Bitter Gourd Subzi

Ah, the bitter gourd.

It’s ugly, it’s bitter, it plays hard-to-get here in the U.S., and yet…it’s so delicious, it drives me to poetry.

Well, not really, but it does make me a happier cook.

I’ve posted a couple of bitter gourd (karela or pagarkai) recipes before, but as you can see, I am in love with this healthful veggie, which makes me pounce on it anytime I spot a fresh bunch at my Indian grocery store which, unfortunately, is not all that often. I also keep trying to find new ways to cook it up. And the simpler the recipe, the happier I am.

This Karela Subzi is so simple and so delicious, it’s a treat for a busy weeknight. The caramelized onions give the subzi a richness and depth, and the sugar and peanuts contrast beautifully with the bitterness of the gourd, toning it down while not disguising it completely, which would be a pity.

I used storebought Tava Masala in this subzi: I love fresh-ground spices, but on a weeknight time’s hard to find and it never hurts to take some help from the readymade-masala gods.

Now for the subzi. Try it, even if you don’t love the bitter gourd, and who knows? You might start writing odes to it too!

Bitter Gourd Subzi


5 small bitter gourd melons, washed thoroughly and cut crosswise into thin rings, about 2 mm thick. Remove any hard seeds embedded in the white flesh.

1 large onion, thinly sliced

1 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp Tava masala (available at Indian grocery stores)

1/4 cup peanuts, coarsely powdered

1 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil

Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a skillet.

Add the onions and stir to coat with oil. Add the sugar and stir in.

On medium heat, cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they start to brown.

Add the bitter gourd rings and salt.

Toss thoroughly with the onions, then add the tava masala, chilli powder and turmeric and stir together.

Turn the heat to low, put a lid on the skillet, and cook for about 10-15 minutes, stirring every couple of minutes or so, until the onions and the bitter gourd caramelize and the bitter gourd is tender.

Add the peanut powder and stir into the subzi.

Check salt. Turn off heat.

Serve hot with chapatis or as a side-dish with rice and dal.

Other Bitter Gourd recipes from Holy Cow!

Karela Rajma

Bitter Gourd Pitlai

Update: An alert reader, Mita, pointed me to the fact that I had not included the Tava Masala in the recipe method. I’ve added it now. Sorry about that, and thanks, Mita!

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

13 thoughts on “Bitter Gourd Subzi

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    January 10, 2009 at 12:24am

    I love bitter gourd dishes. I like the idea of adding peanuts to this one. The dish looks yummy. Haven’t been in an Indian store for a while …must but a couple of different masalas and see!

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    January 10, 2009 at 12:46am

    In my house I am the only one who dive for this veggie, howewer i make it they just reject! Peanut should bring a nice nutty flavor

  3. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Mahimaa's kitchen

    January 10, 2009 at 12:53am

    karelas look mouthwatering. i love them. i like the fact that it is bitter unlike other veggies. :)

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    January 10, 2009 at 4:10am

    I like bitter gourd now, didn’t like while growing up.We use lots of jaggery while cooking them, it balances the bitteness.
    This is a new recipe to me…looks good.

  5. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    January 10, 2009 at 4:37am

    Bitter gourd curry looks good! nice click.

  6. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    January 10, 2009 at 11:02am

    This is my first time to your blog. The bitter gourd subzi looks good. Does the jaggery and peanut balance the bitterness?

  7. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    DJ Karma

    January 10, 2009 at 11:26am

    hmmm- I’ve never tried bitter gourd. Wonder if I can find it out here in Cali. Looks beautiful!

  8. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    January 10, 2009 at 12:05pm

    Looks good! I use MDH Tava Masala too sometimes! It adds great flavor to any stir fry. I have some karelas – lets see what happens!

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    Gita's Kitchen

    January 10, 2009 at 3:13pm

    This is a little bit different from my preparation, caramalized onions with karela should taste great….

  10. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    January 10, 2009 at 6:53pm

    Karela is one of my fav. veggies. Buy them whenever I get them. Using peanuts is really new to me. U post some real different recipes.

  11. Permalink  ⋅ Reply


    January 11, 2009 at 9:25am

    hi Vaishali, what a mouth watering picture! We love karela too, and I made it yesterday with yogurt. I love your recipe for the subji, but I think I will avoid the sugar and, if required, would prefer to add jaggery instead. Peanuts sounds more interesting in this dish:-)

  12. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Curry Leaf

    January 11, 2009 at 9:48pm

    I too love bittergourd dishes and use tava masala and simply stirfry with it.Never added all the other ingredients and made a proper side dish.Looks yum

  13. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    A Collection of Thoughts

    January 12, 2009 at 3:47am

    Hi Vaishali,
    Discovered your “kingdom” through Sangita Kalarickal’s page. Lovely recipes.
    Just a small question:
    when exactly you add the Tava Masala while cooking this Bitter Gourd Subzi? It is not mentioned..or did I just miss it?
    Thank you and keep giving us mouthwatering recipes:)!!

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