Have you ever tried world-famous Turkish foods? If not, then don’t worry! In this blog post, I’ll walk you through the gastronomy world of Turkey!
Honestly, I’m really excited to write about Turkish food because that’s what I live for! If you’re visiting Turkey soon, get ready to gain weight because you can’t hold yourself back from eating delicious Turkish foods more and more. Kebab and doner are probably the first things that you think of when you hear this cuisine but believe me, there is much more than that! I’ve come up with a list of exactly thirty-nine Turkish delicacies described in a mouthwatering way for you. You can’t judge me because Turkey is literally a gastronomical feast for everyone, right?
- About Traditional Turkish Cuisine
- Traditional Turkish Breakfast
- Turkish Pastry
- Turkish Street Food
- Turkish Soups
- Turkish Foods For Meat Lovers
- Turkish Foods For Vegetarians
- Turkish Desserts
- Traditional Turkish Beverages
- Start Learning Turkish With Ling App!
About Traditional Turkish Cuisine
It wouldn’t be wrong to say that Turkish cuisine is like a perfect mixture of Middle Eastern, East European, and Medditerrian tastes in a bowl. This rich and diverse cuisine is the most incredible legacy of the Ottoman Empire.
Kebabs and dishes made with red meat are famous in traditional Turkish foods, but Turkish cuisine varies significantly from region to region. The western coast is known for its olive oil-based vegetable dishes, while Central Anatolia for its pastries, and the towns by the Black Sea for their abundance of fresh fish.
Traditional Turkish Breakfast
Maybe you’ve seen some videos comparing different breakfast styles around the world. Americans have pancakes with bacon, Frenchs have croissants with coffee, Italians have bread with jam, and when it comes to Turks: a complete breakfast including simit, menemen, sujuk, french fries, tomatoes, two kinds of olives, four kinds of cheese, three kinds of jams, and so on.
Well, the thing is, it’s actually true! Not on the weekdays, but it’s a typical weekend breakfast in my family home. Also, it is not all about eating. Breakfast is vital for Turkish families because it is a family-oriented affair, with many different dishes that are served. Therefore, breakfasts can last for hours with family and friendly conversations.
Menemen is a traditional Turkish food for breakfast. It’s made with grated tomatoes, diced onions, and green peppers cooked in olive oil in a pan. Then scrambled eggs with some spices are added to them. It is served with bread.
It’s very similar to shakshouka, another popular dish commonly eaten in Tunisia, Egypt, and Morocco.
Fun Fact: Whether menemen should include onions or not is a matter of controversy among Turkish people. I cook it with onions, but my mom cooks it without onions; hence we often argue about it. 😂
2. Sucuklu Yumurta
This one is a must-have for Sunday breakfast and is my dad’s favorite! It’s basically scrambled eggs cooked with slices of sujuk, which is a kind of spicy fermented Turkish sausage. Sujuk is usually made from ground beef.
If you want to eat the best sujuk, you should stop by Kayseri or Afyon during your visit to Turkey.
I love the elastic texture of this dish as if it stretches to infinity under your fork. Muhlama is a favorite breakfast dish in Turkey’s Black Sea region. It is made by blending local cheeses and melted butter together with corn flour. It is traditionally cooked in sahan, which is a copper pan with two handles.
The crucial ingredient for this authentic dish is cheese. Because fresh cheeses like feta and other white cheeses won’t work. Authentically, Kotol cheese is used for this recipe, but high-quality kashar cheese also works.
Nobody can turn a cold shoulder to the smell of fresh bread as its appetizing smell lures you to the nearest bakery. There is a local bakery on almost every street in Turkey because we love eating fresh crunchy bread at breakfast and even dinner. I don’t know why but Turkish people enjoy eating gluten more than anyone else.
Bread is an essential component of every meal, whether breakfast, lunch, or dinner – without bread, the dish is incomplete for Turkish people. There’s a rich variety of bread available in Turkey, ranging from regular loaf and sourdough bread to cornbread and bazlama.
Fun Fact: Turkey has the world’s highest bread consumption per person. Bread consumption a year is 199.6 kg (440 lb) per person.
Simit is one of the most famous street foods in Turkey. Simit is a type of bagel-like Turkish pastry covered with sesame seeds. People usually grab a cup of tea and simit for breakfast when they’re outside.
I’m sure you’ve seen these red street food carts in many Istanbul photos. Sorry but you’re missing a lot if you haven’t tried a baking hot simit with Turkish tea in Istanbul.
Bazlama is a kind of soft and fluffy Turkish flatbread. It’s traditionally cooked on a heavy pan above an open wood fire.
Bazlama is typically eaten fresh and can be enjoyed for breakfast with butter or olive oil. You can also turn it into a sandwich with fresh vegetables and cheese.
Gozleme is another tasty Turkish pastry made with thin unleavened dough. It’s rolled very thinly and brushed lightly with butter or oil before being cooked. It’s a popular breakfast or lunch dish that can be made with various fillings like meat, vegetables, and cheese.
Börek refers to a family of stuffed pastries coming from Ottoman cuisine. It’s made with a thin dough like phyllo and can be shaped in many different ways. Similar to gözleme, it has various fillings like meat, cheese, potatoes, and vegetables.
Turkish Street Food
I think the best Turkish traditional dishes belong to the street food category. Here, you’ll see many kebabs, döners, and much more. If you’re in Turkey, don’t leave before tasting these delicacies.
If you like eating subs and sandwiches, you will also love eating döners. It’s made with slow-cooked chicken or beef meat served with vegetables and spices inside the bread.
The meat used in döner is cooked on a big vertical rotisserie; sliced shavings are filled inside the bread and fresh vegetables. Turkish fast food is usually healthy, so don’t feel guilty for eating döner.
Dürüm means “roll,” and it refers to Turkish wraps made with lavash, usually filled with the döner meat I described above. It’s definitely one of the most popular Turkish street foods.
The seasoned meat is stacked in an inverted cone and turned slowly by the fire. When cooked, the outermost layer is shaved off in thin pieces and served wrapped in a dürüm.
Lahmacun is my favorite Turkish food. It is also known as Turkish pizza, even though it’s nothing like a pizza. It’s a type of flatbread or wrap (because you wrap it to eat) topped with various ingredients like minced beef meat, veggies, onions, and tomatoes, with spices on a crisp and thin flatbread.
Pide is kind of a boat-shaped lahmacun, but the flatbread is thicker, like in pizza. The ingredients are almost the same as lahmacun: onion, pepper, tomato, sujuk, and egg. But with melted cheese on the top surface.
Pide is an essential food in Turkish cuisine and thus can be found everywhere, from street food carts to restaurants.
Another popular street food is kumpir. It’s a jacket potato with a crisp skin and soft inside and filled with various toppings like cheese, sausage, pickles, and Russian salad. By the way, the best place to eat kumpir in Istanbul is Ortaköy.
14. Balık Ekmek
Balık ekmek actually means “fish bread,” which literally describes what it is: a fish sandwich. It consists of a grilled anchovy or mackerel fillet inside a bun with onions, lettuce, tomatoes, and seasoned with lemon.
Balık ekmek is best enjoyed by the sea, so the best place to eat it is on Galata Bridge in Istanbul.
15. Mercimek Çorbası
Mercimek soup is a very simple daily dish made with red lentils. It’s made by pureeing lentils and a couple of veggies like potato and carrot if you like. It can be garnished with melted butter, cilantro, and lemon juice before being served.
16. Yayla Çorbası
Yayla çorbası, also known as yoğurt çorbası, is a Turkish yogurt soup cooked with a variety of herbs, rice, and sometimes chickpeas. It’s made with yogurt, flour, rice, egg, mint, and parsley. It is also a typical dish in some Middle Eastern countries.
17. Tarhana Çorbası
This soup is my favorite in winter because whenever I feel sick, my mom cooks tarhana for me. Tarhana is a dried food ingredient based on a fermented mixture of grain and yogurt found in Turkish cuisine. Dry tarhana has a coarse texture and uneven crumbs, but it is made into a thick soup with water.
Turkish Foods For Meat Lovers
The backbone of Turkish cuisine is delicious meat dishes. you must realize by now that almost every Turkish dish includes a type of meat. Don’t worry; I’ll also share perfect vegetable dishes for my vegetarian friends out there. So keep reading!
Köfte is the umbrella name for all meatball dishes popular in Turkey. Basically, it’s made with minced or ground meat (typically beef) mixed with onions, herbs, and spices.
Köfte is an essential dish in Turkish cuisine. There are more than a hundred varieties of meatball dishes in Turkey. The most well-known ones are kuru kofte (dry), sulu kofte (soup), and sis kofte (skewered).
19. İskender Kebap
My other favorite food! İskender kebab is made from stripped meat and placed onto sliced pita bread. It’s garnished with yogurt, spicy tomato sauce, and melted butter on top. This food is everyone’s lover in Turkey.
Fun fact: This dish is named after Sir Alexander (İskender Efendi) from the Ottoman Empire, who lived in Bursa.
20. Testi Kebap
Testi kebab is an Anatolian special cooked in a clay pot. It’s usually made with lamb or beef and garnished with vegetables, potatoes, and garlic.
All ingredients are placed in the clay pot and sealed with bread dough before cooking in a tandoor or clay oven for several hours. When ready, the pot is brought out and cracked open at your table to serve.
The best place to eat testi kebap is Cappodocia!
Mantı is known as Turkish ravioli. What makes Turkish ravioli different is that it’s stuffed with ground meat. It is served with garlic yogurt and tomato sauce on top with dry mint sprinkles. It is a traditional Turkish dish that is made with love in every house.
22. Hünkar Beğendi
Hunkar beğendi is a type of Turkish lamb stew made with meltingly tender pieces of lamb leg served over an eggplant bechamel sauce. Commonly known as “Sultan’s Delight,” it’s another delicious meat dish.
Fun fact: Hünkar beğendi actually means “the Sultan liked it.”
23. Hamsi Pilav
This food is popular in the Black Sea region of Turkey. It is a kind of oven-baked pilaf made with rice, pine nuts, raisins, lemon juice, herbs, and anchovies.
It’s made by layering the pilaf with anchovies and then folding them over the rice, so it’s completely encased. Then the dish is baked in an oven and served with lemon wedges and fresh dill.
Turkish Foods For Vegetarians
Now we have come to the vegetable dishes in Turkish cuisine, and believe me, they’re as good as the popular meat dishes.
Mücver is like a vegetable pancake, and its main ingredient is zucchini. But it’s a pretty versatile dish because you can add many different vegetables to the batter, which is made of shredded zucchini.
The most commonly used vegetables include shredded potatoes, carrots, and onions. Besides the vegetables, the batter is made from flour, oil, eggs, and salt. The batter is fried on both sides until golden brown. It’s usually served with garlic yogurt.
Çiğ köfte is one of the best street foods in Turkey. Definitely a must-try! Çiğ köfte is made with bulgur kneaded into a thick mixture with various other ingredients like onions, tomatoes, fresh mint, parsley, and hot spices.
It is usually eaten like a wrap inside a thin sheet of bread called lavash and served with pieces of lettuce, pickles, and pomegranate syrup.
26. Yaprak Sarma
With grape leaves wrapped around a filling of rice and onion flavored with mint, currant, and pepper, yaprak sarma is both a healthy and tasty Turkish dish.
This traditional Turkish food dates back to the cuisine of the Ottoman Empire and is famous from the Middle East to South East Europe. I must say that preparing this dish is time-consuming, but it is worth it!
Dolma can be made with different ingredients like fresh vegetables, dried eggplants, bell peppers, or zucchini. They are stuffed with a mixture of rice and onion before cooking in water. Dolma is usually served at room temperature. It is a famous dish in Mediterranean cuisine and is found in many countries beyond Turkey.
Fun Fact: It is believed that this dish originated in the Ottoman Topkapi Palace in the 17th century.
28. İmam Bayıldı
İmam Bayildi is an eggplant-based dish stuffed with onion, garlic, and tomato and cooked in olive oil. It’s served at room temperature.
Fun Fact: İmam bayıldı literally means “the imam fainted.” Legends say that he fainted after learning how much money was spent and how much olive oil was used for this dish.
Kısır is a Turkish salad made with finely ground bulgur, tomato sauce, parsley, and other savory ingredients like onions, garlic, olive oil, lemon, juice, and spices. It is similar to the Armenian eech.
Finally, we’ve come to the sweetest part of this blog post. I’m sure you’ve heard of the greatest of all desserts, baklava. It’s loved by not only Turks but everyone worldwide! Get ready because you can get into a diabetic coma once you discover the other Turkish desserts.
Baklava is a rich and sweet pastry made with thin layers of phyllo dough filled with chopped walnuts and held together with sherbet, and it’s topped with pistachio sprinkles at the end.
Though it’s popular in other parts of the world, like the Middle East, the Balkans, and Egypt, it’s believed that baklava originated from Ottoman cuisine.
Güllaç is a traditional Turkish dessert commonly eaten during Ramadan. It has a heavenly soft and milky texture that is made with thin sheet dough, milk, rosewater, and nuts and topped with pomegranate seeds.
Ashura, also known as Noah’s pudding, is a sweet pudding consisting of a mixture of various grains, fresh fruits, dried fruits, and nuts. Ashura is a day of commemoration in Islam. According to the Islamic calendar, it occurs annually on the 10th of Muharram. On this day, people cook Ashura at home and share it with family and neighbors because it symbolizes unity among people.
Sütlaç is a rice pudding made from rice mixed with milk and other ingredients such as cinnamon, vanilla, and raisins. I love its light sweet taste as it’s one of the few Turkish desserts that doesn’t contain sherbet.
34. Maraş Dondurması
Though you all know it as Turkish ice cream, we call it Maraş ice cream. Dondurma is believed to have originated in the city of Maraş; that’s why it’s named after that city.
It’s a sticky type of ice cream made with salep and mastic, which makes it chewy in texture and more resistant to melting.
Lokum, also known as Turkish delight, refers to a family of gelatinous confections. They are enhanced with rich flavorings like rose, mastic, bergamot orange, lemon, and much more. It’s an iconic dessert in Turkish cuisine that’s typically come in small cubes covered with powdered sugar.
Traditional Turkish Beverages
This article would fall short if I didn’t mention Turkish beverages, right? I included many traditional Turkish drinks ranging from tea to ayran. Just promise that you’ll try at least three of them when you visit Turkey.
Çay, the traditional Turkish tea, is prepared using two stacked teapots called çaydanlık. It’s served in small hourglass-shaped glasses. You can add sugar if you like, but never add milk to Turkish tea. It’s a big crime in Turkey!
Çay is an indispensable part of socializing in Turkish culture. We drink tea every single day and all day long. Turks believe there is nothing that a hot glass of tea can’t solve. It’s the recipe for having a heart-to-heart talk with someone.
Fun Fact: An average Turkish person consumes almost 3.2 kg (7 lbs) annually. It’s the highest per capita tea consumption in the world.
37. Türk Kahvesi
Türk kahvesi, traditional Turkish coffee, is made with finely ground coffee beans prepared in a cezve (Turkish coffee pot) without a filter. The interesting part is that the grounds are also served with your coffee, resulting in a grainy texture.
Turkish coffee is traditionally served in tiny porcelain cups and is usually served with small chocolates or desserts like Turkish delight.
Fun Fact: 5th of December is celebrated as Turkish Coffee Day!
This delicious drink is made from yogurt diluted with water and then salted and served cold. It’s a favorite beverage in Turkey and is the perfect accompaniment to kebabs and spicy Turkish foods.
Salep refers to both the flour used to make it and the actual drink. Salep flour is made from orchid tubers. Salep flour is made from orchid tubers. It’s served dusted with cinnamon. It’s a sweet drink that almost tastes like a dessert. Salep is my favorite hot drink on winter days. The sweet taste and cinnamon smell soothe my nerves while it warms me up.
After reading this blog post, you may want to visit Turkey to eat delicious Turkish foods. Learning the Turkish language can become handy at local restaurants and bazaars. So, what do you say? Are you up for learning Turkish with Ling?
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