Turkish foods have a long and rich history; sometimes sweet like pistaccio-filled baklava, and other times salty like briny village cheese. A mix of Middle Eastern, Balkan and Central Asian, cuisines it consists of delightfully diverse dishes — and everything comes with a dollop of thick savoury yoghurt.
Anyone whose spent five seconds in Turkey will tell you to eat pide — essentially Turkish pizza, which is amazing by the way — but after spending three seasons working on an archaeological dig, I know what’s what. From grandma’s specialties to street food favourites, this is what you want to eat.
Here are the 10 best Turkish foods according to The Food Girl in Town
There’s zero chance you won’t like gözleme, the ultimate Turkish comfort food. Thin layers of pastry called yufka encase ingredients like salty feta cheese, vegetables or minced meat, which are cooked over a griddle. Göz translates to “compartment,”making the perfect little pockets for all the goods. I like mine plain, with layers of ooey-gooey cheese.
In the Middle East, it’s popular to serve cold and salted yoghurty things as a way to stay cool on crazy-hot days. Ayran, the salty yoghurt drink, is the national beverage in Turkey. Served cold, cacık resembles a runnier tzatziki with lots of cucumber and garlic.
The world of kebap is a veritable meat wonderland and there are lots of ways to enjoy it. Şiş kebap (shish kebab) consists of small cubes of meat skewered and cooked over fire. Most of the time lamb is the preference, but chicken or beef are also common.
Döner kebap literally translates to “rotating kebab” so you can imagine how delicious this giant hunk of meat tastes after it’s been slow roasted on the vertical rotisserie for hours.
This Turkish wrap is actually another type of kebap, but its portability puts it in another category. It’s typical Turkish to stand at a curb-side window and watch as the cook shaves off döner kebap into a flatbread called lavaş, dousing it in garlicky-yoghurt sauce and wrapping it up with a load of fresh veg. Basically a kebap cornucopia in a burrito.
Because of their Asian ancestry mantı are often described as dumplings, but the Turkish iteration is more similar to ravioli in shape and size. Lamb-stuffed ravioli swimming in a sea of yoghurt sauce with sumac, red pepper flakes and dried mint. Gimme.
To say breakfast is the most important meal of the day in Turkey is the understatement of the century, probably the millennium. Kahvaltı is always big — but not necessarily heavy — full of meat, cheese, bread, eggs and vegetables to get your day started off right. One of my favourite things to have is simit a delicious circular sesame bread; like if soft pretzels and Montreal bagels had a delicious baby together.
My all-time favourite thing to have for breakfast in Turkey is menemen. A simple yet supple egg dish, consisting of tomatoes, onion, garlic, green peppers and made into a scramble with pepper, salt and oregano. Served up with some bread and cheese? You can’t start your day in a better way.
Çay & Kahve
Drinking çay (tea) and kahve (coffee) in Turkey is much more than a way to stay caffeinated; it’s a way of life. Sitting down to a piping hot cup with lots of sugar is a great way to get to know someone new. I’ve had many amazing conversations over copious cups. Never turn down a cup of tea in Turkey.
Turkish coffee is strong and unfiltered. It can be a shock to the system for new drinkers, but it’s flavour is unequivocal. Kahve is almost always served with a piece of lokum, known outside Turkey as Turkish delight.
This dish is a staple in Turkish cuisine, meaning everyone’s got their own recipe for köfte. These meaty little loaves have hundreds of variations, but are typically made with ground meat, bulgur and spices.
For those looking for a meatless option, köftesi are red lentil köfte and are a popular appetizer in Turkey.
We scream dondurma, you scream dondurma, we all scream dondurma! Turkey’s version of ice cream contains mastic, making it easy for vendors to impress with fun tricks when serving it. My favourite flavour is pistachio, but layered with ALL THE FLAVOURS is best.
While I’ve already touched on the variety of kebap available İskender kebap is one of my absolute favourites. Lamb prepared in the doner kebab style sits atop flatbread with a healthy dose of melted butter and tomato sauce. Yea, that’s right, melted butter. A heart attack on a plate. But if I’m going to die in Turkey, that’s how I want it to go down.
PIN THIS FOR LATER