Explore Turkey's Culinary Delights
Discover the rich tapestry of Turkish cuisine with this guide featuring 39 must-try foods. From traditional delights like kebabs and baklava to unique dishes such as manti and iskender, explore the diverse flavours that make Turkey a culinary paradise. Immerse yourself in the gastronomic journey and savour the essence of Turkish dining.
Morning Delights: Turkish Breakfast Culinary Creations
Indulge in the rich tapestry of flavours and traditions as we explore the delightful world of Turkish breakfast culinary creations, where an array of dishes and fresh ingredients converge to create a morning feast that reflects the country's culinary heritage.
A Popular Turkish Dish Anytime (Savouring Menemen)
While traditionally a breakfast delight, menemen's popularity extends throughout the day in Turkey. This savoury dish combines peppers, tomatoes, eggs, and a hint of spice for added flavour, creating a truly addictive treat. Pair it with bread and enjoy alongside a couple of glasses of Turkish tea (cay) for a satisfying culinary experience anytime.
Turkish Sausage and Egg Delight (Indulging in Sucuklu Yumurta)
Sucuklu yumurta, a staple of traditional Turkish breakfasts, features sucuk, a dry, fermented sausage renowned across Turkey. Often served alone or on bread (sucuk ekmek), sucuk is sliced into small, thin pieces and fried. Eggs are cracked over the top, cooked either whole or scrambled. Enjoy this flavorful side dish with fresh bread, embracing the Turkish tradition of eating with your hands.
A Versatile Turkish Culinary Delight (Indulging in Gozleme)
While traditionally a breakfast dish, gozleme's appeal spans throughout the day. This flatbread variation offers a canvas for diverse ingredients; from personal favourites like potato to options like cheese, mincemeat, and spinach.
Seek out the authentically made gozleme, avoiding pre-rolled versions in bakeries. Authentic Turkish preparation involves skilled hands rolling thin dough, expertly cooking it on a large, round, hot plate, providing a truly traditional culinary experience.
An Introduction to Turkish Appetisers and Small Bites
Curious about Turkish cuisine? Delve into a world of culinary delights, with meze taking centre stage as the delectable introduction to a plethora of incredible Turkish dishes.
Roasted Chickpeas in Turkey (Savouring Leblebi)
Turkey's streets come alive with the popularity of street food, with vendors offering the beloved snack known as leblebi. These roasted chickpeas are skillfully seasoned with a blend of spices and salt, and for those with a sweet tooth, a sweet version is also available. As you wander through the streets, indulging in leblebi adds a flavorful and satisfying experience to your culinary adventure in Turkey.
(Exploring Simit) Turkish Bagels in Istanbul
While strolling through Istanbul or any city in Turkey, one can easily spot simit, the Turkish bagels adorned with sunflower seeds. These circular delights pair perfectly with a glass of Turkish tea or cay. For a heartier snack, consider filling your simit with white cheese for an extra burst of flavour.
Turkish Street Food Stuffed Mussels (Savouring Midye Dolmas)
In Turkey, midye, or mussels, take on a delightful twist in the form of midye dolmas—stuffed mussels, often filled with rice or meat. Widely popular as a street food snack, these delectable treats are a common sight everywhere you go. Tradition dictates serving them with a drizzle of fresh lemon over the top, enhancing the flavours of this classic Turkish culinary experience.
Exploring Turkish Meze Delights
Indulging in a Turkish meze plate provides a delightful commencement to any meal, offering a diverse array of flavours for everyone to enjoy.
Typically featuring four to eight distinct meze options, some popular choices include hummus, ezme, tarama salata, dolma, and stuffed grape leaves.
Complemented by pita bread and olives, the key to relishing a Turkish meze plate lies in savouring each bite, making it a perfect opportunity to connect with friends and family over a spread of delicious culinary delights.
Delicious Turkish Stuffed Breads and Pies Await You
Savouring Lahmacun: Turkish Pizza with a Delicious Twist
For pizza enthusiasts seeking a unique twist, lahmacun is a must-try. Cooked in a wood-fired oven until the edges are crispy and irresistibly delicious, this flatbread is traditionally topped with minced meat, such as lamb or ground beef, along with spices and tomatoes.
Enjoy it by rolling it up with salad leaves in the middle and a squeeze of lemon for a delectable treat that will undoubtedly leave you wanting more.
Indulging in Baklava: A Turkish Sweet Delight
While there's debate about baklava's origins, it's a treat widely enjoyed in the Middle East, Balkans, and especially in Turkey. When in Turkey, it's a must-try—enjoy at least a piece (or five) paired with cay or Turkish coffee.
Baklava is a flaky pastry sweet available in various varieties. The traditional option features pistachio nuts and a drizzle of honey. While not the best choice for the waistline, it's undeniably wonderful for the taste buds, making it a delightful Turkish culinary experience.
Indulging in Borek: A Variety of Turkish Pastries Await
Borek, a pastry-type dish, comes in various types, with mincemeat, cheese, potato, and spinach being among the most common. Locals often pair it with tea, but for a sweet treat, try the plain version with sweet pudding sugar sprinkled on top. Borek is typically served for breakfast, but its appeal extends throughout the day, making it a versatile and delightful culinary option.
Exploring Katmer: Turkish Dessert Crafted with Intricacy
Turkish desserts focus on intricacy over chocolate and jam, and katmer perfectly encapsulates this concept. A surprisingly light yet delicious treat, katmer is a must-try. It features crushed pistachio nuts layered between buttery, flaky pastry, complemented by cream and butter.
Served alone or with ice cream, katmer holds a special place in the breakfast offerings of the Gaziantep region. Abundant in pistachios, this dessert is known to provide an energy boost during mid-morning, adding to its appeal as a delightful and unique Turkish culinary experience.
Discovering Dondurma: Turkish Ice Cream with Unique Texture
Dondurma, a type of Turkish ice cream, is distinguished by its use of mastic, a resin from the mastic tree, lending the ice cream a characteristic chewy texture. Flavoured with vanilla or chocolate, it's often served with nuts or fruit.
While a must-try in Turkey, be prepared for playful antics from Turkish ice cream vendors. It's a tradition for them to engage in pranks, such as playfully pulling away the cone or surprising customers with unexpected twists, creating a memorable and entertaining experience for those indulging in this delightful Turkish treat.
Indulging in Künefe: A Turkish Dessert Masterpiece
Künefe, a cherished Turkish dessert, features layers of shredded phyllo dough embracing melted cheese, creating a delightful interplay of crispy and gooey textures.
Baked to perfection and drenched in sugar syrup infused with floral essence, künefe is adorned with nuts and traditionally served warm, making it a sweet masterpiece enjoyed on special occasions and globally in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine.
Exploring Pide: Turkey's Common and Filling Fast Food
Pide stands out as Turkey's most common fast food, offering a convenient and satisfying grab-and-go option. This flatbread features a topping of your choice, shaped like a teardrop, with edges curled up to keep the filling inside. Additionally, there's the closed pide (kapali pide), a long version typically chopped into pieces.
One of the most famous variations is kiymali pide, containing minced beef and onion, or you can opt for kiymali kasarli pide by adding cheese. Other delicious fillings include sucuk, kusbasili (beef meat chunks and peppers), kasar (cheese), and spinach. Some even come with egg on top, providing a diverse and flavorful range of options to suit every taste.
Discovering Sambali: A Hidden Gem Among Turkish Desserts
Sambali stands as one of the less recognized Turkish desserts, distinguished by its soft and fluffy consistency attributed to semolina. Crafted with a blend of milk, molasses, almonds, sugar, and lemon juice, this delightful treat serves as a delicious snack or dessert, often available on street carts.
Savouring Lokma: Turkish Bite-Sized Deep-Fried Pastries
Lokma, originating from Turkey, are small deep-fried pastries coated in syrup or honey, aptly named after the Turkish word for bite-sized. These delectable treats are commonly served as part of a dessert or as a snack, with heightened popularity during Ramadan.
To create lokma, dough is fried in oil and then generously coated in syrup or honey. The dough typically used is a form of unleavened bread dough, available in both sweet and savoury variations. Sweet lokmas are often paired with cinnamon and cloves, while savoury versions might feature cheese or ground meat.
Indulging in Halka Tatlisi: A Turkish Sweet Delight
For churro enthusiasts, Halka Tatlisi is a delightful discovery! Resembling a horseshoe, this pastry is deep-fried and generously dipped in sweet, sticky syrup. While it may be a messy treat to enjoy on the go, the effort is unquestionably worthwhile, with the syrup dripping down your chin adding to the delicious experience.
Delighting in Lokum: The Sweet Legacy of Turkish Delight
Turkish Delight, locally known as lokum, is a delectable treat with its roots in Turkey. Crafted from gelatin, sugar, and various flavourings, this confection is often dusted with powdered sugar and comes in an array of flavours, including rose, lemon, and pistachio.
This timeless sweet has graced palates for centuries and even found a place in the classic novel, "The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe." In the tale, Turkish Delight possesses magical qualities, capable of making people forget their troubles. If you haven't experienced Turkish Delight, you're in for a treat that is sure to captivate your taste buds.
Turkish Culinary Delights: Fish and Meat Extravaganza
Embark on a culinary journey through Turkey's gastronomic wonders as we delve into the world of fish and meat extravaganzas. From succulent grilled kebabs to flavorful seafood dishes, Turkish cuisine offers a symphony of tastes that captivate the senses.
Turkey's Unique and Delicious Wet Hamburger (Exploring Islak Burger)
More than just an ordinary burger, the islak burger is a distinctive and acquired taste worth trying. Commonly found in Istanbul, this wet hamburger is a regular-sized patty covered in a flavorful tomato/garlic sauce. The burger is then steamed until it becomes moist or slightly sweaty, creating a messy yet incredibly tasty culinary experience.
Ubiquitous Turkish Street Food and Restaurant Delight (Savouring Kofte)
Encountered everywhere, kofte is a popular street food often served on bread or as part of a complete restaurant meal. These meatballs are fried to perfection, ensuring a juicy centre. For those seeking an extra indulgence, there's a variation with cheese in the middle. Enjoy this versatile and delicious Turkish culinary delight wherever your appetite takes you.
More Than a Fish Sandwich in Turkey (Discovering Balik Ekmek)
Balik ekmek, translated as 'fish and bread' or a fish sandwich, goes beyond its literal meaning. Widely available throughout the country, it gains particular fame in Istanbul's Eminonu region.
The fish, often freshly caught from the Bosphorus, is barbecued and served directly onto fresh bread. Not only is balik ekmek a delicious culinary experience, but it also stands out as an affordable street food option, allowing you to enjoy a satisfying meal on the go.
Black Sea Anchovy Delicacy in Turkey (Savouring Hamsi)
Hamsi, a type of fish known as the Black Sea anchovy, is featured in this dish. The anchovies are lightly coated in cornflour and then fried to perfection. Arranged in a circle, they are served with a squeeze of fresh lemon and a side salad. True to Turkish dining customs, enjoy this flavorful dish with bread. Hamsi is a common offering in numerous fish restaurants and street outlets, showcasing the rich culinary diversity of Turkish cuisine
A Nationwide Turkish Culinary Adventure (Exploring Kelle Paça Çorbası)
As mentioned earlier, some Turkish dishes may not be for the faint of heart, and Kelle Paça Çorbası is undoubtedly one of them. Despite its challenging nature, this soup is incredibly popular throughout the country, making it a ubiquitous choice.
Corba, meaning soup, in this context, features trotters and meat from a sheep's head—an option not for the squeamish. However, it is reputed to be highly nutritious, making it an ideal choice for boosting vitamin levels, particularly during the winter months.
(Savouring Kuru Fasulye) A Turkish Staple Main Dish
Kuru fasulye stands as a staple main dish found in traditional restaurants and homes across Turkey. This stewed bean dish typically includes a touch of lamb or beef, featuring white beans cooked with olive oil. Often, a bit of tomato paste is added to impart a subtle reddish hue. Following Turkish dining customs, enjoy it with bread, and for an extra kick, sprinkle a bit of pul biber (red chilli flakes) over the top.
A Hearty Turkish Household Staple (Exploring Güveç)
Güveç stands as another essential dish in Turkish households, offering a hearty and truly delightful culinary experience. This stew, typically made with lamb but also available with beef, features tenderly simmered meat along with carrots, potatoes, peas, peppers, onions, and mushrooms.
The surrounding sauce often carries a slightly tomatoey, spicy, and warming flavor profile. As is customary in Turkish dining, enjoy Güveç with bread, and for an authentic experience, set aside the fork and embrace the tradition of using bread as a scooping aid.
(Indulging in Hunkar Begendi) A Lamb Stew Delight
For lamb enthusiasts, hunkar begendi is a must-try—a lamb stew adorned with rich béchamel sauce and abundant eggplants. The widespread availability and affordability of leg of lamb in Turkey make this stew an ideal showcase for the delicious meat. Typically served with rice, hunkar begendi, although less renowned, is undeniably a hearty and satisfying Turkish culinary gem.
A Turkish Treat for Pasta Enthusiasts (Delighting in Manti)
For those who relish pasta, Manti is a superb choice that could be discussed endlessly. Often dubbed 'Turkish ravioli,' Manti consists of small dumplings made from egg pasta filled with either beef or lamb. Typically presented in a bowl, they come topped with yogurt and a hint of spice to provide a flavorful kick.
Exploring Turkish Culinary Delights: The World of Meat Kebabs
Embark on a savoury adventure through the heart of Turkish cuisine as we delve into the world of meat kebabs. From succulent skewers of grilled goodness to aromatic spices, discover the artistry and flavours that make Turkish meat kebabs a culinary delight.
Exploring Manisa Kebap: A Turkish Culinary Gem
Originating from the city of Manisa, the Manisa Kebab is a Turkish delight that extends its influence throughout the country. Crafted with ground lamb or beef, this kebab features a flavorful blend of onions, garlic, tomatoes, and various spices. Grilled on skewers, it is commonly served with a side of rice or bread, offering a delightful and well-loved culinary experience across Turkey.
Indulging in Tavuk Shish: Grilled Marinated Chicken Perfection
Tavuk shish, commonly known as chicken shish, features marinated chicken chunks threaded onto skewers and barbecued to succulent perfection. Typically presented on a lavas (tortilla) with a side salad, this dish has the remarkable ability to leave you pleasantly full yet eager to savour another delicious piece.
Savouring Cag Kebab: Distinct and Delicious Turkish Culinary Experience
Cag kebab may resemble doner kebab, but it surpasses it in both distinctiveness and deliciousness. Not widely available, if you come across a restaurant offering it, don't hesitate to give it a try, as it truly lives up to its reputation of being genuinely delicious.
Cag kebab consists of lamb stacked horizontally on a rotating skewer, cooking over a hot flame as it revolves. The thinly sliced meat is then placed onto metal skewers, with the option to add onions for an extra kick. Enjoyed with lavas (wrap), this hands-on experience allows you to pull the meat off the skewer and relish the flavors with your hands.
Experiencing Testi Kebab: Istanbul's Clay Pot Culinary Delight
When you order testi kebab, especially in Istanbul, be prepared to pay a bit more at a restaurant, but the experience is well worth it if you find a good one. This dish follows a guvec-style stew, uniquely prepared in a clay pot within the oven, enhancing the meat's tenderness and succulence. The theatrical presentation involves smashing the clay pot open at your table, with the contents still cooking on your plate, ensuring a truly delicious and memorable dining experience.
Savouring Iskender Kebab: A Beloved Turkish Culinary Classic
Iskender kebab holds a distinguished place as one of Turkey's most famous dishes, cherished by many. Its acclaim is not just for its flavour but also for the sizzling spectacle that accompanies its serving—a phenomenon you'll soon understand.
Presented on a plate, Iskender kebab features sliced doner meat (beef or lamb) on pitta bread, accompanied by tomato sauce and yoghurt. The pièce de résistance involves pouring melted butter over the top, creating the signature sizzling noise as the heat meets the succulent meat.
Indulging in Tas Kebab: A Turkish Culinary Necessity
Tas kebab is an essential experience while dining in Turkey, readily available in numerous local restaurants. This flavorful meat stew pairs perfectly with rice or pilaf on the side, featuring a delectable blend of beef, lamb, potatoes, carrots, and onions. While some variations include red and green peppers, the authentic version is elegantly simple.
The ideal way to enjoy tas kebab is with a thick slice of bread, embracing the tradition of using your hands to savor every flavorful bite. Be prepared to feel satisfyingly full after this hearty and delicious Turkish culinary adventure.
Tasting Tavuk Dürüm: A Turkish Delight in Rolled Wraps
Durum, meaning a rolled-up wrap, is where you encounter the renowned doner kebab. Sliced donor chicken or meat is combined with salad, tomatoes, and a touch of seasoning before being wrapped into a roll for immediate enjoyment. This delicious treat is readily available throughout, making it a widely enjoyed and convenient option in Turkish cuisine.
Exploring Vegetarian Delights: Turkish Culinary Without Meat
Embark on a flavorful journey through Turkish cuisine sans meat as we explore the diverse and delectable realm of vegetarian delights. From hearty mezze platters to vibrant vegetable-based dishes, discover the rich tapestry of flavours that make vegetarian Turkish cuisine a delightful experience.
Savouring Imam Bayildi: A Delicious Stuffed Aubergine Delight
For eggplant enthusiasts, Imam Bayildi is a must-try. This dish features aubergine stuffed with garlic, tomato, and onion, then cooked in generous amounts of olive oil, resulting in a soft and delectable texture. Enjoy it with lavas (wrap) or bread to complement the flavours of this delicious Turkish culinary gem.
(Indulging in Kumpir) A Globally Recognized Turkish Street Food
Kumpir, a globally renowned street food, features a jacket potato customizable with an array of toppings, typically accompanied by a dollop of ketchup and mayonnaise if desired. However, in Turkey, it's not just about the ingredients; it's also about how it's served.
For the quintessential Kumpir experience, head to Ortakoy in Istanbul. Toppings range from olives, sweetcorn, tuna, cheese, peas, to carrots, offering a diverse selection. The more toppings you add, the more satisfyingly full your culinary adventure becomes.
Savouring Ezogelin Corbasi: A Turkish Lentil and Bulgur Soup
Soup, or corba, is a renowned culinary delight in Turkey, suitable for any time of the day or night. Ezogelin soup, specifically, is crafted with red lentils and bulgur, offering a delicious option as either a starter or a main meal for those with a lighter appetite. Best enjoyed by mopping it up with fresh bread, this soup is likely to become one of your new favourites in Turkish cuisine.
Delighting in Çiğ Kofte: A Unique and Flavorful Turkish Dish
While the name might cause some confusion, Çiğ Kofte, contrary to the usual understanding of "kofte" as meatballs, does not contain any meat. Instead, it consists of ground-up bulgur wheat with spices, wrapped in lavas (wrap) along with salad, pomegranate sauce, and a squeeze of lemon. Despite its interesting composition, Çiğ Kofte boasts a delicious taste and the added benefit of being low in calories.
Beverages from Turkey: A Culinary Journey
Embark on a flavorful odyssey as we explore the diverse and aromatic world of Turkish beverages, from traditional teas and rich coffees to refreshing ayran and unique regional delights. Immerse yourself in the cultural tapestry through these distinctive and delightful drinks that grace the tables across Turkey.
(Raki) A Delightful Turkish Drink
Raki, a delectable Turkish drink, is perfect for any occasion! Crafted with grapes and aniseed, it boasts a unique flavour that's sure to please everyone. What's more, Raki is easy to make, allowing you to enjoy it anytime you desire.
(Ayran) Turkey's Refreshing Yogurt Infusion
Originating from Türkiye, Ayran is a delightful yoghurt-based drink created by blending yoghurt with water and salt, occasionally infused with a hint of dill for added flavour. This refreshing beverage serves as the perfect thirst-quencher on a hot day and complements Turkish dishes like kebabs or rice pilaf splendidly.
Indulging in Turkish Breakfast (Kahvalti Delights)
No discussion about Turkish cuisine is complete without a mention of breakfast, locally known as 'kahvalti.' It's not just a meal; it's a grand feast! Take the time to experience a traditional Turkish breakfast, a lavish spread that will keep you satisfied until dinner.
Featuring eggs, menemen, borek, gozleme, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, an assortment of bread, meats, and much more, the breakfast table is a culinary event in Turkey. Families gather in large numbers to enjoy generous servings of fresh and delightful breakfast offerings, accompanied by several glasses of tea (cay).