Home ยป Pavakka Theeyal (Bitter Gourd/ Melon cooked with roasted coconut)
Pavakka Theeyal

Pavakka Theeyal (Bitter Gourd/ Melon cooked with roasted coconut)

In a traditional feast (Sadya), Pavakka Theeyal plays a great supporting role to other lead dishes like sambhar, avial, pulisseri, and thoran. For a daily meal, it can hold the fort on its own – just serve it with some steaming rice and a poppadum!

Theeyal is a traditional Kerala delicacy made with roasted coconut, spices and tamarind. When made with bitter gourd, this becomes a treat for your taste buds. The mellow, yet distinct bitterness adds depth to the tangy spice flavours.

Theeyal is, however, not a must-have in sadyas. Some regional variations don’t feature Theeyal in the list of sadya dishes.

Pavakka Theeyal
Pavakka Theeyal

Here is the thing about bitter gourd. It does what it says on the bottle – it is very, very bitter! However, there are a lot of health benefits that’ll turn the table in favour of including it in your recipes.

Bitter gourd or bitter melon is a rich source of vital vitamins and minerals and is recommended in the natural treatment of type 2 diabetes. They are rich in iron. They have twice the beta carotene of broccoli, twice the calcium of spinach, twice the potassium of bananas, and contain vitamins A, C, B1 to B3, Phosphorus and good dietary fibre.

Enough of preaching. Let me share an easy-to-make take on the traditional Pavakka Theeyal recipe that’ll help you cook a healthy, yet tasty dish with bitter gourd (Karela).

If you liked this pavakka theeyal recipe, don’t forget to check out the following sadya delicacies.

Pavakka Theeyal

Pavakka theeyal is a traditional Kerala delicacy made with roasted coconut, spices and tamarind. Made with bitter gourd,this is a treat for your taste buds.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Kerala
Servings: 4 servings


  • 500 grams bitter gourd (Karela)
  • 1/4 cup shallots
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind
  • 1/4 tablespoon chili powder
  • To taste salt

For roasting

  • 1 cup grated coconut
  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder (or 1 1/2 tablespoon coriander seeds)

For garnishing

  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 4 - 5 shallots
  • 2 - 3 dry red chilies


  • Wash bitter gourds. Cut them lengthwise, scoop out the seeds, and slice them into small pieces.
  • Add some salt, and rub it well into the chopped bitter gourd, and set aside. Amount of salt doesn't matter. After 15 minutes (in the meantime, execute steps 3 & 4) wash the bitter gourd to get rid of the salt, and drain it. This is an old school technique to reduce the bitterness of the bitter gourd. ๐Ÿ™‚ Tip: Please don't forget to wash this salt off the bitter gourd before you add it into the cooking pan.
  • Heat a pan, and fry the grated coconut on medium heat.
  • When it starts turning brown, add coriander seeds and fry for another minute. If you don't have coriander seeds, use a tablespoon coriander powder.
  • Let it cool. Blitz this in a blender adding a little water to make a smooth, thick paste.
  • Heat a pan, add some oil and fry the chopped shallots.
  • Add bitter gourd and mix well.
  • Now add chili powder,salt and the ground mixture, and stir together.
  • Add two cups of water and mix well. Soak the tamarind (I used 1 tablespoon tamarind paste) in water, mix well and add to this. Close the lid and bring to boil on medium heat. It'll take about 10 minutes.
  • Once it starts boiling, open the lid, and let it reduce to a required consistency on high flame while stirring occasionally. Turn off after 5 minutes and transfer to a serving bowl.
  • Heat some oil (use coconut oil for an authentic taste), splutter some mustard seeds. Saute with some chopped shallots and curry leaves. Use this for garnishing the dish.
  • Serve hot with rice and poppadums.
    Pavakka Theeyal (Karela/Bitter Gourd/ Bitter Melon cooked with roasted coconut)


Check out other Kerala Sadya (traditional feast) recipes here:

Papaya Thoran


Kovakka Mezhukupurati


  1. The importance of bitter melon is not in the vitamins and so on. It is a powerful sugar stabilizer. People of Indian origin are genetically susceptible to diabetes and this helps.
    To reduce the bitterness in bitter melon one can salt it and let it sit for a half hour before rinsing it and using. Old north Indian trick.

  2. Second time trying to fix bitter taste which makes it uneatable. So far the same bitter taste.

    • The Take It Easy Chef

      Could you let me know what variety of bitter gourds are you using? This recipe is a traditional classic, and delivers a tasty dish with all kind of bitter gourds I have come across, including some really nasty ones! ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. The take it easy chef

    Thank you Paluk.
    ๐Ÿ™‚ It’s quite popular in some cuisines!

  4. Paluk Khanna

    Nice post . Before marriage I was not even aware of Bitter Gourd Curry ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. The take it easy chef

    Thank you Sundari.
    Happy to hear that you like the post as well! ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. The take it easy chef

    Thank you Teena. Even I love the shallots, and prawns versions. ๐Ÿ™‚
    Got some homegrown, organic pavakka. Couldn’t resist the temptation to make this theeyal!

  7. Sundari Giri

    I too love pavakka theeyal, good recipe post

  8. I love pavakka theeyal but chemmeen and ulli are my favourites.

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