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Bitter Gourd Theeyal

- Submitted by Dahlia on 24th Sep 2011

(Kaipakka Theeyal, Pagarkkai Pulikulambu, Pavakkai Puli Curry)

bittergourd theeyal

Bitter Gourd (Kaipakka, Pavakkai) Theeyal is a traditional Kerala dish in which bitter gourd pieces are cooked in a tamarind and roasted coconut sauce. The theeyal gets its unique aroma and taste from the roasted coconut. The tamarind and coconut masks the bitterness of the bitter gourd pieces and makes it delectable even to bitter gourd haters.


  • Bitter gourd- 2 big or 3 small 
  • Shallots (Sambhar Onions) - 5 (chopped)
  • Garlic - 5 cloves (chopped)
  • Tamarind - Gooseberry sized 
  • Grated Coconut - 1/2 cup
  • Coriander Powder - 3 tsp
  • Red Chilly Powder - 2 tsp (or to taste)
  • Turmeric Powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Fenugreek seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Curry Leaves - 1 spring
  • Coconut Oil -  2 tbsp


  1. Soak the tamarind in warm water and let it soften when you get the other things done. 
  2. Chop the bitter gourd pieces into small cubes or in semi circles.
  3. Dry roast the grated coconut, shallots and garlic cloves on a low flame till it turns golden brown in colour. This may take about 10 minutes.
  4. After it cools a bit, make a smooth paste with little water. Keep this aside.
  5. Heat oil in a kadai and splutter the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. 
  6. Add the bitter gourd pieces and saute for a good 8-10 minutes. This step reduces the bitterness of the gourd considerably.
  7. Add the coriander powder, chilly powder and turmeric powder. Fry for 30 seconds.
  8. Extract the pulp from the soaked tamarind and add it. Add the coconut paste, required amount of water and salt.
  9. After the gravy boils, reduce the flame and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes till oil floats on top.

Serving Suggestions

Tips & Variations

  • Variations of this are made in Tamil nadu, Andra and Karnataka known as pavakkai pulikulambu, kakarakaya pulusu etc. The minor differences in the preparations include - adding channa dal and urad dal while tempering, adding a piece of jaggery to the gravy, skipping the coconut, using gingelly oil instead of coconut oil.
  • Theeyal is traditionally made with many different types of vegetables like shallots (ulli theeyal), okra (vendakka theeyal), brinjal (vazhuthananga theeyal), drumstick (murigakka theeyal), ginger (inghi theeyal), garlic (veluthulli theeyal) etc. Some of the other theeyals that you can make are zucchini theeyal, lotusroot theeyal etc.

More Bitter Gourd Recipes

Sukto Sukto Bitter Gourd Fry Bitter Gourd Fry Bitter Gourd Pitlai Bitter Gourd Pitlai Bitter Gourd Pickle Bitter Gourd Pickle
See more...

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