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Bharwan Karela - a no waste recipe!

This recipe is one from my childhood. A tangy stuffing makes bitter gourds not just more palatable but absolutely delicious. Great paired with freshly made parathe, this is an easy recipe that adds variety to summer meals or travel food. Make it!
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time45 mins
Course: dinner, entree, lunch, Main Course
Cuisine: Indian, punjabi
Keyword: bharwan karele, bitter melon, karela, vegan, vegetarian
Servings: 4 People
Author: Kanika Samra


  • Frying pan
  • Peeler


  • 8 - 10 Karela/Bitter melons
  • Salt plenty!
  • 3-4 Lehsun/Garlic cloves smashed, peeled and chopped
  • 2-3 Kashmiri Mirch/Whole Dry Kashmiri Chilies chopped
  • 1 or 1/2 Pyaaz/Onion red preferably, finely chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp Sarson ka tel/Mustard Oil (for tadka) or any other cooking oil
  • 2-3 Tbsp Olive oil (for cooking karele) or any other cooking oil
  • 1 Tsp Saunf/fennel seeds
  • 1 Tsp Jeera/cumin seeds
  • 1 Tsp Kalaunji/Nigella seeds
  • 1/2 Tsp Haldi/Turmeric powder
  • 1/2 Tsp Lail mirch/Red chili powder
  • 1 Tsp Dhania/Coriander powder
  • 1/2 to 1 Tsp Amchoor/Unripe Mango Powder
  • 2 Tsp Gur/Jaggery
  • 2 Tbsp Besan/gram flour or chickpea flour (optional)


Peel, scrape and prepare the karele/bitter melons

  • Wash and pat dry the karele. Next, peel the outer skin. Do not throw away the peels. Collect them in a bowl and salt them liberally. As the peels sweat it out, slit each bitter gourd lengthwise but keep the ends intact so they form a pocket. Using a spoon scrape out all the seeds from inside each karela. You should have empty pockets of supple green flesh.
  • Wash the peeled and emptied karele and pat them dry. Place in a bowl and salt generously. Leave the melons undisturbed until needed later.

Make the stuffing

  • Finely chop the onion. Smash, peel and chop garlic. Roughly chop whole Kashmiri chillies.
  • Put a frying pan on medium high heat. Add mustard oil/any cooking oil to it. Once the oil is warm, add all the seeds to it – fennel, cumin and nigella. Let these bloom and splutter before adding chopped garlic, onion and chillies. Sauté until the onions start browning. Once onions are done add dry spices – chili powder, turmeric and coriander powder. Stir and cook for a minute and lower the heat. If the pan is too dry, add a splash of water to prevent spices from burning.
  • Squeeze out water from salted melon peels and add them to the pan. Cook on medium high heat stirring intermittently until all the moisture has been cooked off and the peels are a deep dark green.
  • Once the peels have cooked, add amchoor and jaggery. Turn off the heat and mix well. Jaggery will caramelize if left on the heat. Stir well until everything is combined and remove to a bowl. Allow this mixture to cool before the next step. Retain the frying pan as is, do not wash it.
  • If the stuffing doesn’t seem enough, add bean for bulk and more flavor. Mix it well until no lumps remain and continue to roast on low heat till you smell its nutty aroma. Besan will also cook some more in the final step with the karele.

Stuff and cook karele to make Bharwan Karele

  • Wash the salted melons to remove excess salt and gently squeeze out some moisture too. Be gentle so as to avoid breaking the melons.
  • In the same frying pan used for making the stuffing, warm up 2-3 tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is warm place as many stuffed bitter gourds as you can easily maneuver. Sauté and cook them turning a few times until the skin is brown and cooked through. The color will change from a light minty green to a darker, caramelized green – brown. 
  • Enjoy Bharwan Karele with plain paratha or chapati. They are great for travel or as part of an ensemble Indian meal with dal, dahi, rice and more.