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Bharwa Karela / Raw Mango Stuffed Bitter Gourd

Bitter gourd or Karela, marinated with turmeric and salt and stuffed with raw mango and onion, and shallow fried. A delicous dry curry from Punjabi cuisine with fresh raw mango substituted for the usual dry mango powder. The onion and raw mango help to reduce the bitterness of the karela.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Marinate Time30 mins
Total Time1 hr 20 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian, Punjabi
Keyword: bharwa karela, raw mango, stuffed bittergourd, summer
Servings: 2 servings
Author: Sujata Shukla


For Marinating Karela/ Bitter Gourd

  • 6 -7 baby Karela or 4 medium sized karela
  • 2 tablespoons Turmeric powder
  • 2 tablespoons salt

For the Filling/ Stuffing - To be ground into paste

  • 1/2 cup Onion sliced
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 2 cm Ginger
  • 1/2 cup Raw Mango peeled, grated
  • 2 teaspoons Amchur /Dry mango powder Only if raw mango is not used
  • 1/4 cup Coriander leaves minced
  • 2 teaspoons Coriander seeds Only if fresh coriander leaves are not used
  • 1/2 teaspoon Fennel/ saunf seeds

For the Filling/ Stuffing - To be sauteed

  • 1 tablespoon Sunflower Oil or Mustard oil as per preference
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin/ Jeera seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon Nigella/ Kalonji seeds
  • Ground onion mango paste as per list above
  • 1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt or To taste

For making Bharwa Karela

  • 3 tablespoons Sunflower oil or Mustard oil as per preference


To Marinate the Karela/ Bitter Gourd

  • Do read the post above before you start, as there are tips that can help you make a delcious nutritious bharwa karela.
    Wash and pat dry the karela. I actually do this well in advance so that it dries out completely.
    I do not peel the bitter gourd as the stuffing and the marinade are going to reduce its bitterness. However, if you prefer, peel each karela with a sharp peeler or knife, removing just the knobbly/ prickly part on the surface. Mince (slice into very small pieces) the peel that you removed, and reserve it for use in the stuffing.
    Keeping both ends intact, make vertical (lengthwise) slits down 2 opposite sides of each karela.
    Carefully scoop out the large seeds and pith from the inside of the karela, using a spoon or knife, making sure the ends are still kept intact. Discard the seeds and mince the pith, reserving it for use in the stuffing.
  • Mix the turmeric and salt together.
    Using a small spoon, apply a layer of the mixture to all parts of the karela, both inside and outside. Place the karela on a colander to drain.
    Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes. I sometimes leave it for 2 hours, if I am busy with other work.
  • Rinse the karela well so that the turmeric and salt are washed out. Squeeze gently to remove water and pat dry with a kitchen towel. Wrap in a kitchen towel and set aside till required.

To Prepare the Filling/ Stuffing for Bharwa Karela

  • Slice the onion, ginger and garlic. Its all going to be blended, so the slices need not be very small of a particular shape.
    Peel and grate the raw mango.
    Mince the coriander leaves including the stalks
  • Grind the sliced onion, ginger, garlic, grated mango (or mango powder), fennel seeds, coriander leaves (or seeds), into a paste, without adding any water while grinding. The onion will have the moisture to create a fine paste.

To Make Bharwa Karela/ Stuffed Bitter Gourd

  • Keep all the ingredients under the head 'Filling to be sauteed', ready.
    Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a small frying pan (I use my trusty tempering iron kadai). Mustard oil is traditional but as the gourd is bitter enough, I prefer to use sunflower oil.
    Add cumin and nigella seeds and saute for 5 seconds.
    Add the ground onion mango paste, the minced karela peel and pith that you had reserved while preparing the karela for marination, the turmeric and chili. Stir well.
    Keeping the heat on low, saute for 10 minutes, stirring frequently as the 'masala' tends to catch at the bottom of the pan and burn.
    Add salt, stir well and transfer the 'bunaoed masala' stuffing to a dry bowl. Allow to cool to a level that you can handle it for filling the karela.
  • Divide the sauteed stuffing into as many equal portions as the number of karela. Spoon the stuffing into each karela, filling it completely.
    Wind and tie a thread (I used basic sewing thread) around each karela, to keep the stuffing in while frying. This is specially required for the longer karela as the baby ones usually hold the filling tightly inside.
  • Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a medium sized frying pan, and add the stuffed bitter gourd in batches. For the baby gourds, I used a medium sized pan and was able to fry all 6 at once.
    Keeping the heat on medium, turn the karela over periodically so that all sides brown equally. Once the karela turns brown all over (not black, just brown!) use a slotted ladle/ spoon to drain the oil, and remove the stuffed bitter gourd to a serving bowl.
    Snip off and remove the thread wrapping each karela. Serve hot with roti or rice and dal.