About Me

Hi, I’m Justyna. I’m a recipe creator and food photographer based in London. I create easy vegan recipes, mostly inspired by South Asian flavours. My Instagram handle: @justynamanjari

Karela Chana Dal Curry (Bitter Melon Lentil Curry)

  • Prep Time

    20 Minute

  • Cooking Time

    30 Minute

  • Serving


  • Vegan
  • South Asian
  • Main course

In this Pakistani-inspired recipe karela and chana dal are cooked in rich tomato onion garlic sauce and the bitterness of bitter gourd is balanced with chana dal and a lot of spices. I hope after trying this vegan bitter melon recipe, you will be obsessed with this fascinating Asian vegetable, as much as I am!


Preparation: Soak chana dal (lentils) for at least an hour. Rinse thoroughly two to three times.

Prepare Karela (bitter melon) Cut tails off, scrape a bit of skin off with a potato peeler and then cut each bitter gourd fruit in half lengthwise and then scoop out seeds and spongy core either with a spoon or your fingers. Now cut the bitter gourd halves into thin half-moons. Set cut Karela aside for 20-30 minutes. Sprinkle it with a generous amount of salt so it releases liquid. This preparation will make it taste less bitter.

Cook chana dal on low flame for about 20-25 minutes, until cooked through but not mushy (good to know: you can add 1/3 tsp bicarbonate soda to the chana dal so it cooks a bit faster). Drain and rinse in cold water. Set aside.
Dice onions and tomatoes. Crush ginger and garlic.

Sauté onions, ginger and garlic and all spices (apart from dry fenugreek leaves and garam masala powder which you will at in the end) in a bit of olive oil for 5 minutes.

Add chopped tomatoes and sauté for a few minutes, until tomatoes melt.
Add cooked chana dal and 1 cup of water to the sauce and cook on low heat for 5 minutes.

Rinse karela thoroughly and add it to the pot.

Add 3 cups of water (or more) so the sauce covers everything. . Cook on a low light for 12 minutes or so, until karela is nearly cooked. Stir occasionally but not too much. Add dried methi leaves, garam masala powder and two handfuls of chopped fresh coriander and simmer for few more minutes.

It’s ready! Serve garnished with fresh chopped coriander, chilli flakes and julienned fresh ginger. Tastes great with basmati rice and wholewheat rotis.

Serve with a selection of pickles, always!


  • 1 and 1/2 cup chana dal
  • 4 medium karelas (about 350g – 450g)
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • a 1-inch long piece of fresh ginger (1 tbsp of finely chopped ginger)
  • 1 and 1/3 coriander powder
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 3 cloves
  • 8 black peppercorns
  • 1/3 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 cinnamon stick (dalchini) or 1/3 cinnamon powder
  • 1–2 green chillies, chopped (as you like; also – careful with bird’s eye chillies – they’re really hot – you can use milder finger chillies instead)
  • 1/2 tsp dry fenugreek leaves (kasoori methi)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1 and 1/3 tsp Himalayan salt (or to taste)
  • fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 5 cups of water
  • To garnish: fresh coriander, finely chopped red chilli flakes julienned fresh ginger (cut into very thin matchsticks)