This #1 Bitter Melon curry recipe delivers full body flavor to your palate

image of Sri Lankan bitter melon curry

Ceylonese Bitter Melon Curry

Bitter melon recipe is one of the specialties in Sri Lankan vegetable curry making. It may not be common to curry this vegetable around the world but can be very flavorful accompaniment to any meals if prepared the right way. Bitter melon or bitter gourds as name suggests has sharp bitter taste, even though they are full of health benefits.

image of Sri Lankan bitter melon curry
Bitter Melon Curry

Some of widely known benefits of bitter melon is helping to regulate blood sugar levels and anticancer properties. Web MD has a detailed article on health benefits of them.

When I am making bitter melons, I always go for Indian variety as much as I can find. There might be little bit more sharpness in flavor but it is best for making this curry in my opinion. If the fruit is not fully ripe but tender with small white seeds, when you cut them open, they are in perfect stage for making curries. they will be less bitter has more bite to them than fully ripe fruits. Pre boiling bitter melon in Malabar tamarind and salt infused water is also a very important step in knocking out some of the sharpness of flavor before making the curry.

image of tender bitter melons
Bitter Melons

Making the curry seasoning powder

The red curry seasoning paste I shared on one of my former posts will be very handy in making this curry in a snap once the prep work of bitter melons is done.

But if you do not, that isn’t a deal braker at all because you could make red curry powder on the spot and use it in curry sauce for the bitter melons. Freshly made curry seasoning can be kept in airtight container for up to 2 months without any change of fragrance and flavor on the shelf. As an added benefit, this curry powder can also use to flavor any green vegetable like, long beans, green beans, okra, aubergines as well.  

in a heavy bottomed skillet, dry roast

  • Two tablespoon of coriander powder
  • Tablespoon of cumin powder
  • 2 tablespoons of Spanish paprika
  • 3 dry red peppers

roast until color becomes deeper and fragrant then remove and set aside to cool.

In the same skillet dry roast

  • Black cumin seeds
  • Fenugreek seeds

Remove and set aside to cool

Again, On the same skillet dry roast one tablespoon of raw white rice and tablespoon of scraped coconut separately until golden and fragrant.

Once cool enough to touch, grind all the roasted seasonings except fenugreek seeds in a spice grinder.

How to make Bitter Melon Curry

Pre boiled bitter melons

Yield: 4 cups

Cooking time: 1 hour


  • 8- 10 bitter melons
  • Tablespoon of vinegar
  • Two tablespoons of salt
  • Teaspoon of turmeric
  • Malabar tamarind
  • 2 tablespoons of roasted red curry seasoning powder
  • One onion
  • One inch piece of ginger
  • Two garlic cloves
  • Coconut flakes
  • Handful of curry leaves
  • Pandan leaves ( inch piece)
  • 3 tablespoons of thick coconut milk
  • Coconut oil
  • Half a teaspoon mustard seeds


  • Clean and cut the bitter melons in to inch and half slices. Add teaspoon of turmeric, vinegar and two tablespoons of salt and Malabar tamarind. Add water just enough to cover bitter melon pieces pre boil on low heat until cooked through. Drain and discard the leftover water (if any)
  • Make the seasoning blend by pureeing boiled Malabar tamarind, red curry seasoning powder, roasted paprika and coconut flakes, onion with coconut milk.
  • Heat 2 tablespoon of coconut oil and add mustard seeds.
  • Add sliced ginger and garlic, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves and Pandan leaves and sauté couple of minutes. Add the seasoning puree and heat through few seconds.
  • Add boiled melon to the sauce and stir well to coat the melons.
  • Cook on low heat for 15 minutes until sauce is thickened up.