Ultimate Guide to Turkish Cuisine

Turkish cuisine is full of all kinds of dishes with unique tastes and can build an appetite even in the most fastidious gourmets.

An abundance of meat dishes, seafood and vegetable recipes, sweets and pastries for every taste leaves travelers wanting for more.

Many Turkish dishes are high in calories because among their main ingredients, meat, olives and butter, flour and rice are often present. They like to fry and bake food in the oven, and many desserts are deep-fried.

Of course, in the country there are also dishes for adherents of a healthy diet, which are prepared with vegetables, legumes and dietary meat.

To learn all the subtleties and secrets of the food in Turkey, we decided to conduct our own gastronomic investigation.

Vegetable Slices
Chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers

1. Turkish Breakfast

Kahvaltı – this is the word for breakfast in Turkish. The name comes from the words “kahve” (coffee) and “altı” (before), which can be interpreted roughly as “food before coffee”.

A true Turkish breakfast can truly be called royal, because it looks more like a buffet than a standard breakfast.

Honey in a jar

In Turkey, food on the morning table is beautifully decorated in special dishes. The breakfast comprises of:

  • Sliced ​​vegetables – Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and herbs, rich in essential vitamins, are an integral part of a morning meal.
  • Cheeses – The abundance of cheese varieties – feta cheese, hard, curd, with mold, braid cheese, rustic, etc – leaves nothing to imagination. Cheese is rightfully considered a national treasure in Turkey.
  • Olives – are presented in various variations. On the table you can find black and green olives, with and without stones, salted and pepper. Turkish olives are of high quality and have a rich taste.
  • Honey – The production of honey is highly developed in the country, but pine honey is especially appreciated. It is definitely worth a try.
  • Eggs – Turks eat eggs in any form, both boiled and fried. They like to fry their eggs in butter, and boiled eggs are often topped with olive oil and red pepper.
  • Sausages – Since pork is taboo in the country, sausages are made from chicken, turkey and beef. Sliced ​​sausages and sausages fried in olive oil are often served for breakfast.
  • Jam – Turkey is a real berry and fruit paradise, so it is not surprising that in the local breakfast there are numerous types of jam made from strawberries, raspberries, mulberries, oranges, cherries, figs, etc.
  • Bread – If you happen to visit Turkey, we advise you to try the white bread. Always fresh and fragrant, only from the stove, it has an incomparable taste and is an important component of the Turkish breakfast.

Raspberry jam

Although the word Kahvaltı implies drinking coffee as a rule at breakfast, the Turks drink several glasses of freshly brewed black tea, which has a high invigorating effect.

And a couple of hours after a morning meal, you can enjoy a cup of strong Turkish coffee.

2. Turkish Soups

Soups are usually served as an appetizer in Turkey. It is a slightly different dish than we are used to thinking. It is usually thick, made from ground ingredients and looks more like a soup puree.

And in Turkish you do not “eat your soup”, you “drink it”. So don’t be surprised if your local restaurant recommends that you “drink their excellent soup”.

Most popular soups in Turkey are:

2.1 Lentil Soups

The country grows many types of legumes, among which lentils (red, yellow, green) won great love. It was red lentils that became the main component of the famous national soup (Mercimak Corbasi), which, according to various recipes, can be supplemented with onions, carrots and potatoes.

This dish is necessarily seasoned with red pepper flakes and lemon juice.

Red lentil soup
Red lentil soup

2. Sifa Corbasi

Translated from Turkish, the name of this dish means “healing soup”, and there is a reasonable explanation for this.

It consists of vitamin-rich ingredients, and it is customary to eat it in the winters for the prevention and treatment of colds.

The main components of Şifa Çorbası are red lentils, celery, onions, carrots, parsley, red and black pepper.

3. Tarhana Soup

In traditional Turkish cuisine, a special dried mixture of flour, yogurt, red pepper, onion and tomatoes is often used to prepare first courses.

This ingredient gives the soup an original taste and density. The Tarhana soup, in addition to the mixture, tomato paste, garlic and butter are added.

Turkish Tarhana Soup
Turkish Tarhana Soup

3. Meat Dishes

Although red meat in Turkey is quite expensive, the Turks simply adore it, so many national Turkish dishes are prepared from meat products.

The abundance of such foods allows you to diversify the daily diet with food from beef, lamb, veal and lamb, as well as chicken and turkey.

Among the culinary delights that you should definitely try when visiting the country, you can highlight:

3.1 Kebabs

Turkish doner kebab or shawarma
Turkish doner kebab

In Turkey, there are many versions of this dish, each of which has its own unique recipe.

Perhaps the most famous type of kebab is doner kebab, for preparation of which the meat is fried on a spit, then cut into thin slices and mixed with onions, lettuce and tomatoes, flavored with seasonings and dressings and curled into pita bread.

Adana Kebab from Adana
Adana kebab with rice, vegetables, herbs and thick pita bread

Among other versions of kebab that are worth trying are:

  • Adana Kebab – The recipe for this dish comes from the city of Adana, and its main ingredient is minced meat, which is fried on the grill and served with rice, vegetables, herbs and thick pita bread.
  • Iskander Kebab – The thinnest slices of red meat fried on a spit are served on slices of thick pita bread laid on a plate and are supplemented with vegetables and herbs. Such a meal includes yogurt, a special tomato sauce, and, if desired, can be topped with melted butter.
  • Shish kebab – This Turkish dish is a kebab served with rice and baked pepper.

3.2 Pilaf

Turkish pilaf

In Turkish cuisine, plain white rice is often called pilaf. It is simply rice boiled in water or chicken broth with the addition of butter or olive oil.

It may contain Turkish chickpeas, vegetables or small noodles.

Pilaf is often served with chicken, lamb or beef, whose slices are separately fried together with onions.

3.3 Kokoreç

Kokorech - a dish of tripe
Kokorec on a crispy bun

If you are a fan of non-standard cuisine and do not know what to try in Turkey, then be sure to order a kokorec in a restaurant.

Such food is prepared by wrapping the guts of young sheep over the liver, heart, kidneys and lungs. All these ingredients are fried on a spit, seasoned with spices, then finely chopped and laid out on a crispy bun.

3.4 Sujuk (aka Sucuk)

Sujuk - Turkish sausage with bacon
Sujuk – Turkish sausage with bacon

Sujuk is Turkish sausage with beef or lamb meat fat. The main difference from other sausages is the method of its preparation.

Sujuk is not smoked or boiled, but it is dried and seasoned with plenty of various products. There is no such sausage in its raw form, it is always fried in a pan.

Sujuk is often added to scrambled eggs, toasts or spread on white bread.

4. Fish Dishes

Turkey is surrounded by the waters of the Mediterranean, Black, Marmara and Aegean Seas, rich in different species of fish and marine life. This fact had a great influence on the cuisine of Turkey. The typical seafood dishes from Turkey are outlined below.

Balyk Ekmek - bread with fish
Balik Ekmek – bread with fish

4.1 Balik Ekmek

The literal translation of this dish is “bread with fish”, which, in general, reflects the essence of this dish. To prepare the Balik Ekmek, the fried fillet of sea bass or dorado is laid out on a baguette with salad, onions, tomatoes and drizzled with lemon juice.

Turkish Mussels
Turkish mussels consist of fillet of mussels, rice and spices

4.2 Mussels

Mussels is quite uniquely done in Turkey. It consists of fillet of mussels, rice and spices. The filling is placed in shells, and before use, it is sprinkled with lemon juice.

You can find mussels in stalls by street vendors, constantly moving from one restaurant to another in search of customers.

4.3 Anchovies

Another popular seafood in Turkish cuisine, which is cleaned during cooking, wrapped in flour and fried in vegetable oil. Laid out in an even circle, anchovies are served on a large dish with onions, lemon and herbs.

5. Vegetable dishes

If you think that Turkish cuisine is just about meat or fish, then you are mistaken.

Many different dishes have their main components as vegetables. An example of this is the famous Turkish dolma, which is an analogue of the Greek sarma.

It is prepared from grape leaves, which are stuffed with rice and vegetables. You can try it in almost any restaurant.

Turkish dolma
Turkish dolma

Among vegetarian food in Turkey there is also Imam Bayilidi, which is an eggplant topped with vegetable filling.

The eggplant dressing is made from onions, green peppers, tomatoes, garlic and herbs, seasoned with spices and tomato paste. All this is baked in the oven and served with bread and yogurt.

Imam Bayalah in Turkish
Imam Bayalah – eggplant with vegetable filling

6. Unsweetened Breads and Pastries

Most of the Turkish dishes are eaten with breads – pita bread, all kinds of rolls and pastries. In restaurants, before you get the main food, you will be served with fresh bakery products and sauces, both of which are offered absolutely free of charge. Many types of pastries are full-fledged separate dishes.

6.1 Simit

Simita Turkish Bagels

Simit is a sesame round bun, usually eaten for breakfast. You can eat it as it is, or cut in half and spread cheese, vegetables or sausage on it. This inexpensive bread is in great demand and is sold in all bakeries.

6.2 Borek

Borec with cheese filling
Borek with cheese filling

Börek is a very tasty Turkish pastry with different toppings. It comes in three versions:

  • Su Boregi, prepared from thinly rolled unleavened dough (yufka) with cheese fillings; oily
  • Borek, baked from puff pastry stuffed with potatoes or minced meat
  • Borek made from yufka with lore cheese, chicken, minced meat, potatoes and vegetables

If you do not know what to try from food in Turkey, then Börek is should be your first choice.

6.3 Pita Bread

In Turkey, pita bread is often served with soups and meat dishes. Sometimes pita is supplemented with fillings of cheese, vegetables, sausages, chicken and meatballs, and in this case it becomes a dish on its own.

Tortilla - pita

6.4 Gozleme

Another culinary delight is the gözleme stuffed bread made from the finest dough, which is filled with various fillings such as minced meat, potatoes, hard cheese and lor cheese (an analogue of cottage cheese).

As a rule, gözleme is pan fried on two sides in butter and served with tomatoes and salad.

Gozleme with different fillings

7. Turkish Snacks

Cold and hot appetizers in Turkey are called meze and served before main dishes.

7.1 Haydari (Joghurt Dip)

Haidari Thick Sauce

This cold appetizer is a thick dip based on yogurt and white cheese, mixed with garlic, olive oil, mint and walnuts. It goes well with freshly baked flat bread, but is also suitable for seasoning vegetables and meat.

7.2 Hummus (Chickpea and Sesame Spread)

Hummus is quite popular not only in Turkey, but also in Europe, but here an additional specific ingredient is used in the recipe.

In Turkey, Hummus is prepared from chickpeas with the addition of tahini paste obtained from sesame seeds. It is flavored with garlic, olive oil, lemon and served cold.

7.3 Piyaz (White Bean Salad)

Piyaz - Turkish national salad

One of the features of Turkish cuisine is the use unusual products for the preparation of salads. For example pasta, peas and beans.

Piyaz is a salad made with beans and eggs, supplemented with greens, olives, onions, tomatoes, tahini and olive oil. It tastes rather unusual, but is worth a try.

7.4 Acili ezme

This is a spicy vegetable sauce made from garlic, tomatoes, peppers, onions, tomato paste and lemon – the most delicious Turkish appetizer, which can be used as a dip with bread or to complement with meat dishes.

8. Turkish Sweets

Among the national food of Turkey there are many sweet desserts made both from dough and based on sugar or honey syrup. The undoubted leaders here are:

8.1 Lokum

Turkish delight
Multi-colored cubes of Turkish delight

A delicacy based on sugar syrup that originated in Turkey several centuries ago, when the cooks at the court of the Sultan decided to impress their ruler with a new gourmet dish. So was born the first Turkish delight with rose petals.

Today this dessert comes in a variety of fruit flavors with the addition of pistachios, walnuts, peanuts, coconut and other ingredients.

8.2 Baklava

Turkish baklava
Turkish baklava – a popular Turkish sweet

No less popular Turkish sweet, which is prepared from puffed pastry, soaked in honey syrup and topped with a variety of nuts.

In Turkey, you can find baklava in boxes, but it is better to try the product in pastry shops, where freshly prepared dessert is sold by weight.

8.3 Lokma

Lokma - sweet balls of dough
Lokma – sweet dough balls fried in oil and sprinkled with sugar syrup

Lokma are sweet balls of dough, fried in oil and sprinkled with sugar or honey syrup. They are pretty easy to prepare.

Like baklava, this is a very sweet, sugary dessert, so eating a lot of it will not work.

8.4 Tulumba

Tulumba is a deep-fried dessert, which in many respects is like lokma in its method of preparation, but differs from it due to its oblong corrugated shape.

9. Soft drinks

Turkey has its own variety of drinks with a unique taste and an intricate method of preparation.

9.1 Turkish Tea

Turkish Tea

Turks drink black tea anytime, anywhere. It is usually consumed one hour after a meal.

The tea is produced locally in Turkey, and grows on the shores of the Black Sea coast.

To prepare it, a special two-tiered teapot is used, in the upper section of which tea leaves are put, subsequently poured with boiling water, and the lower section is allocated for hot water.

In this condition, the kettle is on a small fire for 20-25 minutes, after which the tea is poured into small tulip glasses.

In one sitting, the Turks drink about 5 glasses of this strong invigorating drink, which is always served hot. After all, during the entire tea party, the kettle stays on the flame.

9.2 Turkish coffee

Turkish coffee

The second place among the popular non-alcoholic drinks in Turkey goes to coffee. The Turks like to drink boiled fine-ground coffee, which is prepared in a cezve (in Turkish).

The outcome is a fairly strong drink that is served in miniature cups. After drinking coffee, it is customary to wash off the bitter aftertaste with a sip of cool liquid. Therefore in restaurants, next to your cup of coffee will be a glass of water.

9.3 Ayran

Ayran - a healthy sour-milk product

This healthy sour-milk product is consumed in Turkey during lunch and dinner. It is made from yogurt with the addition of water and salt. There is no carbonation involved.

The drink acts as an excellent addition to meat dishes and easily substitutes soda and packaged juices.

10. Alcoholic drinks

Despite the fact that Turkey is a Muslim state, the country has its own alcoholic drinks.

10.1 Raki

Crayfish - Strong Turkish Anise Vodka

A common Turkish drink is anise-based liquor called Raki.

The drink has a specific sweet and warm taste and may differ in different alcohol content (from 40 to 50% pure alcohol). Before use, Raki is diluted with water, after which the clear drink acquires a milky hue. As a rule, they drink it in small sips along with spicy food.

10.2 Sharap

Sharap translated from Turkish means wine. Turkish winemakers today offer a large assortment of white, red and pink wines.

In Turkey, wine has to enter into fierce competition with Chilean manufacturers, which are gaining more and more popularity in the local market.

Among Turkish brands you will not find sweet and semi-sweet versions, all drinks are dry. The best quality wine brands here are considered to be Doluca, Sevilen Premium and Kayra.

Wines brand Doluca
Different varieties of wine brand Doluca

In Turkey, fruit and berry wines are very popular and are made from pomegranate, mulberry, cherry, melon, etc. They are notable for their low strength, and both sweet and semi-sweet versions can be found in their assortment.

In any wine store you will definitely be given the opportunity to try different sorts of wines, but the price tag is also indecent, so it is best to buy wines in city supermarkets.

11. Street Food in Turkey

It is very popular in the country to eat in small cafes and buy takeaway food, so snack bars are found at every step. Street food in Turkey is represented by dishes, that do not take much time to prepare.

11.1 Pide and Lahmajun

Lahmajun - a large round cake of thin pastry
Lahmajun – a large round cake of thin pastry with minced meat with finely chopped vegetables

Lahmajun is a large round bread made of thin dough, on which minced meat with finely cut vegetables is laid out.

It is cooked in a special clay oven and served with lemon and salad. One Lahmajun costs about $1-1.5.

Pide is also prepared in clay ovens from a strip of thicker dough, and the stuffing here can be both minced meat, pieces of meat, hard cheese or an egg.

The portions are huge, so one pide can be enough for two. The cost of this street food, depending on the filling, ranges from $2-4.

11.2 Doner kebab

We have already described this dish above, it only remains to say that doner kebab is sold on almost every corner and is inexpensive. One portion of this dish with chicken will cost $ 1.5, with beef – $ 2.5-3.

11.3 Chi kofte

Chi kofte cutlets

One thing that is really worth trying in Turkey is Chi kofte. You are unlikely to find such food in other countries.

This dish looks like minced meat patties, but in fact it is made from bulgur, olive oil, tomato paste and spices. The cook mixes these ingredients, and for several hours he kneads the obtained mass by hand until it is cooked by the warmth of his hands.

They serve the kofte on pita bread or in lettuce leaves, with a drizzle with lemon and seasoned with pomegranate sauce. The price of this treat is only $1 per serving.

Finding fish among street food in Turkey is not so easy: usually dishes like balek-ecme are sold in coastal areas, and not on city streets. And if you want to try fresh seafood, then it’s better to go to trusted restaurants.


Turkish cuisine can rightfully be considered a national treasure. The abundance of its dishes allows you to not only try various dishes, but also get acquainted with original recipes that were previously unknown to you. And the taste qualities of a seemingly familiar food will completely change your idea of ​​the culinary possibilities of the Turkish people.

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