Pavakka Theeyal (Bitter Gourd in a Spiced Tamarind and Coconut Gravy)

Pavakka Theeyal or Bitter Gourd in a Coconut Tamarind Gravy
Pavakka Theeyal or Bitter Gourd in a Coconut Tamarind Gravy

One of my all-time favourite Kerala dishes is Theeyal. Theeyal can be made with many vegetables; brinjals, lady finger, shallots/madras onions,… I have already written about Theeyal with Lady Finger (Okra) and Madras Onions (Shallot).

This week I made Theeyal with Bitter Gourd (called Pavakka in Malayalam).

Time: 45 Minutes

Serves: 4


  1. Bitter Gourd, Karela or Pavakka – 2 Large
  2. Madras Onion/Shallots – 12
  3. Grated Fresh Coconut – 2/3 Cup
  4. Coriander Seeds – 2 tsp
  5. Cumin Seeds – 1 tsp
  6. Pepper Seeds – 1/2 tsp
  7. Red Chillies – 3 or 4
  8. Grated Jaggery – 1/2 tsp
  9. Thick Tamarind Pulp – 2 tbsp
  10. Turmeric – 1/4 tsp
  11. Coconut Oil – 2 tbsp
  12. Curry Leaves – 6 to 8
  13. Asafoetida – A Pinch
  14. Salt to Taste


  1. Dissolve 1/2 tsp salt i 1 litre of water.
  2. Wash and dry the bitter gourd.
  3. Slice the bitter gourd into thin discs.
  4. Add the discs to salt water and let sit for 10 minutes. This removes some bitterness from the bitter gourd.
  5. Drain the water from the bitter gourd pieces and pat dry.
  6. Peel the madras onion.
  7. Powder the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, and peppercorns.
  8. In a kadai, over medium heat, dry roast the grated coconut till it is golden brown.
  9. Add the red chillies and spice powder.
  10. Roast for 2 minutes.
  11. Grind the coconut spice mix with a little water into a smooth paste.
  12. In a kadai, heat the oil.
  13. Add mustard seeds and wait till they splutter.
  14. Add the madras onions and fry till they start to turn transparent.
  15. Add the bitter gourd pieces and stir-fry till the bitter gourd pieces start to brown at the edges.
  16. Add the ground coconut paste and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  17. Add turmeric powder, asafoetida, salt, and tamarind paste.
  18. Mix well.
  19. Add 1/2 cup water and bring to a boil.
  20. Add the jaggery and curry leaves.
  21. Serve hot with steamed rice and appalam.
Pavakka Theeyal - Kerala Recipes
Pavakka Theeyal – Kerala Recipes


I would love to hear your thoughts and suggestions. Do leave me a comment.