Stuffed bitter melon, also known as bharwa karela is an Indian side dish that can be served with Indian meals. Karela, also known as bitter gourd or bitter melon, is low in calories and high in vitamins and minerals.
This is an easy vegan and gluten-free air fryer stuffed karela recipe made with a filling of besan or chickpeas flour. Although it might sound like stuffed karela would be bitter, it turns out flavorful and delicious!
To make bharwa karela you will need fresh bitter melons. You can find them easily in Indian grocery stores. I have used the small size bitter melons of about 4 inches in length. You can use a bigger size but it can take a little longer to cook.
For the filling, you will need besan or chickpeas flour and a few basic spices like turmeric powder, red chili powder, salt, dry mango powder known as amchur, and some sugar to balance the bitterness.
A little oil is needed to cook the stuffing and to spray while cooking the stuffed karela in the air fryer.
The process of making stuffed bitter gourd recipe is a little elaborate but yet simple. First, you will have to peel the bitter melons with a vegetable peeler and cut both ends. Then slit the karela across its length with a knife to scoop out all the seeds.
In a small mixing bowl add the peels, seeds, and some salt. Rub some salt inside and outside of the peeled karelas. Let them rest for about 10 minutes. Rinse the peels, seeds, and bitter gourd with cold water to get rid of any salt. This step will help reduce the overall bitterness.
Heat a pan on medium low flame and add some oil. When the oil is hot, add the karela peels and seeds and saute it. Add besan and the spices and saute well for a few minutes. Continue to cook until the raw taste of besan is gone. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool down.
Once the stuffing has cooled down, stuff it inside the karela with the help of a spoon. Optionally, you can tie a thread around the stuffed karelas so that then do not open up while cooking. I have not tied them though.
Coat the karela with oil using a basting brush and air fry them in a preheated air fryer at a temperature of 390°F for about 10-12 minutes. After about 5-6 minutes, spray some oil on the top and the sides of the stuffed karela. Continue to air fry for the remaining time.
With the help of a fork check that the outer skin of karela is tender. This is a good sign that the karela are well cooked. Transfer them to a serving plate using kitchen tongs.
Stuffed karela is served as a side dish with Indian meals. It goes well with Indian bread like roti, puri, or paratha. It is also eaten with dal and rice.
This is a vegan and gluten-free Indian style stuffed bitter melon recipe without onion, ginger, or garlic. You can adapt it to your liking.
- Spicy - add more chili powder to make it more spicy.
- Sugar - sugar is added to balance the bitter taste but you can skip it.
I have made these stuffed karela in the 4 qt. Instant Vortex Plus Air Fryer. They can be made in any type of air fryer, be it basket style or tray style, or any size.
Depending on your air fryer and the number of stuffed bitter gourds you want to cook, you may have to air fry them in multiple batches.
It is best to consume the air fryer stuffed karela on the day you make them. However, any leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. You can reheat them in the microwave before serving.
Applying salt on the bitter melon for 5-10 minutes reduce its bitterness.
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Stuffed Bitter Gourd | Bharwa Karela
- 4 Bitter melon (karela) (fresh, small size, 4 inch length)
- 1 tablespoon Oil (sprayer)
- 1 ½ tablespoon Oil
- ¼ cup Besan (chickpeas flour)
- ½ teaspoon Salt (to taste, more for applying on the karela)
- ¼ teaspoon Red chili powder (to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon Turmeric powder
- ¼ teaspoon Dry mango powder (amchur)
- 1 teaspoon Sugar
- Peel the bitter gourd with a knife and put them in a bowl.4 Bitter melon (karela)
- Cut the ends and discard them.
- Make a vertical slit but do not cut it in half.
- Scoop out the seeds and put them in the bowl along with the peels.
- Add some salt to the peels and seeds and mix well.
- Apply salt inside and outside of the slit karela.
- Let them rest for 10 minutes.
- Rinse the peels and seeds well with water to remove the salt.
- Rinse the karela with water from the inside and outsides to get rid of the salt.
- Pat dry the karela with a kitchen towel.
Preparing the spice mix
- Heat a skillet on medium flame.
- Add oil, once oil is hot, add the karela peels and seeds.
- Saute for a few seconds and then add all the spices, salt, sugar, and besan.½ teaspoon Salt, ¼ teaspoon Red chili powder, ¼ teaspoon Turmeric powder, ¼ teaspoon Dry mango powder, 1 teaspoon Sugar, ¼ cup Besan
- Saute for a few minutes until the besan is well cooked and does not taste raw. The mixture will have a nice aroma.
- Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool down.
- Stuff the mixture inside the slit karela with a spoon.
- Continue for all the karela.
Air fry stuffed karela
- Preheat air fryer to 390°F
- Apply oil on the karela on all the sides with a basting brush or oil sprayer.
- Place the stuffed karela in the preheated air fryer.
- Cook for about 10-11 minutes at 390°F.
- After 5-6 minutes spray some oil on the karela and the filling using an oil sprayer.
- Continue air frying for the remaining time.
- Check for doneness by cutting the karela with a spoon or fork.
- Transfer the stuffed karela to a serving dish.
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