The Best Bitter Melon Recipes

Bitter Melon Stir-Fry With Pork

The Spruce

Ratings (60)
  • Total: 25 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 10 mins
  • Yield: Serve 3 people

Bitter melon originated from India and was introduced into China during the 14th century. After this bitter melon has become a Chinese household regular vegetable and is as popular now as it was a few hundred years ago.

Bitter melon taste “bitter” just as the name suggests. The texture can be either crunchy or soft depending on how you prepare it. I personally love bitter melon nowadays but I really didn’t like it until one point when my mother made me a dish called “stir-fry bitter melon with pork” and since then I’ve loved this weird looking and funny tasting vegetable.

In Chinese culture it’s believed eating bitter melon can help reduce blood sugar, help your liver recover and detox your body.

Another interesting fact about bitter melon. Most of the time, bitter melons in Taiwan are white in colour and not green. We have the green variety but the most popular type of bitter melon in Taiwan are the white colour ones. White bitter melons tend to be softer in texture and more bitter in flavour. To date I’ve only come across green bitter melons in the UK and these tend to be quite small but white bitter melons in Taiwan are usually the size of a beer bottle.

You can have a look at this article “How to prepare bitter melon” to learn how to prepare bitter melon ready to be cooked.

Here are three of popular bitter melon recipes: 


  • Bitter Melon Stir-Fry Ingredients:
  • 1 pound bitter melon (about 1 1/4 melons)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Seasonings:
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons oil for stir-frying
  • 2 tablespoons light soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or balsamic vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • Optional: a few drops of sesame oil
  • Bitter Melon Stir-Fry With Pork Ingredients:
  • 1 pound of bitter melon
  • 1/2 pound lean pork
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
  • Seasonings:
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons light soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoon granulated sugar
  • Pinch of freshly ground black pepper (or white pepper)
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons cornstarch (plus, 2 teaspoons cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water)
  • 1/2 cup chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon Chinese slated black beans
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons vegetable oil (or peanut oil, as needed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
  • Optional: salt and pepper (to taste)
  • Bitter Melon Stir-Fry With Dried Shrimp Ingredients:
  • 2 tablespoons dried shrimp (soften in warm water then drain)
  • 2 small-sized green bitter melons (thinly sliced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped finely)
  • 1 chili (seeded and chopped finely)
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • Seasonings:
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 1/2 tablespoon demerara sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon rice wine

Steps to Make It

Bitter Melon Stir-Fry

This recipe calls for red wine vinegar or even balsamic vinegar for a bit more “bite.” But if you have a good Chinese rice wine feel free to substitute it. (recipe from former Chinese food expert).

  1. To prepare the bitter melon, cut in half lengthwise.

  2. Remove the seeds using a small metal spoon.

  3. Cut on the diagonal into thin slices.

  4. Degorge the bitter melon by sprinkling salt over the slices and placing them in a colander to drain for 15 minutes.

  5. In a small bowl, mash the chili pepper flakes with the minced garlic.

  6. Heat wok over medium high heat and add 2 tablespoons oil. When the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and chili mixture.

  7. Stir-fry briefly until aromatic (about 30 seconds).

  8. Add the bitter melon. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes, then splash with the balsamic vinegar and soy sauce.

  9. Stir in the sugar. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Until the bitter melon is browning and beginning to soften.

  10. Stir in a few drops sesame oil if desired.

  11. Serve hot and enjoy!

Stir-Fry Bitter Melon With Pork

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

  2. Cut the ends off the bitter melon and cut in half lengthwise (do not peel).

  3. Remove the seeds and pith from the middle of the melon with a small spoon.

  4. Cut the melon diagonally into 1/4-inch slices.

  5. Place the sliced bitter melon in the boiling water and parboil until it is just tender, about 2 to 3 minutes, then drain.

  6. Cut the pork across the grain into very thin, 1/8-inch thick slices that are 1 1/2 to 2 inches long.

  7. Place in a bowl and add the soy sauce, 2 teaspoons rice wine or sherry, pepper and cornstarch, stirring to combine and let the pork marinade while preparing the other ingredients.

  8. In a small bowl, combine the chicken broth and 1 tablespoon sherry.

  9. In a separate small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in 1 tablespoon water.

  10. Rinse the black beans to remove excess salt. Mash the beans with the side of a cleaver or knife.

  11. Stir together the beans and chopped garlic with a small amount of water.

  12. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a preheated wok. When the oil is hot, add the bean and garlic mixture.

  13. Cook, stirring for about 15 seconds until aromatic, then add the pork. Stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes, until the pork turns white and is nearly cooked. Remove the pork from the pan.

  14. Heat 1 to 2 teaspoons oil in the wok, as needed. When the oil is hot, add the bitter melon. Stir-fry for a minute, then pour in the chicken broth mixture. Add the pork back into the pan, stirring to mix everything together.

  15. Cover and simmer for 2 minutes.

  16. Re-stir the corn starch/water mixture. Push the other ingredients to the sides of the wok and add it to the chicken broth in the middle of the wok, stirring to thicken. Stir everything together, stir in the sesame oil, and season with salt or pepper if desired.

  17. Serve hot and enjoy!

Stir-Fry Bitter Melon With Dried Shrimp

  1. Cut the ends off the bitter melon and cut in half lengthwise (do not peel). 

  2. Remove the seeds and pith from the middle of the melon with a small spoon. 

  3. Cut the melon diagonally into 1/4-inch slices.

  4. Heat up oil in a wok then stir fry garlic and chili until the fragrance comes out.

  5. Add the dried shrimp and stir-fry for 10 seconds.

  6. Add bitter melon and 1 tablespoon water. Stir-fry for a couple minutes.

  7. Add all the seasonings and stir-fry for 1 minute.

  8. Serve hot and enjoy!