How to Prepare and Cook Bitter Melon (5 Methods)

If you’re new to bitter melons and want to learn how to use it in your cooking, this guide is the perfect place to begin. Learn how to prepare and cook bitter melon with the amazing tips I’ve shared below.

How to prepare bitter melon

One of the most uniquely flavored vegetables I’ve ever cooked has to be the bitter melon. Its wrinkly exterior isn’t much to look at and the very bitter flavor can be intense, especially if you’re new to that flavor profile.

So why do we eat it? Well some people happen to love it! In fact those who do actually crave and enjoy the bitterness. It can actually be a pleasant addition to many recipes when balanced with other flavors like spice, fat, salt, and acid.

The key is learning how to prepare and cook bitter melon so you can enjoy the bitterness in a delicious way, and that’s exactly what I hope this guide will help you discover!

What is Bitter Melon?

Bitter melons are members of the Cucurbit family. You’re probably more familiar with its cousins, cucumbers, summer squash, and melons.

There are different varieties, some with ridges, and others covered in wart-like bumps or spikes.

Karela (commonly called bitter melon)

It’s popular in African, Asian, and Indian cuisines, and may be sold as karela, bitter gourd, or ampalaya.

No matter the appearance or name, you can count on that bitter flavor. The outside is crunchy, and the interior is wet and crisp like a cucumber.

Health Benefits

It’s actually the notable health benefits that usually drive people to eat their first bitter melon.

It’s high in Vitamin C, containing nearly all of your daily value in one single serving. It also contains good levels of Vitamin A, folate, and fiber, while being low in calories.

It’s believed to help regulate blood sugar, reduce obesity and inflammation, promote good heart health, lower cholesterol, and even be good for your eyes and skin.

Whole and halved bitter melons

Where and When to Buy It

In many Asian, Indian, or other ethnic markets you can find bitter melon all year long. But during the peak summer season it may be available at farmers markets or local grocery stores too.

When picking them, opt for smaller squashes which are often less bitter. They should be a pale green and firm like a cucumber, with no soft or slimy spots.


Once purchased, bitter melon doesn’t keep for long. Wrap them tightly and keep them in the vegetable drawer of your refrigerator for up to 5 days. Wait to wash or slice them until you’re ready to cook.

How to prepare bitter gourd

How to Prepare Bitter Melon

You can actually eat bitter melon raw or cooked. The rind, seeds, and flesh are all edible and safe to consume.

But most prefer to cook and prepare it in ways that will help reduce the bitterness before it’s added to recipes.

Bitter gourd cut in half

Simply removing the white pith and the seeds is a quick way to do that. They can be easily scooped out with a spoon, leaving you with just the green exterior.

How to scoop bitter melon

Salting them is another easy approach. Chop them into pieces so the salt can coat as much of the surface as possible and draw out some of the astringency. Let them sit in a colander over a bowl to catch any liquid they release. After an hour, rinse with cold water and dry them.

Sliced bitter gourd

Or you can try blanching. Drop either whole or chopped pieces into a pot of boiling water and let them cook for 1-4 minutes before shocking them in ice water to stop the cooking.

The longer they boil, the less bitter they’ll be, but they’ll also be softer, so cook them according to how you want to use them.

Sliced bitter melon

How to Cook Bitter Melon

When it comes to cooking bitter melon, your options are pretty endless. They can be used in all the same ways you would a zucchini, opo squash, or cucumber.

I have some tips and recommendations to get you started. You can also check out the recipe card at the bottom for a few methods you can try right away.


Adding bitter melon to your favorite spiced and sauced stir fries is a great way to experiment with the flavor.

It’s common to see it cooked with beef, pork, chicken, or tofu, and pairs well with other big flavors like soy sauce, bean paste, oyster sauce, or vinegar.

You can check out a simple bitter melon stir fry with eggs on this post for some inspiration.


Removing the middle part of the bitter melon is common, and stuffing the cavity has become a popular preparation method.

You can check out the pork stuffed bitter melon soup at the bottom of this post, but it’s just as good when stuffed with other veggies, cheese, or protein. Then it can be steamed, baked, pan-fried, stewed, or braised.

Deep Fried

Like most things, it’s delicious deep fried too. A popular Indian preparation is to coat bitter melon slices in a spiced batter or flour and fry them until they become crisp, golden bitter melon chips.

Bitter melon curry


One of my favorite preparations is curry. My recipe for coconut bitter melon curry uses lime juice, fish sauce, Thai curry paste, and the bitterness from the melon to develop big layers of flavor that are really satisfying.

But you can find recipes for Indian, Japanese, or other Asian style curries too so there’s lots to experiment with.


Finally, you can try enjoying bitter melon in a salad. It’s often still salted or blanched first, but then added to salads cold. This simple tofu bitter melon salad is a great place to start.

With all the tips here on how to prepare and cook bitter melon, I hope you’re inspired and excited to get experimenting. It’s a unique vegetable to add to your home cooking that can deliver some really tasty results.

How to cook bitter melon featured photo

How to Cook Bitter Melon

Try two different ways of cooking bitter melon – stir-frying or making a soup with stuffed bitter melon.
Print Pin Rate
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 2 people
Calories: 207kcal
Author: Jovita | Yummy Addiction


Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Eggs

  • 2 eggs
  • a few dashes of soy sauce
  • ground white pepper , to taste
  • ½ lb. (225g) bitter melon
  • sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons oil

Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup

  • ½ lb. (225g) ground pork
  • 2 cloves garlic , minced
  • ½ small onion , finely chopped
  • pinch ground white pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon coconut sugar
  • 2 bitter melons
  • 2 quarts chicken or pork broth
  • Toppings:
  • fresh cilantro
  • fish sauce or soy sauce


Bitter Melon Stir-Fry with Eggs

  • Beat the eggs with soy sauce and black pepper and set aside.
  • Rinse the bitter melon and cut in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scrape out the seeds and all white pith. Cut into thin slices.
  • (Optional) If you want to reduce the bitterness, place the slices in a colander and toss with some salt. Leave for 1 hour.
  • Heat the oil in a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the bitter melon and stir fry until it starts to soften. Add the eggs and scramble until cooked to your liking.

Stuffed Bitter Melon Soup

  • Mix the pork, garlic, onion, white pepper, fish sauce and coconut sugar in a bowl. Set aside.
  • (Optional) Blanch the bitter melons in boiling water for 1 minute to reduce the bitterness. Remove from water and let cool.
  • Slice the melons crosswise into 1-1½-inch pieces. Using a spoon or a knife, core out the white pith and seeds from all the pieces.
  • Stuff the pork mixture into each piece. Bring the broth to a boil in a pot and add the stuffed bitter melon pieces. Reduce the heat and simmer 15-20 minutes, until the meat is cooked through and the bitter melon is tender.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls and add some fish or soy sauce to taste. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves. Serve with cooked rice on the side.


The stuffed bitter melon recipe is adapted from “The Thai Soup Secret” by Craig Fear.


Calories: 207kcal | Carbohydrates: 4.2g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 18.8g | Cholesterol: 186mg | Sodium: 73.3mg | Sugar: 0.2g
Course: main dish
Cuisine: asian
Keyword: bitter melon stir fry, how to cook bitter melon
Nutrition Facts
How to Cook Bitter Melon
Amount Per Serving
Calories 207 Calories from Fat 169
% Daily Value*
Fat 18.8g29%
Cholesterol 186mg62%
Sodium 73.3mg3%
Carbohydrates 4.2g1%
Sugar 0.2g0%
Protein 7g14%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


  • Chef Mimi
    January 28, 2023 at 2:48 pm

    Boy does this bring back memories. My mother, during her long Chinese phase, made wintermelon soup. I remember being very skeptical, but loved it!

  • julie
    July 22, 2023 at 9:04 pm

    Thanks for this, I just bought my first bitter melon at the farmer’s market – only because they just looked so interesting! Glad to have some ideas of what to do with it now.


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