Turkish cuisine is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion and refinement of Central Asian, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisines. Turkish cuisine has in turn influenced those and other neighbouring cuisines, including that of western Europe. The Ottomans fused various culinary traditions of their realm with influences from Middle Eastern cuisines, along with traditional Turkic elements from Central Asia (such as yogurt), creating a vast array of specialities- many with strong regional associations.
Taken as a whole, Turkish cuisine is not homogeneous. Aside from common Turkish specialities that can be found throughout the country, there are also many region-specific specialities. The Black Sea region's cuisine (northern Turkey) is based on corn and anchovies. The southeast—Urfa, Gaziantep and Adana—is famous for its kebabs, mezes and dough-based desserts such as baklava, kadayıf and künefe. Especially in the western parts of Turkey, where olive trees are grown abundantly, olive oil is the major type of oil used for cooking. The cuisines of the Aegean, Marmara and Mediterranean regions display basic characteristics of Mediterranean cuisine as they are rich in vegetables, herbs, and fish. Central Anatolia is famous for its pasta specialties, such as keşkek (kashkak), mantı (especially from Kayseri) and gözleme.
A specialty's name sometimes includes that of a city or region, either in or outside of Turkey, and may refer to the specific technique or ingredients used in that area. For example, the difference between Urfa kebab and Adana kebab is the use of garlic instead of onion and the larger amount of hot pepper that kebab contains.
A typical Turkish breakfast consists of cheese (beyaz peynir, kaşar etc.), butter, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, reçel (jam/marmalade; a preserve of whole fruits) and honey usually consumed on top of kaymak. Sucuk (spicy Turkish sausage), pastırma, börek, simit, poğaça and even soups can be taken as a morning meal in Turkey. Perhaps more so than traditional breads such as pide, a crusty white loaf is widely consumed. A common Turkish speciality for breakfast is called menemen, which is prepared with roasted tomatoes, peppers, olive oil and eggs. Invariably, black tea is served at breakfast. The Turkish word for breakfast, kahvaltı, means "before coffee" (kahve, 'coffee'; altı, 'under').
Homemade food is a must for Turkish people. Although the newly introduced way of life pushes the new generation to eat out, Turkish people generally prefer to eat at home. A typical meal starts with soup (in the winter), followed by a dish made with vegetables or legumes boiled in a pot (typically with meat or minced meat), then rice or bulgur (crushed wheat) pilaf in addition of a salad or cacık (made from diluted yogurt and minced cucumbers). Another typical meal is dried beans cooked with meat or pastırma mixed or eaten with rice pilav and cacık.
Although fast food is gaining popularity and many major foreign fast food chains have opened all over Turkey, Turkish people still rely primarily on the rich and extensive dishes of the Turkish cuisine. In addition, some traditional Turkish foods, especially köfte, döner, kokorec, börek and gözleme are often served as fast food in Turkey. Eating out has always been common in large commercial cities. Esnaf lokantası (meaning restaurants for shopkeepers and tradesmen) are widespread, serving traditional Turkish home cooking at affordable prices.
In the hot Turkish Summer, many prefer a lighter meal consisting of seasonal vegetables and fruits. A summer meal is usually made up of fried vegetables (such as eggplant, potatoes, zucchini, and green peppers) served with yoghurt, tomato sauce, sheep's cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelons, melons, or summer helva (lighter and less sweet than regular helva).
Frequently used ingredients in Turkish specialities include: meat, eggplants, green peppers, onions, garlic, lentils, beans, and tomatoes. Nuts, especially pistachios, chestnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, and walnuts, together with spices, have a special place in Turkish cuisine. A great variety of spices are sold at the Spice Bazaar (Mısır Çarşısı). Preferred spices and herbs include parsley, cumin, black pepper, paprika, mint, oregano and thyme.
Butter or margarine, olive oil, sunflower oil, canola oil and corn oil are widely used for cooking. Kuyruk yağı (tail fat of sheep) is used mainly in kebabs and meat dishes. Sesame, hazelnut, peanut and walnut oils are used as well.
In the Ottoman cuisine, the accompanying of fruit as a side dish with meat was quite frequent. Plums, apricots, dates, apples, grapes, and figs are the most frequently used fruits (either fresh or dried) in Turkish cuisine. For example, komposto (compote) or hoşaf (from Persian khosh âb, literally meaning "nice water") are among the main side dishes to meat or pilav. Dolma and pilaf usually contain currants or raisins. Etli yaprak sarma (vine leaves stuffed with meat and rice) used to be cooked with sour plums in Ottoman cuisine.
Eggplant (Turkish: patlıcan) has a special place in the Turkish cuisine. It is combined with minced meat in karnıyarık. As a speciality of eastern Turkey, there are patlıcan kebabs, such as Tokat Kebab, a specialty of Tokat province, and Antep's eggplant kebab. In a large number of mezes, side-dishes, and main courses -such as şakşuka, patlıcan salatası ("eggplant salad", an eggplant purée/dip), patlıcan dolma ("filled eggplant"), hünkâr beğendi (eggplant purée prepared with cheese and traditionally served with lamb stew), imam bayildi, and musakka- eggplant is the major element. In Antalya province it is used for making eggplant jam ("patlıcan reçeli") .
In some regions, meat, which was mostly eaten only at wedding ceremonies or during the Kurban Bayramı (Eid ul-Adha) as etli pilav (pilaf with meat), has become part of the daily diet since the introduction of industrial production. Veal, formerly shunned, is now widespread. The main use of meat in cooking remains the combination of minced meat and vegetable, with names such as kıymalı fasulye (bean with minced meat) or kıymalı ıspanak (spinach with minced meat, which is almost always served with yoghurt). Alternatively, in coastal towns, cheap fish such as sardines (sardalya) or hamsi(anchovies) are widespread, as well as many others with seasonal availability. Poultry consumption is common, consisting almost exclusively of chicken, including eggs. Milk-fed lambs, once the most popular source of meat, comprise a small part of contemporary consumption. Kuzu çevirme, cooking milk-fed lamb on a spit, once an important ceremony, is rarely seen. Because it is a predominantly Islamic country, pork plays no role in Turkish cuisine.
Yoghurt is an important element in Turkish cuisine. In fact, the English word yoghurt or yogurt derives from the Turkish word yoğurt. Yoghurt can accompany almost all meat dishes (kebabs, köfte), vegetable dishes (especially fried eggplant, courgette, spinach with minced meat etc.), meze and a speciality called mantı (folded triangles of dough containing minced meat). In villages, yoghurt is regularly eaten with rice or bread. A thicker, higher-fat variety, süzme yoğurt or "strained yoghurt", is made by straining the yoghurt curds from the whey. One of the most common Turkish drinks, ayran, is made from yoghurt. Also, yoghurt is often used in the preparation of cakes, some soups and pastries.
Turkey produces many varieties of cheese, mostly from sheep's milk. In general, these cheeses are not long matured, with a comparatively low fat content. The production of many kinds of cheese is local to particular regions.
A Turkish meal usually starts with a thin soup (çorba). Soups are usually named after their main ingredient, the most common types being lentil, yoghurt, or wheat (often mashed) called mercimek çorbası and tarhana çorbası. Delicacy soups are the ones that are usually not the part of the daily diet, like (shkembe) İşkembe soup and paça çorbası, although the latter also used to be consumed as a nutritious winter meal. Before the popularisation of the typical Turkish breakfast, soup was the default morning meal for some people. The most common soups in Turkish cuisine are;
|Bademli Tavuk||Chicken soup with almond|
|Pide||a broad, round and flat bread made of wheat|
Turkish cuisine has a range of savoury and sweet pastries. Dough based specialities form an integral part of traditional Turkish cuisine.
The use of layered dough is rooted in the nomadic character of early Central Asian Turks. The combination of domed metal sac and oklahu/oklava (the Turkish rod-style rolling pin) enabled the invention of the layered dough style used in börek (especially in su böreği, or 'water pastry' , a salty baklava-like pastry with cheese filling), güllaç and baklava.
Börek is the general name for salty pastries made with yufka (phyllo dough), which consists of very thin layers of dough. Su böreği, made with boiled yufka/phyllo layers, cheese and parsley, is the most frequently eaten. Çiğ börek (also known as Tatar böreği) is fried and stuffed with minced meat. Kol böreği is another well-known type of börek that takes its name from its shape, as do fincan (coffee cup), muska (talisman), Gül böreği (rose) or Sigara böreği (cigarette). Other traditional Turkish böreks include Talaş böreği (phyllo dough filled with vegetables and diced meat), Puf böreği. Laz böreği is a sweet type of börek, widespread in the Black Sea region.
Gözleme is a food typical in rural areas, made of lavash bread or phyllo dough folded around a variety of fillings such as spinach, cheese and parsley, minced meat or potatoes and cooked on a large griddle (traditionally sac).
Katmer is another traditional rolled out dough. It can be salty or sweet according to the filling.
Lahmacun (meaning dough with meat in Arabic) is a thin flatbread covered with a layer of spiced minced meat, tomato, pepper, onion or garlic.
Pide, which can be made with minced meat (together with onion, chopped tomatoes, parsley and spices), kashar cheese, spinach, white cheese, pieces of meat, braised meat (kavurma), sucuk, pastırma or/and eggs put on rolled-out dough, is one of the most common traditional stone-baked Turkish specialities.
Açma is a soft bread found in most parts of Turkey. It is similar to simit in shape, is covered in a glaze with sesame seeds and is usually eaten as part of a healthy breakfast.
It is a common belief that the taste of pilav comes from the butter and stock used for cooking it. However, nowadays most people prefer olive oil to butter.
|Sade pilav||ordinary rice, which can accompany almost all dishes.|
|Domatesli pilav||tomato pilaf|
|Etli pilav||rice containing meat pieces.|
|Nohutlu pilav||rice cooked with chickpeas|
|İç pilav||rice with liver slices, currants, peanuts, chestnut, cinnamon and a variety of herbs|
|Patlıcanlı pilav||rice with eggplant.|
|Özbek pilavı||Uzbek pilavı||rice with lamb, onion, tomato, carrot.|
|Acem pilavı||Persian pilavı||rice with lamb, cooked in meat broth with pistachios, cinnamon etc.|
|Bulgur pilavı||a cereal food generally made of durum wheat. Most of the time, tomato, green pepper and minced meat are mixed with bulgur. The Turkish name (bulgur pilavı) indicates that this is a kind of rice but it is, in fact, wheat.|
|Perde pilavı||rice with chicken, onion and peanuts enveloped in a thin layer of dough, topped with almonds.|
|Hamsili pilav||spiced rice covered with anchovies, cooked in oven. A speciality from the Black Sea Region.|
|Frik pilavı||rice made of burnt wheat. A speciality from Antioch/Antakya.|
|Mantı||Turkish pasta that consists of folded triangles of dough filled with minced meat, often with minced onions and parsley. It is typically served hot topped with garlic yoghurt and melted butter or warmed olive oil, and a range of spices such as oregano, dried mint, ground sumac, and red pepper powder. The combination of meat-filled dough with yoghurt differentiates it from other dumplings such as tortellini, ravioli, and Chinese wonton. Mantı is usually eaten as a main dish. Minced chicken and quail meats are also used to prepare mantı in some regions of Turkey.|
|Erişte||home made pasta is called erişte in Turkey. It can be combined with vegetables but it can also be used in soups and rice.|
|Keşkek||a meat and wheat (or barley) stew.|
|Kuskus||the Turkish version of couscous, which can be served with any meat dish or stew.|
A vegetable dish can be a main course in a Turkish meal. A large variety of vegetables is used, such as spinach, leek, cauliflower, artichoke, cabbage, celery, eggplant, green and red bell peppers, string bean and jerusalem artichoke. A typical vegetable dish is prepared with a base of chopped onions, carrots sautéed first in olive oil and later with tomatoes or tomato paste. The vegetables and hot water will then be added. Quite frequently a spoon of rice and lemon juice is also added. Vegetable dishes usually tend to be served with its own water (the cooking water) thus often called in colloquial Turkish sulu yemek literally "a dish with juice"). Minced meat can also be added to a vegetable dish but vegetable dishes that are cooked with olive oil (zeytinyağlılar) are often served cold and do not contain meat. Spinach, leek, string bean and artichoke with olive oil are among the most widespread dishes in Turkey.
Dolma is the name used for stuffed vegetables. Like the vegetables cooked with olive oil as described above dolma with olive oil does not contain meat. Many vegetables are stuffed, most typically green peppers (biber dolması), eggplants, tomatoes, courgettes, or Zucchini in the U.S. (kabak dolması), vine leaves (yaprak dolması). If vine leaves are used, they are first pickled in brine. However, dolma is not limited to these common types; many other vegetables and fruits are stuffed with a meat and/or rice mixture. For example, artichoke dolma (enginar dolması) is an Aegean region specialty. Fillings used in dolma may consist of parts of the vegetable carved out for preparation, rice with spices and/or minced meat.
Mercimek köfte, although being named köfte, does not contain any meat. Instead, red lentil is used as the major ingredient together with spring onion, tomato paste etc.
Fried eggplant and pepper is a common summer dish in Turkey. It is served with yoghurt or tomato sauce and garlic.
Mücver is prepared with grated squash/courgette or potatoes, egg, onion, dill and/or cheese and flour. It can be either fried or cooked in the oven.
Rice pilaf can be served either as a side dish or main dish but bulgur pilavı (pilav made of boiled and pounded wheat -bulgur) is also widely eaten. The dishes made with kuru fasulye (white beans), nohut (chickpeas), mercimek (lentils), börülce (black-eyed peas), etc., combined with onion, vegetables, minced meat, tomato paste and rice, have always been common due to being economical and nutritious.
Turşu is pickle made with brine, usually with the addition of garlic. It is often enjoyed as an appetizer. It is made with a large variety of vegetables, from cucumber to courgette. In the towns on the Aegean coast, the water of turşu is consumed as a drink.
Meze is a selection of food served as the appetizer course with or without drinks. Some of them can be served as a main course as well.
Dolma is a verbal noun of the Turkish verb dolmak 'to be stuffed(or filled)', and means simply 'stuffed thing'. Dolma has a special place in Turkish cuisine. It can be eaten either as a meze or a main dish. It can be cooked either as a vegetable dish or meat dish. If a meat mixture is put in, it is usually served hot with yoghurt and spices such as oregano and red pepper powder with oil.
Zeytinyagli dolma (dolma with olive oil) is the dolma made with vine leaves cooked with olive oil and stuffed with a rice-spice mixture. Such a type does not contain meat, is served cold and also referred to as sarma, which means "wrapping" in Turkish. The word "sarma" is also used for some types of desserts, such as fıstık sarma (wrapped pistachio). If dolma does not contain meat, it is sometimes described as yalancı dolma meaning "fake" dolma. Dried fruit such as figs or cherries and cinnamon used to be added into the mixture to sweeten "zeytinyağlı dolma" in Ottoman cuisine. Vine leaves ("yaprak") could be filled not only with rice and spices but also with meat and rice, in which case it is served hot with yoghurt etli yaprak sarma.
Melon dolma along with quince or apple dolma was one of the palace's specialities (raw melon stuffed with minced meat, onion, rice, almonds, peanuts, cooked in an oven). In contemporary Turkey, a wide variety of dolma is prepared. Although it is not possible to give an exhaustive list of dolma recipes, courgette ("kabak"), aubergine ("patlıcan"), tomato ("domates"), pumpkin ("balkabağı"), pepper ("biber"), cabbage ("lahana") (black or white cabbage), chard ("pazı") and mussel ("midye") dolma constitute the most common types. Instead of dried cherry in the palace cuisine, currants are usually added into the filling of dolma cooked in olive oil. A different type of dolma is mumbar dolması, for which the membrane of intestines of sheep is filled up with a spicy rice-nut mixture.
Turkey is surrounded by seas which contain a large variety of fish. Fish are grilled, fried or cooked slowly by the buğulama (poaching) method. Buğulama is fish with lemon and parsley, covered while cooking so that it will be cooked with steam. The term pilâki is also used for fish cooked with various vegetables, including onion in the oven. In the Black Sea region, fish are usually fried with thick corn flour. Fish are also eaten cold; as smoked (isleme) or dried (çiroz), canned, salted or pickled (lâkerda). Fish is also cooked in salt or in dough in Turkey. Pazıda Levrek is a seafood speciality which consists of sea bass cooked in chard leaves. In fish restaurants, it is possible to find other fancy fish varieties like balık dolma (stuffed fish), balık iskender (inspired by Iskender kebab), fishballs or fish en papillote. Fish soup prepared with vegetables, onion and flour is common in coastal towns and cities. In Istanbul's Eminönü and other coastal districts, grilled fish served in bread with tomatoes, herbs and onion is a popular fast food. In the inner parts of Turkey, trout alabalık is common as it is the main type of freshwater fish. Popular seafood mezes include stuffed mussels, fried mussels and fried kalamar with tarator sauce.
Popular sea fishes in Turkey include: anchovy hamsi, sardine sardalya, bonito palamut, gilt-head bream çupra or çipura, red mullet barbun(ya), sea bass levrek, whiting mezgit (allied to the cod fish) or bakalyaro, swordfish kılıç, turbot kalkan, red pandora mercan, tırança, istavrit and white grouper lagos.
One of the world-renowned desserts of Turkish cuisine is baklava. Baklava is made either with pistachio or walnut. Turkish cuisine has a range of baklava-like desserts which include şöbiyet, bülbül yuvası, saray sarması, sütlü nuriye, and sarı burma.
Kadaif ('Kadayıf') is a common Turkish dessert that employs shredded yufka. There are different types of kadaif: tel (wire) or Burma (wring) kadayıf, both of which can be prepared with either walnut or pistachio.
Although carrying the label "kadayıf", ekmek kadayıfı is totally different from "tel kadayıf" (see ). Künefe and ekmek kadayıfı are rich in syrup and butter, and are usually served with kaymak (clotted/scrambled butter). Künefe contains wire kadayıf with a layer of melted cheese in between and it is served hot with pistachio or walnut.
Among milk-based desserts, the most popular ones are muhallebi, su muhallebisi, sütlaç (rice pudding), keşkül, kazandibi (meaning the bottom of "kazan" because of its burnt surface), and tavuk göğsü (a sweet, gelatinous, milk pudding dessert quite similar to kazandibi, to which very thinly peeled chicken breast is added to give a chewy texture). A speciality from the Mediterranean region is haytalı, which consists of pieces of starch pudding and ice cream (or crushed ice) put in rose water sweetened with syrup.
Helva (halva): un helvası (flour helva is usually cooked after someone has died), irmik helvası (cooked with semolina and pine nuts), yaz helvası (made from walnut or almond), tahin helvası (crushed sesame seeds), kos helva, pişmaniye (floss halva).
Other popular desserts include; Revani (with semolina and starch), şekerpare, kalburabasma, dilber dudağı, vezir parmağı, hanım göbeği, kemalpaşa, tulumba, zerde, höşmerim, paluze, irmik tatlısı/peltesi, lokma.
Güllaç is a "Ramadan" dessert which consists of very thin large dough layers put in the milk and rose water, served with pomegranate seeds and walnut. The story tells that in the cuisines of the Palace, those extra thin dough layers were prepared with "prayers" as it was believed that if one did not pray while opening phyllo dough, it would never be possible to obtain such thin layers.
Aşure can be described as a sweet soup containing boiled beans, wheat and dried fruits. Sometimes cinnamon and rose water is added when being served. According to legend, it was first cooked on Noah's Ark and contained seven different ingredients in one dish. All the Anatolian peoples have cooked and are still cooking aşure especially during the month of Muharrem.
Some traditional Turkish desserts are fruit-based: ayva tatlısı (quince), incir tatlısı (fig), kabak tatlısı (pumpkin), elma tatlısı(apple) and armut tatlısı(pear). Fruits are cooked in a pot or in the oven with sugar, carnation and cinnamon (without adding water). After being chilled, they are served with walnut or pistachio and kaymak.
Homemade cookies are commonly called kurabiye in Turkish. The most common types are acıbadem kurabiyesi (prepared only with egg, sugar and almond), un kurabiyesi (flour kurabiye) and cevizli kurabiye (kurabiye with walnut). Another dough based dessert is ay çöreği.
Tahin-pekmez is a traditional combination especially in rural areas. Tahin is sesame paste and pekmez is grape syrup. These are sold separately and mixed before consumption.
Marzipan badem ezmesi or fıstık ezmesi (made of ground pistachio) is another common confection in Turkey.
Another jelly like Turkish sweet is macun. Mesir macunu of Manisa/İzmir (which was also called "nevruziye" as this macun was distributed on the first day of spring in the Ottoman Palace) contains 41 different spices. It is still believed that "mesir macunu" is good for health and has healing effects. As with lokum, nane macunu (prepared with mint) used to be eaten as a digestive after heavy meals. Herbs and flowers having curative effects were grown in the gardens of Topkapı under the control of the chief doctor "hekimbaşı" and pharmacists of the Palace who used those herbs for preparing special types of macun and sherbet.
Dried fruit, used in dolma, pilav, meat dishes and other desserts is also eaten with almonds or walnuts as a dessert. Figs, grapes, apricots are the most widespread dried fruits.
Kaymak (clotted cream-butter) is often served with desserts to cut the sweetness.
Although the majority of Turks profess the Islamic religion, alcoholic beverages are as widely available as in Europe. However, some Turks abstain from drinking alcohol during the holy month of Ramadan. There are a few local brands of lager such as Tekel Birasi, Marmara34 and Efes Pilsen and a large variety of international beers that are produced in Turkey such as Skol, Beck's, Miller, Foster's, Carlsberg and Tuborg.
There are a variety of local wines produced by Turkish brands such as Kavaklıdere, Doluca, Corvus, Kayra, Pamukkale and Diren which are getting more popular with the change of climatic conditions that affect the production of wine. A range of grape varieties are grown in Turkey. For the production of red wine, the following types of grapes are mainly used; in Marmara Region, Pinot Noir, Adakarası, Papazkarası, Semillion, Kuntra, Gamay, Cinsault; in Aegean Region, Carignane, Çalkarası, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Alicante Bouschet; in Black Sea Region and eastern part of the country, Öküzgözü, Boğazkere; in Central Anatolia, Kalecik Karası, Papazkarası, Dimrit; in Mediterranean Region, Sergi Karası, Dimrit. As for white wine, the grapes can be listed as follows; in Marmara Region, Chardonnay, Riesling, Semillion, Beylerce, Yapıncak; in Aegean Region, muscat and semillion; in Black Sea Region, Narince; in Central Anatolia, Emir, Hasandede (for further info http://www.hayyam.com/uzumler/index.php). In addition to mass production, it is quite popular to produce wine in private farms and sell them in the locality. Visitors can find different "home made" wines in Central Anatolia (Kapadokya/Cappadocia region - Nevşehir), Aegean coast (Selçuk and Bozcaada (an island in the Aegean Sea)).
Rakı, a traditional alcoholic beverage flavoured with anise, is the usual drink with meze, fish or kebabs. As a matter of fact, the abolition of the monopoly of the state undertaking "TEKEL" on the production of alcoholic beverages spurred the production of Raki and wine in Turkey.
At breakfast and all day long Turkish people drink black tea. Tea is made with two teapots in Turkey. Strong bitter tea made in the upper pot is diluted by adding boiling water from the lower.
Ayran (salty yoghurt drink) is the most common cold beverage, which may accompany almost all dishes in Turkey.
Kefir is prepared with kefir grains and milk.
Sahlep is another favorite in winter (served hot with cinnamon). Sahlep is extracted from the roots of wild orchids and may be used in Turkish ice cream as well. This was a popular drink in western Europe before coffee was brought from Africa and came to be known.
Sherbet (Turkish şerbet, pronounced [ʃerˈbet]) is a traditional Turkish sweet soft drink made of rose hips, cornelian cherries, rose, or licorice and spices. Some contemporary adaptations can be found at http://www.lezzet.com.tr/dosyalar/01205/.
Turkish coffee is a world-known coffee which can be served sweet or bitter. In Turkish, there is a saying that emphasizes the importance in Turkish culture of offering a cup of coffee to someone: "a cup of coffee has a 40-year consideration". (For the link between coffee beans left behind by the Ottoman Army and today's coffee shops in Vienna, take the BBC test at http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/4305656.stm). It should also be noted that although Arabs call their coffee Turkish coffee, it is different in aroma and taste from the classical Turkish coffee.
Other non-alcoholic beverages may include: