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Pavakkai Pitla

Bittergourd cooked in a tamarind gravy with jaggery, coconut, red chillies and other ground spices

Pavakkai, known as bittergourd in English and Karela in Hindi, is loaded with nutrients. It has many vital vitamins and minerals and helps fighting diabetes and cholesterol. Also it has blood purifying properties and helps in strengthening our immune system. So its good to include bittergourd in our diet in the form of juice, stir-fry or this pitla.

Pavakkai pitla / parikka pitla is a traditional Palakkad specialty recipe. Pavakkai / bittergourd is cooked with tamarind, dal, coconut and ground spices. Bittergourd is not a preferred vegetable by many because of its bitter taste. But in this curry, the bitterness is balanced with the jaggery, chillies and tamarind. Since you will not feel much bitterness in the gravy, this pitla recipe is an excellent way to incorporate bittergourd in our meal. Serve hot with rice and kootu or any thoran/poriyal.



Pavakkai / Bittergourd - 1, medium sized
Tamarind - 1 lemon size
Toor dal / Pigeon peas - 1/2 cup
Jaggery - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 2 tsp
Salt - to taste

To roast and grind:
Oil - 1 tsp
Coriander seeds - 1 tsp
Chana dal / Kadalai parippu - 1 tsp
Split urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Dried red chillies - 5 to 6
Black peppercorn - 6
Asafoetida / Hing - 1/8 tsp
Curry leaves - 4
Coconut - 1/2 cup

Oil - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Dried red chillies - 1
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Asafoetida / Hing - a pinch


1. In a small pan, heat 1 tsp oil and add asafoetida, coriander seeds, chana dal, peppercorn, red chilies, curry leaves and fry till the chana dal turns golden.

2. To this add coconut and fry for a minute. Remove from heat, cool and grind to a smooth paste adding little water. Set aside.

3. Soak tamarind in 1 1/2 cup hot water and extract the pulp.

4. Pressure cook the toor dal in 1 cup water with a pinch of turmeric powder. Mash the dal well and set aside.

5. Cut the bittergourd half in lengthwise and scrap off the seeds and white part from the middle. Now cut them into small pieces.


1. Heat 2 tsp oil and add the bittergourd pieces. Fry them in medium flame for around 5-6 minutes.

2. Now add tamarind water, jaggery, turmeric powder and salt. Boil until the raw smell of tamarind goes and bittergourd is cooked.

3. Now add the ground paste and bring to boil. Once it starts to boil add the mashed dal, salt and mix well. Add little water if needed to bring to a medium thick consistency.

4. Allow this to boil for 3-4 minutes and remove from heat.

5. In a tadka pan, heat oil and add mustard seeds. When it pops, add red chillies, curry leaves, asafoetida and pour over the curry.


1. The consistency of pitla should be thicker than sambar.

2. You can add 1 tsp more jaggery if you feel the curry is very bitter.


  1. This is one of my favorites...Prefer this to the sambar

  2. So rich curry, it will very yummy with hot rice..

  3. looking for this recipe for a long time... tnx for sharing...

  4. hv never tasted or tried it.. i shd coz my hubby coz of me misses pavakkai..

  5. with gravy karela looks delicious.

  6. i just luv this curry with vathal..

  7. Different pitla.........Looks yum........


  8. very yummy and tempting looking curry :)

  9. Thatz a great curry option for rice

  10. Healthy delicious bitter gourd gravy..

  11. Bitter guard for me is always a fry...never tried in gravy...very new and sounds delicious...will try soon

  12. Lipsmacking here, love this curry with a bowl of rice..

  13. Tempting and flavorful,clicks are beautiful.

  14. i never knew pavakka other than stir frying...this is a fab curry am sure gonna try sometime to pair with steamed rice

  15. I can see how the bitter taste from the gourd have vanished. All of the other ingredients did the job. We eat loads of gourd and like you said, it's the natural remedy for my other half's diabetic. Nice and splattering flavors.

  16. Delicious pitlai, love this when compared to sambar.

  17. Healthy and delicious curry. I'm sure with so many spices and jaggery would not have felt the bitter taste.

  18. love pavakkai in any form..perfect with hot rice

  19. I am a fan of this, infact I like pavakkai only in this :)

  20. Lovely recipe using bittergourd.. Will try it soon Sona :-)

  21. ou,Healthy and nice recipe....following you would appreciate if you can follow me back and like my page on FB


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