Pavakka Theeyal / Bittergourd Theeyal

Pavakka Theeyal – is an amazing dish prepared with Bitter Gourd/ Pavakka in a spicy, roasted Coconut and Tamarind gravy. Theeyal is a classic dish in Kerala and is made with most of the vegetables like Pearl Onion (Ulli Theeyal), Pavakka, Brinjal, Yam, Padavalanga (Snake Gourd) etc. and is even made with Prawns. In some places, it is included in traditional sadhya, a great vegetarian spread with a variety of dishes like Parippu curry, Avial, Sambar, Kalan, Olan, Pulissery, Pineapple Munthiri pachadi, Vellarikka Pachadi, Kichadi, Erissery, Inji Curry, Thoran, Koottu curry, Papad, Mango Pickle, Crisps, Payasam, Pradhaman etc.

This whole week, I was enjoying my Mom’s Pavakka dishes and traditional dishes like Meatball curry and Veppilakkatti. It was like Pavakka festival here. She came with fresh white Kerala Pavakka/ Bitter Gourd, and we divided the lot to make Pavakka TheeyaL, Pavakka thoran, Pavakka Fry, Pavakka Pachadi and Pavakka pickle. Jibu loves all Pavakka dishes – especially Pavakka Thoran and Pavakka Theeyal. My home was filled with the tempting aroma of roasted spices and coconut after making Pavakka Theeyal and mom’s special touch made it even more delicious!

Pavakka / Bitter Gourd has multiple health benefits. It has many vitamins and minerals essential for a healthy diet, controls Blood Sugar and improves immunity. I tried to make my kids eat this wonder vegetable, but they were not very keen because of its bitter taste. Tried to tempt them with the rich brown gravy of Pavakka Theeyal, but they refused to budge. The only thing that interested them was the crispy Pavakka fry with plenty of fried onions and coconut strips. Well, I can only hope their taste buds improve to match my enthusiasm.! You should also try my Brinjal curry, Kadachakka Mappas, Vendakka Mappas etc. all great vegetarian side dishes for rice..

Try this classic Pavakka theeyal and enjoy a great meal. Wishing you all a healthy appetite!!

Ingredients :

Pavakka / Bitter Gourd: 1 ½ cup
Green chili: 2 or 3nos.
Small Onion/ Shallots: 6 – 8 nos.
Coconut scraped: 1 ½ cup
Coriander Powder: 1 ¼ tbsp
Chilli Powder: 2 tsp
Turmeric Powder: ½ tsp
Tamarind (Valan Puli): little (lime size)
Mustard: ¼ tsp
Red dry Chili: 2 nos.
Curry leaves: few
Coconut oil: as required

Step by step recipe for Pavakka Theeyal

  1. Soak Pavakka in salt water after washing thoroughly to get rid of all pesticides.
  2. Cut Pavakka into thin strips, add a few chopped small onions, two slit green chilies, curry leaves and salt and mix well.
  3. In a pan, heat 1 tsp coconut oil and cook this covered without any water. Stir in between.


  1. Soak the Tamarind in a glass of water and extract juice.
  2. Heat 1 tsp coconut oil in another Kadai, roast the scraped coconut (grind the coconut slightly to make it even) till it gets a nice dark brown color.
  3. Add Coriander Powder, Chili Powder and turmeric powder.
  4. Switch off the flame and continue stirring for few seconds to avoid burning.
  5. When it is cool, grind to a fine paste. Do not add water.
  6. Add this paste to the cooked Pavakka, together with most of the tamarind water. Combine well and bring to a boil.

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  1. Adjust the salt, sourness and add a small pinch of sugar if necessary to balance the flavors.
  2. Check the gravy consistency and if required add little more water.
  3. Heat coconut oil in a kadai, crackle mustards, round cut green chilies, chopped small onions, curry leaves and red chili.

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  1. Garnish Pavakka Theeyal with this and enjoy with rice!


  • Pavakka should be thinly sliced. Mix with salt immediately after cutting.
  • Do not add water while cooking Pavakka. Stir in between to avoid sticking to the pan.
  • Use coconut oil for authentic traditional taste.
  • Grind the scraped coconut slightly. This ensures that coconut is roasted perfectly and evenly.
  • Keep the spices ready and after mixing, immediately switch off the flame to avoid burning!
  • Do not add water while grinding the roasted coconut. Scrape the sides and continue grinding till the oil oozes out and make a fine paste.
  • You can add a small pinch of sugar to balance the flavors.

Hope you liked this Kerala style Pavakka Theeyal recipe. It would really motivate me if you will send me your comments or share with friends through the share buttons below. God Bless!

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