Bittergourd Masala/Bittergourd curry with onion and tomatoes, Karela Subzi, Side-dish for Rice/roti

Bittergourd is one vegetable which is hated by many for its taste, but there are many who like this vegetable’s natural taste. I love bittergourd, when cooked perfectly it tastes amazing, pavakai pitalai being my absolute favorite, i also love a simple pavakai/bitter-gourd curry with coconut and chilies, paired with rasam rice it tastes delish. 

Though my elder one doesn’t mind the bitterness of this vegetable, he cannot eat it more than a spoon or two of this, whereas my younger one, cannot even see it. 

Sometime back, i tried making bittergourd this way, i dont remember where i read about this, must be in some cookbook, resting it with salt and then cooking it somewhat makes the bitter-gourd more palatable. This bittergourd masala was a super hit at home and i have made it quite a few times after that, even my little one enjoyed it with his roti. 

Roti side dish

Once i made this bitter-gourd masala for my hubby’s dabba, just to make sure whether it is possible to do all these in the morning rush, yes it takes around 45 minutes, including the 20 minutes resting of the veggie. The only step that’s a bit tedious is the shallow-frying, but once it is done, the subzi gets ready in 10 minutes. 

You can pair this bittergourd masala with roti or serve it along with rice and rasam.

Let us see what all you need to make this subzi, 
Bitter-Gourd,  i have used 2 long bitter-gourds, which weighs 250 grams when the pith is removed and chopped into roundels. 
Onion & Tomatoes, This subzi can also be made sathvik by avoiding onions, Tomatoes gives the subzi the semi-gravy consistency, if tomatoes are avoided it will be like a dry roast.
Spice,  i have used sambhar powder as the spice in the subzi, as it is one of the easily available spice mix in most of the kitchen, and also can be used to make quick and easy everyday subzi’s. If you dont have sambhar powder, you can use equal quantities of red chili and coriander ground together and use that powder to spice the subzi.
Curry leaves and Coriander leaves, do not miss these flavor imparting greens. Curry leaves in tadka and coriander as garnish takes the subzi to another level.

Let us go to the recipe now 

2 long bitter-gourds, around 250 grams
1 large onion
2 medium tomatoes
1 tsp sambhar powder 
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp salt or to taste

2-3 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 pinches of asafoetida

Side dish for roti


  • Wash the bittergourd and cut them horizontally into two  and then again vertically into two, remove the pith inside. slice them into roundels.
  • Once cut, sprinkle salt on them and let it rest for a minimum of 20 minutes. While the bittergourd is resting, let us prep the onions and tomatoes. 
  • Chop onions and tomatoes fine. Once the bittergourd has rested for 20 minutes, strain it and give it a quick wash in running water and let it drain completely.
  • In a wide pan, Add 2-3 tbsp oil, add the bittergourd in batches and shallow fry. i did it 2 batches, do not crowd the pan, you can also deep fry it, but i preferred to shallow fry.
  • Let the bittergourd, sizzle and shrink a bit and get a golden brown on them, once done, remove it with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel.
  • In the same pan, add mustard seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves, when the mustard splutter, add the chopped onions and saute until translucent.
  • Next add the tomatoes now to this add turmeric powder, salt  and sambhar powder and mix well. Add 1/4 cup of water, cover and cook for 5 minutes, for the tomatoes to cook well and turn mushy.
  • Remove the cover and if the tomatoes are done, add the fried bittergourd to this and mix well. 


  • Let it sit on the stove for another 3-5 minutes for the flavors to mingle. The consistency should be of a semi-gravy. You can also make this complete dry curry, just let it sit on the stove until the liquid is absorbed.
  • Take it off the stove, garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve along with rice/roti.
Side dish for rice
  • I served it part of this delicious thali meal for a weekday lunch. The thali has Rice with ghee, Chana dal Tomato-garlic rasam and karela.
Lunch Thali