Saucy Karela (Kakara Pulusu)

“Everyone says I am bitter…,” Karela catchingly said in a low voice.

“What would you like to be if there is a makeover?”

“I want to be saucy with an attitude.”

“Well, that’s easy. Let’s invite jaggery and tamarind. Our friend red chilli will also be there. How does that sound?”

“Sweet and sour with a spicy-saucy attitude. Yum… I like that. My bitter blues are over. 🙂
Thank you.”

“You are welcome karela.”

Karela, Jaggery and Tamarind
Karela, Jaggery and Tamarind

Saucy Karela (Kakara Pulusu)
(makes a side dish for two meals for two adults)

4 to 6-inch length karela – 5
Tamarind pods – 4
Jaggery, crushed – 2 tablespoons to quarter cup
Red onion – 1 medium size, or shallots 2 big ones
Oil, cumin, mustard seeds, curry leaves, turmeric, chilli powder and salt

Soak tamarind in water for about 15 minutes and extract thick pulp (about quarter cup needed for this recipe).
Scrape karela ridges with a peeler. Wash and cut karela into small, bite-sized pieces (about 2 cups of cut pieces).
Slice onion into thin pieces (about half cup pieces).

Place a thick-bottomed skillet on stovetop. Add a tablespoon of peanut oil and heat. When oil is hot, add 6 curry leaves, a pinch each-cumin and mustard seeds. Mix with spoon and when seeds start to pop, add onion. Sauté onion for couple of minutes to soft. Add karela pieces and quarter cup of water. Cover the skillet tightly, and steam-cook karela.

Halfway through the cooking, add tamarind and jaggery. Also add half teaspoon each – turmeric, salt and chilli powder. Mix, and cover the skillet with lid again. On medium-low heat, cook until karela pieces become tender, and tamarind-jaggery sauce thickens and start to coat the karela pieces.

Saucy karela tastes sweet and sour with a touch of spicy-bitterness. Great with sorghum roti or chapatis.

© Recipe and Photos Copyright 2009 Indira Singari

Saucy Karela with Chapati and Sprouted Mung Beans
Saucy Karela with Chapati and Sprouted Mung beans ~ Meal Today

Karela = Bitter Gourd, Indian variety


25 Responses to “Saucy Karela (Kakara Pulusu)”

  1. Madhu says:

    We call this as gojju, Love the combo sweet-sour-spicy and little bitterness..Delicious.

    Me too. Thanks for sharing Kannada name, Madhu.

  2. Pavani says:

    Looks delicious Indira. My MIL usually boils kakarakaya with either tamarind or buttermilk to remove the bitterness and then makes a similar pulusu.

    My mother also boils kakara first, then makes the pulusu. I think they do it to reduce the bitterness. Somehow over the years I have developed a taste for kakara and now I can have it directly without these bitter reducing steps.:)

  3. Happy says:

    I am of the type bellameste ishtam. So its should be yummy.

    Meeku bellam istamithe, idi tappakunda nacchutundi.

  4. Le says:

    The first pic, so different stunning , colorful and rustic touch to it … we make this kura with bellam , without tamarind…

    Thanks Le. We too, there is another version we make with just kakara and jaggery.

  5. Madhuli says:

    Hi Indira… Congrats on the new home and lovely garden.That’s a wonderful karela recipe.Somehow i was not able to access this new site till now. so could not congratulate you. congrats and may God bless you always.

    Hi Madhuli, so good to see you after such long time. Hope you are doing great. Thank you for all the good words.

  6. Shwetha says:

    Wow You are back. I missed trying your recipes. I have been a silent reader for more than 2 years now. I love your recipes. I’ll try to be more active from now on.

    I look forward to that. Thanks Shwetha.

  7. Kay says:

    Bitter or not, No thanks for the karela, unless it’s baked or crispy fried! 🙂 I’ll just munch on those mung bean sprouts.

    This is also good, Kay. Little bit acquired taste but you are going to enjoy it, I think. Love the baked, crispy fried versions.:)

  8. Nirmala says:

    This looks great! Amma makes a saucy karela curry excatly the same but without jaggery. That is cooked in oil alone no steaming there. I could imagin the taste very well.

    Just tamarind with red chilli? I would love to try Amma’s version, Nirmala.

  9. Vandya says:

    A makeover for karela…sounds interesting. My mom loves Kakarkai pulusu but i never allowed her to make it at home (as i didn’t like it) but this time when she visits us…i’m going to surprise her. Thank you Indira.

    Your mom will be delighted, I guess.:) You are welcome, Vandya.

  10. kalva says:

    lovely pulusu. nanamma makes it with pandina karela.

    Lopala erra vittanaalu teesi chestaaru kada, Kalva? Baaguntundi.

  11. Kalyani says:

    Recently i started eating karela .. I liked it … Will try this recipe indira …

    Let me know how you like it if you try, Kalyani.

  12. Ashwini says:

    I have bitter gourd..didn’t know what to do..i will try this recipe.

    Looking forward to reading your input on this recipe, Ashwini.

  13. Cilantro says:

    I am not a big fan of Karela, My husband and daughter love them though. Would like to try this recipe.

    This tastes good with chapatis, Cilantro. Give it a try.

  14. Nirmala says:

    Indira, if you are interested try this
    Since the bitter gourd pieces are cooked in oil in low flame t bitterness is not much highlighted and when mixed with rice its delightfully tasty!

    You are a sweetheart, Nirmala. Thank you for the link. I will definitely try and write about it at Mahanandi.

  15. Pavani says:

    Hi Indira.. Just curious.. are you planning to extend Jihva in 2009?

    I will make the announcement for 2009 hosts on Monday afternoon. Thanks Pavani.

  16. Vishali says:

    Love the Kakara Puslusu….my mom makes it on an auspicious day of ‘Vrushikesh Nomu’ and I miss it a lot!

    Yours looks delicious and good combi with rotis. My mouth is watering 🙂

    It’s good to know that this is a festival recipe. I haven’t heart about it before, when do you celebrate this festival, Vishali?

  17. Siri says:

    Hello Indira,
    kakarakaya lo ginjalu teesesi vandala ? please clear my doubt. The curry looks awesome. I want to try it.

    Hi Siri: add them to pulusu if the seeds are white. Discard if they are in red color.

  18. Vishali says:

    We celebrate it in November ( they call it Kartika masam some thing like that), and the vratham is for Lord Shiva…

  19. Cute little story and sounds and looks very delicious. I love karela…especially love making your karela “chips”.

  20. Lakshmi G says:

    Hello Indiragaru,

    I am very happy to see the new place for the recipes and glad there are more recipes coming. Chala bagundhi ee pic, for a moment it looked like stacked icecream scoops. Thanks for the great pics and recipes.


  21. Jayshree says:


    Will Walmart or Indian Grocery Stores have the Rice noodles and its different varities?



  22. Lakshmi says:

    Hi Indira,
    I made this curry last week and came out very tasty. I have never made anything with Karela before, just being a little sceptical about its sourness. You are right indeed, making it saucy karela brings out the good taste of it.
    So thx again.
    I also made your bottle gourd curry and that came out good too.

  23. Diane says:

    I made this tonight and it was just wonderful. It’s become my favorite karela recipe!

  24. Chitra says:

    Can I sustitute jaggery with sugar/honey? Anybody tried something like that? Does it change the way this taste?

  25. Anu says:


    I’ve made this delicious recipe so many times, but never got around to posting a comment. The combination of jaggery, tamarind and red chilly handle the bitterness of the karela very well. I add a little roasted sesame powder at the end for some richness.

    Thanks for posting and good luck,

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