Bittergourd curry/Pavakka theeyal

Kerala bitter gourd curry

This a typical Kerala preparation and I was forced to eat it from early childhood with a listing of all the various health benefits of bitter gourd. I used to cringe at the sight of it. My mother made this frequently using different vegetables too. Common vegetables she used includes, cluster beans, lady’s finger, pearl onions/shallots, brinjal or garlic. Now she has a kitchen garden that supplies bitter gourd and some of her favourite vegetables and I had the excellent taste of curries with freshly harvested ingredients when I was there.

1 bitterMy mother’s bitter gourd climber

Theyal is prepared with a gravy made of tamarind juice mixed with fried coconut paste which gives it a unique aroma. Fried bittergourd rings and sliced onions are added to it. The special aspect of this curry is that the left over tastes better the next day.

Bitter gourd is my husband’s favourite veggie. God bless him! So I was obliged to make this curry more often and eventually started liking it. The frying smell of coconut makes it totally appetising. But, I always thought why couldn’t all the healthy food taste like chocolate! Hmm…if I had the power to change thing!



  • 2 bitter gourds
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 garlic pods
  • a small piece tamarind
  • 1 big tomato
  • salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder

To fry and grind

  • 2 red chillies
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 1/2 tsp fenugreek/methi seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • few curry leaves

To temper

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • few curry leaves
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 red chilli
  1. Soak tamarind in warm water and squeeze it to extract its juice.
  2. Add a little coconut oil and fry grated coconut, coriander seeds, red chillies, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves to a dark brown colour. ( The colour of the curry is based on this fry)
  3. Grind it into a smooth brown paste after it cools.
  4. Slice bitter gourd into rounds and remove the seeds.
  5. Fry these slices in a little coconut oil.
  6. In another pan fry sliced onions and garlic.
  7. Heat a heavy bottom pan add tamarind juice and boil it well.
  8. Add the brown coconut paste and mix well.
  9. When it boils add turmeric powder.
  10. Next, add the fried onion garlic and bitter gourd pieces.
  11. Chop tomatoes into small pieces and add to this.
  12. Add 2 cups of water.
  13. Let everything boil well and when bitter gourd is well cooked add salt.
  14. To temper, heat coconut oil in a small pan and splutter mustard seeds.
  15. Add curry leaves and a red chilli.
  16. Pour this over the boiling curry and mix well.

1curr 1 bitThis curry, served hot with cooked par boiled rice (matta rice) tastes excellent. Some add a dash of gaggery/ brown sugar to reduce the bitterness of the gourd. I promise that this does not taste remotely bitter, maybe, due to the sweetness of the onions.

About coconutcraze

I'm obsessed with coconuts!
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13 Responses to Bittergourd curry/Pavakka theeyal

  1. I think by seeing your wonderful picture above I will have to give the bitter gourd another try! It looks wonderful 🙂


  2. I love bittergourd AND theeyal, and absolutely adore bittergourd theeyal! A simple way of reducing the bitterness of the bittergourd is to soak the cut bittergourd pieces in salt water for about 10 minutes. Drain the salt water and wash the pieces throughly in fresh water to get rid of the saltiness.


  3. rika@vm says:

    I remembered that my mother would make me eat bitter gourd as a child, it is still on my hate-vegetable list, hehe! What an amazing spiced curry… I bet the spices will take away the bitterness from the gourds! Wow, I’ve never seen matta rice before, they look very puffed and yummy!


    • coconutcraze says:

      You never know, when you put some elbow grease and dedication into the preparation, you may start liking it. I used to hate pink matta rice from Kerala, as it was too much to chew. But when cooked well (takes a lot of time) has a distinct delicious taste.


  4. chefmo73 says:

    I love bitter gourd curry. I am going to try this.


  5. Balvinder says:

    Ok, now don’t roll your eyes, but I do not like bitter gourd curry. I make it only for my husband. HOWEVER, when I am reading the ingredients I think I will love this one. Jaggery tamarind, coconut, curry leaves oh my god I am drooling.


  6. This is something totally new to me, but looks delicious!


  7. coconutcraze says:

    Thanks. I am glad you liked it.


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