Khatta Meetha Karela: Sweet and Sour Bitter Gourd

Bitter melons at the market

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  • Total: 30 mins
  • Prep: 10 mins
  • Cook: 20 mins
  • Servings: 4 servings
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
180 Calories
5g Fat
35g Carbs
3g Protein
See Full Nutritional Guidelines Hide Full Nutritional Guidelines
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 180
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 7%
Saturated Fat 0g 2%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 207mg 9%
Total Carbohydrate 35g 13%
Dietary Fiber 6g 20%
Total Sugars 22g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 113mg 567%
Calcium 64mg 5%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 615mg 13%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Karela, also known as bitter gourd and bitter melon, is a popular ingredient in many Asian countries. In India, it is often made into a dish called khatta meetha karela, where the bitter gourd is cooked with several ingredients, including cumin, chilies, ginger, coriander, and turmeric. It's a flavorful vegetarian dish that highlights karela perfectly.

The sweetness comes from both tamarind paste and jaggery, an unrefined sugar made in Asia with a lightly caramelized taste. All of these ingredients create a sweet and sour combination, bringing a unique flavor to the table, and helping to balance out any bitterness from the bitter gourd. Serve khata mettha karela with other Indian dishes and hot chapatis (Indian flatbread).


  • 4 tender karelas (bitter gourds)

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or canola or sunflower oil)

  • 6 curry leaves

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

  • 2 green chilies (slit)

  • 1 small onion (finely chopped)

  • 1 teaspoon grated ginger

  • 1 teaspoon garlic paste

  • 1 tablespoon coriander powder

  • 1 teaspoon raw mango powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder

  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste

  • Salt to taste

  • 1 tablespoon grated jaggery

  • Garnish:

    coriander leaves (chopped)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Wash the karelas well and pat dry. Cut off the top and "tail" of each karela and discard.

  3. Slit the gourds vertically down the center. Use a spoon to scoop out all the seeds from the center and discard the seeds. Cut the karela halves into 1/4-inch-thick pieces. Set aside.

  4. Heat the oil in a pan and add the curry leaves, cumin and mustard seeds, and green chilies.

  5. When they stop spluttering, add the chopped onion and sauté for a minute.

  6. Add the ginger and garlic paste and sauté for another minute.

  7. Add the coriander, mango powder, turmeric, and red chili powder and mix well. Sprinkle a little water on top and sauté for a minute, stirring well.

  8. Add the karela pieces, tamarind paste, and salt to taste; stir and cook until the karela is soft.

  9. Stir in the jaggery. Allow the sugar to melt and begin to caramelize a little.

  10. Remove from the heat and garnish with the chopped fresh coriander leaves.


Look for bitter gourd that is brightly colored, firm, and free of blemishes. You can find karela, sometimes labeled as bitter melon, in Asian markets.

What Are the Health Benefits of Bitter Gourd?

Karela is celebrated by some for its health properties. While it has not yet been widely studied, it is believed to aid in cancer prevention. While further study is needed, bitter gourd is high in vitamin C and A and low in fat and calories, making it a nutritious choice.

Article Sources
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  1. Dandawate PR, Subramaniam D, Padhye SB, Anant S. Bitter melon: a panacea for inflammation and cancer. Chin J Nat Med. 2016;14(2):81-100. doi:10.1016/S1875-5364(16)60002-X