Karela Recipe (Bitter gourd Curry)

Step by StepJump to Recipe

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 with text layover.

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

Please be sure to rate the recipe in the recipe card or leave a comment below if you have made it. For more vegetarian inspirations, Sign Up for my emails or follow me on Instagram, Youtube, Facebook, Pinterest or Twitter.

karela sabji served in a ceramic bowl.

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.
4.89 from 44 votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
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
  • 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.

Like what you see?

Stay up to date with new recipes and ideas.

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

Share This Recipe:

WhatsAppPinShares597

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.

Get My Secrets to Great Indian Food
Sign up for my FREE Beginners Guide to Delicious Indian Cooking

Comments are closed.

78 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.

  5. Hi Dassana
    can u plz give me ur mail id??
    i need some recipes for my husband who has hypertension and diabetes.
    thanx

    1. shally i am not the right person for recipes focussing on these health conditions. its best to consult a dietitian. a dietitian can give a meal plan and also tell what ingredients are not suitable. its best to take professional advice regarding diabetes. i just have a basic knowledge which most people have about diabetes and hypertension and basic do’s and dont’s. my mother in law has diabetes but it is on borderline. so we do not include sugar in her tea and she does not have any sweets too. but otherwise she has regular indian meals of chapati, sabzi and dal. fresh fruits are also included in her diet. for any other recipe queries you can email me at vegrecipesofindia@gmail.com

  6. My sister hates karela… but today after having this karela sabzi, she actually praised me…. Thank you so much….. your blog is like a god gift for working woman who doesn’t have time to go outside and take cooking classes….5 stars

    1. thats nice to know manisha. thanks for sharing your experience. most welcome and thanks again. happy cooking.

  7. Great recipe. Making as we speak. Usually I cook karela with onions on a low heat and covered. Excited to see how this turns out. Btw sometimes in my Tadka I add jeers, sauf and little kalonji. I like the taste it gives. 🙂

    1. thanks shona. hope the recipe went well for you. i am sure jeera, saunf and kalonji must be giving a good taste.

  8. Recipe seems yummy, just worried about the bitterness. looking forward to trying it.4 stars

  9. Thank you Dasanna for sharing this recipe. The dish is so simple, can be made with minimum ingredients and yet is very tasty.5 stars

  10. I am diabetic with very high sugar levels I am anxious to get these down without being dependent on insulin

    1. apart from bitter gourd, i would suggest you to use fenugreek in your diet. either fresh fenugreek leaves (if you can get them where you live) or fenugreek seeds or powder. a bit added in your food will help. you will get a lot of info on google.

  11. I m a foodie, just loved this recipe very simple and fast, not so bitter.
    taste good…

  12. thanks for the recipe..looks god my father used to eat lots of Karela for his blood pressure and other illlnesses

  13. Yesterday I saw this and cooked it at home, my husband liked it. thanx. it was very good.5 stars

  14. Yesterday i read this recipe, and did the same and it became soooo …… good.

  15. We also cook in similar manner but we add fennel (Saunf) also to it..it tastes good..try..it should be grinded masala saunf, added to ur taste.

    1. i have tried adding saunf powder in bharwan karela. i know it tastes good. will try with the sabi too.

  16. Karela is not among my favorites, but tried this recipe out since we had it at home. It was good to try karela subji with a different taste!

  17. Hi
    i made the karaila but i used salt because i dont like the bitterness. Even after cooking they still taste a bit bitter is there anything we can do to reduce the bitterness even after cooking? (by the way i made keema karaila)

    1. after slicing or chopping the karela, mix with some salt and keep aside for 20-25 minutes. then squeeze the karela pieces with your hands and rinse the karela in water. this technique will remove some bitterness. if you make a vegetarian version, then in some recipes, especially in south indian, tamarind and jaggery is added and this does tone down the bitterness.

  18. Thanks very much I loved this!! I will be buying Karela more often from the local bizarre

    1. its not necessary to peel karela. if you don’t want to peel, then leave the peel intact.

  19. swt hrt in the pictures u posted it is not karela or bitter gourd but it is parval that uve taken. cannot cook karela like that it has to be salted and taken off its bitterness or else u r going to keep tasting the bitterness for the rest of the week….. kindly check n make the corrections on ur illustrative site….ciao

    1. dear anshum

      i have made this karela recipe and for your information it is 100% karela/bitter gourd and not parval. observe more closely. can’t you see the karela seeds in the pics? do they look like parval seeds to you?

      and who has told you that the karela always has to be salted. in india we don’t get that bitter karela. and even on a personal front i prefer to have the bitterness in the karela. hence i have not added salt to the karela in this recipe.

      how can you make your own assumptions by not seeing or checking the information on the recipe properly? before mentioning anything like this just check the facts and pics on the recipe properly.

      i am actually amused by your weird comment. do you think i am a person who has lost her head and posting the pics of another vegetable. are you crazy or what?

      1. Hello Dassana,

        A small update – Karela seeds can be weeded out due to the reason that it contains toxic and to be avoided during pregnancy. Hope this info could be added.

        Warm Regards,
        Sayuj N

        1. thanks sayuj for the helpful info. will help a lot of us who don’t know about the toxic thing in the seeds.

        2. Specifically:
          Warnings – Red arils (covering on seed) are reportedly toxic in children, causing vomiting, diarrhea, and death.

          Contraindications – Bitter melon is contraindicated in pregnant women as it can induce bleeding, contractions, and abortion.

  20. I have ” tons ” of qulity karelas in my home ths season.will try this recipe. thanks.
    Sydney, Australia

  21. I love karela too and this karela has been a family favorite , we make it without peeling n with seeds.
    My husband doesn’t like karela n now i have experimented with this veggie so much so that he has at least started eating this….:) 🙂

    1. Thank you for this Karela recipe, I made it already many times and this is the only way I will make it. It’s easy, simple and very tasty.

        1. Hey Dassana Amazing recipe!! will definitely make it regularly but was wondering if I could presteam the karela for five minutes to cut down on the oil used? do you think it would work?
          On another note, since you live in Goa I wondered if you ever use the kokum butter that they sell in the markets for cooking. The locals all assured me about its health benefits. Do you know anything about it, I was hoping to make a vegan butter recipe that i found online that uses cocoa butter and use it for baking etc. I made raagi biscuits yesterday and the texture was pretty amazing and taste was also barely noticeable. I would love to know your thoughts on it for regular use, if its healthy safe etc. What struck me was its extremely high smoking point.

        2. hi karuna. yes you can pre steam the karela. i also steam them sometimes and then lightly saute in oil. i have heard of kokum butter, but i have not been able to find it in goa, at least where we lived. i hit ave heard, it can be used as a replacement for butter in cookies and sweets etc. since i have not used it, not sure how it works. you made ragi biscuits with cocoa butter? thats wow!!!