Traditional Maraş Ice Cream and Its History

Türkiye’s Maraş dondurması (Maraş ice cream) gets its name from the town of Kahramanmaraş, known as Maraş for short, which is located at the foot of Ahir Mountain. It is a dessert that is enjoyed all across Türkiye. Its thickened texture and taste make it different from classic Italian-style ice cream (gelato) and definitely worth trying. The secret to this type of ice cream is its ingredients, which are native to these lands. These include “salep” or “sahlep,” the powdered tubers of a purple orchid that grows only around Ahir Mountain and makes the ice cream more tempered. In addition to salep, Maraş ice cream contains Arabic gum, a resin that makes it chewier, and goat’s milk, which comes from the goats on Ahir Mountain.

You might wonder how this ice cream came into being. Actually, there are numerous legends and stories regarding its origins. One prominent one relates to an Ottoman man called Osman Agha. Legend has it that Osman Aga would sell sahlep, a hot beverage made from powdered orchid tubers and milk, to Ottoman mansions. One day, a large quantity of his product remained unsold, and he decided to bury it into the snow so as to keep it from going sour. The other day, when he retrieved it, it had turned into ice cream! And, thus, Maraş ice cream was born!

To prepare Maraş dondurması, the goat’s milk with added sugar is slowly heated. Beforehand, mastic gum has been finely ground and mixed in with the sugar. Sahlep powder is then added to the concoction.. The mixture is whisked until the desired level of density is achieved. Then, it is left to cool at room temperature and put in a freezer overnight. This perfect preparation technique and carefully chosen ingredients make Maraş dondurması relatively resistant to melting - one of the many reasons it’s widely preferred!

But this is not all that there is to Maraş ice cream. It’s developed a story and tradition of its own for the last 300 years and Türkiye’s city of Maraş city is at the heart of this story.

When you visit Türkiye, you’ll see Maraş ice cream vendors selling the delicacy in their regional Maraş costumes, reflecting the traditions of its hometown. The vendors perform tricks and tease their customers – a jovial tradition that has become one of the first things to come to mind when one thinks of Maraş ice cream. The simple yet joyful trick is basically that they serve the ice cream cone on a stick and then take it away as the customer tries to take it from them. Therefore, it will most likely be a while before you actually get your hands on your order! Though this could cause a misunderstanding among customers who are unfamiliar with the practice, those who are aware of it will definitely get the most fun out of this beloved ice cream prank.

We highly recommended you enjoy the long years of hard work and tradition that has made Maraş ice cream what it is today. Just follow the sound of the dangling bell, and you’ll find your way to a delicious treat!

To learn more about what else to taste in Kahramanmaraş, click here. Turkish ice cream can be best enjoyed along with syrupy Turkish desserts. Be sure to read the article in the link below where we help you choose the best accompaniment for your Maraş ice cream: