Chana Dal Karela (Lentils with Bitter-gourd)

You would never want to have karela (bitter-gourd) any other way once you try this recipe.

About This Recipe

I didn’t particularly like karela (known and bitter gourd or bitter melon) until I tried my mother-in-law’s chana dal karela. It was so good that I would ask her to make it whenever she visited us. Eventually I asked her to teach me the recipe. She not only showed me how to make this recipe but also shared some precious tips and tricks to tame down the bitterness of karela that you can use for any other recipe as well. If you do not like karela, try it making it this way. Using the tips shared below, you will be able to mellow down the bitterness and might find it pleasant.

What is Karela (Bitter Gourd/ Bitter Melon)?

Bitter melon — also known as bitter gourd or bitter melon — is a tropical vine that belongs to the gourd family and is closely related to zucchini, squash, pumpkin, and cucumber. It’s cultivated around the world for its edible fruit, which is considered a staple in many types of Asian cuisine.

The Chinese variety is typically long, pale green, and covered with wart-like bumps. On the other hand, the Indian variety is more narrow and has pointed ends with rough, jagged spikes on the rind.

In addition to its sharp flavor and distinct appearance, bitter melon has been associated with several impressive health benefits.

Picture source:

Health Benefits Of Karela

  • It is rich is many key nutrients including Vitamin C, Vitamin A, Folate, Potassium, Zinc and Iron. Among all of these nutrients, bitter gourd is especially rich in vitamin C which is an important micronutrient involved in disease prevention, bone formation, and wound healing.
  • It can help reduce blood sugar. Thanks to its potent medicinal properties, bitter melon has long been used by indigenous populations around the world to help treat diabetes-related conditions. In recent years, several studies confirmed the fruit’s role in blood sugar control.
  • May Have cancer-fighting properties. Research suggests that bitter melon contains certain compounds with cancer-fighting properties.
  • Could decrease cholesterol level. High levels of cholesterol can cause fatty plaque to build up in your arteries, forcing your heart to work harder to pump blood and increasing your risk of heart disease. Several animal studies found that bitter melon may decrease cholesterol levels to support overall heart health.
  • May aid weight loss. Bitter melon makes an excellent addition to a weight loss diet, as it’s low in calories yet high in fiber. It contains approximately 2 grams of fiber in each one-cup (94-gram) serving. Fiber passes through your digestive tract very slowly, helping keep you fuller for longer and reducing hunger and appetite.


Tips To Tame Bitterness Of Karela

Karela can sometimes be too bitter and hence taste unpleasant. So in order to somewhat tame down the bitterness, there are a few things that you can do.

  • Slice the karela and add lots of salt to it. Rub the salt all over and let it sit into it for at least 30 minutes.
  • Wash it thoroughly to get rid of as much salt as possible.
  • Fry the karela in some unrefined rapeseed (or mustard) oil. These oils have a strong flavour which counters and mellows down the sharp taste of karella.
  • Add the karella in any dish that you like. It pairs particularly well with chana daal, onion and minced meat.

Ingredients At a Glance

Note: You can use mustard oil or olive oil instead of rapeseed oil.

Watch the video instructions to easily follow the recipe

Chana Dal-Karela

If you do not like karela, you must not have tried this recipe yet. I bet you will fall in love with it at the first bite.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Soaking time 2 hours
Course Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4


  • Instant Pot or pressure cooker


  • 1 cup (180 grams) chana dal (split chickpeas)
  • 2-3 (180 grams) bitter gourd (karela)
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbsp (60 ml) rapeseed oil (substitute with mustard oil or olive oil)
  • 2 medium (180 grams) onion
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds (saunf)
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (zeera)
  • ½ tsp nigella seeds (kalaunji)
  • 2 black cardamom (badi elaichi)
  • 1 tsp chili flakes (kuti hui laal mirch)
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 cup (200 ml) water
  • ½ tsp salt (or as needed)
  • ½ cup (100 grams) yogurt
  • a handful fresh coriander (optional, for garnish)


  • Thoroughly wash and soak your chana daal for at least 2 hours before starting cooking.
  • Wash and pat dry the bitter gourd. Cut into slices. Check each slice for hard seeds and remove them. It will take some time and effort until you get all the seeds out but you don’t need them in your dish.
  • Once all the seeds have been removed transfer the bitter gourd to a large bowl. Add 2 tsp of salt. Mix thoroughly and rub the salt nicely onto the pieces. Let it sit for at least 30 minutes.
  • Transfer the bitter gourd to a sieve and wash it thoroughly. Try to get rid of as much salt on the surface as possible. Leave it to drain until needed.
  • Peel and dice the onion into small pieces.
  • In a bowl mix all the spices (powdered and whole) and set aside. Do not mix salt into it.
  • Set your Instant Pot to sauté mode (high). Once hot add the oil and the bitter gourd. Fry for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
  • Add the drained (soaked) chana dal, chopped onion and all the spices (except salt). Also add the water and give it a good mix. We are not adding salt at this point because we don’t know how much salt the bitter gourd has retained. We can add salt later.
  • Put the lid on and turn the valve to sealing position. Set to cook on high pressure for 15 minutes. (If cooking in a pressure cooker, put on low heat and pressure cook for 20-25 minutes).
  • Once the timer goes off, release the pressure. Check the dal for doneness by squeezing it on the spatula with your finger. It should be soft without leaving any solid lumps. Also taste check to see if you need more salt.
  • Set the Instant Pot on sauté mode (high). Add more salt if needed (I added ½ tsp). Also add the yogurt. Now cook, stirring frequently until almost all liquid has been absorbed. This step is to ensure that our spices are cooked nicely so they release their aroma and also that our yogurt incorporates into the dish.
  • Once all the liquid has been dried out, you can add water if you prefer your dish with a runnier consistency. I like mine on the dry side. If you do add water at this point, cook it for about 5 minutes before switching it off.
  • Transfer it to a serving dish/bowl and garnish with fresh coriander.
  • Serve with multi-grain roti.


This dish stores well into the fridge for up to 3 days. It’s also super freezer friendly. You can freeze it for up to 3 months.
Keyword bitter gourd recipe, bitter melon recipe, bitter melone rezept, chana daal recipe, chana dal, chana dal karela, Chana dal recipe, indian vegetarian food, indian vegetarian recipes, indisch kochen vegetarisch, Indisch Linsen Rezept, indisch vegetarisch rezept, Indische küche, indische rezepte, indisches essen, rote linsen rezept, Vegetarian recipes, vegetrisch rezept

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating