This creamy Thai inspired curry balances tons of flavor profiles including bitter, tart, spicy, and sweet. Try this bitter melon curry as a delicious way to enjoy an uncommon vegetable.
Learning how to cook bitter melon has been a really fun experiment for me. It’s a unique flavor, and finding ways to balance it has taken me through some new and exciting bitter melon recipes that have yielded delicious results.
This bitter melon curry is one that I absolutely recommend to anyone. It’s a great way to eat bitter melon because it’s balanced by the salt, spice, acid, and fat of the other ingredients. What you get is a creamy, Thai coconut curry that you’ll find yourself enjoying down to the last bite.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- A great introduction to cooking with bitter melon (also known as bitter gourd)
- Full of creamy, spicy flavors and different textures.
- Healthy fats, vegetarian protein, and veggies make this a healthy summer meal.
- The actual cooking time is less than 30 minutes!
It actually doesn’t take a lot of ingredients to make this curry balanced and delicious. Here’s what I used and my substitution suggestions.
- Bitter Melon – You’ll want several small or medium bitter gourds.
- Salt – I recommend coarse sea salt, which we’ll use to prep the melon.
- Bell Pepper – I like red pepper to add sweetness, but any color you like will work.
- Thai Curry Paste – You can use either red or green Thai curry paste to make this and both will be delicious!
- Coconut Oil – Coconut oil is a healthier fat, but you can use olive or other cooking oils instead.
- Turmeric – I used ½ teaspoon of ground turmeric, but you can substitute ½ tablespoon of freshly grated.
- Coconut Milk – Use a full fat can for best richness, not the type in the carton from the dairy aisle.
- Lime Juice – Freshly squeezed is always best, but bottled juice works well too.
- Fish Sauce – This is a salty, intensely flavored Asian condiment. If you can’t find it, you can substitute soy sauce with a splash of white vinegar.
- Firm Tofu – You want firm or extra firm so it doesn’t fall apart in the curry.
- Tomato – Use a ripe summer tomato for best sweetness.
- Green Onions – Chives would also work.
If you’re nervous about including lots of the bitter melon, just reduce the amount and swap in other veggies. I like bell peppers, but green beans or potatoes are also great.
The key to making a balanced bitter gourd curry is to reduce the bitterness of the melon first. There are a few ways to do it, which you can check out in my guide on how to prepare and cook bitter melon, but for this recipe, we use salt.
Slice the melons and remove the white pith and seeds so you’re left with just the green. Place them in a colander and toss with the salt, making sure they’re all well coated.
Let them sit for an hour over the sink, tossing them occasionally to make sure the salt is well distributed. Then rinse them off and press out the excess water with a clean towel.
Next, start the curry in a large skillet over medium high heat. Melt the coconut oil in it, then add the curry paste and the turmeric. Let them cook for just 30 seconds, or until you can smell the aroma, stirring the whole time.
Pour in the coconut milk and whisk until it comes to a boil, then stir in the lime juice, fish sauce, and pepper and bitter melon slices. Cover and reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking for 5 minutes.
Take the lid off then and keep cooking until the melon is nice and tender, about another 10 minutes or so. Stir in the tofu and diced tomatoes.
Give it a taste and adjust if you need to, then sprinkle with green onions and serve.
Serving and Storage
With the veggies, tofu, and sauce together, this bitter melon curry is perfect as a main dish all on its own, though it’s great with a side of steamed grains like white rice, brown rice, or quinoa.
It can be kept and eaten as leftovers for 1-2 days. Just store it in an airtight, refrigerated container until you’re ready to reheat and enjoy it.
I hope you’ll find the balance of flavors as pleasing as we do. It’s a great way to introduce yourself to bitter melon, and I think you’ll enjoy the way it tastes with spicy, creamy Thai curry flavors. While you’re here, you can also check out any of my other tasty curry recipes too!
- Creamy Chickpea and Spinach Curry
- Bell Pepper Curry with Sweet Potatoes
- Pumpkin, Red Lentil, and Coconut Curry
- Slow Cooker Japanese Beef Curry
Coconut Bitter Melon Curry with Tofu
- 1 lb. (450g) bitter melon
- Salt , to taste
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste (green curry paste also can be used)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 ¾ cups (400ml) full-fat coconut milk
- 1 red bell pepper , cut into strips
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 8 oz. (225g) firm tofu , diced
- 1 tomato , diced
- 4 green onions , chopped
- Cut the bitter melon lengthwise, discard seeds and soft tissues, and slice into ½-inch slices. Place sliced melon in a colander and toss with some salt. Let the slices sit for at least 30 minutes, tossing occasionally (this helps tore move some of the bitterness).
- Rinse the bitter melon, drain and squeeze dry in paper towel. Set aside.
- Heat the coconut oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Then it is hot, add the curry paste and turmeric. Cook, stirring, about 30 seconds, until mixture is fragrant. Pour in the coconut milk and whisk. Keep whisking until it reaches a boil. Add the bitter melon slices, bell pepper, lime juice, and fish sauce. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove the lid and cook for another 10 minutes, until the bitter melon is tender. Stir in the tofu and tomato, and cook 1-2 minutes more. Sprinkle with green onions, and serve.