Pavakkai Pitlai

Pavakkai Pitlai

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Recipe by S Kamala Course: GraviesCuisine: Indian, TamilDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking time



A popular recipe made with bitter gourd (pavakkai) paired with rice


  • Bitter gourd – 3 Nos (Medium size)

  • Thuvar dhal – ½ cup

  • Grated Coconut -1/2 cup

  • Tamarind – small lemon size ball

  • Red chillies long – 4 Nos

  • Coriander Seeds – 2 tablespoon

  • Urad dhal-1 teaspoon

  • Bengal gram dhal – 3 tablespoon

  • Black Pepper – 1 teaspoon

  • Jeera-1 teaspoon

  • Turmeric powder – ½ teaspoon

  • salt-2 teaspoon

  • Gingelly Oil – 1 tablespoon

  • Mustard – ½ teaspoon

  • Curry leaves – few


  • Slit the bitter gourds and remove the seeds. Cut it into small pieces. Sprinkle little salt and mix well. Keep it aside.
  • Soak tamarind in water and squeeze out the juice by adding 3 cups of water little by little.
  • Pressure cook the thuvar dhal till soft.
  • In a kadai put a teaspoon of oil and roast Bengal gram dhal, urad dhal, coriander seeds, pepper, jeera and red chillies separately.
  • Add coconut gratings at the end and fry for a while. Remove and cool. Mix all the roasted ingredients and fried coconut grating and grind to a fine paste.
  • Add the tamarind juice in a vessel and add turmeric powder and salt. Bring to boil.
  • When it starts boiling, take a handful of bitter gourd pieces and squeeze out all the water and add to the boiling tamarind juice.
  • Add all the pieces like this. Allow to boil.
  • When the bitter gourd is well cooked, add the ground paste, cooked dhal and mix well.
  • Let it boil for few more minutes. Season it with mustard and curry leaves.
  • Note:
  • If you desire, you can add a small piece of jaggery to lessen the bitterness.


  1. Anonymous

    hi kamala,
    Nice recipe. The recipe is very similar to arachu vitta sambhar. I dont remove the seeds when i use bitter gourd. I have often wondered what the word pitlai means. Any idea?


  2. Hi Anu, Exactly. It is something like arachu vitta sambhar. Only difference is in Pitlai, more vegetables are used and look like kootu. We can use bittergourd with seeds (especially the small one) if it is tender. If the seeds are hard, it is difficult for children and aged to chew the seeds. Hence, I avoid hard seeds. Meaning of Pitlai?? Not sure about direct meaning, but it is a cross between sambar and kootu.

  3. Hi Kamala,

    My mom adds little bit of jaggery towards the end which gives it a slightly different taste from arachu vitta sambhar…..!

  4. Hi Rajeshwari,

    Yes. You are right. For bitter gourd recipes, adding little jaggery will minimise the bitterness. But some people may not like the sweetness, especially when we want to mix with hot rice.

  5. In our home we season first (mustard seads, redchillie, curry leaves) and add either Koothu Kadalai (Dark color garbanzo beans) or Peanuts. Then we fry the pavakkai in oil and then put tamarind juice.

  6. Ravichandran

    This is a tradiitonal Brahmin cookery dish. I tried using half ripe Mango pieces instead of Tamarind and also a pinch of Garam masala with Sambhar powder and it came out good with no bitterness.

  7. Hi Ravichandran,

    Using mango and garam masala is a great idea and I will try this combination. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Anonymous

    for any kinda pitlai, adding groundnuts will be more tastier 🙂 nice recipe.

  9. Hariharan

    Hi kamala-amma

    I tried this with sweet mango with one cup (50ml) of tamrind juice along with all the ingredients as u said it was lip smacking dishes for chappati and ven pongal.

    my mouth is watering as i post it.

  10. Hi kamala

    We used to say this in kerala paavakkai puli
    as all the ingredients same alike sambar only we dont use dhal to this

  11. for pavaka pitlai, we roast the coconut to brown colour and add as seasoning.

  12. Great recipe..! yummy..

  13. In our house we use ground nuts along with bitter gourd. The procedure is the same. Any way nice to see many people sharing it. Keep it up

  14. I may have found a different way to make a paste of the spices. After pan fry dry, Used my coffee blender to a fine power. Added water to it later and the paste was real smooth.

    I like your recipe very well.

    • Thank you Shankar Narayanan for the information. Yes. It is a good idea to powder it first and make a paste, since grinding small quantity to a fine paste in mixie is difficult.

  15. Hi Kamala… We roast the bitter gourd in coconut oil before adding tamarind water, so the crisp-cooked gourd tastes yummy N tangy 🙂

  16. I tried it out and got so many compliments from my family! Thank you for the awesome recipe!

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