Karela ka bartha – Bittergourd mash

karela ka bartha
Many of us have a love-hate relationship with bitter gourd. Why not! It is bitter. Unfortunately, that is the best part of it too, bitterness. Otherwise, it would just be another gourd. This bitterness is an acquired taste most Asians will have tried. Still, that love-hate relationship just keeps going on for many of us.
Being that Asian mum, who has to train her kids on this unusual underrated veggie, I try my ways too. What is my trick? – well start young. They will take time. Don’t give up try again and again. The second trick is to eat it in front of them at the mimicking age. That gives them the confidence that it is not so horrible. Now, these are the tricks that worked for me.
Currently, they can tolerate the bittergourd salad (click here for the recipe) and love the baked bittergourd chips. There are s few more recipes they are fond of, my mother in law pavakka pitla and mum’s pavakka thoran. I guess the latter two they like it only when it comes from these respective people and not from me.

The karela ka bhartha idea

My husband loves the eggplant bhartha and loves it more from a restaurant. Since we are currently not having anything to do with restaurants I wanted to try out something new. With the thought of making bhartha, was checking my depleting veggie stock for an eggplant. Little did I realise we ate them a while ago, so what next, two long bittergourd.
Well, it is karela bhartha then.

The end result

The recipe was a super success. The kids changed their loyalty from their grandparents for the bittergourd recipes to me for this bhartha. My husband voted it to be better than the restaurant baingan bhartha.  Indeed, I put my heart and soul into it!!  We had it with spinach avocado phulka. The combination was superhealthy, satisfying and overall a great feeling. the karela was soft and the tomato-onion masala took over and subdued the bitterness. Ir is really hard to imagine the huge amount of vegetable that you can consume with a small amount of this karela ka bhartha. some ideas that worked the best for me in this recipe are the following. 
bittergourd mashed sabji

The tomato-onion buna masala:

The basic roasted masala that forms the base of many of the Indian curries is the buna masala. The longer you get this tomato, onion and masala combo simmer and cook, the better is the flavour. this buns masala roasts the spices such that there is no residual raw flavours to the spice combo. Use fresh tomatoes in this combination and not the canned ones. 

Cutting or grating the karela:

An aunt of mine used to finely chop the bittergourd to avoid her family from picking them out. This actually reduced the cooking time and the way the spices infused in this vegetable. this time I decided to follow her footsteps and get a fine mince of the bittergourd. In hindsight, I will grate the bittergourd next time such that it saves me a lot of time from all the mincing.

The difference the dungar makes:

Dungar is the method of infusing smoke into the curries. This is easily achieved with a tiny steel bowl, a piece of charcoal ember and a tsp of ghee or oil. Once the recipe is ready, tuck in a katori or a small bowl in the centre and place a burning charcoal piece in the bowl. Keep a lid to cover the pot ready and drizzle a couple of drops of ghee onto the charcoal. Immediately cover the set-up and leave it for 5 minutes. the smoke that rises infuses into the curry. This is a defining fragrance of all bharthas. I have loosely adapted this method from here. Of course, I did this outside so that it won’t set off my fire alarms. 
shh cooking secretly
I hope I managed to convince you a bit better on the bittergourd this time. Hope you could try this karela ka bhartha soon as I am adding this to the collection, fear not the bitter at the Shh cooking secretly challenge. This month it was my chance to pick the theme. This month we showcase all the ingredients that are bitter and yet immensely good for you. From the fellow bloggers, you will see fenugreek, methi, bitter dark chocolate, coffee etc all of which are essentially bitter. My partner for this theme was Jayashree. As an authentic Kannadiga blogger, Jayashree revives some wonderful lesser-known Karnataka recipes on her blog which are my favourites. While she picked Cumin and oil for me as my working ingredients, she has made the traditional -Mathodi palya. 
Stay in touch for more experiments and tag us when you make these recipes. Write to us in the comments and we simply love to hear from you. When you make Karela tag us #mildlyindian as we would love to try out new karela recipes for sure. 

Karela ka bhartha

Karela ka bhartha is a flavourful gluten free, nut free, vegan, diabetic friendly, low carb, bittergourd mash made with tomato onion masala and grtaed bittergourds
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Autumn, diabetic friendly, Indian, One pot
Servings 4 people


  • frying pan


Main ingredient

  • 3-4 long bittergourds

For the buna masala

  • 1 tbsp cooking oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger root
  • 1 long green chilli
  • 1 large red onion
  • 2 large tomatoes
  • 3/4 tsp salt (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp aamchur (dry mango powder)
  • 1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1 pinch Asafoetida
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder

For the dungar

  • 1 tsp ghee / clarified butter ( use 1 tsp cooking oil for vegan)
  • 1 small piece charcoal


  • 2-3 tbsp coriander leaves chopped


  • Prep all your ingredients:
    Mince the garlic, green chilli and ginger, chop the onion, tomato and as fine as you can the bittergourds and keep them ready.
    indian vegetable curry
  • Heat a pan and add the oil.
  • As the oil heats up add the cumin, garlic, ginger and green chillies.
  • When they turn golden brown saute the chopped onion.
  • As the onions start turning translucent add the tomatoes and let them cook down.
    buna masala
  • Keep mixing as it tends to catch the bottom of the pan ( kadai).
    the masala mix
  • As the tomatoes start mashing, turn the heat to medium, add the spice powders and the masalas.
  • Keep saute on and dont leave the stove.
  • Once you can see a thin film of oil separating, add the bittergourd chopped.
    chopped bittergourd
  • Mix well, add about 1/4 cup of water and cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  • The bittergourd would have leached more water by now and become softer. If there is no water add a bit more, mix well , cover and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Mash this mix a bit to have a even mix of the sabji.
  • Sprinkle the coriandler leaves, cover and remove from heat.

for the dungar

  • Make a small well in the middle of the sabji and place a steel katori ( bowl) in it.
  • Burn the charcoal piece using tongs. once it has caught on fire, place it in the katori.
  • Keep the lid handy.
  • Pour a few drops of ghee or oil on the burning coal amd immediately close the lid.
  • Allow this set up to stay for 5 to 7 minutes.
  • Open the lid after the time, remove the katori and the charcoal.
  • Mix the sabji well and it would have infused the smokey flavour.
  • Serve the sabji warm with phulkas or bread.
    bittergourd mashed sabji
Keyword bittergourd recipes
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
5 15 votes

Subscribe & Follow

You Might Also Like

Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Poonam bachhav
2 years ago
Rating :

Karela ka bharta sounds so interesting Seema ! Love the idea of infusing smakoe into the curry using dungar method, as it lends a typical smokey flavor and aroma to this bitter gourd mash. Definitely going to give it a try.

2 years ago
Rating :

I love Karela and this Karela ka Bartha sounds too delish.. I am soon going to try out this for my younger one as he makes a face while having kerela.. I can imagine how rustic the bartha must have tasted with infused smoke from burning charcoal..

2 years ago

[…] coffee, bitter gourd, fenugreek leaves and seeds. You guys should absolutely check out the amazing Karele Ka Bharta that Seema has made for the […]

Mayuri Patel
2 years ago
Rating :

Seema I’m one person who has a hate hate relationship with karela. However, don’t mind the karela chips, but just a few. While I hate it hubby loves karela. So am sure when I try out your karela ka bartha he’ll be so happy. Quite a unique dish actually.

Preeti Shridhar
2 years ago
Rating :

Karela is not only mine but even my son’s favourite vegetable. This karela bhurta is something new for me so have to try it. I liked the idea of dhungar, to give this bharta the feel of real bharta.

The Girl Next Door
2 years ago

What a unique recipe, Seema! I’ve never come across bharta made using bitter gourd, but you make it look and sound so very flavourful. Love the bhuna masala you have prepared here, as well as the way you have infused smoke into the bharta. Would definitely like to try out this recipe!

Shobha Keshwani
2 years ago
Rating :

Karele ka bharta looks so tasty. I love karela preparations of any kind. Will try your recipe also. I loved the idea of dungar to get the smoky flavours as we arenotroasting the karelas like we do with the brinjal.

2 years ago
Rating :

I am imagining how bitter it will be when you mince it, but when added to all that spices and cook so well, it will not. Based on your family reviews and the super tempting pic and recipe, I will try this for my family. Wonderful share.

Sujata Roy
2 years ago
Rating :

Karele ka bharta sounds interesting. A very unique recipe. We make karela bharta with boiled bitter gourd and potatoes and raw mustard oil, salt and Kasundi to serve with steamed rice. Loved this unique recipe and the idea of charcoal to give smoking flavour.

2 years ago
Rating :

Me I am a big fan of bitter gourd any form I enjoy it. So with this bitter theme you set us on I have a collection of recipe I want to try. Karela bharta is one of them. Thanks for a newer way to hoodwink the family. 😀

Meera Girdhar
2 years ago
Rating :

Being a punjabi I am a die heart fan of bartha but never thought of Karela ka bartha. Seema your recipe looks so tempting and flavourful that I just want to have a bite with a parantha. Thanks for sharing this

Rafeeda - The Big Sweet Tooth
2 years ago

Seeing all the various karela recipes on this challenge, especially yours, I am totally convinced that I have to try cooking this vegetable really soon. I am no fan of it and ignore it as much as I can, but now I don’t think I can do the same. Hehe… The bartha seems to be a very good idea to camoflage the bitterness…

2 years ago
Rating :

My hubby loves karela. This karela Bharta sounds awesome. I am bookmarking this recipe as I am sure he will love it . Never thought of making karela Bharta Seema. Very innovative.

2 years ago
Rating :

Karela ka bhartha sounds very interesting, just like your aunt my mom use to chop all veggies and curry leaves very finely. So that my brother can’t take out veggies, but my brother use his special skills 🤭. Loved the smoky aroma in bhartha its just amazing.

Priya Vj
2 years ago
Rating :

Karela ka bharta sounds wow..one of the best ways to feed karela to those having the love hate relationship… I love how well the Finley chopped karela has blended well with the tomato onion masala

Jayashree T.Rao
2 years ago
Rating :

Karela ka bharta looks so delicious and ideal to have with any kind of flatbread. Liked the smokey Dangar method you have used here. I must give this dish a try sometime Seema. Good to have you as a partner for the theme.

Anu Kollon
2 years ago

This bitter gourd bharta looks so delicious. I would love the smoky flavor from charcoal. Great recipe and would love to try it.

2 years ago
Rating :

Karela ka bartha looks so delicious. I would also love to cook karela with a lot of onions. Love the smoky flavor you impart.

Sasmita Sahoo
2 years ago
Rating :

ahaaaa what a beauty seema !
We, odias also make bharta of karela, but before it we steam the karela and then mash it to use. Your seems awesome using dungar method

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x