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Bitter Melon Delicious Thoran Recipe - The Veggie That Does It All

So, first what is Bitter Melon?  Bitter Melon aka Karela is a vegetable that is used widely in Asia.  In Ayurveda it has been used for thousands of years to treat Diabetes, eye problems, skin problems, liver issues and even Cancer.

The only problem (besides it looking a little strange) is it's REALLY BITTER.  In our Western diet we don't eat a lot of bitter foods.  The closest we get to bitter is perhaps a brussel sprout or arugula in our salad.  If you think those vegetables are bitter, they can't hold a candle to Bitter Melon.  But don't worry, I'm about to give you a very easy delicious recipe to make Bitter Melon really enjoyable to eat!

But why is Bitter so good for us?  Ayurveda explains that each taste affects the Doshas in different ways.  Let's review the Doshas and how they are affected by the six tastes:

Dosha Qualities Action
Vata Light, Moving, Cold Regulation, Elimination, Energy
Pitta Hot, Transformational Metabolism, Heating, Changing
Kapha Heavy, Dull, Sweet, Stable Strength, Immunity, Governs Channels


 Taste Vata Pitta Kapha
Sweet decrease decrease increase
Sour decrease increase increase
Salty decrease increase increase
Pungent increase increase decrease
Bitter increase decrease decrease
Astringent increase decrease decrease


Notice that each Dosha has a different quality.  Here we want to focus on Kapha Dosha.  Kapha is heavy and stable by nature.  But when it goes out of balance we get weight gain, clogged channels (Cholesteral and Atherosclerosis), joint pain and Diabetes.  Kapha is increased by sweet, sour and salty tastes - french fries and ketchup for example.  It is decrased by pungent (hot spicy), bitter and astringent.  

By decreasing Kapha, Bitter Melon cools the liver, reduces fat and sugar metabolism and decreases inflammation.  By improving liver function it alkalizes the blood which reduces skin problems and eye problems.  Since Kapha controls immunity, Bitter Melon helps the immune system and even Cancer.

My problem as an Ayurvedic physician practicing in the United States is convincing my patients to eat this very bitter vegetable.  Fortunately, my wife Prabha had the solution.  In Kerala India where she is from they eat bitter gourd like we eat potatoes.  They sautee it, cook it with other veggeis and even make it in to chips!  I want to share with you a recipe to make delicious Bitter Melon called a Thoran.

Thoran Recipe

Almost any vegetable can be use such as:

  • cabbage
  • beans
  • Indian red spinach
  • beets
  • bitter melon (grated)
  • okra
  • mung daal
  • carrot
  • broccoli
  • regular spinach


  • 2 cups chopped vegetables.
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ tsp whole cumin seed
  • 2 or 3 green chilies (depending how much heat you like)
  • ¼ tsp ginger chopped
  • ¼ tsp turmeric powder
  • ¼ tsp soma salt
  • 1 to 1 ½ tbspn Ghee
  • 1 sprig of Curry Leaves


  1. Heat the ghee in a medium pot or frying pan, add cumin seed and then some curry leaves.
  2. When the cumin is brown add the vegetable and then on top add the shredded coconut.
  3. If vegetable is dry, then sprinkle a little water in the pot.
  4. Cover and steam on medium heat.
  5. Time for cooking varies (just a few minutes for spinach to 35 minutes for mung daal and mung daal will need more water) when the veggie is 75 % cooked, open the lid.
  6. Quickly fry in high heat while mixing altogether for a few minutes, when all the water is evaporated, it should be done.


Dr. Beech