Bitter Melon Stir Fry

The Best Bitter Melon Recipes

The Spruce / Christine Ma

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 30 mins
Servings: 3 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
125 Calories
10g Fat
9g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3
Amount per serving
Calories 125
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 10g 12%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 736mg 32%
Total Carbohydrate 9g 3%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 2g
Vitamin C 52mg 258%
Calcium 23mg 2%
Iron 1mg 4%
Potassium 543mg 12%
*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.)

Bitter melon is a gourd originating from India that was introduced into China during the 14th century. It has since become a commonly-used vegetable in Chinese households and is as popular now as it was a few hundred years ago.

Bitter melon tastes bitter just as the name suggests. The texture can be either crunchy or soft, depending on how you prepare it. In Chinese culture it’s believed eating bitter melon can help reduce blood sugar, and scientific studies seem to bear this out.

This recipe is a simple stir-fry with a garlic, chili flake, soy sauce, red wine vinegar, and sesame oil sauce. A little sugar helps combat the bitterness. There are also plenty of variations on bitter melon stir-fries, like adding dried shrimp or pork. Serve as a side dish for pork, chicken, or seafood alongside rice or noodles.

Ingredients

  • 1 pound bitter melon

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 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

  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil

Steps to Make It

Bitter Melon Stir-Fry

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Bitter Melon stir-fry ingredients

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

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

    Bitter Melon cut in half

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  3. Remove the seeds using a small metal spoon.

    remove seeds from the bitter melon

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  4. Cut on the diagonal into thin slices.

    bitter melon sliced into small pieces

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

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

    salt the bitter melon then drain a colander

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  6. In a small bowl, mash the minced garlic and chili pepper flakes together.

    mash the chili pepper flakes with the minced garlic

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

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

    minced garlic and chili mixture in a wok

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  8. Stir-fry briefly until aromatic, about 30 seconds.

    minced garlic and chili mixture cooking in a wok

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  9. Add the bitter melon. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes, then add the soy sauce and red wine vinegar or balsamic.

    bitter melon cooking in a wok

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  10. Stir in the sugar. Cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, or until the bitter melon is browning and beginning to soften.

    bitter melon with spices cooking in a wok

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

  11. Stir in a few drops of sesame oil if desired and serve.

    Stir in a few drops sesame oil into the bitter melon in the wok

    The Spruce / Christine Ma

Tips

  • There are different varieties of bitter melon. While those in China are green, those grown and used in Taiwan are white. Taiwanese bitter melons tend to be softer in texture and more bitter in flavor.
  • The skin of the bitter melon is edible, so don't worry about peeling it while prepping.

Recipe Variations

  • 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 vinegar, feel free to substitute it.
  • Bitter melon also pairs nicely with pork for a quick stir-fry, a main dish, or with black bean sauce.
  • Try cooking bitter melon with dried shrimp for a flavorful side dish.
Article Sources
The Spruce Eats uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Joseph B, Jini D. Antidiabetic effects of Momordica charantia (bitter melon) and its medicinal potencyAsian Pac J Trop Dis. 2013;3(2):93-102. doi:10.1016/S2222-1808(13)60052-3