Bitter Gourd – Not Bitter Anymore.. :) :)

Ever wondered while shopping in supermarkets why do they sell bitter gourd?

Who buys and eats bitter gourd? Huh?

Doesn’t it taste bitter? Then why do people eat it?

Well, yes bitter gourd is very bitter. I myself cannot imagine eating it raw. But still it is one of my favourite ingredients and bitter gourd or ‘Karla’ as we call it in Marathi or ‘karela’ in Hindi, makes amazing side dish to be eaten with wheat roti.

Truth is that there are numerous ways in which Bitter gourd is prepared in India. It can be stuffed with tasty spice mix, it tastes delicious when deep fried with some chat masala sprinkled, it can be used to make a dry sabzi and my mom makes amazing curry of bitter gourd which FYI doesn’t taste bitter at all. Bitter gourd is a diverse ingredient and hence I used it to create another successful experiment.

The people who have never had bitter gourd, I still know what you all must be thinking. Doesn’t it taste bitter?? How can one eat it?? Actually it is very much edible and likable. It just depends how it is prepared. So at times it depends on which ingredients you use and also on individual preferences.

In my home, everyone loves bitter gourd and its diverse dishes. The dish I am gonna write today tastes sweet, tangy, wonderfully spicy and slightly bitter at the same time. Signature style of using minimum ingredients to make a mouth-watering dish is again used.  Below is the recipe of my successful experiment.


250 gms of Bitter gourd / karla

2 Large chopped red onions

½ cup of tamarind  water

2 tbsp of chopped jaggery

1 tbsp of red chilli powder and garam masala

1 tsp of salt to taste

2 – 3 tbsp oil

How is it done:

This recipe is done in two parts.

First part is related to get rid of the excess bitter taste out of the bitter gourd. For this, chop the bitter gourd in small fine rings, remove the seeds if they are big and mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt. Put it aside and you can use the time to chop the onions and to make tamarind water. Now return to the salt and bitter gourd mixture. You would see salt is doing its magic and bitter gourd has started perspirating.

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Bitter Gourd Rings

Squeeze the bitter gourd and try to remove as much bitter juice out of it as possible. Squeeze and  Squeeze…. don’t give up!!!

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Bitter Gourd Juice

Atleast try to extract the quantity of juice I have removed in the picture.

Now lets move on to second part but first let me tell you something. Many people I know wash bitter gourd after extracting the juice. Please don’t do this. I would not advice it cause along with the water all the remaining nutrients will also get washed away.

Heat the oil on a wide pan. Add the onions and fry them will they become golden brown. Infact I would suggest you to caramelise them in oil. They will reduce in quantity and provide natural sweet flavours to the dish. Next add the squeezed less bitter in taste version of bitter gourd to the pan.

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Squeezed Bitter Gourd

Saute on medium flame for five to seven mins. Then add the tamarind juice and jaggery to the pan. These two ingredients can be used in more or less quantities depending on your taste buds. Remember the trick is to minimize the bitter taste and not to completely eliminate it.

Add the spices and allow to cook all the ingredients for another seven to ten minutes or until all of them combine together. Add salt to the dish and let it cook for a minute or so. And now the tasty and delicious dish is ready.

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Tip to First timers: Tasting is important before the final dish is served so that you can adjust the sweet and tangy flavour.

Please try the recipe and let me know how you find bitter gourd. Also there are many varieties and I will keep posting new recipes of bitter gourd in future. Till then see ya all!!!


46 thoughts on “Bitter Gourd – Not Bitter Anymore.. :) :)

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  2. Lovely recipe! Looks yummy…… 🙂 but what about its juice. Ain’t you draining off all the Vitamin-C (water soluble vitamin)? Is there a way to prepare with maximum utilization of the veg? I mean not extracting off the vegetable juice ?

    • Thanks you very much Supritha!!! Some people add some salt to the chopped bitter gourd and leave it overnight to reduce the bitterness. Also you can try deep frying thin strips of bitter gourd and then sprinkle salt, chat masala and pepper… yummmm….

      • Ohhh Thank youuuuuuuu…!!! Trust me it was awesome I tried this recipe last night and it came out well (added mirchi powder a little too much though), I also added some food colour to it to get a bright colour 🙂

  3. I recommand you try to cut and remover the inner (seed and soft part) into bigger pieces and put them inside salt water (1.5table spoon salt to 1 lt water) for atleast 30min and clean it with water and put it into bowl of cold water in 10min. This will give the gourd less bitter taste and not squishy texture. just a suggestion though.

    Its also important to choose light green color skin, not white or yellow, firm and the “eye” or “mark” on the skin are apart of each other. This tells you that the gourd has grew old enough to be less bitter. There are also 2 popular types of this gourd, small and very green one, and big and long one. the big and long are usually less bitter.

    I hope this help you in anyway. Keep up the good work!

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  5. I would like to try this recipe. Is it that you put 1 tablespoon of red chili powder and also 1 tablespoon of garam masala? Also, how thick is your tamarind water? Is it more like colored water, or thicker like a paste? I am learning to use it with sambar, and can’t seem to get it right. If I put a nimbu/lime sized ball of tamarind pulp in water, how much water should I use?

    • Hi Indiaindiana,

      I have tried to answer your queries below:

      1. The quantity of chili powder and garam masala are given after keeping in mind the taste buds of average Indian who loves a bit spicy food. Also the red chili powder that I use is more for colour than for spice as I use Kashmiri red chili powder which is famous for it’s colour. You can use 1 tbsp of each as I did the same.

      2. I soaked some tamarind in 1/2 cup of warm water and then squeezed the tamarind & used the water. The tamarind water is for bringing the tangy flavour and if you want to use the tamarind paste then I would suggest you to first add the pulp directly to the recipe and then put just a little bit of water. Taste and adjust is my motto…..hehehe…

      Thanks and keep experimenting… 🙂

  6. I came home from my town’s brand new Asian/Indian/African supermarket today with a whole exciting basket of foods I have never eaten before. Bitter Gourd caught my eye as it was so green and unusual in texture.. Unfortunately the shop keeper did not speak very good English and so his cooking tips were lost in translation. He offered me a pack of dried bitter gourd but I was drawn to the green colours of the fresh vegetable. One question…..should the vegetable not be rinsed after it has been tossed in salt or soaked in salt water? I have ruined many a dish with being heavy handed with salt …ooops. Thanks

    • Hi Lisa,

      First of all, kudos for buying veggies which you have never even tried… especially Bitter Gourd.

      Kindly remove all the salted bitter water as much as you can by squeezing the veggie.

      Relating to the rinsing, you can do that but by doing so you will be loosing the nutrients so I would not advise you to do that. If you are worrying the amount of salt then I would suggest… put little bit of salt and keep the bitter guord soaked overnight in fridge and then please follow the above recipe and send me your reviews….all the best dear!!! 🙂 🙂

      • Where is your source that nutrients are lost due to washing? You are only washing the exterior of the bitter gourd, not the inside. Surface nutrients may be lost, but the majority is inside. You know what removed a whole lot of the nutrients? Squeezing the juice out. You should be leaving it in salt overnight. The salt binds with the bitter compounds and neutralizes it.

      • Hi Jeriel,

        I do try the overnight salt process when I do get time but sometimes it is not possible to plan in advance. In those times, squeezing is required to make the bitter gourd less bitter.

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  8. This is a great recipe that I will certainly try. I have one question though, how do you squeeze the bitter gourd after it started perspirating with the salt? Do you do it with your hands?

  9. oh lordy I would like to say I enjoyed my first taste of bitter gourd. Unfortunately I didn’t. I squeezed all the salt water out with my hands. I did not rinse. It was really dreadful. I wont be trying this horrible vegetable again. BITTER, SOUR, SALTY and horrible. Thanks anyway

    • AAAwwww… I am sorry to hear that. I know this veggie is very tricky. If you visit to India anytime, I will prepare this recipe for you and would hope that your view changes. Till then keep experimenting…. 🙂

  10. Also u can try some tomato juice, the green one, this will mask the bitterness of the gourd. Wlso can add garlic cloves

  11. Great recipe. My hubby loved the butter less bitter guard. I used only sambar powder and sugar instead of Jaggery.

  12. Any suggestions for a gardener that has huge production. I have at least 20 pounds of bitter gourd every time we pick.
    What would be a way to save all this gourd?

    • Hi Gregg,

      Sorry for late reply. I have a suggestion for you. With 20 pounds of bitter gourd, I would suggest you to follow a good bitter gourd pickle recipe. First make it in a small batch and if you like what you have made then just turn the veggies into amazing long lasting pickle.

  13. Hi,
    Can you tell me, by squeezing out the juice of the bitter gourd, aren’t you also squeezing out some of the important nutrients?
    I want to eat bitter gourd for its nutritional value and what I’ve read about its ability to reduce blood sugars, and help control or avoid diabetes (which I’ve read in many of the other recipes and other nutrition websites). I’ve never made bitter gourd before, and chose your recipe as one of four which I will use on an alternating bases till I find my best method to prepare.
    Thanks in advance for replying!

    • Hi Terri

      You can skip the squeezing part, just that it would taste more bitter. But the bitterness can be reduced by adding more jaggery. Also one way to cook bitter gourd would be to cut thin strips season it with salt and spices and deep fry them. Always buys small light green bitter gourd as they are less bitter. Hope this helps!!!

  14. I love bitter gourds….. One of the best bitter gourd I have ever tasted……yummy yummy … Love it…..

  15. Hi,
    loved your recipe. I was searching on the internet about how to reduce the bitterness of bitter gourd and your technique worked well. Since i didnt have jaggery, i added a bit of sugar and my friends loved it. Thanks.

    • Hi Aparna,

      The whole reason I started writing this blog was to document my Experiments with Food. Hence, you have made me very happy as you have shared your experiment of adding sugar instead of jaggery. Keep Experimenting!!!!

  16. I made the recipe and it was very good.
    I was confused on one of the ingredients or at least the way it was listed in the recipe,”1 tbsp of red chilli powder and garam masala”. Does that mean to mix garam masala with red chili powder for a total of 1 Tbsp or is one Tbsp of each?
    For my first try, I did not use any red chili powder, since it was ambiguous. I think it would have been better if I had put some chili powders, some clarification would be helpful.

    • Hi Calvin,

      It is 1 tbsp of red chilli powder and garam masala each. Thanks for pointing out the ambiguousness. I have edited the post accordingly. Also the red chili powder that I use is more for colour than for spice as I use Kashmiri red chili powder which is famous for it’s colour. Keep experimenting and let me know how it turns out the next time you make it.

    • Hi
      Sometimes it depends on the variety of bitter gourd. Some are more bitter than the others. Hence I normally taste the dish before finishing it. You should try adding more jaggery.

  17. I’m actually trying to figure out how to **keep** the bitterness in my bitter gourd…I made some Nepalese style Karela and cooked it with a little lemon juice (and asafoetida, and fenugreek and mustard seeds, and chili pepper powder). To my sadness all the bitterness is gone! I specifically bought this vegetable because I think the bitterness is delicious (apparently unlike most people here). Did the lemon juice remove the bitterness? Or did I just get a not very bitter gourd to begin with? I did buy smaller size gourds (maybe 4 inches long). I have heard the longer ones are more bitter — should I be getting the longer size in order to have a better chance of getting the bitter ones?

  18. Very true. Its the bitterness which helps to control blood sugar. Best way to cook bitter gourd is to bake it in oven with some carrot gratings, and tomato. No need for jaggery even as it defeats the purpose for those who eat for blood sugar control.

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