June 27, 2021

Pavakkai Pitlai | Paakarkai Pitla | Bittergourd Pitla

Share with friends and family

 Paavakkai Pitlai / Pitla is one of the unique and traditional recipes from the kitchens of Tamil Nadu. As close as it may resemble a Sambar , it is totally different in terms of taste and flavor . This recipe is very common and also a rustic recipe from the Tamil Brahmin cuisine.

Pitlai is invariably made with either Bittergourd (Pavakkai) or Brinjal (katthirikkai) . Boiled chickpeas or groundnuts are mostly added to the pitlai to give the extra crunch . In today's recipe i have added boiled brown chickpeas.

Till now I haven't heard or seen any other vegetables going into the making of Pitlai . Since its an age old traditional recipe,I think most people want to  stick to the ancestral recipe and follow to the "T" to relish and savor the actual flavors .

A freshly roasted and ground spice mix is prepared to add to the Pitlai and the amount of tamarind and boiled paruppu /dhall that is used is also less as compared to what goes into a sambar making it taste different from the regular sambar .

Paavakkai Pitlai / pagarkkai Pitla is one of the unique and traditional recipes from the kitchens of Tamil Nadu. Pitla , Pitlai, bittergourd pitlai , paavakkai pitlai , pagarkai pitlai , pahakkai putlai , pitlai

Bittergourd and me have always been in a love hate relationship and hence it doesn't feature much in my kitchen except for Bittergourd Chips and Bittergourd (Haagalkai) Gojju. V loves Paavakkai Pitla a lot and was constantly asking me to prepare it and I had been turning a deaf ear for a long time but one fine day he got me some fresh tender bitter gourd and said "Pls make " and no more could I resist and immediately went ahead and we all enjoyed it for our lunch with some hot rice ,ghee and deep fried Pappads/Appalam.

Linking this recipe to our Food group Shhhh Cooking Secretly challenge where in we fellow bloggers are paired up and exchange 2 ingredients secretly and the others play the guessing game !! 

This month's hostess is Seema an avid blogger at The Mildly Indian who suggested that the star of the recipe be a Bitter ingredient. Seema has a wonderful recipe for Pavakkai Bhajji (Bittergourd Fritters) which will make Bittergourd haters also start loving this vegetable. 

 I was paired with my cousin Kalyani of Sizzling Tastebuds for this month .  Coconut and udad dhall were my secret ingredients while atta/whole wheat flour and ginger were hers with which she has dished out healthy Methi Muthias .

Paavakkai Pitlai / pagarkkai Pitla is one of the unique and traditional recipes from the kitchens of Tamil Nadu. Pitla , Pitlai, bittergourd pitlai , paavakkai pitlai , pagarkai pitlai , pahakkai putlai , pitlai

Preparation Time - 20 mins
Soaking Time - 8 hrs
Cooking Time - 20 mins
Serves - 3 to 4 
Complexity - Medium


1/4 brown chickpeas  or  white chickpeas 
2 medium sized Bittergourd/pavakkai/karela
1/4 cup thick tamarind extract
1/2 boiled and mashed thoor dhall /pigeon peas 
Or 1/2 cup boiled and mashed moong dhall (To be used on Amavasya/Pitrupaksha/ Shraadh ceremony days)
1/4 cup fresh grated  coconut  / frozen coconut at room temperature 
2 tsp oil 
1/4 tsp mustard seeds

To roast and grind 
3 tsp udad dhall
3 tsp channa dhall  (skip for Amavasya/Pitru paksha )
2 tsp dhaniya/corriander seeds
5-6 dry red chillies 
1/4 tsp methi /fenugreek seeds
Few curry leaves 
Pinch of asafoetida 


Preparation of Fresh Spice Mix 

  • In a pan heat 1/2 tsp oil and roast the dhalls till they turn crisp ,followed by the curry leaves,methi seeds,red chillies and corriander seeds . Let it cool
  • Add asafoetida and coarsely powder the ground spices . Keep aside 2 tsp of this dry spice  powder to be added to the pitlai for extra flavor in the end.
  • Add the fresh coconut, little water and grind to a smooth paste. 
Preparation of Paavakkai Pitlai

  • Pressure cook the soaked chick peas with enough salt and water and keep it ready .
  • Chop the head and tail of the Bittergourd,  slit it vertically and de seed. Cut them into medium sized pieces and boil it in salt and turmeric water until 1/2 done . Alternatively you can pressure cook the Bittergourd for just 1 whistle.
  • Add 1 cup water to the tamarind extract plus the cooked Bittergourd and chick peas and bring to a rolling boil until the raw flavor of tamarind is lost . 
  • Add the ground masala paste and cooked dhall/lentils to this tamarind mixture and boil it till all the flavors blend in well and there is no raw flavor of coconut or the dhall. Adjust water if you find the pitlai too thick else there is every chance the masala might stick to the base of the vessel and burn .
  • A spoon of jaggery may also be added which will enhance the taste of the pitlai further 
  • Turn off the stove , add in the reserved dry masala powder to this pitlai and pour a fresh hot seasoning of mustard seeds and asafoetida. (Skip asafoetida for a gluten free version)

Pin it up and share 

Paavakkai Pitlai / pagarkkai Pitla is one of the unique and traditional recipes from the kitchens of Tamil Nadu. Pitla , Pitlai, bittergourd pitlai , paavakkai pitlai , pagarkai pitlai , pahakkai putlai , pitlai



  1. looks super yum! we have bittergourd lovers here too, this looks very similar to what paati used to make. will try, kandippa.

  2. Just the mention of traditional and I'm all alert. Interesting recipe Priya where chickpeas and bitter gourd are used together. But I remember my mum whenever she made brown chickpea curry Gujarati style, she would always make bitter gourd sabji on the side. I'm not a big fan of bitter gourd but am sure hubby will love this pavakkai pitlai.

  3. Pavakkai Pitla is a huge favourite at our place. This is a great way to consume bitter gourd, and a wonderful accompaniment for rice.

  4. This is a very different recipe from those running in my family. I will surely try this pitla recipe.

  5. Pavakkai pitla looks so delicious. The freshly ground masala must have given awesome flavourds to this curry. I have never tried the combo of karela and chickpeas together.

  6. I love Karela and love chickpeas and I am loving this recipe which has both the ingredients.. sounds so rich and flavourful with all the spices going in here. A very new recipe for me which I will love to try soon.

  7. Karela with brown chickpeas and such aromatic spices sounds delicious. Is it something similar to rasavangi ? I make rasavangi with brown chickpeas and tur dal with brinjals. Karela is a nice variation.

  8. Love to find such unique and traditional recipes. I am loving this completely and bookmarking to try soon. Something different to try with karela.

  9. Very interesting recipe. Bitter gourd pitlai sounds absolutely delicious and healthy. All the ground spices definitely makes it flavorful. Always love to try authentic recipes from different cuisine. Now this pitlai is on my list.

  10. I love karela and love the addition of chickpeas in this yum and satisfying curry recipe
    Love the newer way to cook karela pavakkai pitla here I come.

  11. When ever I heard Its a traditional recipe of South India I feel nostalgic. Try to remember my stay at Chennai and the flavours I use to enjoy at my friends place. Karela Pitla is one of them. best thing is now I have a recipe to try thanks for sharing dear.

  12. Chickpeas and karela sounds like an interesting combo. Would definitely love giving this traditional pavakkai Pitlai a try as karela is one of my favorite veggie.

  13. Rafeeda - The Big Sweet ToothJuly 15, 2021 at 11:19 PM

    Just looking at the pitlai gives me an impression that this would be totally aromatic! I love the ground paste and the addition of the peas to make it even more nutritious. I have never tried cooking karela because I don't like it myself, but I think I have to get rid of my inhibition and try cooking it sometime soon... Hehe...

  14. Pavakkai pitla sounds so delicious. Karela and chickpeas make an interesting combo. This is so nutritious and delicious. Would love to fry this sometime.

  15. Firstly loved the combination of bitter gourd and chickpeas Priya, pitla looks very tasty and new recipe to try. Freshly prepared masala paste surely added good taste to pitla.

  16. Pavakkai pitlai is one of the flavorful curry. so healthy and looks so delicious. Love the addition of chickpeas along with karela

  17. Liked the use of chickpea and bitter gourd together here. Liked this traditional dish that you have shared. It is ideal to serve with hot steamed rice.

  18. Pavakkai Pitlai with black chickpea and bitter gourd is a new dish for me. I love the bitterness of bitter gourd and I am going to try this for sure.

  19. Pavakkai pitla looks so tempting and delicious Priya !
    The freshly ground masala must have given awesome flavoursto this.
    chickpea and karela, ahaa mast combo


If you feel your search for the recipe ends here and this blog has helped you with that,please do drop in a word / suggestion ,which will motivate me further to help you guys !!