Roasted Karela

Karela, or the Indian bitter melon, is an acquired taste. Often rejected at first due to its harsh bitterness, but once tempered with sweet flavors like sweet potato, jaggery, corn or paneer, that same bitterness becomes just another delicious layer of flavor added.

makes 6 small servings


5 medium sized around 4 inches long karela (approximately 1 pound)

juice from 2 lemons

2 Tbsp sugar

1 Tbsp salt

2 Tbsp ghee

3 Tbsp ghee

½ tsp cumin seeds

1 cup minced red onion

finely minced seeds from inside of karela

1 tsp black pepper

½ tsp turmeric

1 tsp salt

1 Tbsp chickpea flour

1 cup paneer grated (or any other cheese)

1 tsp minced serrano pepper

2 Tbsp ginger purée 


  1. Without cutting off the ends, peel the karela and make a lengthwise slit into each one. Scoop insides out and set aside. Drizzle karelas with lemon juice, sugar and salt. Let this mixture rest for an hour or up to 24 hours. Finely mince the seeds from the inside and set aside. 
  2. Drain the karela, pat dry and drizzle ghee over them. Lay on a baking sheet pan and roast in the oven at 350F for 10-15 minutes or until the soft and cooked through. Remove the sheet pan from the oven and let the karelas rest.
  3. Heat up the ghee and pop the cumin seeds. Immediately, add the red onion and minced karela seeds. Cook this mixture on low heat until it reduces and the onion is translucent and the seeds have softened. Add the black pepper, turmeric and salt stir to combine. Next add the chickpea flour and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes until the flour darkens slightly. Remove from heat and transfer to a bowl. Add grated paneer, minced serrano, & ginger purée. Adjust with a little more salt to taste.  
  4. Fill each karela with the stuffing and place ton a baking sheet. Roast in a 350F  oven for 20 minutes. Remove and serve them with a sweet chutney or a salad. 

ideas / variations

  • These stuffed bitter melons can also be served in a soup or a curry. The aviyal curry or the butternut squash soup work well with the flavors.  
  • They are delicious topped with blackberry, peach or mango chutney.