Bharwan Karela Recipe | Stuffed Bitter Gourd Recipe

by Rachna

Originally published in August 2017, updated in July 2020

Stuffed Karela or bharwan karela is a delicacy. Don’t screw your nose — bitter gourd if pre-treated correctly and cooked well is delicious. This is a recipe which requires time but rewards you generously in terms of flavour. This is my late mother’s recipe. As this was dad’s favourite, she would make it often and for some reason I’ve loved it since childhood.

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My kids are not so fond of the karela, but the husband and I don’t mind as we relish these. Also, since these keep well, I make a large batch and have it for a couple of days.

These really work well with smaller, rounder variety of bitter gourd or melon. You can keep it in fridge for 3-4 days and keep frying them as per need.

bharwa karela

Here is the recipe:

Bharwa Karela | Stuffed Bitter gourd

Rachna Parmar
This is a delicious bharwa karela or stuffed bitter gourd recipe. It is made both by shallow frying and in Air fryer. A tasty side to an Indian meal. Do try.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Total Time 50 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian, North Indian | Uttar Pradesh | Punjabi
Servings 6
Calories 73 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 12 small bittergourd karelas
  • 3 onions sliced
  • 1 tbsp. ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp. coriander powder
  • 1 tsp. aniseed saunf powder
  • ½ tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. tamarind paste
  • salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • Mustard oil to fry

Instructions
 

  • Take the bittergourd and scrape lightly with a knife. Now make a vertical slit from top to the bottom and scoop out the flesh and seeds of the karela.
  • Discard the seeds. To reduce the bitterness of karela, I apply some salt both inside and outside and keep aside for half an hour.
  • After half an hour, wash the karelas off all the salt, dry and keep aside. I also either microwave the karelas for about 2 minutes to slightly cook them or parboil them with some tamarind paste (about 1/4 tsp.) for 2-3 minutes for the same effect.

Prepare the stuffing

  • Take 1 tsp. mustard oil in a kadhai. Add sliced onions and ginger garlic paste and fry till golden brown. Now blend into a thick paste when it cools down. Add all the spice powders, salt and tamarind pulp and cook some more. Let the stuffing be thick. Check taste and adjust seasoning. Let the stuffing cool down completely.

Prepare the karelas

  • Now take the split karelas and spoon the stuffing inside generously. To prevent the karelas from opening up while frying, I tie the normal sewing thread around them to keep them intact (especially when shallow frying).

For Air frying

  • Preheat Air fryer at 200 C or 390 F for 5 minutes. Spray or brush oil on Air fryer basket.
  • Lay the filled karelas on the basket and Air fry for about 6-8 minutes till the karelas are golden brown and slightly crisp. Keep checking every 3-4 minutes. Take them out and serve hot with rotis.

For shallow frying

  • Heat some more mustard oil. Add fenugreek seeds and allow them to sputter. Shallow fry the karelas on both sides on a low flame till they are well cooked and brown in colour. You can cover the kadhai when they are cooking.
  • Serve them hot with chapatis and dal. They are delicious.

Notes

  1. Always choose dark green and small bittergourd with a thinner skin for stuffing karelas.
  2. Air frying helps in really reducing the need to use a lot of oil for crispy stuffed karelas.
  3. Ensure that the stuffing is thick and if you are shallow frying using a thread to close each karela is very helpful.
  4. To further reduce the bitterness of karela, you can cook them in a pan with tamarind water (use 1/2 tsp. tamarind paste)f for about 2-3 minutes. This helps in making them less bitter. by Parboiling karela in this manner you reduce the Air frying time as well. But make sure you don’t overcook karelas so that they become too soft. They must still have a bite.
  5.  You may add the flesh and scraped skin of karela to the onion filling mixture. I avoid it because it gets very bitter for my taste.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Bharwa Karela | Stuffed Bitter gourd
Amount Per Serving
Calories 73 Calories from Fat 9
% Daily Value*
Fat 1g2%
Saturated Fat 1g6%
Sodium 20mg1%
Potassium 773mg22%
Carbohydrates 15g5%
Fiber 7g29%
Sugar 3g3%
Protein 3g6%
Vitamin A 1372IU27%
Vitamin C 174mg211%
Calcium 89mg9%
Iron 3mg17%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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How to Prepare Bharwa Karela or Stuffed Bittergourd (Step-by-step pictures)

Take the bittergourd and scrape lightly with a knife. Now make a vertical slit from top to the bottom and scoop out the flesh and seeds of the karela.

bharwa karela

Discard the seeds. To reduce the bitterness of karela, I apply some salt both inside and outside and keep aside for half an hour.

After half an hour, wash the karelas off all the salt, dry and keep aside. I also microwave the karelas for about 2 minutes to slightly cook them.

Prepare the stuffing

Take 1 tsp. mustard oil in a kadhai. Add sliced onions and ginger garlic paste and fry till golden brown. You can add scooped out flesh of karela and skin scrapings too if you like.

bharwa karela

Now blend into a thick paste when it cools down. Add all the spice powders, salt and tamarind pulp and cook some more. Let the stuffing be thick. Check taste and adjust seasoning. Let the stuffing cool down completely.

Prepare the karelas

Now take the split karelas and spoon the stuffing inside generously.

bharwa karela

To prevent the karelas from opening up while frying, I tie the normal sewing thread around them to keep them intact (especially when shallow frying).

For Air frying

Preheat Air fryer at 200 C or 390 F for 5 minutes. Spray or brush oil on Air fryer basket.

Lay the filled karelas on the basket and Air fry for about 6-8 minutes till the karelas are golden brown and slightly crisp. Take them out and serve hot with rotis.

Bharwa karela Air fryer

For shallow frying

Now heat some more mustard oil. Add fenugreek seeds and allow them to sputter. Shallow fry the karelas on both sides on a low flame till they are well cooked and brown in colour. You can cover the kadhai when they are cooking.

bharwa karela

Serve them hot with chapatis and dal. They are delicious.

bharwa karela

If you liked the recipe, I request you to leave a star * rating either on the recipe card or in the comments. Thanks.

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4 comments

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4 comments

Shailaja V -

I like Karela ? stuffed are even better. There’s a lovely Karela crispy salad recipe in this place called Jalsa. Get the kids to try that out. They’ll enjoy it.

Your recipe looks great as always. I’m sure the kids will slowly warm to it.

Reply
Shilpa Garg -

I like karelas and like your recipe too. I have never added saunf and tamarind paste in the stuffing. Will definitely try this next time.
Initially, I used to fry the karelas after stuffing them, just the way you mentioned. Now I shallow fry the karelas and then just add the stuffing.

Reply
Ramya Abhinand -

This is my fav recipe. I make it quite often, though my kids dont like it much. I search for those small karelas in the market, and when they are tender, they taste awesome!!!

Reply
Obsessivemom -

I was never particularly fond of Karela but the husband loves it and he’s diabetic too, so I’ve learnt to appreciate it now. I associate the smell of saunf with the stuffing. These days we get readymade masalas and I’m grateful. But your recipe sounds easy enough to give a shot.

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