Living in Consciousness ~ Indi(r)a’s Food and Garden Weblog

Bitter Gourd Curry (Karela/Kakara Kaaya Kura)

Bitter gourds, true to their name, are bitter and just like any bitter, sour things, they are an acquired taste. My mother’s recipe pairs the bitter gourd with jaggery and red chilli powder; the result is a sweet and sour, lip smacking good, bitter gourd curry. She made it impossible for us kids to hate this vegetable, really, who can resist a sweet and sour combination paired with hot, hot rice and ghee. Clever woman, she is.

Indian Bitter Gourd, Karela, kaakara kaaya

4 to 6 fresh, good looking Indian variety bitter gourds (karela, kakara kaya)
( This recipe works only with karela, not good with chinese bittergourds. To know the difference, check the link)
½ to 1 cup powdered jaggery
½ tsp of red chilli powder
½ tsp of salt
A pinch or ¼ tsp of turmeric
For popu or tadka
½ tsp of mustard seeds, cumin and few curry leaves

karela pieces, jaggery and red chilli powder

Wash the bitter gourds (karela) and peel the outer rugged skin of each one. Cut into half. If you see white, kind of dried out seeds, they are good for consumption, proceed and cut them into bite sized pieces, including the seeds (They taste nutty and crunchy, add them as whole or cut them into pieces). If you see red colored seeds, the gourd is very mature and tastes impossibly bitter, so it is better to throw the whole thing away.

In a pan, heat one teaspoon of oil, splutter the mustard seeds, cumin and curry leaves. Add the cut bitter gourd pieces. Cover and cook them in their own moisture for about 5 to 8 minutes or until they are tender to touch. When you are sure that the pieces are tender, then only add the powdered jaggery, salt, turmeric, red chilli powder and one tablespoon of water. (Jaggery prevents further cooking of vegetable, so make sure the pieces are tender before adding jaggery.)

Mix them up thoroughly, cover and let them cook for about another 10 to 15 minutes on medium-low heat. In between sprinkle some water, taste and adjust the seasoning, add more jaggery if you think it’s needed. Jaggery melts and coats the bitter gourd pieces and ten minutes of simmering turns the melted jaggery into a gooey, thick, brown caramel like sauce.

Serve this gold colored, sweetly bitter, delicious curry with hot rice and some ghee.

Indian Bitter Gourd (Karela, kaakara kaaya) Curry

Bitter Gourd (karela, Kaakara kaaya) Curry.

Recipe Source: Amma

You can also find different and more recipes with bitter gourd (karela) by other fabulous Indian food bloggers –Manisha and Gini.

Posted by Indira©Copyrighted in Amma & Authentic Andhra,Jaggery,Kakara Kaya(Bitter Gourd) (Thursday October 27, 2005 at 7:09 pm- permalink)
Comments (26)

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26 comments for Bitter Gourd Curry (Karela/Kakara Kaaya Kura) »

  1. This looks so interesting. I have heard of bitter gourds before, but I don’t think I have eaten them.

    Comment by Kalyn — October 27, 2005 @ 10:16 pm

  2. I never peel them, but if the seeds are large, I remove the inner soft white bit with the seeds… I guess I’ll have to try this recipe – it sounds good, Indira!

    Comment by Shammi — October 28, 2005 @ 6:15 am

  3. Oh, Indira, that sounds lovely.

    Like Shammi, I never peel mine, but I always scoop the pithy white part and the seeds. Then, I cut the outer green flesh thinly and use it in a stir fry with chicken, onions and fermented black beans. That is the way that both Zak and Morganna like the vegetable and it is the only way they will eat it.

    I am still going to try your Amma’s recipe–it sounds wonderful, and I think that I might be able to convince my two silly beloveds in this house that a second way to enjoy kerala is good.

    BTW, speaking of Morganna, she is doing a project for her Foods of the World class on Indian foods. She has been reading your blog, but I think she is too shy to ask you, so I will do it–could she include a link to your blog in her project and cite your blog as a source?

    The reason is because she thinks it would be nice if kids from Ohio could read about the adventures of a lady from India who is cooking here in Ohio–not so far from where they live–and who has brought her traditions and food culture with her from India to the US.

    Anyway–keep cooking–I am going to see if by chance the farmers here are still harvesting a few kerala, and if they are, I will buy some and cook them with an Indian dinner later in the week, and let you know how it turns out.

    Comment by Barbara — October 28, 2005 @ 2:22 pm

  4. Kalyn, try this recipe and see whether you like this vegetable or not. There are two more recipes I know for this vegetable and I will post them sometime later. Thanks!

    Shammi, we are used to preparing karela this way. Next time I will try to cook these without peeling (or scraping). I’ll let you know how it comes. Thanks.

    Barbara, it is nice to know that Morganna is doing a project on Indian foods. I was really impressed with her Kofta curry. And yes, she could definitely include a link to the blog and could also use the contents for any reference purpose. I’d also be glad to give any additional information for her project. I am also very interested to know some more details about the project. How big is this, how many varieties does she have to put in and how long she is going to work?
    Believe it or not, Barbara, I was going to ask you about a recipe that I was interested in making today, but felt little bit shy and foolish and didn’t email you my question and just did what the book said. What can I say, I am a grownup Morganna:)

    Comment by Indira — October 28, 2005 @ 8:42 pm

  5. Will try your method. I am used to always seeding the karela and blanching it before using. I thought the Salt and Pepper host was called “Gini”.

    Reply From Indira:

    I am always careful with the names, I don’t know how I got Gini name wrong. Thanks, Shakthi.

    Comment by Shakthi — October 28, 2005 @ 8:57 pm

  6. Indira, never be shy to email me or ask on the comments on the blog. I will tell Morganna that she has another source for the project.

    She has to write a paper that includes general information about India (population, culture, religion, dietary traditions, government, agriculture) and then discuss specific foods and holiday traditions that include foods. She has to make a three dimensional display to go into a miniature “international fair” for her school, which includes art, photographs, and any three dimensional objects she wants to include. We are going to include whole spices, ground spices, grains and dals in the display, all labelled. Then, she has to prepare one dish, that will be enough for her class to all have a taste–right now we are thinking of chicken biryani, because she is pretty sure that rice and chicken will be something that everyone will taste. (I voted for kheer, but she said that she was afraid that everyone would think it looked funny and wouldn’t try it.)

    I am thinking of including music from a small CD player–Zak has a bunch of Hariprasad Chaurasia CD’s she could use. We may also make a small rangoli to go with the display.

    She is a very artistic girl, so I think that her three dimensional display will look very nice.

    Comment by Barbara — October 28, 2005 @ 11:42 pm

  7. Barbara.. Thank you! I will do that next time.

    Chicken Biryani is a winner, good choice. How about raita,(with onions and or only with cucumbers)that would be a traditional accompaniment to biryani.:)
    We both love Hariprasad Chaurasia’s music, have almost all of his CD’s and cassettes. Vijay can play the flute and I adore the sound of flute.
    Biryani, flute and rangoli.. I feel like I am in India already. Very artistic, indeed.
    Best wishes to Morganna.

    Comment by Indira — October 29, 2005 @ 9:33 am

  8. Vijay and Zak would get along very well, Indira–Zak plays bamboo flute (not bansuri, but he plays in a style very reminiscent of bansuri), Native American flute and some shakuhachi–a Japanese bamboo flute. He also plays guitar and didgideroo–that Australian rhythym instrument that you play with your mouth and breath.

    Zak got to see Hariprasad in concert when we lived in Maryland–and it is one of his favorite experiences. Unfortunately, I was out of town, but he had a great seat (and I think was the only Anglo in the room), and he was in heaven.

    Comment by Barbara — October 29, 2005 @ 11:28 am

  9. Indira i tried this recipe today, i forgot to taste the gourd b4 cooking, after it was done i tasted, the gourd was just too bitter … any tips for selecting the rite gourd .. thanx

    Indira Says
    Hi Priya… I know it’s difficult to find fresh ones here, but try to choose medium sized ones. Avoid picking too young and too bulky ones, they taste more bitter. Whatever you choice may be, they are going to be bitter as you may already know.:)

    Comment by priya — November 3, 2005 @ 6:14 pm

  10. true indira whatever we mite pick its gonna be bitter, but the ones i picked . damn… they were really bitter .. thanx for the tips

    Comment by priya — November 4, 2005 @ 12:17 am

  11. I grew up hating bitter gourd and still can’t stand it. But the only time I actually voluntarily ate it and enjoyed it was in India. They’d sliced the gourd really thinly and deep fried it with mustard seed and some other spices. It was so good that I forgot my prejudice of this bitter vegetable.

    Your recipe sounds and looks quite yummy. I might even be tempted to try it if it is not too bitter.

    Oh, and Happy belated Diwali.

    Comment by MM — November 5, 2005 @ 1:40 pm

  12. Here in Oman the vegetable shops are now flooded with garden fresh Karelas.Surely will try the recipe.

    Comment by Sreeja — December 12, 2005 @ 12:38 pm

  13. Indira,

    Recently found ur blog while i was browsing for some recipe which i often do but this was my intro to what u call blogosphere…:-) Very interesting and in the few days that i invented ur blog have tried many of ur recipes already. I liked the bell pepper with the peanut paste, tried to make stuffed brinjal but somehow ultimately it became non-stuffed brinjal but the curry tasted great. And yes today I tried your Okra Sambhar (which ofcourse I have made before) and Karela – ur amma’s recipe. As everyone said I usually hate this vegetable but my husband likes it and today I tried to make this but oh my god i should say it looks like a karela pie(its too hard ) or something because i didnt want any slight bitter taste in there and so added as much jaggery as i could. So I warn u all beginners stick to the proportion Indira has mentioned 🙂 Anyway Indira ur blog just rocks with all the pictures its always a pleasure to be here. Keep posting new ones.

    Indira says…
    Hi Kerala girl, welcome to the foodblogs, so when are you going to start one?:)
    Thanks for letting me know about the recipes.
    ha..ha.. if you go overboard with jaggery, curry turns into a very sweet thing. If you increase the amount of red chilli powder along with jaggery, the curry may work. I did the same thing few times at first, now I know the proportions to make it tasty and not so bitter. Trail and error, that’s how I acquired kitchen knowledge.:)

    Comment by Kerala girl — December 13, 2005 @ 9:07 pm

  14. Hi Indira,
    I am a bengali married to Andhraite and moved to US immediately after marriage.I had been struggling to make nice andhra dishes for by hubby,but most of the times I had no clue how things were supposed to “look”!!
    Since I have found you site,I am deciding on my menu based on urs 😀
    Thank you million times!

    Indira replies…
    Hello Anwesha, glad to be of any help. Thanks!

    Comment by Anwesha — January 22, 2006 @ 12:53 pm

  15. Hi Indira,

    I tried your recipe today and it tasted great. My husband and I loved it. I, however, substituted karela with Indian Gourd. It is called aakaakarakaaya in telugu. I have never tasted it before when I was in India but I know its my dad’s favourite.
    Thanks again.

    Comment by Pavani — January 27, 2006 @ 2:58 pm

  16. Hello Pavani..
    That’s great!I’ glad that this recipe turned out good in your kitchen. Thanks for letting me know.
    I know what you are refering to, – Indian gourd – you mean small tiny ones right? We had them in Nandyala and we call them ‘karakkaya’ in our area. Not as bitter as karela, more crunchy and tiny veggies. Is that what you are talking about?

    Comment by Indira — January 27, 2006 @ 3:10 pm

  17. Exactly. Since it is not as bitter, I cut down on the jaggery quite a bit.

    Karakkaya, really? My husband should know it then. He is from Kurnool. I am from Guntur and they call it Aakaakarakaya there.

    Indira replies…
    sorry, they are called ‘kasara kaya’ in our area. I remembered wrongly and I was talking to my mom today, she corrected me.

    Comment by Pavani — January 27, 2006 @ 7:07 pm

  18. Dear Indira – thank you for this. I am experimenting with it this afternoon. One note: you are missing the quantity of turmeric in your list of ingredients here.

    Indira replies:
    Hello Jonny, I’ve added it to the list of ingredients now.
    For almost all the curries/sambhars/dals… the amount of turmeric we add usually is a pinch to half teaspoon(depending on the amount of curry/dal) and never more than that. I add it for everything, so common, sometimes I forget to add it to the list. Thanks for pointing it out.
    So, how did the curry turn out? Do you grow karela?

    Comment by Jonny — April 9, 2006 @ 3:03 pm

  19. Bitter Gourd Curry

    I decided to try another of Mahanandi’s recipe this week after spotting some very rare bitter gourds for sale at Aj Liquor & Oriental Mart, my local Filipino 7-11 corner store. Their name and location my command giggles, but they…

    Trackback by .: evil jungle prince :. — April 12, 2006 @ 10:18 pm

  20. I have tried growing bitter gourds but once they began to grow, I realized I’d planted the Carribean bitter gourd which is purely ornamental and not edible! What a surprise. Well I will try again using the seeds I saved from my latest bitter gourds.

    Thanks – before I read your comments, I made your curry and used the same amount of turmeric you suggested as this is the usual amount I use in recipes. Whew, glad I guessed correctly. 🙂 I loved this recipe! Thanks again.

    Comment by Jonny — April 13, 2006 @ 10:28 am

  21. Hi Indira,

    After reading all your entries on Mahanandi, I somehow have a feeling that u r so fond of using tomatoes in your cooking. I luv tomatoes too! You should give it a shot to this Karela recipe with tomato. I’m sure you’r gonna like it.
    Cut the Karela into circles, sprinkle some salt and leave them aside for 20-30mins.Squeeze all the Karela pieces, it releases so much water so most of the bitterness is gone. Seasoning: Mustard,cumin, red chillies, curry leaves, then add squeezed Karela pieces and cook uncovered for 15mins on medium flame, stirring in between. Then add tomato pieces (2big/med tomatoes)turmeric, salt, chillie powder and cover and cook until the Karela pieces r cooked. No need to add water. Add dhania-jeera powder 1.5tsp. In the end, fresh chopped corriander. It tastes really wonderful. It tastes great with hot rice.


    Comment by Swarna — July 24, 2007 @ 8:41 am

  22. indira, this is how wi make kaerla curry. i also add tomatoes and little water to make curry. this is how even marwadis make karela, it seems.heard it from a friend of mine.

    Comment by srividya — February 21, 2008 @ 2:43 pm

  23. Hi Indira,

    Thank you for this recipe. I am surprised that the seeds can be eaten. We normally scoop away the seeds -white or red. I am going to try cooking it with the seeds now.

    Nice blog and great photos too^-^

    Comment by Viv ;=) — March 31, 2008 @ 11:06 pm

  24. Thanks. This recipe is very nice, and I have prepared this twice.


    Hi Aparna,
    Glad to read that you tried and liked this recipe. Thank you for taking time to letting me know.

    Comment by Aparna Hari — June 8, 2008 @ 10:01 am

  25. hi Indira,i have tried so many reciepes of yours.I love them i am gonna try this bittergourd reciepe…i am sure it will taste good.By the way i am also located in houston,texas.
    thanks Indira…keep posting reciepes like these.

    Comment by anitha — May 5, 2009 @ 11:30 am

  26. Hi Indira,
    I tried this recipe today for my fiance (who btw is from Andhra!). It turned out very well. He was truly surprised that I made this one which he says tasted just like the one he used to have in his hometown.. Thanks for the recipe..

    Comment by Luma — November 13, 2011 @ 10:14 pm

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