It’s a common misconception that anything bitter will not be loved by the palate, ever! But when it comes to Bitter Gourd or Bitter Melon (Karela in Hindi), it’s totally a different ball game. Just like this awesome Bitter Gourd Pickle which can literally blow your mind. You should also try this Karela Pickle because it is made in a very different way as compared to the regular Indian pickles.
Table of Contents
About Bitter Gourd Pickle
If you like bitter gourd/bitter melon/bitter apple, you will love this pickle. I’d like to think that even if you don’t, this Karela Pickle will help you change that outlook towards this really marvelous vegetable. Also, try these yum Bitter Gourd Curry and Stuffed Bitter Gourd recipes.
I adapted this Bitter Gourd Pickle recipe from a Hindi cookbook which only features pickle recipes. This book came as a complimentary gift many years ago, with the bottle of Dhara Mustard Oil that I purchased from the market.
Though the original recipe called for the use of sesame oil and vinegar. I substituted both these with mustard oil and apple cider vinegar. You can further use sunflower oil in place of the mustard oil.
You must also keep in mind to prep the bitter gourd well before using it for pickling. Wash, slice and remove the seeds.
Chop, sprinkle salt on top, mix well and keep it for about 30 minutes. Then, squeeze the salted bitter melon slices, discard the juices and rinse once again. Drain well and use.
My parents love this Karela Pickle, and so do I. So, whenever they visit us, I always give them some jars filled with this unique pickle.
Why this recipe works
This Karela Pickle also uses other simple and basic ingredients like fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, green chilies and garlic, which are very common in almost any and every Indian kitchen. You can cook this pickle on the stove top and then store it in a bottle.
Initially, the bitter taste of the karela is quite dominant in the pickle. But when this Bitter Gourd Pickle is kept for some days, this prominent bitterness mellows and lessens as the sour notes of the vinegar take over.
And don’t think much about consuming this Karela Pickle and what to pair it with. It goes amazingly well with any regular Indian rice meals – rasam-rice, curd rice, sambar-rice, dal-rice, kadhi-rice, etc. And otherwise too.
How to make Bitter Gourd Pickle
1. Firstly, rinse 250 grams bitter gourd well. If there are bruises on the skin, then you can slightly peel off that part.
Slice the bitter gourd into two halves vertically, and remove the seeds. Chop the bitter gourd in small bite size pieces.
Sprinkle salt on the chopped bitter gourd and mix well. Keep this bitter gourd-salt mixture aside for 30 minutes.
After 30 minutes, squeeze the salted bitter gourd and discard the juices. Rinse once again with water. Drain well and keep aside.
2. Heat ¼ cup or 4 tablespoons mustard oil till it begins to smoke on medium-low to medium heat. Add 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds and 1 teaspoon mustard seeds.
3. Once the seeds crackle, add 8 to 9 thinly sliced garlic cloves and fry for 10 to 12 seconds.
4. Then, add 5 to 6 slit green chilies and fry for 30 seconds.
5. Add the bitter gourd pieces to the pan.
6. Stir and sauté the bitter gourd for 7 to 8 minutes on low to medium heat. Then, add 150 ml apple cider vinegar or white vinegar and salt as required.
7. Bring the pickle mixture to a boil. This would take about 3 to 4 minutes. Add ½ teaspoon red chili powder. Mix and switch off the heat.
8. Place the pan aside and let this pickle mixture cool. Cover the pan with a cotton napkin instead of lid as we don’t want condensation droplets on the lid.
The pickle will have some vinegar and will not be dry. After storing, the Bitter Gourd Pickle will mature in a few weeks. But you can have it straight away once cooled.
You can also allow it to mature for 2 to 3 days. In this case, you can refrigerate the pickle.
9. Once cooled, transfer the Karela Pickle in a clean sterilized jar with a clean non reactive spoon.
Close the jar air-tight and keep it in the refrigerator. Serve the Bitter Melon Pickle whenever required. It stays good for 3 months in refrigeration.
Karela – A bittersweet emotion
Karela is a bitter veggie, but highly used in the culinary field across the world. It also has immense medicinal uses. For instance, many African and Asian herbal medicine systems have been using it since a long time.
Ailments like stomach issues are believed to have been treated with bitter gourd in Turkish folk remedies. In India, it is known to be really good for the treatment of diabetes, respiratory and skin diseases, rheumatism, ulcers, gout, etc.
Culinarily, these are some of the popular uses of the not so popular bitter gourd:
- Chinese cuisine uses bitter gourd in stir-fries, dim sums, herbal teas and soups. Some Chinese beers also use this veggie as a bittering agent in beers. This vegetable is also used extensively in Japanese, Vietnamese, Indonesian, Thai, Filipino and Mauritian cuisines.
- In India, you can have karela in the fried form, made into curries, sabzis or stuffed with spices. Many dishes in South Indian cuisine like ‘thoran,’ ‘theeyal,’ ‘pachadi,’ etc. have bitter gourd in them.
- It is also popularly used in Maharashtrian and Goan cuisines, where bitter gourd is known as ‘karle’.
- ‘Tetor dal’ and ‘shukto’ are some of the preparations in Bengali cuisine in which the use of bitter gourd is absolutely essential.
- ‘Tite karele’ or bitter melon, as known in Nepal is consumed in the form of a pickle. This Bitter Gourd Pickle is another way you can enjoy it.
- Burmese cuisine has bitter gourd sautéed with shrimps and other ingredients is served as an accompaniment to main dishes. This is a popular street food in Burma.
- Sri Lankan cuisine has the ‘karawila sambol,’ ‘karawila curry’ and ‘karawila juice’ as well-known bitter gourd preparations.
Please be sure to rate the recipe in the recipe card or leave a comment below if you have made it. For more veetarian inspirations, Sign Up for my emails or follow me on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.
Bitter Gourd Pickle | Bitter Melon Pickle (Karela Pickle)
- 250 grams bitter gourd (karela or bitter melon)
- 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 150 ml apple cider vinegar a little more than ½ cup or about 10 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or white vinegar
- 60 ml mustard oil about ¼ cup or 4 tablespoons, swap with sesame oil instead – regular sesame oil and not the Asian one
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne pepper
- 8 to 9 garlic cloves – peeled or thinly sliced
- 5 to 6 green chilies – slit
- salt as required
- Firstly, rinse the bitter gourd well. If there are bruises on the skin, then you can slightly peel off that part. No need to peel the entire bitter gourd.
- Slice the bitter gourd vertically and remove the seeds. Chop the bitter gourd into small pieces.
- Sprinkle some salt on the chopped bitter gourd and mix well. Keep this bitter gourd-salt mixture aside for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, squeeze the salted bitter gourd and discard the juices. Rinse once again in fresh water. Drain all the water and set the bitter gourd slices aside.
- On medium-low to medium flame, in a pan, heat mustard oil till it starts smoking. Add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and fry till the seeds crackle.
- Add sliced garlic and fry for 10 to 12 seconds. Then, add green chilies and fry for 30 seconds.
- Next, add chopped bitter gourd and sauté for 7 to 8 minutes on low to medium-heat.
- Add white vinegar and salt. Stir and bring the pickle mixture to a boil. This will take about 3 to 4 minutes.
- Add red chili powder. Stir again and switch off the heat. Set the pan aside and let the mixture cool.
- Cover the pan with a cotton napkin instead of lid as we don't want condensation droplets on the lid.
- When completely cooled, pour the Bitter Gourd Pickle in a clean sterilized jar.
- Close the jar with its lid and keep it in the refrigerator.
- Serve Karela Pickle with an Indian meal like dal-rice, sambar-rice, curd rice or kadhi-rice.
- Use tender and green bitter melons. Do not use bitter gourd which have ripened. Ripe bitter melons will have a yellow outer and an orange or red color from within.
- Note that the approximate nutrition info is for the entire bitter gourd pickle made from this recipe.
Nutrition Info (Approximate Values)
This Bitter Gourd Pickle recipe post from the blog archives first published in January 2014 has been republished and updated on December 2022.