Planning a trip to Turkey? Visit its famous attractions but be mindful of what not to do in Turkey. Turkish cuisine has always been classified as one of the major cuisines in the world. Turkish cuisine has established its reputation for having a very rich and pure flavor despite its simplicity. You’ve probably heard or even tried one of their most common dishes which is the Kebab. These are plain or marinated meat that can be stewed or grilled, depending on your taste. Despite their famous mouth-watering kebabs, Turkish cuisine is often deemed to be limited to this dish alone. In fact there’s more to Turkish cuisine than its kebabs! Whether you’re looking for unique dishes or the best street food you must try in Turkey, we’ve got you covered! Here’s a list of the top 19 traditional Turkey food.
1. Pide (flat bread)
Known as the “Turkish pizza”, Pide is a flatbread filled with meat toppings such as sucuk (Turkish sausage), pastrami, and lamb meat. Like a usual pizza, the Pide is also topped with cheese and vegetables. What makes this pizza “Turkish” other than the varied meat toppings is its final touch where the chef usually breaks an egg on it right after the pizza is taken out of the oven.
2. Döner (meat in a wrap)
In Turkey, popular food items are easily available at various spots. Known as one of the tastiest takeaway Turkish food, the Döner is a burrito-like wrap made with beef, lamb, or chicken. It also includes special spices and different vegetables, and garlic yogurt. So if you find yourself in a rush, and want to eat something that will surely fill your stomach, have some classic Döner!
3. Kuzu Tandır (roasted lamb)
The Kuzu Tandır is known to be one of the most beloved meat dishes in Turkey. It is also known for its tender meaty goodness and is traditionally cooked using a special oven. The lamb is suspended over the coals and cooked for hours until it’s roasted. This method of cooking is known to have been used by the Seljuk Turks from Central Asia many centuries ago. The Kuzu Tandır is best served with Turkish yogurt and potatoes.
4. Pilav (rice)
Turkish rice is so tasty that you can eat it on its own. What makes it different from typical rice dishes is that it’s richly seasoned with simple ingredients such as onions and special Turkish spices. You can also add chicken and various vegetables if you want your Pilav to have extra toppings. To make sure that it’s a tasty Pilav, the rice has to be toasted with butter first. You can also add some yogurt to make it even more appetizing.
5. Manti (dumplings)
Think Chinese dumplings, but Turkish spices. Think Ravioli, but non-Italian fillings. Manti is an excellent dish that the Turks have mastered because a perfect Manti requires uniqueness when it comes to taste and texture. The delicacy is composed of different types of meat wrapped in soft dough, and it’s your choice if you want to boil or fry the meat. The Manti is best served with butter or yogurt. If you’re looking for something familiar and tasty, try the Manti, it’s a perfect go-to dish.
6. Kestane şekeri (sugared candy)
If you have a sweet tooth like the Turks, the Kestane şekeri might be just right for you. These are sugared chestnuts. One of the best traditional food to eat in Turkey, this dessert is extra special because it dates back to the 1300s. The Kestane şekeri is also a usual gift given during special occasions and is placed in decorative boxes. In French cuisine, this dessert is known as the “marron glacés.” This dessert is very easy to eat, so you can munch on them anytime and anywhere you would like.
7. Mozaik Pasta (chocolate cake)
This chocolate cake is a staple in any Turkish cafe. They also say that most Turkish mothers can make their own version of this dessert in an instant. A layer of broken biscuits and chocolate sauce, the Mozaik Pasta is a must try for cake lovers out there. If you’re looking for a familiar dessert, but want to try something new at the same time, the Mozaik Pasta is just right for your sweet cravings.
8. Künefe (cheesy dessert)
If you are wondering what to eat in Turkey for dessert, go for Künefe. It is like the antithesis of Mozaik Pasta. It’s not the easiest dessert to make according to most locals so it is usually bought from local shops. It is cooked in a round metal pan and requires a lot of patience. The Künefe is known to be “a common treat on a night out,“ according to Buzzfeed. It’s made out of cheese and pistachio, which is crispy on the outside, and soft chewy on the inside. This dessert is best served hot.
9. Salep (hot milk)
Have you ever wondered how a drink made out of orchids would taste like? Salep is a warm drink made of orchids and topped with cinnamon. This drink can only be consumed within Turkish borders since the supply of orchids are very limited. So an increase in demand for this drink, also means that orchids are nearing their extinction in Turkey. The Salep is also known to be a traditional drink during the cold season. If you’re in Turkey, try the Salep for yourself to know what’s so special about this one of a kind drink.
10. Turkish coffee
Along with good Turkish food, you also need a good Turkish drink. What’s interesting about Turkish coffee is that it’s more than just your typical drink. In Turkey, fortune telling and coffee go hand in hand. According to their culture, the shapes that are left by the coffee grounds tell a lot about the coffee drinker’s past and future. And you will know this when you finish your coffee because these coffee grounds will appear at the bottom of your cup. If this happens, locals advise that you close the cup, make a wish, then turn it over. Another fact about this drink is that a true Turkish coffee is too strong to handle. However, if you’re here to explore your taste buds, maybe you can give traditional Turkish coffee a sip.
11. Turkish Delight
One of Turkey’s most iconic dishes, Turkish Delight is loved by people across the world. Beautiful to look at with its bright colors and dusting of powdered sugar, this confection is made from a gel starch and sugar. Traditional varieties called ‘lokum’ also contain chopped nuts and dates flavored with rose, orange or lemon water. Easily available at any food market or tourist stall, do not leave Turkey without buying some Turkish Delight as a gift for your friends or to relish at home.
12. Iskender Kebab (thinly sliced lamb with tomato sauce)
One of Turkey’s most popular foods and meat dishes, Iskender Kebab is hearty, filling and very tasty. It consists of thinly sliced cooked lamb meat that is doused in a rich tomato sauce and both are then placed over pieces of flatbread. Yogurt, butter, sliced tomatoes and other items are also served as accompaniments to Iskender Kebab. Simply delicious, Iskender Kebab is widely available across Turkey.
13. Mezze (appetizers)
Mezze is a term that is widely used across the Middle East and refers to a range of small dishes that are served before a meal, with drinks or sometimes as accompaniments to the main course. Mezze in Turkey generally consists of items like dolma (stuffed vine leaves), herbed yogurt, cheese, pide (Turkish flatbread), hummus, meatballs, and more. Mezze are perfect for sharing or enjoying by yourself.
14. Baklava (sweet flaky pastry filled with nuts)
Baklava is another famous food of Turkey. This rich and flaky dessert attracts tourists from far and wide. Turkish Baklava is made from layer upon layer of flaky pastry with fillings of chopped nuts in between. This pastry is then baked and once cooled, it is topped with a sweet syrup that lends it an irresistible taste. Available almost everywhere in the country, from corner shops to fine dining restaurants, Baklava is a must-try traditional food in Turkey.
15. Turkish apple tea
Another popular beverage in the country, besides Turkish coffee, is Turkish tea. And Turkish apple tea, in particular, is very popular for its unique taste. Made from dried apples brewed in hot water with the addition of some spices like cinnamon and cloves, it is both refreshing and tasty. Some vendors make their Turkish apple tea from apple juice and others may use fresh apples. No matter how it’s made, this beverage is sure to be delicious!
16. Gözleme (stuffed Turkish flatbread)
A perfect Turkish to-go snack, Gözleme is easily available at street food stalls. It consists of flatbread that is stuffed with cheese, vegetables or meat which is then toasted on a griddle for a crunchy texture. This crepe-like snack is filling and yummy and extremely popular with locals. The flatbread is often handmade and lends Gözleme an authentic flavor.
17. Corba (Turkish soup)
Corba is a traditional Turkish soup that is hearty, warm and very satisfying. Most Turkish meals begin with a soup and this soup variety is made from red lentils, vegetables and flavored with spices. Simple and easy to make, you Corba can be tried at restaurants or at a traditional Turkish home. Bulgur wheat is sometimes added to Corba to give it an added texture and depth of flavor.
18. Dondurma (Turkish ice cream)
Dondurma is not just ice cream, it is ice cream with a chewy texture. And even more famous than the ice cream are its vendors who are known to put up a dramatic performance before serving Dondurma to you. Turkish ice cream has a strange elasticity to it and vendors display it by stretching Dondurma way above their heads or teasingly hand the ice cream cone to you before pulling it back. This iced dessert is perfect for an on-the-go treat on hot summer days or to enjoy while watching the world go by.
19. Imam Bayildi (stuffed eggplant)
Imam Bayildi is a classic Turkish dish that is even suitable for vegetarians and vegans. It consists of eggplant that is stuffed with chopped tomatoes, garlic and onions and then cooked in olive oil. This stuffed and simmered eggplant dish can be served warm or at room temperature. It could be a side dish for a large meal or a main course for people with dietary restrictions.
Embrace Turkey’s colorful cuisine!
From tasty meat-based dishes to scrumptious desserts, to exotic and exciting drinks, Turkish cuisine will offer you a lot. The list we have provided here are just some of the many that Trip101 suggest that you should try. Trust us, we can assure you that you won’t be disappointed.
Frequently asked questions about traditional Turkey foods
1. What is Turkey’s most popular food?
Many food items in Turkey are very popular with both locals and tourists. Some of the most popular food that you can enjoy here is: i) Döner (meat in a wrap) ii) Iskender Kebab (thinly sliced lamb with tomato sauce) iii) Gözleme (stuffed Turkish flatbread) iv) Baklava (sweet flaky pastry filled with nuts).
2. What is traditional Turkish food?
A variety of meat and vegetable preparations comprise authentic Turkish cuisine. Some traditional Turkish food items that you can try are Manti (dumplings), Kuzu Tandır (roasted lamb), Iskender Kebab (thinly sliced lamb with tomato sauce) and Salep (hot milk).
3. What is a typical Turkish breakfast?
A typical Turkish breakfast consists of Menemen (scrambled eggs cooked in sauteed vegetables) or Simit (Turkish pretzel) with Turkish coffee or tea. But for a full Turkish breakfast experience, go for Kahvalti, which has tomatoes, olives, eggs, honey, cheese, jam, Simit, Turkish sausage, and more.
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.