Bhare Karele - Stuffed Bitter gourd

Bitter gourd or karela not only has a warty looking exterior, it tastes bad as well. Its bitterness originates from a bitter compound called momordicin. Despite looks and taste its medicinal value cannot be ignored. It is said to tone the stomach, improving its function and increasing appetite. It also known to help prevent or counteract type-II diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity thus, lowering elevated blood sugar levels.
Like any other kid I too hated karela. But as I grew I cultivated a taste for it and now I simply adore making and eating it. It is stuffed with spices and then fried in oil, which is very popular in Punjabi cuisine. Another traditional way to cook bitter gourd is with onions, red chili powder, turmeric powder, salt, coriander powder, amchoor and a pinch of cumin seeds. I try to make my recipes as simple and healthy as possible. This is my stuffed version of karela but instead of frying I cook them in a pan with minimum oil. Both my husband and daughter love this recipe and they are gone within minutes of serving them.

Yummy tangy stuffed karelas on a chappati with pearl onions

Preparation time: 30 minutes                    Cooking time: 45 minutes
Servings: 6-8

  • 12-14 karelas (they should be bright green and preferably medium or small sized with hard crisp ridges)
  • 3-4 garlic pods minced
  • 2” piece ginger grated
  • 3-4 green chilies chopped finely
  • 2 medium onions chopped finely
  • 2 large tomatoes chopped finely
  • 1tsp turmeric
  • 1tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp chaat masala/amchoor
  • A pinch of hing
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 4tbsp oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  • Wash the karelas thoroughly. Trim the ends and peel their surface slightly. Now make a slit in the centre lengthwise and open the pod with your fingers. Clean and remove any pith or seeds that are present inside. Apply some salt on the inner side and outer skin of the karela with your fingers and keep them aside for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile prepare masala for the stuffing.
Karelas peeled,deseeded and salt aplied
  • Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a pan. Add a pinch of hing and cumin seeds and let them splutter. Add green chilies, ginger and garlic and sautee them for 2-3 minutes. Add the onions and cook them till they start to leave oil on the sides. Now add the tomatoes and cook till the masala binds together and starts to leave oil on its sides. Add all the dry spices and mix well. Check for salt and pepper and then remove from the heat.

  • Take a paper towel and slightly dab any moisture from the karelas due to the salt. Heat a flat bottomed pan with 2tbsp oil. Take a spoonful of masala stuffing and fill the insides of the karelas. Place them in the heated pan and turn the heat to medium.
Karelas stuffed and ready for sautee
  • Cook them on all sides till the skin starts to turn brown. Keep turning their sides as required. It takes anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes for the karelas to turn crispy and lose their bitterness. Serve them with chapattis/paranthas or any curry of your choice.
Crispy yummy karelas
Note : The stuffed karelas can be refrigerated in an air tight box for up to a week. Simply reheat them in a pan or in a microwave to freshen them up before serving.