Ampalaya Salad Recipe from the Philippines

Ampalaya Salad

Ampalaya Salad Recipe from the Philippines
Region / culture: Philippines | Preparation time: 20 minutes | Cooking time: 0 minutes | Servings: 4


Ampalaya Salad
Ampalaya Salad

Ampalaya Salad, a dish celebrated for its unique blend of flavors, is a testament to the culinary diversity found in traditional and modern kitchens alike. This salad, featuring the bitter melon as its star, is a refreshing and healthful option that challenges the palate while offering a bounty of nutritional benefits. Perfect for those looking to add a bit of adventure to their meal times, this recipe combines the distinct bitterness of ampalaya with the sweetness of shrimp and the tanginess of a homemade vinaigrette, creating a harmonious balance that is both intriguing and delightful.


The use of bitter melon, or ampalaya, in cooking is a practice that spans centuries, with roots deeply embedded in Asian cuisine. This recipe, however, takes a contemporary approach by transforming the traditionally cooked vegetable into a raw, marinated salad. The inclusion of shrimp adds a layer of sophistication, making it a relatively modern adaptation that caters to the evolving palate of today's diners. This salad is a celebration of cultural fusion, showcasing how traditional ingredients can be reimagined to fit contemporary tastes.


How to prepare

  1. Cut the bitter melon (ampalaya) in half lengthwise and remove the white pith and seeds, then cut diagonally.
  2. Mash the bitter melon with salt and squeeze out the bitter juice, then wash thoroughly in running water, squeeze dry, and place in a salad bowl.
  3. Add shrimp and onion to the salad bowl.
  4. Prepare the vinaigrette by combining vinegar, olive oil, sugar, salt, and pepper, then add it to the salad bowl.
  5. Mix well to combine all the ingredients.
  6. Refrigerate the salad to serve it cold.
  7. Garnish with tomato wedges just before serving.


  • For a vegetarian version, omit the shrimp and add tofu or chickpeas for protein. You can also experiment with different types of vinegar in the dressing to alter the flavor profile.

Cooking Tips & Tricks

To reduce the bitterness of the ampalaya, it is crucial to salt and rinse it thoroughly before use. Additionally, letting the salad marinate in the refrigerator allows the flavors to meld beautifully, creating a more cohesive taste experience. For those sensitive to the bitter flavor, a bit more sugar can be added to the vinaigrette to counterbalance the taste.

Serving Suggestions

This salad is best served chilled, making it a refreshing side dish or light main course during warmer months. It pairs beautifully with grilled meats or fish, offering a crisp, flavorful contrast to richer flavors.

Cooking Techniques

The key technique in this recipe is the preparation of the ampalaya, ensuring it is properly salted and rinsed to reduce bitterness. The vinaigrette should be emulsified to create a smooth, cohesive dressing.

Ingredient Substitutions

If bitter melon is not available, cucumber can be used as a substitute, though the flavor profile will change significantly. Lime juice can replace vinegar for a more citrus-forward dressing.

Make Ahead Tips

This salad can be prepared up to a day in advance, with the dressing stored separately and added just before serving to maintain the freshness and crispness of the vegetables.

Presentation Ideas

Serve the salad in a clear bowl to showcase the vibrant colors of the ingredients. Garnish with additional tomato wedges and a sprinkle of sesame seeds for an added touch of elegance.

Pairing Recommendations

Ampalaya Salad pairs wonderfully with white wines that have a hint of sweetness, such as Riesling or Gewürztraminer, to balance the bitterness of the ampalaya.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

This salad is best enjoyed fresh and does not require reheating. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days.

Nutrition Information

Calories per serving

Each serving of this Ampalaya Salad contains approximately 200 calories, making it a light yet nutritious option that can fit into various dietary plans.


This salad is relatively low in carbohydrates, with the primary sources being the onion and the small amount of sugar used in the dressing. The total carbohydrate content is approximately 10 grams per serving, making it an excellent choice for those on low-carb diets.


The olive oil used in the vinaigrette contributes healthy monounsaturated fats to the dish. The total fat content is around 14 grams per serving, with the majority coming from these heart-healthy fats.


Shrimp is an excellent source of lean protein, and this salad provides about 20 grams of protein per serving. This makes it a satisfying option that can help support muscle health and overall body function.

Vitamins and minerals

Bitter melon is a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, vitamin A, potassium, and iron. These nutrients support immune function, vision health, and blood health, among other benefits.


The primary allergen present in this recipe is shrimp, a common shellfish allergen. Those with a shellfish allergy should omit the shrimp or substitute it with a non-allergenic protein source.


Overall, Ampalaya Salad is a nutrient-dense dish that is low in carbohydrates and calories but high in proteins and healthy fats. It also provides a good amount of essential vitamins and minerals, making it a well-rounded addition to any meal plan.


Ampalaya Salad is a vibrant, nutritious dish that brings a unique flavor profile to the table. With its combination of bitter, sweet, and tangy elements, it offers a refreshing take on traditional salads. Rich in proteins, vitamins, and minerals, it's a healthful choice that doesn't sacrifice flavor for nutrition. Whether served as a side or a light main, it's sure to be a memorable part of any meal.

How did I get this recipe?

I recall the feeling of curiosity that washed over me when I found this recipe for Ampalaya Salad. It was many years ago, back when I was just a young girl living in the province with my parents and siblings. My grandmother, who was known for her delicious cooking, had shared the recipe with me after I expressed interest in learning how to make it.

I remember watching her in the kitchen, as she deftly sliced the bitter gourd into thin strips and soaked them in salt water to remove some of the bitterness. She then mixed it with tomatoes, onions, and garlic, and tossed it all together with a sweet and tangy dressing made from vinegar, sugar, and soy sauce. The end result was a refreshing and flavorful salad that complemented our meals perfectly.

As I grew older and started my own family, I continued to make the Ampalaya Salad for them, using the recipe that my grandmother had passed down to me. Over the years, I made a few tweaks here and there, adding my own personal touch to the dish. Sometimes I would add some sliced mangoes for a hint of sweetness, or sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on top for extra crunch.

I remember one particular occasion when I made the Ampalaya Salad for a family gathering. My relatives were impressed by how tasty it was, and they all wanted to know where I had learned to make it. I proudly told them about my grandmother and how she had taught me the recipe when I was just a young girl.

As the years went by, I continued to make the Ampalaya Salad for my family on special occasions and holidays. It became a staple dish that everyone looked forward to, and I was always happy to see their smiles and hear their compliments when they took their first bite. The salad had become a symbol of the love and tradition that I had inherited from my grandmother, and I cherished every moment that I spent making it.

I often think back to those days in the kitchen with my grandmother, watching her cook with such skill and passion. She had a way of making even the simplest dishes taste extraordinary, and I can still remember the aroma of her Ampalaya Salad filling the air as she mixed the ingredients together. It was a scent that brought back memories of laughter, family gatherings, and the joy of sharing a delicious meal with loved ones.

Now, as I sit here in my own kitchen, preparing the Ampalaya Salad for my family once again, I can't help but feel a sense of gratitude for the knowledge and recipes that my grandmother passed down to me. She may no longer be with us, but her spirit lives on in every dish that I cook, and I am proud to carry on her legacy through the food that I share with those around me.

So as I mix the bitter gourd with the tomatoes, onions, and garlic, and drizzle the sweet and tangy dressing over it all, I say a silent thank you to my grandmother for teaching me how to make this delicious Ampalaya Salad. It may just be a simple salad to some, but to me, it is a dish that is filled with love, memories, and the enduring bond between generations. And for that, I will always be grateful.


| Bitter Melon Recipes | Filipino Recipes | Filipino Salads | Shrimp Recipes | Tomato Recipes |

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