Karela Recipe (Bitter gourd Curry)

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This Bitter Gourd Curry also known as Karela Sabji (in Hindi) is a simple, easy Punjabi recipe. Bitter gourd cubes with lightly caramelized onions, dry mango powder and a few spices make this dish sweet, tangy and bitter in taste. This karela recipe comes from our family and I have learned it from my mother-in-law. I hope you enjoy making this one as we do.

karela sabji served in a bowl

Not everyone is fond of bitter gourd aka bitter melon or karela (Hindi). Either you will love it or hate it. I fall in the first category of liking this veggie from my childhood.

It is, in fact, one of my favorite veggie and I simply love this recipe. I always make sure that I include karela in our food once or twice a month. Apart from this dish, other karela recipes I make at home are:

This bitter gourd curry is not overly dry but has some moistness from the caramelized onions and the tender soft bitter gourd.

It is a quick, healthy and easy sabzi that I make with bitter gourd when I do not have enough time for making Bharwa Karela (Stuffed Bitter Gourd Recipe). The ingredients used are similar in both these recipes, except for the method of cooking

Now before I mention step by step details about the karela recipe, let’s take a sneak peek at the health benefits of karela or bitter gourd:

  1. It purifies blood.
  2. Excellent for people having diabetes.
  3. Improves constipation and piles.
  4. Helpful in healing skin disorders.
  5. Besides being good in B Vitamins and Vitamin C, Karela is also rich in minerals like iron, calcium and phosphorous.
Step-by-Step Guide

How to make Karela ki Sabji

1. Rinse and then peel 250 grams karela or 5 small to medium-sized karela. Wash them in running water. Then chop in small pieces.

Remove the seeds while chopping. If the karela is small and tender, then these will have tender seeds and they cannot be removed. 

If karela is very bitter, then add some salt to chopped karela pieces. Mix very well and allow this mixture to sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

Then squeeze the karela and rinse them very well in water. This will get rid of some bitterness from the karela.

chopped karela pieces

2. In a kadai or pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Use any neutral-flavored oil. Let the oil become hot. Then reduce the heat to a low and add the chopped karela.

chopped karela added to kadai with oil

3. Mix chopped karela with oil and sauté on a low to medium-low heat. Stir often while sautéing.

saute the chopped karela

4. Sauté the karela for 4 to 5 minutes.

Sauté the karela for 4 to 5 minutes.

5. Then add 1.5 cups of thinly sliced onions.

onions added to karela

6. Mix the sliced onions with the karela pieces.

mixing onions with karela

7. Sprinkle ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder, ½ teaspoon Kashmiri red chili powder and salt as per taste.

adding spices to the karela onion mixture

8. Mix very well.

mix the spices well with other ingredients

9. On a low heat continue to sauté stirring often. Sprinkle some water if onions or karela start sticking to the pan. Deglaze removing the ingredients stuck at the bottom and continue to saute.

adding some water continue to cook the sabji

10. Sauté for 10 to 12 minutes on low or medium-low heat till both the karela and onions are cooked. The onions will also become golden and caramelize by this time.

They are not overly caramelized but lightly caramelized having a nice softness and sweetness that complements and balances the bitter taste of the karela.

Keep on stirring at regular intervals. Check the seasonings. Add more red chili powder or salt if required.

saute and continue to cook karela sabzi for 10 to 12 minutes

11. When the onions have lightly caramelized and the bitter gourd pieces have softened and are fork tender, then sprinkle ½ to 1 teaspoon dry mango powder (amchur powder) and ½ teaspoon garam masala powder.

For a more tangy taste increase the amount of dry mango powder by ½ teaspoon. If you don’t have dry mango powder then you can drizzle ½ to 1 teaspoon lemon juice.

dry mango powder and garam masala powder added

12. Mix very well and then switch off the heat.

mix the ground spices with sabzi

Serve karela ki sabji with phulka, paratha and a bowl of fresh plain curd (yogurt) or sweetened curd.

This dry bitter gourd curry also goes very well as a side vegetable dish or accompaniment with the combination of dal rice or kadhi chawal (Punjabi curd kadhi with rice). You can garnish with some coriander leaves if you want.

karela sabji served in a bowl

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karela sabzi recipe, dry bitter gourd curry recipe

Karela Sabji (Bitter Gourd Recipe)

This karela ki sabji is a Punjabi style bitter gourd curry made with lightly caramelized onions, dry mango powder and a few ground spices. This is a quick, healthy and easy bitter gourd recipe.
4.81 from 36 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Cuisine North Indian
Course Side Dish
Diet Gluten Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Difficulty Level Moderate
Servings 3
Units

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 250 grams bitter gourd or 5 small to mediums sized karela or 2 cups chopped karela
  • 200 grams onions or 2 large onions or 1.5 cups thinly sliced onions
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder (ground turmeric)
  • ½ teaspoon kashmiri red chili powder
  • salt as per taste
  • ½ teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
  • ½ to 1 teaspoon dry mango powder (amchur powder), add as required

Instructions
 

Preparation

  • Rinse and then peel karela. Then chop in small pieces. 
  • Remove the seeds while chopping. If the karela is small and tender, then these will have tender seeds and they cannot be removed. 
  • If karela is very bitter, then add some salt on chopped karela pieces. Mix very well and allow this mixture to sit for 15 to 20 minutes. Then squeeze the karela and rinse them very well in water again. This will get rid of some bitterness from the karela.

Making karela sabji

  • In a kadai or pan, heat 2 tablespoons oil. You can use any neutral flavored oil.
  • Let the oil become hot. Then reduce the heat to a low and add the chopped karela.
  • Mix chopped karela with oil and sauté on a low to medium-low flame. Stir often while sautéing.
  • Sauté the karela for 4 to 5 minutes. 
  • Then add thinly sliced onions.
  • Mix the sliced onions with the karela.
  • Sprinkle turmeric powder, kashmiri red chili powder and salt as per taste. Mix very well.
  • On a low heat continue to sauté stirring often. Sprinkle some water if onion or karela starts sticking to pan. Mix and deglaze removing any bits stuck to the pan and continue to saute.
  • Sauté the karela sabji for 10 to 12 minutes till the both the karela and onions are cooked. The onions will also become golden and caramelize by this time. Keep on stirring often. 
  • When the onions have lightly caramelize and the bitter gourd pieces are tender and soft, sprinkle dry mango powder and garam masala. 
  • Mix very well and then switch off the heat.
  • Serve karela sabzi with phulka, paratha and a bowl of fresh plain curd or sweetened curd. This bitter gourd curry also goes very well as a side vegetable dish or accompaniment with the combination of dal rice or kadhi chawal. You can garnish with some coriander leaves if you want.
  • It can be packed for lunch box with a side of paratha or roti.½

Notes

  • How to remove bitterness from karela – In india, we do not get extremely bitter karelas. But, if you get the karela which are very bitter, then mix some salt on the chopped karela and keep aside for 20 to 30 minutes. The salt extracts the bitterness. Rinse in water and then use in the recipe. Alternatively, you could also put them in salted water. Keep them in the salted water for 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse them with fresh water and then add them to the recipe.
  • A few updates from readers’ comments: Karela seeds can be weeded out due to the reason that they are toxic and should be avoided during pregnancy. Red arils (covering on seeds) are reportedly toxic in children, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and sickness.
  • For a more tangy taste increase the amount of dry mango powder by ½ teaspoon. If you don’t have dry mango powder then drizzle ½ to 1 teaspoon lemon juice or as required, when you add garam masala powder.
  • The recipe can be doubled or tripled.

Nutrition Info (Approximate values)

Nutrition Facts
Karela Sabji (Bitter Gourd Recipe)
Amount Per Serving
Calories 131 Calories from Fat 81
% Daily Value*
Fat 9g14%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 12mg1%
Potassium 344mg10%
Carbohydrates 11g4%
Fiber 3g13%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 1g2%
Vitamin A 490IU10%
Vitamin C 74.9mg91%
Calcium 31mg3%
Iron 0.6mg3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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This Karela Recipe post is from the archives (August 2010) and has been republished and updated on 7 July 2021.

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Meet Dassana

Welcome to Dassana's Veg Recipes. I share vegetarian recipes from India & around the World. Having been cooking for decades and with a professional background in cooking & baking, I help you to make your cooking journey easier with my tried and tested recipes showcased with step by step photos & plenty of tips & suggestions.

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76 Comments

  1. Dear Dassana,
    I have followed your recipes for more than a year but never commented before. Love your website. I am from Punjab, Pakistani side. We are traditionally meat eaters. I wanted to find veg and lentil recipes and your recipes are fabulous!
    This karela recipe I tried for the first time today and hubby loved it! So thanks very much ????. I have a request. I have heard about a karela recipe where the peelings are added too. If you have a recipe for it, please share!4 stars

    1. dear ayesha, thank you for this lovely feedback. by the way, my in-laws are punjabis and were from lahore in pakistan. for the karela recipe, glad to know you and your hubby liked it. most welcome. i have heard about the peels added in stuffed karela, but i do not have this particular recipe. if i knew, i would have definitely shared it with you. thanks again.

  2. I made this dish yesterday. I forgot. That was using a nonstick pan and accidentally used more oil. To compensate, I added some Besan B4 adding aam chur and garam masala, so that it absorbs the excess oil. It turned to be a great addition. The slight bitterness in Besan added to the flavour of the roasted karela and the caramelised onion.5 stars

    1. thanks shruthi for this detailed comment and the rating. yes, besan tastes good in such dry vegetable dishes and gives a good flavor and taste. thanks for sharing.

  3. Tried this recipe today.A simple preparation with onions and a few spices..Was very tasty and did not feel the bitterness much.Loved it with phulkas.5 stars

    1. thanks winnie. hope you are doing fine. yes it is a simple sabzi. the sweetness of the caramelized onions takes away or balances whatever bitterness the bitter gourd has. yes this karela sabzi does taste goood with phulkas.

  4. Hi dassana .. am going to try this for dinner today.. and am sure it will turn good n best.. but I would like to share u that keeping karela in salt water is best avoid bitter taste but I do.somthing elz too I would like it.share after washing karela in salt keep in tamarind boiled water for 10 to 20 or u can bring to boil with tamarind in water this will.help reduce bitter taste.. hope u liked it thnx..4 stars

    1. thanks fazila for sharing this tamarind water tip. i had some notion regarding this tamarind water being used to get rid of bitterness, but had never tried. thanks for confirming. will definitely help the readers.

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