Bitter Gourd Sabzi

Karela 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 Sabzi is so simple and so delicious, it’s a treat for a busy weeknight. The caramelized onions give the sabzi 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 sabzi: 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 sabzi. Try it, even if you don’t love the bitter gourd, and who knows? You might start writing odes to it too!

Bitter Gourd Sabzi
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Indian
  • 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)
  • ¼ cup peanuts, coarsely powdered
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste
  1. Heat the oil in a skillet.
  2. Add the onions and stir to coat with oil. Add the sugar and stir in.
  3. On medium heat, cook the onions, stirring frequently, until they start to brown.
  4. Add the bitter gourd rings and salt.
  5. Toss thoroughly with the onions, then add the tava masala, chilli powder and turmeric and stir together.
  6. 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.
  7. Add the peanut powder and stir into the sabzi.
  8. Check salt. Turn off heat.
  9. 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!

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  1. says

    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!

  2. says

    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.

  3. says

    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.

  4. says

    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:-)

  5. says

    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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