Delicious Stuffed Karela Recipe: Step-by-Step Guide to a Flavorful Indian Dish

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Written By Haryana’s Restaurant

Authentic Indian Food – Classic Indian Cuisine in Terrace BC

If you’ve never tried stuffed karela before, you’re in for a delightful surprise. This traditional Indian dish transforms the often misunderstood bitter melon into a flavorful and nutritious delicacy. The secret lies in the stuffing—a blend of spices, herbs, and sometimes even ground meat or lentils—that balances out the bitterness and brings out an irresistible depth of flavor.


Here is a comprehensive list of ingredients needed to make delicious stuffed karela.

For Karela Preparation

  • 6 medium-sized bitter melons (karela), washed and dried
  • 2 tablespoons salt, for soaking
  • 2 tablespoons oil, for frying

For Stuffing

  • 1 cup finely chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • 2 green chilies, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin powder
  • 1 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, chopped for garnish
  • Kitchen twine or toothpicks for securing the stuffing inside the karela

Equipment Needed

To create the perfect stuffed karela, gather these essential kitchen tools. Ensuring you have the right equipment will make the preparation process smooth and efficient.

  • Cutting Board: For chopping onions, garlic, ginger, and other ingredients.
  • Sharp Knife: Essential for slicing bitter melons and finely dicing herbs and spices.
  • Spoon: Useful for scooping out seeds from the bitter melons.
  • Bowl: To soak the bitter melons in salted water.
  • Pan: Preferably a non-stick pan for frying the stuffed karela to golden brown perfection.
  • Mixing Bowl: For combining all stuffing ingredients together seamlessly.
  • Kitchen Twine or Toothpicks: To secure the stuffing inside each karela during cooking.

Having these tools at hand ensures that your preparation of this traditional Indian dish is hassle-free. From prepping your vegetables to cooking them to perfection, these items are indispensable in bringing your stuffed karela recipe to life.


Your journey to making delicious stuffed karela begins with careful preparation. Follow these steps to ensure each bitter melon is ready for stuffing.

Washing and Cutting Karela

  1. Wash the Bitter Melons:
  • Rinse 4-5 bitter melons thoroughly under running water to remove any dirt or impurities.
  1. Peel Lightly:
  • Use a vegetable peeler to lightly scrape the outer skin of the bitter melons while keeping most of it intact.
  1. Cut and Deseed:
  • Cut off both ends of each bitter melon.
  • Make a lengthwise slit along one side, ensuring you do not cut through completely.
  • Use a spoon to scoop out the seeds and pith from inside.

Salting to Reduce Bitterness

  1. Salt Generously:
  • Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of salt inside and outside each karela, ensuring even coverage.
  1. Set Aside:
  • Place the salted bitter melons in a bowl or colander, allowing them to sit for at least 30 minutes. This process helps reduce their bitterness.
  1. Rinse Off Salt:
  • After 30 minutes, rinse the karela thoroughly under running water to remove excess salt before moving on to stuffing them.

Following these initial steps will prepare your karelas perfectly for stuffing, setting you up for success in crafting this traditional Indian delicacy.

Making the Stuffing

The stuffing for your stuffed karela needs to be flavorful and rich. This section will guide you through sauteing the spices and cooking the filling.

Sauteing the Spices

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan over medium heat.
  2. Add 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds and let them sizzle until they turn golden brown.
  3. Toss in 1 finely chopped onion and sauté it until it becomes translucent.
  4. Stir in 2 teaspoons of minced garlic and 1 teaspoon of grated ginger, cooking for another minute until fragrant.
  5. Mix in 1 finely chopped green chili, adjusting quantity based on your spice preference.

Adding Spices, Meat/Lentils and Finishing Touches

  1. Add 2 teaspoons of coriander powder, 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder, and 1 teaspoon of red chili powder to the pan.
  2. Stir well to coat the onions with spices evenly.
  3. Incorporate 200 grams (about half a pound) of ground meat or cooked lentils into the mixture.
  4. Cook thoroughly until meat is browned or lentils are heated through, approximately 10 minutes; stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
  5. Season with salt according to taste, usually about half a teaspoon but adjust as necessary.
  6. Sprinkle in fresh cilantro (coriander leaves) before removing from heat.

Stuffing the Karela

To begin stuffing the karela, follow these steps:

  1. Prepare the Bitter Melon:
  • Carefully slit each karela lengthwise without cutting through entirely.
  • Use a small spoon to scoop out the seeds and inner flesh, creating a hollow cavity.
  • Rub salt inside and outside of each karela to reduce bitterness. Let them sit for 20 minutes, then rinse thoroughly and pat dry.
  1. Fill the Karela:
  • Take a generous amount of your prepared stuffing mixture (ground meat or cooked lentils with spices) in your hands.
  • Gently stuff the hollowed-out karela with this mixture, pressing it firmly but carefully so as not to tear the vegetable.
  • Ensure that each karela is uniformly filled for even cooking.
  1. Secure and Cook:
  • If needed, you can use kitchen twine or toothpicks to secure the ends of each stuffed karela, preventing the filling from spilling out during cooking.
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Place stuffed karelas in a single layer in the skillet.
  • Cook covered for about 15-20 minutes, turning occasionally until they are browned on all sides and tender when pierced with a fork.
  1. Finish and Serve:
  • Once cooked through, remove stuffed karelas from heat.
  • Optionally garnish with fresh cilantro before serving hot alongside chapati or steamed rice.

Following these steps meticulously, you’ll ensure that your stuffed karela dish turns out flavorful and perfectly cooked every time.

Cooking Stuffed Karela

Now that your karela is stuffed and ready, it’s time to cook them to perfection. You have two primary methods: pan-frying or steaming.


  1. Heat the Oil: In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat until hot.
  2. Add Karela: Place the stuffed karela carefully in the skillet in a single layer. Avoid overcrowding.
  3. Cook Evenly: Fry for about 10-15 minutes, turning occasionally with tongs, until all sides are golden brown and crisp.
  4. Reduce Heat: After achieving a good color, reduce the heat to low and cover the skillet with a lid.
  5. Simmer: Let it cook for another 10-15 minutes on low heat until the karela is tender inside.


  1. Prepare Steamer: Fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil over high heat.
  2. Place Karela on Rack: Arrange the stuffed karela on a steaming rack or basket, making sure they do not touch each other.
  3. Steam Covered: Lower the rack into the boiling water and cover tightly with a lid.
  4. Steam Thoroughly: Steam for about 20-25 minutes or until they are tender when pierced with a fork.

These methods ensure your stuffed karela turns out flavorful while retaining its texture and nutrients.

Serving Suggestions

Stuffed karela is a versatile dish that pairs beautifully with various accompaniments. To enhance your dining experience, consider these serving suggestions:


  • Chapati or Paratha: Serve stuffed karela alongside warm, freshly made chapati or paratha. These Indian flatbreads complement the rich flavors and textures of the stuffed bitter melon.
  • Steamed Rice: A bowl of plain steamed rice provides a neutral base that balances the spiciness and bitterness of the stuffed karela.
  • Raita: Prepare a cooling cucumber or mint raita to counterbalance the heat and provide a refreshing contrast to the dish.
  • Dal: Pair with a simple lentil dal for an added layer of protein and flavor. The creamy texture of dal complements the stuffed karela wonderfully.


  • Fresh Cilantro: Sprinkle chopped fresh cilantro over the top for an aromatic touch and vibrant color.
  • Lemon Wedges: Serve with lemon wedges on the side. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice can brighten up the flavors.
  • Green Chilies: For those who prefer extra heat, serve with sliced green chilies on the side.


  1. Presentation Matters: Arrange stuffed karela on a platter in neat rows. Garnish with cilantro leaves and place lemon wedges artistically around for an inviting presentation.
  2. Serving Temperature: Stuffed karela tastes best when served hot but can also be enjoyed at room temperature as part of a larger spread.
  3. Side Salad: Include a simple salad like kachumber (a mix of chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and green chilies) dressed lightly with salt and lime juice for added freshness.

Following these serving suggestions, you will elevate your stuffed karela into an appealing meal that’s both satisfying and visually delightful.


Mastering the art of stuffed karela can transform a simple meal into an extraordinary culinary experience. By following the detailed steps for preparation and cooking, you’ll ensure your karela is flavorful and tender. Experiment with different stuffing mixtures to suit your taste preferences.

Pairing it with traditional accompaniments like chapati, rice, or raita will enhance its appeal. Don’t forget the garnishes; fresh cilantro, lemon wedges, and green chilies add both color and flavor.

Whether you choose to pan-fry or steam your stuffed karela, serving it at the right temperature with a side salad will make for an unforgettable dining experience. Enjoy experimenting with this timeless Indian dish in your kitchen!

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