Pavakka Achar / Kerala style Bitter Gourd Pickle

Pavakka Achar / Bitter Gourd pickle is a classic Kerala Pickle, spicy, tangy and certainly not bitter! My mom is an expert in preparing Pavakka / Bitter Gourd/ Karela dishes and her Pavakka Achar has been a family favourite since ages. Last time, when she came, we made Pavakka Theeyal, Thoran, Pickle, Pavakka Fry, Pavakka Kichadi etc., with the white Kerala Pavakka we got here. Most people would be put off by the bitterness of this bitter melon, but not Jibu and myself. We just love all Pavakka dishes and mummy’s expert loving hands made sure we relished every tiny morsel.

Bitter Gourd is loaded with nutrients and minerals and is great for diabetes patients, as it has blood sugar controlling properties. Pavakka, also known as Kaipakka and Karela, aids in lowering the cholesterol levels as well. Many people dislike Pavakka beacause of its bitterness; not me! Vinegar in the Pavakka Achar/ Pavakka Pickle controls the bitterness and so, it tastes awesome just like Kadumanga achar/ mango pickle, sweet and sour Dates lime pickle or any other pickle.

I like pickles very much, but restrict the use as it is not very healthy with the amount of oil, salt and spice that goes into it. I store pickle for those days, when you feel like having some comfort food like, plain rice and curd or Kanji with some pickle or Chemmeen Chammanthi, Thenga chammanthi or Chammanthi podi. Well, I would have that comfort food all the time, but, since my kid’s taste buds differ in opinion, I need to prepare varied menu. Bitter gourd Pickle is deliciously spicy and flavorful. Try this wonderful recipe for red Pavakka Achar (I will post recipe for white Pavakka Achaar later) and pep up your meals.

Ingredients for Pavakka Achar

Pavakka / Bitter Gourd: 2 nos. (500 gms approx..)
Mustard: 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds (Uluva): ½ tsp (roasted and powdered)
Ginger: 2” piece
Garlic: 15 – 20cloves
Small onion: 3 pcs
Green chili: 10 – 12 pcs
Curry leaves: 4 sprigs
Turmeric Powder: ½ tsp
Kashmiri Chili Powder: 4 tbsp
Gingely oil: ½ cup + more
Salt: as required
Vinegar: ½ cup +

Step by step recipe for Pavakka Achar

  1. Clean the bitter Gourd (wash thoroughly), remove the seeds and cut into very thin pieces (lengthwise).
  2. Mix this with 1 tsp salt, cover and keep it aside for 15 – 20 minutes or more.
  3. Slice the Garlic and chop the ginger finely.
  4. Slit green chili and slice the small onions.
  5. Squeeze and fry the Pavakka in oil till golden brown and keep aside.
  6. Next, fry the garlic till slightly golden brown, drain and fry ginger and drain.
  7. Now, fry the green chilies till brown and drain, followed by curry leaves and Small onion.
  8. Clear the oil and pop the mustards.
  9. Switch off the flame and add turmeric powder and chilli powder to oil and add salt and roasted Uluva/ Fenugreek powder.

Pavakka Achar / Kerala Style Bitter-gourd Pickle  Pavakka Achar / Kerala Style Bitter-gourd Pickle

  1. Pour the vinegar and bring to a boil. Mix all the fried ingredients and adjust the salt.
  2. If more vinegar, chilli powder or oil is required heat oil  in another pan and add chilli or vinegar and pour to the pickle mix.

Pavakka Achar / Kerala Style Bitter-gourd Pickle Pavakka Achar / Kerala Style Bitter-gourd Pickle

  1. Keep it aside for cooling and transfer it to a glass bottle.
  2. Have Pavakka Achar with rice, curd rice or have it with kanji, payar and chammanthi.


  • Adjust the spices according to your spice level.
  • Green chilly should be medium spicy.
  • White Pavakka / Bitter gourd is best suited for this.
  • Use Kashmiri Chili powder to get that deep red color to the pickle, it is less spicy and appealing!
  • Gingely oil/ Sesame oil is used for this pickle.
  • You may also use whole Uluva (Fenugreek seeds) instead of Uluva powder.
  • Add fruit vinegar or brewed vinegar for less pungent taste.
  • Make sure you have all the ingredients ready before starting the process.
  • Switch off the flame or reduce flame before adding the Chili powder to avoid burning.
  • Combine everything gently. If more vinegar or oil is required, heat in another pan and add to the mix after cooling.
  • Store in air tight containers. Always use dry spoons while serving.

Please try this recipe for Kerala style Bittergourd pickle, and don’t forget to let me know if you like it through comments. Please like my page and share with your friends using the buttons on the side- that would really encourage me. God Bless!!

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