Go Back
+ servings
Pavakkai Pitlai

Pavakkai Pitlai / Bittergourd Pitlai

Gayathri Vijayakumar
Pavakkai Pitlai is a South Indian kuzhambu variety made using Bittergourd, Dal, Chickpeas and mildly spicy coconut gravy.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 8 hours
Course lunch, Main Course
Cuisine Indian
Servings 4


  • 2 Bittergourd Medium
  • 1/3 cup Toor Dal
  • 1/4 cup Brown Chana
  • Salt as needed
  • 1/4 tsp Turmeric Powder
  • Tamarind small gooseberry sized
  • Jaggery a pinch

For the masala paste

  • 1 tsp Oil
  • 1 tbsp Coriander Seeds
  • 2 tsp Chana Dal
  • 5 Red Chillies
  • 1/4 cup Grated Coconut
  • 5 Fenugreek seeds

For Tempering

  • 1 tsp Sesame Oil
  • 1 tsp Mustard Seeds
  • Asafoetida a pinch
  • Curry Leaves Handful

For garnishing

  • 3 tbsp Coriander Leaves finely chopped


To prepare

  • Soak brown chana overnight and pressure cook for 3 whistles or until soft. It should not be mushy.
  • Pressure cook toor dal for 4 whistles or until done. Mash and keep aside.
  • Cut bittergourd into rounds and discard the seeds. Pressure cook for 3 whistles and keep aside.
  • Soak tamarind in 2 cups of warm water and extract the juice. Discard the tamarind pulp.

Masala Paste

  • In a pan, add a tsp of oil. Once hot, add coriander seeds, chana dal, red chillies. Fry on medium flame till golden brown. Finally, add grated coconut and fenugreek seeds. Saute for a minute and switch off.
  • Once it cools down to room temperature, grind the above ingredients to a smooth paste adding little water.

To make the pitlai

  • In a pan, add a tsp of sesame oil. Once hot, add mustard seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves. Saute for 30 seconds.
  • Add tamarind water, turmeric powder, little salt. Add the bittergourd and cooked chana. Let it boil along with tamarind water till the raw smell of tamarind leaves.
  • Add cooked toor dal and masala paste. Add water if needed.
  • Let it all cook together until pitlai reaches desired consistency. It should be thick. It takes around 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, taste and add adjust salt. Add a pinch of jaggery to balance the taste.
  • Once everything comes together and reaches the desired consistency, garnish with chopped coriander leaves.


The consistency should be slightly thick. 
I usually soak toor dal for 30 mins in warm water and then pressure cook. This helps in cooking faster and also helps in getting a mushy dal. I have also read it helps in better digestion of dal. 
Keyword Bittergourd Kuzhambu, bittergourd pitlai, pavakkai pitlai, pitlai recipe
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!