Pavakkai Sambar

Pavakkai Sambar | Bitter Gourd Sambar | Karela Sambar

Bitter Gourd (Pavakkai in Tamil and Malayalam, Kakarakaya in Telugu, and Karela in Hindi) is a vegetable that I like and this has been a month of enjoying delicacies in which bitter gourd plays a starring role. Today, I am presenting the recipe for Pavakkai Sambar, an absolutely delicious Bitter Gourd Sambar.

Pavakkai Sambar | Karela Sambar
Pavakkai Sambar | Karela Sambar

I love this dish because the flavour of the bitter gourd infuses the sambar and elevates it to another level. I absolutely enjoyed this Pavakkai Sambar with rice topped with ghee and papad on the side. I also made some Bitter Gourd Fry | Kakarakaya Vepudu on the same day because I had got some really nice bitter gourd.

Bitter gourd is rich in Vitamins A and C as well as folates. It is known for purifying blood, controlling diabetes, and boosting immunity.

If you like bitter gourd (karela), do try my recipes for Karela Muthia, Kakarakaya Endu Kobbari Vepudu, and Pavakkai Theeyal.

Recipe for Pavakkai Sambar | Bitter Gourd Sambar

Pavakkai Sambar | Bitter Gourd Sambar | Karela Sambar
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
30 mins
Total Time
40 mins

Pavakkai Pitlai is a thick bitter gourd sambar that tastes great with rice and ghee.

Course: Accompaniment
Cuisine: Indian Food, Kerala, Tamil Nadu
Keyword: Bitter Gourd Sambar, Karela Sambar, Pavakkai Pitlai
Servings: 4 People
Author: Aruna
  • 200 gms Bitter Gourd, Karela, Pavakkai (~ 2 x 6" pieces)
  • 1/3 Cup Tuvar Dal (~60 gms)
  • 1 tbsp Tamarind Pulp
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder
  • Salt to Taste
For the Ground Paste
  • 1 tbsp Chana Dal
  • 1/2 tsp Pepper
  • 2 tbsp Coriander Seeds
  • 3 tbsp Grated Coconut
  • 2-3 Red Chillies
  • 1 tsp Oil (~Coconut Oil Preferred)
For Tempering
  • 1 tsp Oil (~Coconut Oil Preferred)
  • 2 Red Chillies
  • 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
  • 6 to 8 Curry Leaves
  • 1 Large Pinch Asafoetida
Cooking the Dal
  1. Wash the tuvar dal well and pressure cook in 3/4 cup water till it is cooked.

  2. Mash the tuvar dal and set aside.

Preparing the Pavakkai | Bitter Gourd
  1. Cut the bitter gourd vertically in half.
    Cut the bitter gourd into rings.

  2. Discard the seeds.

  3. If you want to reduce the bitterness, soak the cut gourd slices in some salted water for 15 minutes. I did not as I enjoy the bitter flavour.

  4. Set aside.

Making the Spice Paste
  1. Heat the oil and add the chana dal. Fry till light golden brown.

  2. Now add split red chillies and pepper corns.

  3. Stir-fry for a few seconds till the red chillies start to darken.

  4. Add the coriander seeds and stir-fry for 1 minute.

  5. Add the grated coconut and stir-fry for a few seconds.

  6. Turn off the heat and transfer the spice mix cool.

  7. Grind to a fine paste with some water and set aside.

Making the Sambar
  1. In a heavy-bottomed vessel, heat 1 tsp oil.

  2. Add the gourd pieces and stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes.

  3. Add turmeric, tamarind paste, and 1/4 cup water.

  4. Cook the bitter gourd pieces till they soften a bit.

  5. Add the ground spice paste and mix well.

  6. Add the mashed tuvar dal, salt and some water, if required. The consistency should be thick but flowing

  7. Cook till the bitter gourd sambar starts to simmer. Turn off the heat.

  8. In a heavy ladle, heat 1 tsp oil.

  9. Add mustard seeds and wait till they crackle.

  10. Add red chillies, curry leaves, and asafoetida; and stir-fry for a few seconds.

  11. Add the tempering to the Pavakkai Pitlai and mix well.

Karela Sambar | Bitter Gourd Sambar
Karela Sambar | Bitter Gourd Sambar

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