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Pavakkai puli kuzhambu | Kakarakaya pulusu | Bittergourd gravy without coconut

Pavakkai puli kuzhambu is the tamarind based Bittergourd gravy and called as Kakarakaya pulusu in Andhra.
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Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 30 mins
Total Time 40 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Andhra, South Indian
Servings 6
Calories 180 kcal


  • 2 Bitter gourds
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • ½ tsp split urad dal
  • 1 cup shallots (or red onion)
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • Few curry leaves
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • ¾ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • 2 cups tamarind water
  • small lemon size tamarind
  • 1 tsp salt (as per taste)
  • 1 tbsp rice flour
  • 1 tsp jaggery powder



  • Soak a lemon size tamarind in warm water for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 minutes squeeze and extract two cups of tamarind water. Keep aside.
  • Chop red onion and garlic, set aside. I used red onions due to the unavailability of shallots. Shallots give a better taste to this kakarakaya pulusu (pavakka pulikuzhambu).
  • Wash 2 large or 4 small Bittergourds and chop them thinly. Remove the seeds if they are hard and mature. I use the core flesh only of the bitter gourds that are young and soft.


    How to make bitter gourd less bitter?

    • Heat 2 tbsp of sesame oil in a pan and fry the bitter gourd pieces in medium heat.
    • Saute the pavakkai pieces in oil with 1/2 tsp of salt for around 8 minutes until they shrink in size.
    • The natural juices from the veggie evaporate and get roasted slightly.
    • Transfer the oil-fried bitter gourd pieces into another plate.

    Bittergourd tamarind curry:

    • Next to the same pan with leftover oil add seasonings.
    • Fry 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds and 1/2 tsp split urad dal.
    • Let the mustard seeds splutter and the urad dal becomes light brown color.
    • Add a cup of red onions or shallots and saute well until they become soft and transparent.
    • Add a tbsp of chopped garlic with some fresh curry leaves and saute along with onions.
    • Put a 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder and 3/4 tsp of chilli powder and 1/2 tsp of coriander powder.
    • Saute few seconds and add fried bitter gourd.
    • Next add twp cups of tamarind water, cover with a lid and cook the bitter gourd till soft.
    • It takes around ten minutes to cook them and by the time the tamarind water reduces to half and leaves the raw smell.
    • Add a tsp of crystal Salt as per taste and mix well.
    • When the oil floats on top and sides, add the rice flour mix. To make it just mix a tbsp of rice flour with a quarter cup of water without lumps and add it to the gravy to make it thick.
    • This is a great technique to thicken the gravy and to slightly add blandness to the heavy tang of tamarind. This also helps reduce the bitterness if any passed in the gravy.
    • Add a tbsp of jaggery powder and mix.
    • Let the gravy cook for five more minutes and switch it off.



    1) Adding rice flour mix is to thicken the gravy. If you don't wish to add feel free to skip it.
    2) You can use sambar powder(1.5tsp) in place of chilli powder (3/4tsp). In that case, skip coriander powder and reduce the number of fenugreek seeds (1/4tsp), as sambar powder itself has coriander and fenugreek in it.
    3) Make sure to cook the tamarind water well for atleast 10mins till it thickens and reduces in quantity.


    Calories: 180kcal
    Keyword Andhra style bitter gourd gravy, bittergourd tamarind gravy without coconut, how to make bittergourd tamarind gravy, kakarakaya pulusu, pavakka puli kulambu, Pavakkai puli kuzhambu
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