas u added are added to the mixture and filled in karelas…and here sauf is not added in powder form but sabut…
    they also really taste well…..and have u tried the peel’s subzi..
    karela peel is kept aside with salt in it for an hour and rinse it properly and remove all the water.. in kadai add cut onins and jeera and add this peel with all regular masalas mentioned in ur post…saunf ..if sabut tastes good in this recipe ‘s individual choice…:)

    • i have tried all the possible versions of stuffed karela. i remember we had a maid from delhi, who would exactly do the technique you have described with the peels. some sabzi she would keep aside and some she would stuff in the kareal. i used to be so busy with work that time, that i never asked her the complete recipe. she would make really good stuffed karelas. in this she would add both roasted jeera as well as saunf powder.

      also the punjabis make it the way you have described above. i have even tried this one. i am going to try making the peel sabzi next time. and also stuff them in the karela.

  19. Nice! We make this in the Caribbean and call it kalounjie. In addition to making a vegetarian version such as this we also make it stuffed with baby shrimp, ground beef and ground pork. Ours is sautéed in a masala paste with lots of tomatoes. 🙂5 stars

    • hi cynthia, i did not know that karela is made in caribbean too. thanks for the info and tidbits.