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Bharwa Karela | Stuffed Bitter gourd

This is a delicious bharwa karela or stuffed bitter gourd recipe. It is made both by shallow frying and in Air fryer. A tasty side to an Indian meal. Do try.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Indian, North Indian | Uttar Pradesh | Punjabi
Keyword bharwa karela recipe, stuffed bittergourd
recipe bharwa karela recipe
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 73kcal



  • 12 small bittergourd karelas
  • 3 onions sliced
  • 1 tbsp. ginger garlic paste
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp. coriander powder
  • 1 tsp. fennel seeds saunf powder
  • ½ tsp. garam masala
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 tsp. tamarind paste
  • salt to taste
  • ½ tsp. fenugreek seeds
  • Mustard oil to fry


  • Take the bittergourd and scrape lightly with a knife. Now make a vertical slit from top to the bottom and scoop out the flesh and seeds of the karela.
  • Discard the seeds. To reduce the bitterness of karela, I apply some salt both inside and outside and keep aside for half an hour.
  • After half an hour, wash the karelas off all the salt, dry and keep aside. I also either microwave the karelas for about 4-5 minutes to half cook them or parboil them with some tamarind paste (about ¼ tsp.) for 5 minutes for the same effect.

Prepare the stuffing

  • Take 1 tsp. mustard oil in a kadhai. Add sliced onions and ginger garlic paste and fry till golden brown. Now blend into a thick paste when it cools down. Add all the spice powders, salt and tamarind pulp and cook some more. Let the stuffing be thick. Check taste and adjust seasoning. Let the stuffing cool down completely.

Prepare the karelas

  • Now take the split karelas and spoon the stuffing inside generously. To prevent the karelas from opening up while frying, I tie the normal sewing thread around them to keep them intact (especially when shallow frying).

For Air frying

  • Preheat Air fryer at 200 C or 390 F for 5 minutes. Spray or brush oil on Air fryer basket.
  • Lay the filled karelas on the basket and Air fry for about 6-8 minutes till the karelas are golden brown and slightly crisp. Keep checking every 3-4 minutes. Take them out and serve hot with rotis.

For shallow frying

  • Heat some more mustard oil. Add fenugreek seeds and allow them to sputter. Shallow fry the karelas on both sides on a low flame till they are well cooked and brown in colour. You can cover the kadhai when they are cooking.
  • Serve them hot with chapatis and dal. They are delicious.



  1. Always choose dark green and small bittergourd with a thinner skin for stuffing karelas.
  2. Air frying helps in really reducing the need to use a lot of oil for crispy stuffed karelas.
  3. Ensure that the stuffing is thick and if you are shallow frying using a thread to close each karela is very helpful.
  4. To further reduce the bitterness of karela, you can cook them in a pan with tamarind water (use ½ tsp. tamarind paste)f for about 2-3 minutes. This helps in making them less bitter. by Parboiling karela in this manner you reduce the Air frying time as well. But make sure you don't overcook karelas so that they become too soft. They must still have a bite.
  5.  You may add the flesh and scraped skin of karela to the onion filling mixture. I avoid it because it gets very bitter for my taste.


Calories: 73kcal | Carbohydrates: 15g | Protein: 3g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 20mg | Potassium: 773mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1372IU | Vitamin C: 174mg | Calcium: 89mg | Iron: 3mg