The Foodie Guide to Turkish Cuisine

If you’re looking for a guide on what to eat on your next trip to Turkey (or to your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Read the foodie guide to Turkish cuisine from Passport & Plates! | http://passportandplates.com

One of my favorite parts about traveling is getting lost in the sea of new flavors that inevitably comes with sampling new food. Food says so much about culture and history, and is the best way to explore cities and countries.

Prior to visiting Turkey, my knowledge of Turkish cuisine was limited to Turkish coffee and döner kebabs. I assumed the food would be similar to what I was used to eating at home, since there’s a lot of crossover between Arab and Turkish culture.

I was right…but also wrong. Turkish cuisine may be a fusion of Arab and Greek food, but that doesn’t mean it’s the same. In fact, I discovered plenty of exciting new dishes and flavors that delighted my palate.

If you’re looking for a guide on what to eat on your trip to Turkey (or to your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Without further ado, I present the foodie’s Turkish food guide!

 

1. Pide

More fondly known as Turkish pizza, this was the first thing I ate upon arrival to Turkey. It’s made with slightly thick and hearty bread, and topped with spiced minced meat, veggies, and/or cheese. Sometimes it’s served like an actual pizza, and other times it’s wrapped, almost like a tamale. Either way, it’s delicious and it’s cheap! It can be found at most restaurants, although I found it to be freshest at the specialty bakeries.

 

2. Manti

Manti, or, as the waitress at Ficcin called it, Turkish ravioli. Ravioli, dumplings, whatever you want to translate it as – this stuff is delish! It’s a pasta dish stuffed with either veggies or meat (I had both a potato and beef version), and topped with yogurt and spices. Fresh, flavorful, and filling – now that’s what I’m talking about! Definitely worth adding to a Turkish food guide.

 

3. Döner Kebab

If you’re looking for a Turkish food guide for when you next visit Turkey (or your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Read the foodie guide to Turkish cuisine from Passport & Plates! | http://passportandplates.com

From the spit to our stomachs.

One thing I learned when I went to Turkey is that there are a LOT of types of kebab. Döner kebab is the one most people are familiar with – the wrap served with slices of meat shaved from a spit. The slices are served with veggies on a thin flatbread, and can be found all around Istanbul, although my first taste was at a stall in Taksim Square. No Turkish food guide would be complete without it.

 

4. Testi Kebap

Testi Kebap is most famous in Cappadocia – specifically in Goreme. Spiced meat and veggies are cooked slowly, and served in a sealed clay pot. Half the fun is watching the chef setting fire to the pot right before your eyes. The meat is delicious too, so it is well worth it!

 

5. Dürüm

If you’re looking for a Turkish food guide for your next trip to Turkey (or to your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Read the foodie guide to Turkish cuisine from Passport & Plates! | http://passportandplates.com

Direct from Durumzade. // (Source)

A dürüm is a Turkish wrap that is actually not a kebab. In fact, it’s minced meat or chicken pieces barbecued on a skewer and wrapped in lavaş – which is basically a Turkish tortilla. It’s hard not to compare döner to dürüm, but if I had to choose, the latter would take the cake. It is full of smoky charcoal goodness and is served with fresh tomatoes, parsley, and onion – I mean, there really is no comparison. I’m sure that the fact that I ate this at Dürümzade (a restaurant once visited by Anthony Bourdain himself) helped swing the vote in its favor.

 

6. Hünkar Beğendi

If you’re looking for a Turkish food guide for your next trip to Turkey (or to your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Read the foodie guide to Turkish cuisine from Passport & Plates! | http://passportandplates.com

My favorite dish in all of Turkey!

If I had to choose a single Turkish dish to eat every day for the rest of my life, it would be the hünkar beğendi from Karakoy Lokantasi. Also known as Sultan’s Delight, this dish consists of tender, slow-cooked beef, served over a smoky eggplant puree. It truly is a dish fit for a sultan. I’m not usually a fan of eggplant, but this dish had me wishing that my Airbnb was next door to the restaurant, so it had to be on my Turkish food guide.

 

7. Kofte

If you’re looking for a Turkish food guide for your next trip to Turkey (or to your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Read the foodie guide to Turkish cuisine from Passport & Plates! | http://passportandplates.com

SO good. // (Source)

Kofte is Turkey’s version of meatballs, served in patty form. Spiced minced ground meat and breadcrumbs are hand-mixed before being grilled, and it is one of the quintessential foods of the country. Like kebab, it comes in many forms (including raw!), but the grilled version is most common.

 

8. Mezze

If you’re looking for a Turkish food guide for next trip to Turkey (or to your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Read the foodie guide to Turkish cuisine from Passport & Plates! | http://passportandplates.com

Love this photo from Ashley Abroad!

Mezze is not a single item; rather, it’s a collection of small plates of different foods. Hot, cold, meats, veggies – you name it, it’s served as mezze! It’s essentially the appetizer course, and, depending on the restaurant, is offered on a large tray where you can select each plate that looks appetizing. It’s an excellent way to sample a variety of dishes such as spreads, stuffed grape leaves, and so much more. If you only try one thing from this Turkish food guide it should be mezze, because you get so many dishes to choose from.

 

9. Dips / Spreads

If you’re looking for a Turkish food guide for your next trip to Turkey (or to your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Read the foodie guide to Turkish cuisine from Passport & Plates! | http://passportandplates.com

Some dips and stuffed grape leaves!

Spreads are often a part of the mezze course, but there are so many great ones that I couldn’t resist adding them as a separate item on this Turkish food guide. Tomato and pepper, eggplant, chickpea, and yogurt are just a few of the most popular ones. If you aren’t normally the biggest fan of eggplant or yogurt, these Turkish spreads will definitely change your mind.

 

10. Mercimek Çorbası

If you’re looking for a Turkish food guide for your next trip to Turkey (or to your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Read the foodie guide to Turkish cuisine from Passport & Plates! | http://passportandplates.com

So good!

Translation: red lentil soup. Warm, hearty and absolutely perfect for winter, I tried this comforting dish in Cappadocia. The lentils are finely blended, so you aren’t left with that beany texture, either. Add a squeeze of lemon to your bowl and enjoy!

 

11. Yogurt

If you’re looking for a Turkish food guide for your next trip to Turkey (or to your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Read the foodie guide to Turkish cuisine from Passport & Plates! | http://passportandplates.com

Fresh Ayran – Turkey’s national drink. // (Source)

Yogurt is easily the national food item of Turkey, and thus it has to be on any Turkish food guide worth its salt. Yogurt is served as a dip, a sauce, or even as a drink – it is everywhere and in all forms. You’ll have no problem sampling some if you order any variety of mezze, but the best way to consume it is either in its pure form with a little honey, or as a drink served with salt. You won’t have a problem getting your daily intake of dairy here!

 

12. Çay

If you’re looking for a Turkish food guide for your next trip to Turkey (or to your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Read the foodie guide to Turkish cuisine from Passport & Plates! | http://passportandplates.com

Tea solves the world’s problems.

Pronounced “chay”, this is probably Turkey’s second national drink. The Turkish alternate between drinking black tea and apple tea, and both are always served in a glass. You can add sugar, but neither are ever served with milk. And if you’ve never had apple tea before – prepare yourself for a newfound addiction!

 

13. Turkish Coffee

If you’re looking for a Turkish food guide for your next trip to Turkey (or to your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Read the foodie guide to Turkish cuisine from Passport & Plates! | http://passportandplates.com

That foamy bit on top is the “skin”, and is a crucial element of the coffee.

Turkish coffee may look like espresso, but it is definitely not. It’s made in a pot called a cezve and carefully boiled until it forms a “skin” layer, then served in a mini mug. You have to let it settle a little first, otherwise you’ll end up with a mouthful of chalky coffee powder. Don’t drink the bit at the bottom of your cup either – that’s all coffee residue!

 

14. Simit

If you’re looking for a Turkish food guide for your next trip to Turkey (or to your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Read the foodie guide to Turkish cuisine from Passport & Plates! | http://passportandplates.com

I mean, why wouldn’t you want to buy one? (Source)

This Turkish pretzel is made fresh on the daily and sold in street carts. Unfortunately, my first bite of this sesame-covered hunk of carbs was cold thanks to the snowy weather, but I imagine it would taste much better at room temperature. It’s commonly eaten either for breakfast or as a snack throughout the day.

 

15. Pomegranate juice

If you’re looking for a Turkish food guide for your next trip to Turkey (or to your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Read the foodie guide to Turkish cuisine from Passport & Plates! | http://passportandplates.com

I’m such a good photographer of juice.

I obviously don’t need to explain what pomegranate juice is, so let’s keep this short. Fresh juice is big in Turkey – especially orange and pomegranate juice. It’s fresh, inexpensive, and delicious, and you should try it. The end.

 

16. Baklava

There are more or less 15 countries out there that make baklava and act like they invented it. I have no idea where it actually originates from, but you can find heaps of it all over Turkey. Available both at bakeries and in restaurants, prepare to fall in love with this syrupy, nut-filled dessert.

 

17. Turkish Delight

If you’re looking for a Turkish food guide for your next trip to Turkey (or to your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Read the foodie guide to Turkish cuisine from Passport & Plates! | http://passportandplates.com

So many flavors!

Last, but not least, is Turkish Delight. I distinctly remember trying Turkish delight when I was 7, and promptly spitting it out. Either the American version sucks, or my palate has expanded significantly since I was a single digit age, because now I love it. Essentially, Turkish delight is a sticky and sugary gel-based candy. It comes in a multitude of flavors and is oftentimes covered with nuts, sugar, or both. Even if you think you’ll hate it, give it a chance. Try all the free samples at the Spice Bazaar before buying what you want. Just don’t leave Turkey without trying some!

 

I hope this post has inspired you to experience the mouthwatering marvel that is Turkish cuisine. And if you don’t have a trip to Turkey planned for the foreseeable future – well then, perhaps it’s time to plan a trip to your local Turkish restaurant!

 

Have you ever tried Turkish cuisine? Have we left anything out of our Turkish food guide? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

If you’re looking for a Turkish food guide for your next trip to Turkey (or to your neighborhood Turkish restaurant), you’ve come to the right place! Read the foodie guide to Turkish cuisine from Passport & Plates! | http://passportandplates.com

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  • Sabrina Barbante

    It all looks so good! Do you think there’ much room for vegetarians? Thank you for sharing this post!

    • Thanks for reading! And yes, definitely! Most of the mezze and spreads are vegetarian, as are the majority of side dishes – the Turkish love fresh and grilled veggies! And a lot of the main dishes could be easily modified to be vegetarian as well :). Are you thinking of visiting sometime soon?

  • The red lentil soup and the Turkish pretzel both look amazing! I’d also love to try a Turkish delight. I completely agree with you that food can tell you a lot about culture and it often makes your travels!
    http://passportcouture.com

    • They’re all so good! I’m sure you can get the lentil soup at a Turkish restaurant although I’ve never seen the pretzel or Turkish delight readily available in the US (but maybe I haven’t looked hard enough)!

      I agree with you! My favorite thing to do when traveling is to try all the different foods. And those are often the souvenirs that come home with me too 🙂

  • I sooo didn’t need this now…I’m crazy about turkish food, probably the only country where I travelled that I actually gained weight – best money spent 😀 btw can’t believe u didn’t put the best thing – Kunefe *_*

    • Hahah the food is definitely incredible!
      I had no idea they have kunefe there…not sure how I missed that. i ate loads of kunefe in Cairo, so maybe I mentally skipped over it in Turkey. Agree that it is SUPER delicious though.
      Thanks for reading 🙂

  • 2TravelDads

    Kofte sounds a lot like keftes or kefthetes or any other number of regional variations that are all so yummy. Gosh I can’t wait to explore and eat my way through the Ottoman empire.

    • Yes I think they’re all similar variations in that region. But all equally delicious and worth trying in every country 🙂

  • Vyjay Rao

    Wonderful tour de force of Turkish food, loved every bit of it.

  • Thanks for a detailed share! One observation – there seems a considerable overlap between Turkish and Greek food!

    • Thanks for checking it out! You’re totally right! I haven’t been to Greece but have eaten lots of Greek food and there’s definitely a lot of cultural influences. My guess is because they were all part of the old Ottoman Empire back in the day. Interesting how history influences food, huh?

  • This is so interesting: i didn’t know over half of these foods! I was in Istanbul years ago, when i was way less curious than now about food – I MUST go back

    • Thanks Marta! Yes, there are so many foods I had never even heard of until I visited. You must go back and try them all!

  • Oh my goodness. I don’t think a food post has ever given me such a strong case of wandercrust.

  • So I just booked a table at our local Turkish restaurant after reading this – hopefully the food lives up to these descriptions!

  • Awesome guide! Thanks for sharing 🙂

  • Sabine @ The Travelling Chilli

    I’m lucky to live in a town where there are a lot of Turkish people and so also Turkish restaurants. The food is just very yummy. I’d love to visit Turkey only for the food 🙂

    • I’m so jealous! Surprisingly, there aren’t a ton of Turkish restaurants (besides the doner kabab shops) in Los Angeles, so I always have to drive a bit for good Turkish cuisine. You should definitely visit Turkey for the food, though! There’s so much great variety and it’s all so delicious!

  • We too loved the food in Turkey. The variety is incredible. Sultan’s Delight was one of our favorites as well! I am glad to see we have recipes featuring many of your favorites on our site.

    • That’s awesome! The food is amazing to be honest – so many great dishes! I want to attempt to recreate Sultan’s Delight at home so I’ll definitely take a look at your site.

  • Melody Pittman

    Love this post because I loved all the foods in Turkey, especially the Turkish Delight. Sensational. Thanks for clarifying the kebob types, I did not know that.

    • Thanks Melody! I actually used to hate Turkish Delight but it tastes WAY better in Turkey. Apparently there are even more kabob types than I mentioned – could you imagine?

  • I love Turkish coffee, baklava, doener kebab, and cheese cigars. Turkish food is delish!

  • Turkey has been popping up more and more often in various travel groups I’m in and this food guide gives me even more reason to want to make a trip over there…everything looks delicious!

    • I highly recommend adding it to your travel list! The food is absolutely delicious and the history and architecture is to die for! I only went to two cities and would love to go back and see more :).

  • Luiza Fortes

    I loved your guide! I just missed the Kiymali Borek, a Phyllo Pastry With Minced Meat Filling that is incredible!
    Thank you for your post!

    • Thank you and thanks for reading! Sounds like I missed out on something delicious when I went :(. I’ll have to add it to my list for next time!

      • Luiza Fortes

        The best place to eat it and also the Turkish desserts is the karakoy gulluoglu.

  • OMG the raviolis!! I totally forgot I had those! They were DELICIOUS!!! I had mine in a white cheese sauce… drilling rn…

    Must say though, the baklava was all so gross. With so many stores making so many varieties, I think it was over hyped in Turkey. Greece definitely make better baklava.

    • Yessss they’re amazing right?

      I had one decent baklava but I’m totally biased towards Middle-Eastern baklava since I’m Egyptian and Sudanese. It’s hard for anyone to top my mom’s! :p

      But I was all about the Turkish delight if I’m being honest.

  • Gucci

    Great write up Sally!! Being Turkish myself, I must say you did very well in experiencing different Turkish dishes, some of my favourites actually! I can eat manti and dolma (stuffed grape leaves) forever!! Also, Çay is pronounced ‘chay’ not ‘shay’. I noticed someone mentioned borek, which my mom makes all the time, and I myself like it with feta and parsley which is also so so good!! If you haven’t had lahmacun, you should try it next time, it is somewhat similar to pide. Oh and on the beaches, they sell muscles stuffed with rice – TO DIE FOR!! Reading this really makes me want to go back right now just to eat!!

    • Thanks Gucci! I’m glad I managed to try most things since I was only there for a little over a week! I’ll fix the pronunciation for cay right now – thanks for pointing that out :). I didn’t get a chance to try lahmacun but I really want to go back to Turkey so I’ll add it to my list for next time! Same goes for the mussels on the beaches. It was February when I went so I stayed away from the beach – def need to return when it’s warmer!

      Thanks for reading and your comment!

  • This is a great list. Whenever I go to Turkey, I’ll definitely look back at this post!

  • Looks like you ate well in Turkey! That pide and kofte looks so good. Actually, everything look insanely delicious. I’ve never tried the testi kebab, but this is just an excuse to go back 🙂

    • Oh I did! It’s easy to overwrite Turkish food as just kabobs, but clearly there’s a lot more to eat! And yes, returning to Turkey for the food is totally acceptable in my book 🙂

  • This is an awesome compilation of Turkish cuisine. Love the Baklava. Hünkar Beğendi and Kofte look delicious. 🙂