Have you ever tried bitter melon?

As part of my recent trip to the Caribbean I would like feature “Bitter Melon” also called corilla, bitter gourd or karela among many other names. Bitter melon grows throughout the Caribbean, South America and Asia and is an important food source to the locals. In this recipe I refer to this vegetable as either bitter melon or corilla. As the name reveals it is very bitter, yet packed with powerful medicinal properties. Corilla has been studied all over the world for its beneficial health properties, yet it has not gotten the respect in the western world the way broccoli is looked at. I think this vegetable deserves much more attention and respect.

In fact bitter melon is so powerful, that people in the Caribbean and Asia  using it as a folk remedy to treat and prevent chicken pox, measles, malaria and HIV. Studies have confirmed that corilla has anti malaria properties; however studies of humans have not been released. Studies conducted by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have shown that bitter melon could be used to treat certain cancers, diabetes, Aids, fever and infections. Although the cancer institute is warning that this vegetable shouldn’t be used as a medical substitute to treat any sickness.

Bitter melon from my garden

Bitter melon from my garden

Bitter Melon – Medicine or Vegetable?

We are learning now what other cultures have discovered many years ago without any laboratories. Bitter melon is a very powerful type of vegetable that indeed needs to be eaten with caution. Pregnant women should not eat bitter melon as this could induce abortion and in the same token it is given to women just before childbirth to ease the pain. How bizarre is that? By the way it is also used to treat painful menstruation. Now I sound like a doctor, who I’m not, but I think it is important to know.  The red seeds (ripe corilla) shouldn’t be feed to children as they “could” be toxic. However when I discussed this topic with my wife; who grew up in the Caribbean, said she and her friends sucked on the red seeds all the time, because they were sweet. Nevertheless, I never use the seeds and discard them whether ripe or green.

Corilla from my garden

Corilla from my garden

Why Corilla?

You probably are saying  why is he featuring this vegetable? Because it helped me in the past to feel good and could probably help anyone who is fighting cancer or diabetes. I was introduced to Corilla 20 years ago in Antigua and since than when I have a chance to eat it I will. That doesn’t mean I eat it every day, but rather once or twice a month. I actually grow bitter melon every summer in my back yard. Maybe I should say my wife is growing it and I reap the benefits :-). It is not the best tasting vegetable, but I feel good eating it.

Cleaning Corilla / Bitter Melon

Cleaning Corilla

Corilla can be cleaned just like melons. The seeds are easily removed with a spoon.

Sliced Bitter Melon

Sliced Bitter Melon


Sautéing Bitter Melon

Sautéing Corilla

Whenever I prepare corilla I usually sauté it with onions and garlic and the juice of a lemon. The lemon actually takes away some of the bitterness.

Bitter Melon served with Garlic and Onions

Bitter Melon served with Garlic and Onions


5.0 from 1 reviews

Sauteed bitter melon (corilla) with garlic and onions
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Vegetarian, Healthy food, Side Dish, Vegan
Serves: 4
  • 4 small corilla, cleaned & seeded
  • 1 large onion, quartered and sliced
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, quartered and sliced
  • Juice from one lemon
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • ½ of vegetable broth
  1. Heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. Keep a little oil for later.
  2. Sautee onions until almost translucent, then add garlic keep stirring.
  3. Add corilla and lemon juice. Let the vegetables caramelize slightly to give it some color and flavor. Season with salt, pepper and add vegetable broth, cover to give it a little steam. Cook corilla until little more than al dente, I don’t like my corilla it too soft. Towards the end add the remaining olive oil and incorporate gently.

Have you ever tried Bitter melon? Do you like it? Let me know. I love your comments.

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  1. I would go a long way here to find an exotic vegetable like that. I think I had better give up before I start but I appreciate your photos and explanations, as always.
    Suzanne Perazzini recently posted..Almond, Coconut & Chocolate Chip Cookies – gluten-freeMy Profile

  2. I always appreciate your comments, thanks for your kinds words. If I wouldn’t have lived in the Caribbean I would have never found out about bitter melon.
    Frank Kraemer recently posted..About Island Time & Dining Options on St. ThomasMy Profile

  3. I love bitter melon. It’s so tasty but alas not everyone is a fan because it is bitter. I love experimenting with all kinds of flavors. In Indian cooking, we use bitter melons a lot but it’s of another variety. It’s called Karela; I think it’s a little more bitter. Also, it’s dark green, more bumpy and skinnier. Do you know the vegetable I’m speaking of? We cook Karela in variety of ways: stuffed, steamed and fried. I think we cooked with Corilla before as it’s sold in our ethnic food store. It’s also pretty good.

    I like your recipe because you kept it simple. I’ll have to look into this.
    Jahnavi @ Indian Khana Made Easy recently posted..Karela is the New Kraze!My Profile

    • Thanks Jahnavi,

      I agree with you it’s not everyone’s flavor, however we call it Karela, too. I think we talk about the same vegetable here. All varieties grow in different colors and shapes. I like your recipe ideas such as the stuffed karela.

      Best Regards,

      Frank Kraemer recently posted..Healthy Tomato Crostini Three WaysMy Profile

  4. Nice to know so many benefits of bittergourd also I loved the fresh bittergourd hanging on the plant… nice pics

  5. Thanks Maria, I love to grow bittergourd / karela in my garden. They grow like wildfire 🙂
    Frank Kraemer recently posted..Healthy Tomato Crostini Three WaysMy Profile

  6. I love bitter corilla. I eat it quite often. I also put the leaves in water and boil it. I allow it to cool then drain it and drink the bitter water.

  7. I really like it when individuals get together and share thoughts. What a great post about bitter melon.
    Great food blog, keep it up!

  8. Stephanie says:

    Hi, haven’t tried this recipe yet but chanced upon your blog by accident. I remembered this growing up as a child in St. Lucia, we used to drink it every summer as our local coolin (detox). Thanks for reminding me of the wonders of the local plants and bush medicine we used to drink back home. I love the pictures, fresh and vibrant colours.