Getting rid of the bitter taste of bitter gourd / melon (ampalaya)

I’ll be very honest with you: I’m not a fan of ampalaya. I had an uncle who forced my cousins and I to eat ampalaya when we were young and it was very traumatic for me. My youngest cousin, six years younger than me, would soaked her share of ampalaya in patis (fish sauce) to drown out the bitterness. My solution was to drink lots of water with every mouthful of ampalaya. As an adult, even after all the marketing bombardment (that came with the development of ampalaya tablets and tea) about its health benefits, I still didn’t develop an acquired taste for it although all the oldies said it would come if I would just eat ampalaya on a regular basis.

casaveneracion.com bitter gourd sliced in half lengthwise

I’m still trying. And after watching so many cooking shows where chefs sprinkle eggplants with salt to supposedly draw out the bitter juices (Eggplants are bitter? These people haven’t eaten ampalaya!), I decided to use the same technique to remove the bitterness of the ampalaya. Sounds more logical than precooking the ampalaya in salted water which would result in too much loss of nutrients.

casaveneracion.com scraping off the seeds of the bitter gourd/melon

First, trim the ampalaya by cutting off both ends. Cut in half lengthwise. With a sturdy spoon, scape off the seeds and membranes. Cut into 1/4 inch slices, or thinner if you can manage it.

casaveneracion.com adding salt to sliced bitter gourd

Place the sliced ampalaya in a bowl and sprinkle generously with salt.

casaveneracion.com salted bitter gourd

Toss to coat every piece of ampalaya with salt. Leave for at least 30 minutes. Squeeze out the juices, rinse and drain. Use in your preferred ampalaya dish.

The technique works — but only up to a certain point. A certain (though, I must admit, quite tolerable) amount of bitterness remains.



Comments

  1. says

    Hi Ms. Connie, another way my mom taught me to soak the ampalaya in water and salt for about an hour then drain it using a strainer. It works very well for me kasi I didnt like ampalaya din before eh. Namiss ko tuloy ang ampalaya dahil hindi sya available dito.

  2. A says

    Miss Connie, you should try to scrape off ALL the white pith inside. The pith adds tremendously to the bitterness. A caveat: it’s actually the bitterness that adds to the ampalaya’s anti-diabetic properties, it’s the enzymes in the plant. But even without the enzymes, ampalaya can still provide nutrients, although it wouldn’t be as potent. :P

  3. says

    I love ampalaya, even if it’s very bitter. I taught myself how to eat ampalaya years before. I ate it for a week – breakfast, lunch and dinner! Yup! It grows on you actually. I munch on it at dinner, kahit steamed lang with a hint of calamansi. Yum :)

  4. peterb says

    twopenneth, i also do that with the ampalaya.

    Connie, it doesn’t completely get rid of the bitterness but is reduced significantly. For me, I think it’s more of psychological..i still can’t eat it without drinking lots of water. The only time i ate ampalaya without drowning it in water was when i attended a party and they served it with shrimps as a salad. The ampalaya was sliced thinly then soaked in salted ice water before being washed and drained.

    Gay, wow…you thought yourself? I wonder if i can ever do that. Just thinking about it eh umaayaw na ko! Steamed w/ calamansi sounds interesting though. :)

    • says

      Idol si Gay, eh?

      I’m thinking of combining ampalaya with other (non-traditional) ingredients. You know, flavors that will blend with the bitterness so that even if it’s still there, it’ll be more palatable.

      • says

        Haha… it grows on you really. I taught myself to eat way back in the late 90s, I was still in Iligan and a kilo cost only seven pesos!

  5. susan says

    hi connie,

    aside from scraping off ALL the white pith (it is indeed the white pith that gives the bitterness taste), when buying the ampalaya, choose the ones with the BIGGER kulubot. the smaller the kulubots, the more bitter they are. and the darker the color, the more bitter they also are.

    when i want to have the bitterness in my pinakbet, i use the smaller, darker green and smaller kulubot kind of ampalaya. when i want to make regular sauteed ampalaya with egg, etc., i choose the larger, lighter color and with big kulubot kind.

    still on ampalaya, have you tried using ampalaya leaves on sauteed monggo? masarap siya. madali rin lang magtanim ng ampalaya. and since you have a big garden, pwede mo na siya itanim sa kahit na anong lugar na may aakyatan yung ampalaya vine. kapag tumutubo na yung ampalaya, they are nice to look at kasi they will have yellow flowers which will eventually become the ampalaya.

    have a nice day!

      • A says

        Actually I agree with Miss Susan. The Chinese ampalaya (white in color and with bigger blisters, as in mukhang bulutong :p) are not as bitter as the ampalaya here. You can serve any ampalaya as a salad as peterb says; chinese-style ampalaya salad has Chinese vinegar, soy sauce and lots of chili-garlic oil (garlic perfumes ampalaya so well), and is served to cut-down the fattiness of pork asado or fried chicken. (Just a suggestion for a unique ampalaya recipe :p)

  6. JoeyTosino says

    ganyan ginagawa ng nanay ko pag nagluluto ng amplaya w/ beef on oyster sauce(con carne ata tawag nya dun).
    so adapt ko rin yun na nasa strainer
    tapos rinse ko sa water
    ako lang kasi kumakain nun sa bahay
    depende rin yata sa ampalaya
    isang beses kasi nung naluto na, wala talagang pait
    its either napiga ko lahat ng pait or sanay na lang siguro dila ko
    although di ko alam yun tungkol sa pait ng makinis at kulubot na ampalaya

  7. susan says

    hello again connie,

    ‘kulubot’ was the only word i could think of to describe the bumps on the skin of the ampalaya. you are correct with the ‘smoother’ skin, kasi kapag malalaki yung kulubot, you will see more ‘smoother skin’.

    and yes, the lighter the shade of green, the less bitter it will be.

  8. bugsybee says

    Hi Connie! Long time I’ve not been here. This post about ampalaya is interesting. I sooo hated ampalaya but when I was diagnosed as diabetic, I had no recourse but to teach myself to cook it and eat it.

    I don’t know if you will find these tips helpful but, to get rid of the bitterness, I try to follow them: (1) don’t choose the one with smooth skin, (2) the lighter it is, the less bitter; (3) slice as thinly as possible; (4) don’t stir when you cook it because stirring draws out the bitterness. Since the bitterness is supposed to be good for diabetics, I don’t squeeze the ampalaya too much so I retain the nutrients.

    Happy Easter to you and family!

  9. peasmom says

    My mother-in-law said that while cooking ampalaya avoid stirring it so much so that it will not get bitter.

  10. susan says

    you got it! that is how i’ve been preparing my ampalaya for the last 20 years and my friends and family are amazed that they can eat it….only in my house.

  11. sam of kuwait! says

    I LOVE AMPALAYA! steam, ginisa, inihaw, on salads, i really dig it! :)
    weird nga siguro ako pero SUPER FAVORITE ko talaga ang AMPALAYA! :D
    growing up as an anemic child, my mother forces me to like this vegetable. as in 7 days in a week, laging may ampalaya dish sa table:( And mind you guys, ang nanay ko pagnagluto nyan, after slicing diretso na sa kawali! wala ng iba pang orasyon! Parang stir fry ang dating, crunchy pa yung ampalaya pag hinain nya sa amin. Mapait, pero tolerable..later on, masarap na sya for me. Hinahanap-hanap ko na sya kahit pa simpleng itlog lang ang sahog good na for me :)

  12. says

    This is what I do and works well with pinakbet and guisado. Drop the ampalaya slices into the pan and simmer WITHOUT stirring until cooked or crisp-tender. That’s it. Wag lang haluin, payo ng sister ko. So far so good. Nakuha nya yang tip na yan mula sa kanilang butihing maid. Try it and let me know if it works for you.

  13. joy says

    hello connie,
    ampalaya reminds me so much of my mom who made me eat it when i was diagnosed as being anemic. since i loved her pickled papaya so much, she thought i would also love if she pickled ampalaya. she assumed right, i loved it. from there my mom made everything ampalaya, ginisa…pinakbet (more ampalaya than not), sinigang etc. and yes she gives the ampalaya a salt bath to purge the bitter taste. funny, but as i grew older i began to love the bitter taste of ampalaya.

  14. Babes says

    Hi connie..after the soaking and squeezing of the ampalaya, i sautee with less stirring then cover til it’s done.

  15. tisha says

    dear ms. connie,

    my mom once made an ampalaya salad. i just remember thinly sliced ampalaya soaked in pineapple juice (the dole or delmonte kind which is pure) with other ingredients. forgot the other ingredients na but it is yummy served cold.

  16. beth sanchez says

    connie, to remove some bitterness,i add rock salt to d cut-up ampalaya n mash it lightly before washing.it works really.di na masyadong mapait.tapos,i saute,garlic,onion n tomatoes n add d ampalaya.when it’s almost done,i add sotanghon!!! sarap din!!

  17. Jenifer says

    Hi Miss Connie!

    One effective way I know to reduce the bitterness of ampalaya. After slicing the ampalaya, don’t let it absorb air. Wag pong pahanginan. Ilagay agad sa tubig then alisin lang sa tubig kapag iluluto na. I bet, this will work! I suggest na wag pigain ang amplaya (don’t squeeze the juice out of it) kasi nababawasan ang sustansya.

  18. says

    The best way to get rid of the bitterness in ampalaya is to slice it and soak it in cold water with a little sugar for a few minutes before cooking. The ampalaya will absorb the sweetness of the sugar. That’s a tip that I got from my dad.

  19. says

    YOU ALL COMPLAIN WITH THAT BITTERNESS.THAT TASTE IS THE MAIN NUTRITION OUR BODY NEEDS IF WE LACK FROM THOSE VITAMINS EVER AVAILABLE WITH THAT SUPER AMPALAYA.WE NEVER SUPPOSED TO PRESS AND DO A LOT OF EFFORT TO REMOVE THOSE SUPER VITAMINS.YOU HATED THE BITTERNESS WHENEVER YOU START CHEWING IT BUT YOU NEVER COMPLAIN FROM THE TASTE OF ANY INTOXICATING LIQUORS WHICH MAKES YOU SICK AND WILL PUT YOU IN TROUBLE IF YOU WILL NOT DRINK MODERATELY.

  20. ghing says

    my lola used to cook ginisang ampalaya with sariwang alamang (the one with a bit bigger shrimps than alamang and no food color), no pork needed, just garlic, onion, tomatoes, sariwang alamang and the sliced ampalaya. no need to add salt because alamang is salty already, try it guys…it’s really good,i think the salty taste of fresh alamang removes the bitter taste. do not stir also the ampalaya until its half cook or done depending on your preference. but for me i like it a little bit crunchy…also choose light green ampalaya because it’s less bitter.

  21. Kiss_dad_cook says

    I tried Connie’s ‘salt and squeeze’ approach and it worked for me, hindi naman totally nawala yung bitter taste nya pero at least nabawasan. Mas madali na pakainin mga babies ko. Thank you, people and keep those cooking tips coming! More Power.

  22. says

    ya im in 6th grade and i have to write a paper about ampalaya. They are very good for you. they lower blood sugar, treat parasites, and much more. I guess it’s safe to say that an ampalaya is kind of like a miracle working plant in some cases.

  23. khadija says

    hey after using salt technique, try gur on it same technique as salt, bitter taste just vanishes , try it

  24. Paul says

    This method is used for most of Japanese cuisine they always squeeze dry the vegetables after you sit them in salt for 25-45mins. So that way you retain as much nutrients as possible and it won’t have a overpowering/ pungent/ strong flavor due to the juices in the plants and most of the juices has strains of starch also it’s mainly just water. So when u bite it not much is taken in at once so you won’t have an overwhelming bitterness as well as in cooking you maintain the texture while not making it too soggy with internal steam. Anyways a good way to counter the bitterness and retain as much nutrients as possible is by adding other ingredients into your dish. Most Asian cuisine use egg which helps, but i found by combining a typical dish like pineapple with tender cut beef and adding in ampalaya helps a lot due to the sweet/sour taste of the pineapple + the natural juices from the beef breaks down the base acid and bitterness of the fruit without losing anything you gain more of a nutritional combination. You can also make a satay of bell pepper 3 different color+ onions+pineapple(cook til soft, let juices exit)+ a bit of vinegar on the onions then add a flavor ingredient like beef(cook with the juices) or simply just add a sauce(ex: soy,maggi,fish) or if u don’t want ur protein. If you do just cook the pineapple first til soft with the beef use the juice in the beef and put the beef aside when it’s cooked to ur liking..Onions, the bell peppers satay separately on high heat constantly toss. You can put a lid on the pineapple and beef let it simmer on very low heat depends how u like the pineapple & beef. I usually drain a portion of the juice and use it for other proteins, chow mein or w/e. You should cut the vegetables in fine 1/2 to 1 inch cubes (the beef too but 3/4 to 5/4 inch) or w/e you like it’ll become like a satay/ salad, but extremely healthy enough nutrients for a week and the bitterness will just be a slight after taste, but mostly drown out. To deal with the after taste i just use tradition method of “Tea” as a palate cleanser. (Black,Green , Chrysanthemum Dried Form no extracts just natural, Oolong tea, and lol my favorite, but not favorable use Listerine!!! after eating). Well this my way i just mess around with it and it’s pretty damn good i eat bitter melon on a weekly basis now.

    • Paul says

      oh i forgot cook the bitter melon with pineapple and beef juice (with the lid on). After just give a quick stir with the other ingredients.

  25. sam says

    well try to use canned tuna in ginisa with ampalaya & i used the technique of soaking in salted water but it would not completely rid of all its bitterness but its manageable & try to use boiled chicken then peeled the flesh then dont throw the juice of the boiled chicken then igisa ampalaya with garlic & onion then add the chicken then the soup then add sugar depends on how sweet you want it to be(of course by this time you have added patis for flavoring) then i thicken the sauce with the remaining soup of the boiled chicken with corn starch then just before you served add an egg then you can simply mix then served

    sam

  26. voi says

    instead of trowing them to trash i stir fry the white pitch in butter toss some seasoning and the result is yummy and delicious food, sarap!!! yum yum try it .

  27. yayi says

    hi ms. connie!
    have you tried cooking amplaya in coconut milk? it’s the only way i can eat this veggy. with lots of siling labuyo. :)

  28. Archana says

    I cook bitter gourd curry with a tiny bit of gur too. The bitterness doesn’t vanish, but it is more palatable and it actually brings it all together, if that makes any sense. So there’s sweet, hot , bitter n sour(with tamarind). It goes amazingly well with Rasam ( curried Tamarind soup?) and rice.

    p.s Connie, your blog makes me laugh every day besides inspiring me to try out new stuff. Love your writing.

  29. tony dee says

    People like green mangoes because it is sour, chile because its hot and ampalaya because its bitter. Its their inherent characteristic that makes them unique. A true blooded Ilocano would not eat Ampalaya if its bland. The more bitter the better.

  30. Connie says

    Not everyone’s an Ilocano. And not everyone eats specific food items for the taste — a lot of people nowadays eat veggies they hate for health reasons.

  31. JayBee says

    Yes, I agree with Ms. Connie. Besides, I’m sure not everyone here drinks alcohol so that comment is not appropriate. Not everyone likes ampalaya, but knowing how much benefit it provides, people are trying to find ways to be able to eat it and like it gradually. :)

  32. Leanne says

    I would really love to learn how to prepare and cook bitter melon, I have high blood sugar and high blood pressure, so a recipe that doesn’t involve adding sugar or salt would be great. Also, I unfortunately only speak english, so it is difficult for me to understand many of the comments. I think the one that sounded the best to me so far was cooking it with beef and pineapple, however, I am not sure what effect that will have on my blood sugars. Any other suggestions, to take the bitterness out. I’m not a big fan of bitter, but would eat it, if I could minimize the bitter taste, and because of its health benefits.

  33. sam says

    If you want the benefits of Bitter gourd without the fuss then try them in capsules i think that’s the best for you

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