Wednesday, June 7, 2023

How to Cook Bitter Melon

Learn how to cook with bitter melon, as well as how to eat bitter melon, for flavor and health benefits.

You may have noticed the Asian vegetable bitter melon at the farmers market or even your supermarket, and it’s one that you might want to get to know a little bit better. What is bitter melon? This cucumber-sized vegetable has a white-green bumpy exterior, but you can eat the peel. Bitter melon gets its name for a good reason, it’s really bitter! But you can do a few things to tame its bitter taste, which many people love, by the way. This vegetable in the gourd family is used in China, South America and India as a traditional medicine and delicious ingredient in many dishes. If you’d like to learn more about Chinese foodways, check out the work of my friend and colleague Sherene Chou.

Bitter Melon Nutrition Facts

Bitter melon has been linked to some health benefits, such as glucose lowering benefits, and it also has a rich nutritional profile, which includes vitamins A and C, folate, and fiber, all in a skinny 16 calorie per serving package. Read more about the diabetes benefits of bitter melon in my blog here.

The Bitter Melon Plant

I can find bitter melon at my local farmers market, and it’s so fun to experiment with this unique veggie. The farmer at my farmers market tells me the lighter-colored bitter melons have less bitterness, compared with the deeper green-colored ones.

How to Eat Bitter Melon

In order to remove some of the bitter flavor, you can blanch sliced bitter melon in boiling, lightly salted water for one minute, and then drop in an ice bath before you use it in dishes. I think bitter melon is especially good in Asian dishes, such as stir-fries, egg rolls, and soups.

Follow along with this step-by-step guide for how to cook bitter melon below.

Step-by-Step Guide for Cooking with Bitter Melon

Wash the outside of the bitter melon, but don’t peel it!
Slice the bitter melon in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds from the core with a spoon.
Slice the bitter melon into thin strips.
Cook the bitter melon in lightly salted boiling water for one minute.
Cool it immediately in an ice bath, and then drain off the water.

Put bitter melon to work in this Chinese-inspired Bitter Melon Tofu Stir-Fry, and the subtle bitter flavor will give it just the right kick! You can also try bitter melon in miso soups, stews, and egg rolls. 

For other ways to use plants, check out the following:

How to Cook Kohlrabi
Persimmons 101: Health Benefits, Recipes, and More
How to Use Cherimoya
Health Benefits of Pumpkin Seeds
How to Cook All Greens

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