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Turkish Food: 18 Must-Try Traditional Dishes of Turkey

Turkish Food: 18 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.

So without further ado, 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.

Kokorec

Kokorec
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.

Cilbir

Cilbir
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: 18 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!

Leblebi

Leblebi
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.

Simit

Simit
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.

Pide

Pide
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.

Borek

Borek
Photo credit: O.celebi

This is a stuffed pastry popular in Ottoman cuisine. It is made with thin flaky dough and filled with meats, cheese and vegetables. It has many regional variances, for example, palace borek, pen borek and water borek.

Ayran

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

Sahlab

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.

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