Rich and diverse with a deep-rooted history, Turkish cuisine is the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which is best described as a fusion of Central Asian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Balkan cuisines.
Blessed with a varied climate, fertile lands and access to the sea, the country can source the majority of its ingredients locally. From the many variations of delicious kebabs to melt-in-your-mouth sweet desserts, Turkey has some tasty dishes to shout about. Here is a selection of essential Turkish foods to try on your next visit:
Crusty on the outside yet soft on the inside, Simit is a circular bread coated with molasses and encrusted with sesame seeds. Typically consumed for breakfast with fruit preserves and Turkish tea or for lunch with cheese and meats, these doughy delights are often served hot from the street vendors in Istanbul, or any Turkish city.
2. Shish Kebab
Turkey has many different types of kebab, but the most famous is the skewered shish kebab. Traditionally prepared with beef or lamb, you will now find many Turkish restaurants serving fish and chicken varieties. Marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, yoghurt and spices, the meat is grilled over hot charcoals and served on metal or wooden skewers.
3. Doner Kebab
Very well-known across Europe, especially in the UK, a doner kebab is a typical fast food to grab on the go, but there’s no better place to try it than the country it originated. This popular Turkish meat dish cooks on a vertical skewer that rotates to a hot grill. The meat is usually prepared as a mixture of lamb and beef, but it can also be found with chicken or beef only.
These Turkish meatballs are made from ground beef or lamb and served as a main course in a stew, with rice and warm flatbread, over salads or just as they are with yoghurt. You will find hundreds of different varieties of Köfte across the country but you certainly won’t have to travel far to find it!
Slow cooked beef, lamb or chicken is wrapped in Lavash, a thin Turkish flat bread, alongside salad, tomato and onion. The sauce, usually yoghurt based, binds all the ingredients into one very tasty meal. Basically, a Turkish burrito!
Commonly known as the ‘Turkish pizza’, pide is a boat shaped flatbread topped with a variety of ingredients, but most commonly minced meat or cheese and onion. Readily available from street vendors, pide is the perfect snack to keep you going whilst sightseeing!
A selection of hot or cold delicacies usually served as an appetizer with drinks. A typical meze platter includes many different dishes, ranging from babaganoush, salads, dips and spreads and is served with Turkish bread.
A traditional food popular across many neighbouring countries and as documented in Ottoman cookbooks, it is believed that this dish originated in the Ottoman Topkapi Palace. The word dolma is actually of Turkish origin meaning ‘stuffed thing’. There are many varieties, but it typically signifies any sort of vegetables or vine leaves stuffed with a mixture of meat and/or rice fillings.
Dating back to the Ottoman Empire, baklava is one of Turkey’s most famous and well-loved desserts. Layered pastry filled with nuts, covered in sweet syrup and topped with ground pistachios. A must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth!
10. Turkish Delight
Turkish Delight, otherwise known as Lokum, is a sweet gel-like delicacy that comes in many different flavours. Made from corn starch and castor sugar, it is then cut into cubes and coated with powdered sugar.