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Bitter Gourd Theeyal Recipe

Bitter Gourd Theeyal Recipe

Pavakkai Theeyal with Video. A gem of a recipe from the Kerala Cuisine that tastes awesome when served with rice.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Resting Time: 5 mins
Course Main
Cuisine South Indian
Servings 4


For theeyal:

  • Bitter gourd or Pavakkai - 1/2 cup thinly sliced
  • Sambar onions or shallots - 6 to 7 nos finely chopped
  • Asafoetida - 2 pinch
  • Tamarind - 1 small gooseberry size
  • Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
  • Jaggery - 1/2 tsp
  • Salt - to taste
  • Coconut oil - 1/2 tbsp

For the paste:

  • Coriander seeds - 1 tbsp
  • Black pepper corns - 1/2 tsp
  • Garlic - 2 nos optional
  • Dry whole red chillies - 2 to 5 nos
  • Fenugreek - 1/2 tsp
  • Sambar onions or shallots - 2 nos
  • Fresh grated coconut - 1/4 cup

For seasoning:

  • Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Sambar onions or shallots - 2 nos thinly sliced
  • Curry leaves - 1 sprig
  • Coconut oil - 1 tbsp



  • Heat 1/2 cup water, soak tamarind in it and let it rest for 10 to 15 mins.
  • Extract pulp and set aside.

For the paste:

  • Heat a pan over medium flame.
  • Add all the ingredients except grated coconut - coriander seeds, black pepper, garlic, red chillies, fenugreek and sambar onions.
  • Roast till the ingredients become golden brown in color and aromatic.
  • The skin of both sambar onions and garlic should change color and the outer skin must shrink in size.
  • Transfer the roasted ingredients to a bowl and set aside.
  • To the same pan add grated coconut & roast till it becomes brown in color and fragrant.
  • Cook over medium flame and keep tossing it continuously taking care not to burn.
  • Once roasted transfer to the same bowl and let it cool.
  • Once cooled, transfer all the ingredients to a blender jar.
  • Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup water, grind to a smooth paste and set aside.

Make bitter gourd theeyal:

  • Heat a pan on medium flame with 1/2 tbsp oil
  • Add asafoetida and sambar onions.
  • Fry till the onions become golden brown in color.
  • Add bitter gourd, turmeric powder and sauté well.
  • Add the ground paste and salt and mix well to combine.
  • Add tamarind extract, mix well and bring to a boil.
  • Once it comes to a boil, simmer completely and close with a lid.
  • Cook for 4 to 5 mins or till the bitter gourd slices are soft.
  • Add jaggery, stir to mix and transfer to a serving bowl.

For the seasoning:

  • In a seasoning pan, add oil and once hot, add mustard seeds.
  • Once it pops, add curry leaves and sliced sambar onions.
  • Fry till the onions become golden brown in color.
  • Pour the seasoning over the theeyal.
  • Mix well for the seasoning to combine with the theeyal.
  • Close the bowl with a lid and let it sit for 5 to 10 mins for the flavors to sink in.
  • Serve this bitter gourd theeyal with hot rice and a side dish of your choice.