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Turkish Food: 28 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Turkey

Turkish Food: 28 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Turkey

Just at the intersection of where East meets the West, Turkey’s cuisine is a reflection of its melting pot of cultures. It is largely inherited from the Ottoman Empire cuisine which in itself was a fusion of Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Eastern European, Armenian, Balkanian and Mediterranean cuisines.

Most Popular Turkish Dishes

Turkish food varies across the country with cooking styles different in Istanbul, Bursa, Izmir and the Black Sea Region. That being said, the staple foods of Turkey as a whole largely center around rice, vegetables and bread.

Here are our absolute must-try dishes of Turkey along with recipes for you to try for yourself.

Adana Kebab

Turkish Adana Kebab recipe

Turkey is famed for its kebabs and one of the most eponymous is the Adana kebab. Typically consisting of minced lamb coated in aromatic spices, Adana kebabs are served on skewers eaten with Lavash bread (flat bread), along with a garlic yoghurt sauce and salad.


Photo credit: E4024

This is essentially lamb or goat intestines that are cleaned and wrapped around seasoned offal such as hearts, lungs, kidneys or sweetbreads. Then they are cooked on a skewer and usually horizontally grilled over a charcoal-based fire.

It is one of the most popular and historic fast foods, especially for a post-drinking session. Served almost all year round, it can be found in any cafe, restaurant or kiosk around Turkey.

Islak Burger

This is Turkey’s take on the classic American hamburger! This variety contains a moist meatloaf burger patty which is absolutely drenched in tomato sauce.

It is a very popular street food and a great late-night snack which is very popular amongst the youth of Turkey. It can be called Turkey’s answer to Hot Dogs in Los Angeles and Pizzas in New York City.

Kelle Paca Corba

Kelle Paca Corba
Photo credit: Jwslubbock

This dish is basically sheep’s head in a hot steaming broth. This delicious soup follows the old Turkish tradition of using every part of the meat instead of wasting it.

The meat from the shin bones or tongue are added and boiled for a very long period of time to tenderize it. Then they are seasoned with chilli flakes, garlic puree or oregano. 

Koc Yumurtasi

This directly translates as Ram Testicles, but before you become squeamish, trust us, this is a fantastic dish to try! The most crucial part of cooking them is marinating them with thyme, pepper and olive oil, this gives them their signature juicy and tender texture.

The upper layer of membrane is peeled, the testicles are washed and then cut into cubes. There are many techniques of cooking but most commonly they are sauteed in butter until caramelized! 

Tavuk Gogsu

Tavuk Gogsu
Photo credit: Garrett Ziegler

So this is a really unique dish as it adds chicken into desserts! Tavuk Gogsu is the most famous recipe of the Ottoman era, which is still valued and cherished today in modern Turkey.

The chicken is boiled down, almost removing any flavour from it. Then it is combined with milk and sugar. The cooking method is strange but the end result is so good.


Photo credit: Premshree Pillai

Another dish stretching back to the Ottoman empire, Turks call Cilbir an ideal comfort food. The dish consists of eggs and yoghurt.

This dish has a chance of looking sloppy but if cooked right with the egg yolk is runny yet firm, and once fused with paprika and yoghurt, the flavors blend so well together.

Other versions also exist with garlic sauce or melted butter poured on top of the dish.

Mad Honey

mad honey

Whilst not strictly a commonly eaten dish in Turkey, mad honey is a hallucinogenic type of honey that is red in color. It can be deadly if too much is eaten.

It is made by beekeepers in Turkey and Nepal whose bees feast upon rhododendron flowers which cause the hallucinogenic effect.

Cig Kofte

Turkish Food: 28 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Turkey 1
Photo credit: Benreis

This dish is quite similar to steak tartar and is a combination of ground, raw beef or lamb mixed with herbs and spices into a small shaped meatball like a firm ball. Drizzled with lemon juice and wrapped with a lettuce leaf.

Chopped bulgur, tomato paste and onions can also be added into the dish. This is a southeastern regional speciality and is known as a delicious appetiser or snack.

Iskembe Corbasi

Iskembe Corbasi
Photo credit: E4024

Tripe soup is another well-known hangover cure, often consumed after a long drinking session. The soup was known as a standard breakfast dish for the longest time.

It might not be the most appealing dish for most people but with the added garlic and lemon, it is not as bad as it sounds. It is a truly strange dish but definitely a good hangover cure!


Photo credit: Wajih Khalfallah

Leblebi is a very popular street food in Turkey. Essentially it is roasted chickpeas which can be plain or seasoned with salt, hot spices and dried cloves.

Some varieties are even candy-coated. They are a very delicious snack to munch on while roaming the streets of Turkey while on vacation. 

Meze Platters

Meze Platters

Meze means appetizer and it consists of yummy vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes like purees, meatballs, salads, dips, cheeses and pastries.

These delicious platters are often enjoyed as appetizers or snacks and can be found pretty much all over Turkey.


Photo credit: Contessa

Another hugely popular street food found all over in Turkey. Simit refers to a bagel shaped bread which is crusty and laden with sesame seeds.

It is so crunchy and chewy at the same time and makes for a great inexpensive Turkish snack.


Photo credit: E4024

This is a submarine shaped flatbread baked in a brick or stone oven. It is quite similar to a pizza and can be topped with any number of ingredients such as cheese, pepper, tomatoes, sausages and even eggs!

It is also widely available and very popular amongst locals and tourists alike.


Photo credit: O.celebi

Börek (also known as Burek, Byrek or Boureki) is a pastry dish made by layering thin phyllo dough, minced meat, seasonings, and a creamy egg yogurt mixture which is baked into a crispy and flaky pie-like dish.

Börek is commonly associated with Turkey but it is also popular across the Balkan countries, Greece, Moldova, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.


Turkish Ayran yoghurt drink

Ayran is a yogurt-based drink made from yogurt, iced water and salt. Optional ingredients also include black pepper, lime juice and herbs such as dried mint. Generally served chilled, ayran is often served along with grilled meat or rice and is most commonly consumed during summer.

Tulumba/Pomba/Bamiyeh/Balaḥ ash-Shām

Turkish Tulumba

Tulumba, also known as Pomba, Bamiyeh or Balaḥ ash-Shām, is a deep-fried dessert.

It prepared using an unleavened dough lump, which is shaped as a small ovoid and includes ridges lengthways. It is shaped with the help of a pastry bag or cookie press, which has a fitting end part.

Tulumba is initially deep-fried to give this dessert a golden colour, and then sugar-sweet syrup is added on top while it’s still hot.



Sahlab, also spelled sahlep or salep, is a flour prepared using the tubers of the orchid genus Orchis (including species Orchis mascula and Orchis militaris). Sahlab is served in several drinks and sweet dishes, particularly in the cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire, especially in the Levant, where it is a traditional winter drink.

Turkish Delight

Turkish delight

Turkish Delight is a type of soft, chewy sweet made from syrup and cornflour, flavored with rosewater and dusted with confectioners’ sugar.

Turkish delight may contain nuts, such as pistachios or hazelnuts, or dates which are suspended within the gel-like structure. 

Sigara Böreği

Sigara böreği

Sigara böreği is a crispy pastry made with a fried phyllo dough crust and stuffed with crumbled Turkish white cheese and parsley. It is often enjoyed as an appetizer or party food and has a wide range of regional variations to its recipe, such as using feta and mozzarella or adding chives or minced meat to the creamy filling.

Dondurma (Stretchy Ice Cream)

Turkish Dondurma (Stretchy Ice Cream)

Dondurma, also called Maraş ice cream, refers to all types of Turkish ice cream that include ingredients such as salep (ground-up tuber of an orchid), cream, mastic (plant resin), whipped cream and sugar. What makes Dondurma unique is its resistance to melting as well as its solid, stretchy texture – famously allowing vendors to play pranks on customers. This is because of the addition of thickening agents such as mastic and salep.



Bamia is an okra and beef stew popular throughout the Middle East. The meat and okra are cooked together with tomato paste, spices, water and pomegranate molasses to name a few of the ingredients. They are stewed in the tomato sauce until the meat becomes tender and the sauce thickens.



Revani is a traditional cake which is popular throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean. It usually contains, flour, yogurt, eggs, sugar, baking powder and semolina. After baking, the cake is soaked in a light syrup before serving.


Mucver fritters

Mucver are vegetable fritters that consist of shredded vegetables, eggs, flour and flavorings like parsley, dill, mint and green onions. The batter is spooned into hot oil where is flattens slightly and is fried until golden. Some variations are made with cheeses like feta.


Lokma in syrup soak

Lokma is a fried dessert made using flour, water, yeast and salt. They are mixed into a runny dough, resembling a batter. The dough is allowed to rise which gives the Lokma an airy texture.

Bite sized pieces of dough are deep fried until golden and the excess oil is drained quickly before immediately placing into syrup.

Mercimek Köftesi

Mercimek Koftesi ring

Mercimek Köftesi is a traditional lentil dish consisting of red lentils, fine bulgur wheat, onions, tomato paste, red pepper paste, spices and herbs.

The lentils and bulgur are cooked and then mixed with the cooked onions, spices and herbs. The mixture is strong enough to withstand kneading and shaping. As they cool, they become firmer and more flavorsome. It requires no further cooking.


Turkish Tantuni wraps served with colored peppers on a wooden cutting board.

Tantuni is a Turkish street food consisting of marinated beef or lamb, fresh vegetables, and a sauce served in a savory, crispy flatbread. Using onions, tomatoes, green peppers, and parsley, the spicy wrap is considered to be a healthier fast food option in Turkey and is popular across the country.

Tantuni is often referred to as the Turkish equivalent of a taco.


Sliced Kazandibi

Kazandibi is a milk dessert. It was traditionally made using chicken breast. Today, it is often replicated without the meat and consists of milk, cream, sugar, starch and flavorings like vanilla and cinnamon.

A small amount of the sugar is poured onto a greased pan or tray then caramelized. The milk and cream are cooked then poured over the caramelized layer. It is then baked or cooked some more.

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