Peculiarities of Turkish Cuisine

National features of Turkish cuisine

Turkish cuisine combines many culinary traditions of different nations of Asia and Caucasus and together with Italian and French cuisine is one of three most popular cuisines in the world. There are quite unexpected combinations of ingredients and ready meals, unusual for European gourmets, but not devoid of their sophistication. Let’s take a closer look at all of these.

turkish cuisine

Appetizers and first courses

Every meal in Turkey begins with a light snack, called “meze”. It can be salads, pickled vegetables, pickles, olives (black and green), mushrooms, sharp cheese, sardines or anchovies.


As an appetizer, most tourists give preference to “borek” – small fried cakes in which thin layers of dough cover the filling of meat, fish, cheese, spinach or spices.

In Turkish cuisine, as in Russian, a special piety for the first course, which is served at the beginning of the meal at all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner).

  • In winter many establishments offer tourists “chorba” – a hot stew of tomatoes, lentils and other vegetables,
  • In the summer, a very popular dish is Jajik, a cold stew made of ayran (a kind of fermented milk product), garlic, cucumbers, and spicy herbs.


Turkish cuisine can compete with the cuisines of other countries in the number of various soups. Local cooks prepare delicious meat, fish, chicken, rice, and vegetable soups dressed with lemon juice, mint, and eggs.

Abundance of meat

The national cuisine of Turkey is also a huge number of beef, lamb, and poultry dishes. Typical meat dishes are variations of shashlik . In addition to the traditional meat on a skewer “shish kebab” tourists are also offered:

  • “tandyr kebab” – a whole lamb carcass baked in a hearth dug in the ground,
  • “kufta” (small round cutlets),
  • “Kebab (products made of finely sliced or minced meat with added spices).
  • The tourists also like the sausages or balls of minced meat fried on the grill, which Turks call “yzgara”.


But the most famous meat dish of the Turkish cuisine is pilaf, which in this country is cooked from rice or wheat groats. Wheat is stewed with meat, whole onions, green peppers and chopped tomatoes, while rice pilaf has its own characteristics depending on the region of the country. Rice pilaf will taste differently in each corner of Turkey, so it simply cannot get boring. In some areas of the country pilaf is cooked even from the peas and noodles.

In almost all places, capable of quenching an attack of hunger, serve the world-famous dolma (a type of Turkish stuffed cabbage rolls) in cabbage or grape leaves stuffed with meat or rice.


If you are in Turkey on holiday or on a business trip, you must try the local manty, which is made from dough stuffed with minced meat. Onions, salt, pepper and chopped spices are added to the filling. Manty is served with a special sauce prepared by mixing yogurt with garlic, paprika, oil, cayenne pepper, basil, and parsley.


Gifts of the Seas

Since the territory of Turkey is surrounded on three sides by the waters of the Black, Marmara and Mediterranean Seas, many kinds of fish and seafood are used in the national cuisine. Local chefs prepare delicious mullet, stingray, mullet, swordfish, flounder, as well as oysters, mussels, squid, octopus, cuttlefish, lobster, and all kinds of shrimp.

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The seafood is unpretentious, though not cheap. Visiting the fish restaurants in Turkey, tourists from Europe should be aware that the menu does not indicate the value of the dish, and the price per kilogram of live fish or other seafood. Visitors can choose a fish for themselves in a huge bowl, pay for its weight and then enjoy the taste of freshly cooked food.

You can always try fish dishes at more reasonable prices in the coastal towns, where many kinds of sea fish are cooked on a grill, added to dolma, and the meat for the traditional pilaf is replaced by mussels and other delicacies.

Vegetable Paradise

As a side dish to the meat and fish dishes in the cuisine of Turkey most often serve a variety of vegetables. It is noteworthy that vegetables are not considered secondary products here, and incredibly delicious dishes are prepared from them. Local cooks can prepare more than four dozens of different dishes from eggplants alone.


Stuffed leeks, kavurma of sorrel, zeitignals (string beans stewed with onions and tomatoes) are also popular with tourists.

Tea, coffee, ayran and stronger drinks

The traditional drink to wash down all these viands in the national cuisine of Turkey, besides the famous Turkish coffee, is considered to be tea. To taste this drink tourists do not necessarily need to search for cafes and restaurants in large cities. There are numerous vendors (“chaici”) walking the streets and serving hot or cold tea on special trays. Often the “chaichi” carry a real samovar on a cart.

Tea is so popular in Turkey that people drink it everywhere. Not only black and green teas are consumed, but also berry, orange, and apple teas. These fruit blends are sold in Turkish markets by weight, so tourists can always choose the flavor they like best.


Quench your thirst in the heat of summer with a glass of ayran diluted with mineral water. This drink makes the body in a tone and gives him a pleasant freshness.

Since Turkey is a Muslim country, then from the strong drinks in many stores in the free access only aniseed vodka, dry and semisweet wines.

Pastries and Sweets

Turkish cuisine is famous for its sweets. First of all, we should allocate “baklava” – a layer of shavings of pistachios and walnuts, placed in the thin petals of puff pastry.

Geslime” – cheese cakes, among which the best are those baked on the coals in a large tandoor.


You should definitely try the “sultan’s dessert”, pieces of dough cooked in special way and boiled in a thick syrup, which are then sprinkled with grated walnut kernels and covered with a thick cream.

And how to pass by such Turkish sweets as halva, Turkish delight, stuffed peaches and candied chestnuts?


We must remember that of all kinds of pastries in Turkey, the most revered simple bread. It should not be thrown away – it is a great sin. Even if you drop a piece of bread, you must pick it up, kiss it and hold it up to your eyes, otherwise you can find yourself in a bad situation.

Cooking Ourselves – Turkish Recipes

You can bring a little bit of Turkish flavor into your home by cooking a few dishes of this cuisine and pleasantly surprise your family or invited guests.

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Rice Soup

For the first course, you can serve rice soup, for which you will need:

  • 6 cups of meat broth;
  • 500 grams of tomatoes;
  • 1/3 cup rice;
  • tablespoon of oil;
  • parsley and salt to taste.

Rice soup

  1. Rice should be washed, placed in a saucepan, pour the meat broth, add oil and salt and put on the stove. While the base for the soup is boiling, one tomato should be put aside and the rest chopped and added to the soup. The last tomato should be peeled from the skin, cut into cubes and throw in the soup at the very end.
  2. Cook rice soup for about 15 minutes, until the rice begins to melt. Then take it off the stove, pour it on a plate and decorate it with finely chopped parsley.

Eggplant stuffing

As a second course, you can prepare eggplants with stuffing. For this, you will need:

Turkish Cuisine

Turkish cuisine

The cuisine of the inhabitants of Turkey is entirely associated with the history of the development and formation of the state. Its origins date back to the times of nomadic Turkic peoples, its formation and development was influenced by the great Ottoman Empire. Cultural customs, religion, and lifestyle of nomadic peoples were reflected in the dishes and table traditions of the Turks.

History of the emergence and development of Turkish cuisine

Founded by the warlike nomadic tribes of the Turks, Turkish cuisine was enriched and acquired various qualities inherent in the conquered peoples. The nomads very quickly absorbed the culture and traditions of those people who were enslaved by them. The aristocratic marriages of Turks with noble nobles from all over the Mediterranean also played a big role in the formation of Turkish cuisine. It was full of various delicacies of the particular state with which it was connected by marriage ties.

The development of this Oriental cuisine was greatly influenced by Arab and Indian cultures, by Caucasian and Iranian customs, by Greek and Balkan cuisine, and by Mediterranean culinary delights.

History distinguishes three phases that influenced its development: the Central Asian period, the period of Sufism formation in Islam, and the Ottoman period.

Approximately until 1038 the Turkish cuisine was dominated by products introduced by the Turks from Central Asia. As a nomadic people they were fond of meat dishes, preferring horsemeat and mutton. Sour milk products and flour tortillas dominated their diet. Meat roasted on a skewer, which was used at the time as a fighting sword, was very common at that time. It was a kind of analogue of the modern Turkish kebab.

Around the eleventh century in Islam, Sufism began to form, thanks to which the kitchen was considered a sacred place. Table setting and food decoration were very influential in those times.

Since 1453 up to 1923 was the period of formation and development of the Ottoman Empire. At that time it was the peak of perfection of Turkish cuisine. In the period of Mehmed II sultan’s reign, he had a luxurious culinary complex in his palace. This complex consisted of four areas, each designed for cooking for different segments of the population. There are legends stating that this complex was served by about thirteen thousand cooks, each of whom specialized in cooking the same dish and did it masterfully.

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Every day about ten thousand people visited the sultan’s palace, who were not only fed with delicious food, but also received baskets filled with all kinds of delicacies from the sultan’s table as a sign of special treatment.

In addition to meat, which is quite common, the Turkish cuisine made extensive use of rice, which has been cultivated here since Roman times. For instance, a popular Turkish dish called Pilaw is made from two typical Turkish ingredients: minced meat and rice.

Thanks to the Venetian merchants on the shores of Turkey came notorious corn, which immediately won the love and confidence of different segments of the population. Before that, only wild grains were used as food: wheat, sorghum, and buckwheat.

The most popular in Turkey are legumes: mutton peas and beans. Characteristic of this cuisine are sweet peppers and juicy tomatoes that were brought to this country from South America.

In the Turkish cuisine the special place is given to the cold vegetable dishes that are a distinctive zest and attract the most sophisticated gourmets. The cold appetizers in Turkey are beautifully decorated dishes of spinach, artichokes, and carrots generously flavored with delicious olive oil and a splash of lemon juice. Patlican kebab, a famous Turkish dish consisting of fried meat with eggplant, is often cooked. And of course the famous dolma, cooked in olive oil of meat with rice and pine nuts wrapped in grape leaves. Lemon juice gives a piquant sourness to such a dish, sometimes pomegranate seeds are used for this purpose.

Turkish cuisine abounds with various original additives. Onions and garlic are indispensable ingredients in almost all its dishes. Raisins, walnuts, pistachios and pine nuts add a distinctive flavor to various dishes. Vegetable side dishes are mostly eggplant, zucchini and okra. Kaymak, rich whipped cream made from sheep’s milk, and sheep cheese are rightfully considered the national dishes of Turkish cuisine.

Although Muslims are highly discouraged from drinking alcohol, rice or date rakija is highly valued even outside of Turkey.

Popular Turkish dishes

Fish and seafood

Turkish cuisine, by the way, occupies the third position in the world, after French and Chinese. It is valued for the variety of dishes, its exclusivity, specificity and originality, and quite ancient history.

Turks love to eat since ancient times, and this habit has not been eradicated yet. Lunch in Turkey can last for about five hours, and not a modest snack, and the real gatherings of friends are welcome.

The breakfast of the Turks is quite modest. It includes bread and cheese, olives and tea. For lunch, the table is covered with meze, various appetizers, main dishes, and it ends with desserts. A traditional oriental meze usually consists of:

  • salads;
  • fish and seafood; ;
  • Mushrooms and pickled vegetables;
  • pies;
  • cheese;
  • freshly baked bread;
  • yogurt-based garlic sauce.

Bread is very valuable to the Turks. They even have a legend that the recipe for bread was given to the patron of bakers by an archangel who came down from heaven. The Turks never take a crumb of yesterday’s bread in their mouths, they only eat freshly baked product. The white bread of the Turks is called ekmek. Also widespread are paid, a flat dough sprinkled with sesame seeds, and sesame simit. Popular among Oriental peoples is borek, a thinly rolled dough used for cakes and puff pastries. Those who know how to roll out borek in the best way in the country are held in high esteem and respect.

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After the meze, the main dishes are traditionally brought to the table, where the preference is for food cooked in the open air. One of the most popular is kebab, best known in our countries as shashlik. Kebab was first mentioned in the writings of the Hittite kingdom, where it was described as a dish of sacred rams glazed with olive oil and honey.

True kebab should be cooked without water. The Turkish dish has such an intense flavor, thanks to the breeding of the cattle and rams from which it is made. They are raised on open pastures under improved conditions. Sheep in general in Turkey on a special account: they act as a guide for the Turks, who can take believers to heaven on the day of the Last Judgment, on a very narrow and sharp road. The whole country is peppered with various stalls and kebab houses where you can eat a real Turkish kebab for a relatively cheap price.


One of the popular Turkish main dish is kefte. This national dish is made of minced meat with eggs and spices. From them roll small balls, which are then fried, or eaten raw.

Turkey is just a paradise for lovers of seafood. The fact is that this country is surrounded by four seas, and the art of cooking fish laid in the Turks’ blood. Particular zest and luxurious flavor gives the gifts of the sea cooked on charcoal. Outdoors you can smell octopus, oyster, lobster, mullet and even stingrays. The seafood is usually served with slices of white bread. But the most popular fish in Turkey is khamsa. It is said that Turks can even cook desserts with it.

Among the side dishes, the pilaw made of wheat groats or rice and various vegetable dishes stand out. They can be divided into two categories: stuffed vegetables and stewed in its own juice with olive oil. Those vegetables that are stuffed are baked or fried afterwards. In Turkish they are called dolma, from the word “doldu rmak”, literally translated as “to fill with something”.

The most popular dolma among the Turks is sweet peppers stuffed with rice. And the most popular dolma fillings are minced meat with rice. The green beans stewed with tomatoes and onions is one of the most popular side dishes in Turkey, called zeitinjali.

Cabbage, on the other hand, is not much in demand, as are spices and spices. They are certainly used in cooking, but in moderation. Turks believe that spices only drown out the divine flavor of delicious dishes. Zucchini is supposed to be delicious with dill and mint while eggplants are supposed to be delicious with parsley alone. The unparalleled flavor of meat, vegetables and olive oil they adjust with lemon juice or the addition of yogurt.

Also in Turkey there are different varieties of soups, so-called chorbalar. The best known national first course of Turkish cuisine today is tarkhana chorbası soup, prepared on the basis of tarkhana, a ready-made dried mixture of dried tomato powder, red and green peppers, flour, yeast and onions. The ingredients of such a mixture vary from region to region, but still such a soup holds the mark of superiority and is the most popular in Turkey.

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Others include:

  • mercimek chorbası, a soup with the addition of red lentils;
  • İşkembe Çorbası, giblet soup with vinegar and garlic;
  • shehrieli yeshil merjimek chorbası – soup with thin vermicelli and green lentils.


Turkish desserts should be singled out, the variety of which can conquer anyone, even the most refined gourmet. Quince makes an excellent marmalade, rose petals make a masterpiece jam, and sour cherry is the basis of an incomparable jam.

The most famous Turkish sweet is baklava, which is a sweet pastry crust poured with sweet syrup and generously sprinkled with chopped nuts. Another sweet dish in Turkey is muhallebi. Such products somewhat resemble pudding, but cooked without adding eggs and butter. An unexpected ingredient in this dish was the chicken breast. Marzipan, halva, and Turkish rahat-lukum are also considered traditional sweets and are usually served with drinks.

It is customary in Turkey to give names to its sweet dishes. The most famous of them are: Vizier’s finger, woven turban, woman’s thigh and others.

Turkish coffee is served and enjoyed throughout the world, but for all that, Turks are not great coffee drinkers, which does not prevent them from being great lovers of fortune-telling with coffee grounds. This is actually the reason why this drink, which is so popular all over the world, appeared.

A legend has it that coffee came to Europe only because it was found in bags left by the retreating army of the Ottoman Empire at the gates of besieged Vienna.

Tea, on the other hand, is really a favorite drink of the Turks.

They drink a little more than thirty special cups of tea a day, called “chayibardak. Tea is always freshly brewed and is even part of the Turks’ work schedule.

Modern Turks, contrary to Islamic traditions, are tolerant of alcoholic beverages. They allow themselves both beer, which in Turkey sounds like bira, and wine – in Turkish – Sharap. But most of all they prefer anise vodka, which is national drink of this country and is called raki.

The strength of raki is from forty to seventy revolutions. It is drunk by diluting it with clean cold water, thanks to which aniseed is extracted from the alcohol and gives the liquid a milky-white color. Because of this, raki acquired a second name – lion’s milk.

To sum up

Turkish cuisine is famous for its enormous variety of dishes, the high quality of products from which they are prepared, and the unique recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation for many thousands of years. It is not only quite tasty cuisine, but also very healthy.

This played a major role in the balance of products in the Turkish diet, as well as the absence of the Turks snack. In addition, the average life expectancy in Turkey is about 76.3 years, which is the best advertisement for their magical oriental cuisine.

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