Bharwan Karela/Stuffed Bitter Gourd

Learn how to make Bharwan Karela/Stuffed Bitter gourd 

Bharwan Karela/Stuffed Bitter Gourd

Bharwan Karela is stuffed bitter gourd with onions and spices and then deep fried or shallow fried. It tastes very different  from the usual vegetable preparation and is relished as a side dish with any dal like Dal Tadka, Dhuli Masoor Dal(Red Lentils) along with chapatis and rice.

I love karela since I was a kid. Usually kids and many grown ups too don’t like it due to it very bitter taste. But me an my younger sister always relished this bitter vegetable. Karela Ki Subzi or Karela Stir fry or Bharwan Karela were one of the two main dishes that mom used to cook often. Another was Karela Chips, Karela roundles  marinated in chickpea flour and spices and deep fried  were also served as side with Dal Chawal(Dal rice combination). My hubby and kids are not much of Karela fans but I love it so much that many times I make it just for me..and have it in small portions with my meals or for breakfast with whole wheat bread or chapati.

Health Benefits of Karela/Bitter Gourd

Karela or Bitter Gourd is  a very interesting vegetable. It has bitter taste but has numerous health benefits and tastes yumm when cooked properly. A rich source of iron, magnesium, vitamins and potassium with Vit. C. It is an excellent source of dietary fibers. It reduces the amount of sugar in blood, lowers cholesterol.

Bitter Gourd juice cleanses the liver and is a good natural remedy to cure hangovers. Since it has numerous health benefits, if you haven’t tried karela yet do try it and include it in your diet.

Let’s see how I make Bharwan Karela/Stuffed Bitter Gourd

Since Karela is a bitter vegetable, need to remove the bitterness and cook it properly to enjoy it fully. If you are having it for the first time, you may not like it.. but gradually you will start liking it.

Ingredients for Bharwan Karela

Karela tastes good with lots of onions which add sweetness to it. Raw Mango or Dry Mango powder are added to give it a little tangy. I recommend that you use either of the two. I summers when fresh raw mangoes are available we always add it to onion masala. If raw mangoes are not available then we add dry mango.

Other must have spices coriander powder, fennel seeds and turmeric,  to cook it North Indian way. Green chillies or red chilli powder are added to add the spicy kick!!

In northern India, mustard oil is used for cooking karela and other dry vegetables like this Bbesanwali Bhindi(Okra with Chickpea flour masala), Aloo Gobhi(Indian Spiced Cauliflower), Gajar aloo Methi Ki subzi(Carrot Potato and fresh fenugreek stir fry) or this super easy Ivy gourd stir-fry  and Lauki Ki Subzi(bottle gourd curry).

You can always use any other oil like Olive oil, Peanut Oil, Coconut oil in place of mustard oil.

All the ingredients from Bitter gourd to the spices used and mustard oil are available in Indian Grocery stores outside India. 

Method to cook Bharwan Karela

To cook karela/bitter gourd, first step and important step is to remove bitterness from it. For that wash it nicely, then peel of the skin using a peeler or knife. If the peel has no marks and bitter gourd is bright green color you can use it in stuffing. But I usually do not do it as many times it makes the stuffing also very bitter.

If you want to add peel, then mix it with salt, keep for 10-15 minutes and then squeeze out extra water.

Make slit length-wise along the middle of gourd. Take out seeds carefully. I discard the seeds. Many people add seeds with masala  if seeds are soft.

Onion Masala for Stuffed Karela

Finely chop onions. You can use food processor for it.

In a pan, add oil, add cumin seeds. Add hing/asafeotida(optional). if you do not follow a gluten-free diet skip it or add gluten-free asafeotida.

Fry Onion  with finely chopped green chillies(optional),till it starts turning light brown, add all the powdered spices. Add grated raw mango if using, else add dry mango powder. Add chilli powder as per heat tolerance, if not adding green chilies.

Add salt and mix well and fry for next 1-2 minutes till it gives aroma.

Switch off the flame and transfer it to bowl to cool it a bit.

Fill the onion masala in Karela 

Now squeeze the water from Kerala, wash in water if you want, pat dry on a clean kitchen paper towel.

Add onion masala carefully in karela, take care not to tear it.

We tie a clean thread around it to seal it, so that the filling doesn’t come out while frying karela. Repeat for all the pieces.


In heavy bottomed pan, add oil, heat it and drop karela pieces carefully. You can shallow fry in less oil like I did or deep fry. Just be careful not to stir it frequently as masala may come out from the slits.

Fry till light brown and the outer side is cooked properly.

Take out on the kitchen paper towel, as it will absorb extra oil.

If karela pieces are big you can but into halves and serve with chapatis or parantha!!

Bharwan Karela/Stuffed Bitter Gourd

Bharwan Karela

Bharwan Karela recipe| Learn how to make stuffed Karela or Bitter Gourd with spicy onion masala
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Resting time rubbed with salt 30 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Main
Cuisine Indian, North Indian
Servings 3 portions


  • 3-4 Karela/Bitter Gourd pieces
  • 1-2 Medium sized Onions
  • 1-2 Green Chilies(optional) depending on heat tolerance
  • 2 tbsp Raw Mango(Grated) when available


  • 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 2 tbsp Coriander Powder
  • 1 tsp Amchoor/Dry Mango Powder when not using Raw Mango
  • 1 tsp Fennel Seeds
  • Red Chili Powder as per preference
  • 1/2 Turmeric Powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp Any plant based oil(like Mustard Oil, Olive Oil)
  • Oil for deep frying or shallow frying
  • ¼ tsp Asafeotida/Hing optional


  • Wash Karela nicely and scrape off the skin using a knife/peeler.
  • Make slits in between lengthwise and take out the seeds from inside.
  • Rub salt in karela pieces and leave for about 30 mins-1hr

Make Onion Masala

  • Finely chop onions and green chillies.
  • In a pan/kadhai heat oil, add asafeotida(if using), cumin seeds.
  • Once seeds crackle, add onions and fry till light brown in color.
  • Add powdered spices along with raw mango and salt and mix well.
  • Fry on low flame for another 1-2 minutes.
  • Take off the flame and transfer to a bowl.

Filling Masala in Karela

  • After an hour, squeeze off water from karela pieces. Wash in water if you want. Pat dry on kitchen towel.
  • Fill in the onion masala and seal the slit with tooth pick or thread(preferably).

Frying Karela

  • Take a heavy bottomed pan or kadhai, heat oil and drop carefully karela pieces.
  • Fry on low heat till cooked from all sides and light brown.
  • Once done, take out on a kitchen towel.
  • Serve with Dal Rice or chapatis/paranthas. Cut in half if pieces are too big.Also remove thread before serving.
Keyword Bharwan Karela

Stuffed Karela

Do try these delicious stuffed karela my way. Though this vegetable has an acquired taste, you are going to love it gradually.

Do let me know whenever you make it and give me your feedback.

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Author: Swati

Some who believes 'EAT WELL, READ DAILY, TRAVEL OFTEN AND LAUGH KHUL KE'!!! Hi!! Swati here!!! Chef, Chocolatier, food admirer, reader, love to travel, listen to music, Bollywood and shoot nature and food pics!! Welcome to my Foodtrails and join me in my food adventure!!

13 thoughts

  1. Stuffed Karela looks tempting. I never liked karela and I remember parents wanting and asking me to eat it. I think adding onion will reduce the bitterness too, I am willing to give this a try after seeing your delicious pics.

  2. I’ve just shown hubby your clicks of stuffed bitter gourd and he is now pestering me to make them soon. I usually just make stir fried karela sabji for him. Should try out this recipe soon.

  3. Bharwan karele is one of my favorite dishes, can’t have enough of it. You have made it exactly the way my mother makes it. Loved the recipe.

  4. Loved this recipe! Previously I too wasn’t fond of karela but now I love this stuffed variety, of course after the major bitterness is done away with! I do it 2 ways, one with besan and the other with coconut stuffing!

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