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+ servings
Bitter gourd and chick peas in tamarind stew
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5 from 13 votes

Pavakkai Pitlai

Pavakkai Pitlai is a delicious sambhar from South Indian region made exclusively with Bitter gourd. I have added chick peas for added texture and flavor. This is a a wonderful Vegan stew / kootu made with bitter gourd and is served with rice. 
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time1 hr
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: South Indian, Tamil Nadu
Diet: Vegan, Vegetarian
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 136kcal


  • Instant Pot
  • Pressure Cooker
  • Blender


  • 2 or 3 Pavakkai cut in circles with the center removed
  • ½ cup Chick peas soaked overnight and cooked
  • 1 inch Tamarind
  • 1 teaspoon Sambhar powder
  • cup Red gram dal / toor dal
  • 1 teaspoon Mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Black gram dal / urad dal
  • few Curry leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon Asafetida
  • to taste Salt
  • 2 teaspoon Jaggery/brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoon Oil I use gingelly / sesame oil

To fry together

  • 2 teaspoon Coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoon Bengal gram dal / chana dal
  • 1 teaspoon Black gram dal / urad dal
  • 5 Red chilies adjust based on spice level
  • ¼ cup Grated coconut
  • 1 teaspoon Oil


  • Fry all the ingredients needed for the masala paste in a teaspoon of oil and then grind it into a coarse paste adding just a little water. Keep it aside.
  • Cook the toor dal / tuvaram paruppu with a pinch of turmeric powder in a pressure cooker or instant pot until soft and mushy and keep it aside.
  • Dissolve the tamarind in water and extract the juice. Add the sliced bitter gourd / pagarkkai in the tamarind water.
  • Add the sambhar powder, salt and asafetida and let the mixture boil until the raw smell disappears and the bitter gourd cooks half way through(about 10 minutes).
  • Then add the cooked chick peas to the boiling mixture and let it continue to boil until the pavakkai cooks completely.
  • Now add the ground mixture in the pot and mix it well.
  • Add the cooked lentil / paruppu as well and adjust the consistency adding a little water if needed. Remember this pitlai will be slightly thicker in consistency than the sambhar. Also add the jaggery / brown sugar to the pitlai now.
  • Let it simmer for about 5 minutes and then season with mustard seeds, urad dal and curry leaves.


Expert Tips and FAQ's
  • It is very important to remove the center pulp of the bitter gourd. That is where most of the bitterness is and removing it makes it a lot less bitter. Read the section above where I have explained how to clean the bitter gourd.
  • Using chick peas is optional but I would highly recommend using it. You can use canned ones for ease or soak some dry chickpeas overnight and then cook it in the instant pot or pressure cooker. 
  • Using Sambhar powder is optional and you could skip if you don't have it. Make sure to increase the red chilies based on that. 
  • Serve Pavakkai Pitlai with hot rice and dollop and of ghee for best flavors. 


Calories: 136kcal | Carbohydrates: 19g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Sodium: 25mg | Potassium: 325mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 576IU | Vitamin C: 93mg | Calcium: 33mg | Iron: 2mg