West Indian Karila, aka Sautéed Bittermelon

This is a bittermelon, most of the West Indies call it Karila (kah-rile-ah).

It’s a vegetable that is quite bitter, hence the name, and there are a few ways it is typically prepared. Today we are just going to sauté.

First, you wash the outside with soap and water (or veggie wash), not sure where these are coming from so I’m a little cautious. Then pat dry and cut in half lengthwise.

Using a spoon, scoop out the middle section, it is sort of spongy and full of seeds.

Chop into half moons, keeping the size the same.

According to my granny, the best thing to do now is to leave these on the counter in a bowl with a towel on top,  overnight to let them dry out. This will give you a more crispy crust when cooking them.

We have a well seasoned cast iron pot that we use for all of our Indian dishes, but since I’m trying to use less oil, I used a nonstick pot that is deep.

Start with oil to almost cover the bottom, then onion, garlic, and diced tomato, stir and add salt, about 1 tsp.

Sweat those down then add the veg and cook over medium high heat, covered. To get the crust on it,  you have to let it cook and turn it infrequently.

It will begin to cook and look like it’s done, and you can eat it like this, but traditionally, they like it much more cooked and crispy. This was about 20 minutes in.

This is after another 20-30 minutes, it has further caramalized which adds another depth to the flavor, it is still quite bitter, but in small quantities, mixed with other dishes, it works well.

You should elevate one side of the pan and allow the oil to drain out before you transfer into serving dish. This is often served with basmati rice, dahlChanna, Chicken curry.

Give it a try!



3 medium bittermelons

1 medium yellow or red onion

1-2 tablespoons of freshly pressed garlic 

piece of habanero pepper to your heat tolerance (optional) 

1-2 diced ripe Roma tomatoes

Grape seed, canola, or coconut oil, about 4 tbsp

salt to taste.

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