Bitter but oh-so-good: Pavakka Thoran | Niraamaya Wellness and Ayurveda Retreats

Bitter but oh-so-good: Pavakka Thoran, A Kerala Style Bitter Gourd Stir-Fry Recipe

Pavakka Thoran

Bitter gourd, also known as Pavakka in Malayalam and Karela in Hindi, is a vegetable that is considered both a medicine and a cuisine ingredient in the Indian subcontinent. Known for its extremely bitter taste, bitter gourd is often used in traditional dishes like the Pavakka Thoran, a simple stir-fry that is both delicious and healthy.

The Pavakka Thoran is a traditional Kerala-style dish that is easy to prepare and packed with flavour. The dish is made with finely chopped bitter gourd and seasoned with mild spices, green chillies, and grated coconut. The grated coconut in the dish helps to reduce the bitterness of the bitter gourd and provides a unique flavour and texture. Additionally, cooking it in an earthen pot/clay pot can further enhance its flavour by infusing the dish with subtle earthy notes and allowing the ingredients to cook evenly.


Here is how you can make the Pavakka Thoran in your own kitchen:


  • Shallots – Chopped 1 no
  • Coconut - Grated 4 tbsp
  • Ginger - Chopped 2 tbsp
  • Green Chillies - Chopped 2 nos
  • Cumin Seeds - Roasted ½ tsp
  • Red Chilli - Powder ¼ tsp
  • Turmeric Powder ½ tsp
  • Coconut Oil 40 ml
  • Mustard Seeds ¼ tsp
  • Curry Leaves 5 nos
  • Urad Dal (White Lentil) 1 tsp
  • Bitter Gourd - Quarterd and Sliced 250 gms
  • Tamarind thick pulp 3 tbsp
  • Salt to taste


  • Make a coarse mixture of shallots, grated coconut, ginger, green chillies, cumin seeds, red chilli powder, and turmeric in a blender.
  • In a ‘chatti’ or a clay pot, heat the coconut oil and add the mustard seeds. Once the seeds crackle, add the curry leaves and urad dal and stir quickly.
  • Add the bitter gourd and cook until it becomes tender, adding a few tablespoons of water to prevent it from burning.
  • Finally, add the coarse coconut paste, red chilli powder, turmeric powder, and tamarind pulp. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes, stirring continuously.
  • Serve hot with rice and enjoy the delicious and nutritious Pavakka Thoran.

Not only is this delicious, but it is also packed with nutritional benefits. Bitter gourd is known to have numerous health benefits, including aiding in diabetes management, improving digestion, and boosting the immune system. It is also low in calories and high in fibre, making it a healthy and nutritious option for those looking to maintain a healthy diet.
The combination of bitter gourd and grated coconut is a classic and popular pairing in Indian cuisine, and this dish is no exception. If you are looking for a traditional and tasty way to incorporate bitter gourd into your diet, give this recipe a try!


At Niraamaya Retreats, the Pavakka Thoran is a sought-after dish among guests. With its perfect blend of flavour and health, it is no wonder that it has become a staple in the Niraamaya kitchens. Whether you are a local or a tourist, this is a must-try dish that is sure to leave a lasting impression on your taste buds. So, the next time you visit our retreats, be sure to try this traditional and delicious Kerala dish!