Turkish cuisine has three essential features: traditional, healthy, and zero waste. Authentic Turkish cuisine is a magical journey to explore. Fresh and local produce meets traditional recipes, cooking techniques, and modern ways of presentation. Traditions are at the core of Turkish cuisine. The original recipes are passed over from generation to generation from grandmothers to mothers to daughters and sons! Traditional cooking methods ensure the dish comes out exactly what the recipe suggests. That means you can taste the original dish from hundreds of years ago.
Turkish gastronomy pays a great deal of attention to sustainability and zero waste. It is centered around zero-waste cooking. Nothing goes to waste in a typical Turkish pantry. Vegetable scraps are turned into a broth, orange peels are added into cake mixtures, and leftover rice is added to soups. Pantries are stocked with dried or frozen summer fruits and vegetables for winter. Sustainable cooking and food preparation techniques make Turkish cuisine stand out from the rest.
Turkish food is healthy. Made with locally grown, plenty of olive oil, sun-kissed produce, and organic ingredients, Turkish dishes nourish the mind, body, and spirit. Health is at the center of Turkish cuisine. Healthy cooking methods like steaming, poaching, boiling, or baking are widely used to retain all the vitamins and minerals, as well as for the utmost taste and texture. A wide variety of Turkish recipes have benefits for health. Plenty of top-quality olive oil is used for cooking meze dishes, which are almost always vegetarian-friendly. Home-cooking style dishes that can be found in any local lokanta are also simply tasty and healthy. Made with locally raised livestock, Turkish food is organic and good for your health.
Turkish cuisine is a rich and diverse blend of flavors and ingredients, influenced by the country's location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. Turkish cuisine has a lot to offer beyond the classic Kebap varieties, such as soups, stews, fish and seafood, and vegetarian and vegan options. It is famous for its use of herbs, spices, and fresh ingredients and for its balance of sweet and savory flavors.
Some of the most popular and well-known Turkish dishes and signature culinary experiences include:
Turkish Breakfast: The best meal of the day is arguably the breakfast in Türkiye. With plenty of small breakfast platters ranging from cheese, jams, olives, honey, clotted cream, various types of egg dishes, and pastry. Of course, unlimited cups of Turkish black tea.
Cured Meat Products: Delicious meat products such as pastırma (seasoned and air-cured beef slices), and sucuk (spicy and fermented sausage) are quite commonly consumed in Turkish cuisine, usually added to omelets for breakfast. Specialty shops sell various types of cheeses as well, for you to make your own tasty board to accompany your favourite wine.
Esnaf Lokantası: The best local foods can be found at esnaf lokantası, or simply lokanta, at a very affordable price. Here, you can choose from a menu of buffet and you pay a fixed price per plate. Bread is usually free of extra charge and there is no service fee. You are not expected to pay a tip but it is much appreciated if you do.
Boza: A popular winter drink, Boza is mainly consumed on cold nights with a handful of leblebi (roasted chickpeas) and plenty of ground cinnamon on top. It tastes slightly sweet and sour.
Fish & Seafood Specialties: Surrounded by sea on three sides, Türkiye is rich in fish and seafood varieties. Hamsi (anchovies) and Lüfer are some of the most delicious fishes consumed widely in the country. Lüfer season starts around late October and you can see fishing enthusiasts lining up the Bosphorus to try their hand at catching one. Hamsi, on the other hand, is the pearl of the Black Sea. You can fry it in the pan, cook it in the oven, or even add it to your rice!
Olive Oil Dishes: Healthy and tasty, dishes made with plenty of olive oil are some of the essentials for Turkish cuisine. Consumed mainly as appetizers before the main course, or along with seafood and Rakı, olive oil dishes are rich and varied, with most of them suitable for vegetarians as well.
Milky Desserts: Made mainly with milk and sugar, these types of delicious Turkish desserts are low on calories yet high on flavor and texture. Try Sütlaç, Kazandibi, or Sakızlı Muhallebi to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Börek: Layers of flaky pastry meet popular fillings like cheese, spinach, meat, or potatoes… Baked in the oven or on the stovetop, these delicacies come in all sorts of shapes and forms. You will love their crispy and crunchy texture and a rich stuffing.
Drinks: Turkish tables are never without some sort of local beverage. From Şerbet consumed on hot summer days to Sahlep consumed on cold winter nights, drinks are an essential part of Turkish cuisine. Türkiye’s freshly brewed black tea and UNESCO-certified Turkish coffee culture with fortune-telling rituals are some of the must-have experiences to have on your bucket list.Kebap: A variety of meat skewers, typically made with lamb, chicken, or beef and usually served with rice or bread.
Dolma/Sarma: Stuffed grape leaves (Sarma) or stuffed vegetables (Dolma), typically filled with a mixture of rice, herbs, and sometimes meat.
Meze: A variety of small, flavourful dishes, similar to appetizers, that are often served before a main course. Examples include cacık, fava, and haydari.
Rakı: An alcoholic beverage made from aniseed and is usually consumed with meze dishes.
Pide: A type of Turkish flatbread, with a variety of toppings such as meat, cheese, and vegetables on a thin, boat-shaped crust.
Baklava: A sweet pastry made with layers of phyllo dough, syrup, and nuts, typically served as a dessert. It has a geographical indication mark, underlining its importance in Turkish cuisine and beyond.
Turkish coffee: A strong, unfiltered coffee, traditionally brewed in a cezve (a small pot) and served in small cups. Listed as a UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage value, a cup of Turkish coffee comes with an intricate fortune-telling tradition.
Lokum (Turkish Delight): A candy made from starch and sugar, typically flavored with rosewater, lemon, or mint and dusted with powdered sugar.
Yogurt: Türkiye’s gift to the world, yogurt is a fermented food that everyone enjoys, whether savory or sweetened.
Ayran: Made with yoghurt, salt, and water, this savory and refreshing drink is a must-have for all Turkish tables.
Salep: Topped with ground cinnamon and consumed mainly in winter, this warm beverage is made of orchid flowers.
Tarhana: Made with dried vegetables and spices, Tarhana is the world’s first instant soup!
Simit: A sesame seed-covered, round, crispy bread called simit is also present at just about every Turkish breakfast.
Each year in May, the diversity of Turkish cuisine is celebrated all around the world with Turkish Cuisine Week. Events, cooking workshops, talks with talented chefs, and more take place to discover the rich culinary culture of Türkiye. To learn more about Turkish Cuisine Week and check out some of the most popular recipes, visit here.
Discover Turkish cuisine and beyond in Türkiye…