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Pavakkai Pitlai | Pavakkai Sambar

Pavakkai Pitlai
Pavakkai pitlai also known as pavakkai sambar is a spicy south Indian gravy prepared by cooking bitter gourd with toor dal, spices and tamarind juice. Bitter gourd / Bitter melon is known as Pavakkai in tamil, Kakarakaya in telugu and Karela in hindi. Pavakkai is rich in nutrients and has lot of medicinal uses.  This sambar goes well with rice. The best part of this sambar is no onion, no garlic and no tomato is used in preparing this sambar. Please check below for step by step instructions and pictures for preparing South Indian Pavakkai Sambar.

Preparation Time:     5 mins
Cook Time :                25 mins
Ready in :                   30 mins
Yields :                         4 Servings
Pavakkai Pitlai

Table 1: To fry and grind
Coriander seeds | Dhaniya
2 tsp
Channa dal | Kadalai paruppu
2 tsp
Black pepper | Milagu
1 tsp
Shredded coconut
2 tbsp
Red Chillies
Asafoedita | Perungayam
1/4 tsp

Table 2:
2 tsp
Mustard seeds
1/4 tsp
Curry leaves
Toor Dal | Thuvaram paruppu 
1/4 Cup
Small size Bitter gourd     
Half Lemon Size
1.5 tsp
As needed


  • Wash and soak toor dal for 30 mins.  Wash and cut bitter gourd into small pieces. Remove the seeds. Pressure cook toor dal, bitter gourd and turmeric powder  along with enough water for 3-4 whistles.

Pavakkai PitlaiPavakkai Pitlai

  • Dry roast all the ingredients mentioned in table 1 separately and grind it to smooth paste by adding enough water.

Pavakkai PitlaiPavakkai Pitlai

  • Soak tamarind in hot water for 10 minutes. Squeeze the seeds and fibre to get the tamarind juice. 
                       Pavakkai PitlaiPavakkai Pitlai

  • Heat Oil in a pan. Add mustard and curry leaves. When mustard splutters, add cooked toor dal, bitter gourd. 

Pavakkai PitlaiPavakkai Pitlai

  •  Add grind-ed mixture and fry for a min. Add salt and tamarind juice. 

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  • When sambar boils,add jaggery. Allow sambar to thicken.

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Pavakkai Pitlai
Pavakkai Pitlai

Adjust pepper and red chillies to your taste.
Bitter gourd and toor dal can be cooked separately. In order to speed up the process, I have cooked bitter gourd and toor dal together.


  1. Healthy and delicious pavakkai pitlai.. Looks very comforting.

  2. The gourd in the thick sambar is yummy. Such a wonderful fish is like anytime of the day for us.

  3. simple and flavorful pitlai...looks so good

  4. love this delicious pavakkai pitlai.

  5. Comforting food,i can survive for many days with it.

  6. delicious pitlai....temptingly good :-)

  7. Ahh, one of my favs.. Love to eat pavakkai only in this ;)


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