With its melting pot of cultures and flavors, Turkey is a paradise for foodies. This Eurasian country offers one of the world’s most diverse and mouthwatering cuisines.
From spiced kebabs to sweet baklava, Turkey’s culinary delicacies will dazzle your taste buds. Here’s an insider’s guide to the must-try foods for any food lover visiting this gastronomic wonderland.
Turkish cuisine is heavily influenced by 600 years of Ottoman rule. Döner kebab is one of the most popular Ottoman-era foods.
This savory dish of slow-roasted lamb carved from a vertical rotisserie was invented in 19th century Turkey. Be sure to try döner both in a warm pide bread pocket and as an entree served with rice and grilled vegetables.
Another Ottoman-era staple is the meatballs known as köfte. Typically made with lamb or beef and Mediterranean spices, köfte are served grilled or baked, often accompanied by tomatoes and peppers.
For an authentic taste, order Iskender kebab – döner lamb with a tomato sauce and melted sheep’s milk cheese.
With seven diverse geographical regions, Turkey offers a rich array of local specialties. In central Turkey, be sure to try pottery kebab (tencere kebabı). This buttery lamb stew cooked in a clay pot is a hallmark of Anatolian cuisine.
On Turkey’s Aegean coast, seafood reigns supreme. The fried mussel pilaf known as midye tava is popular in Izmir. Or try sea bass baked with tomatoes and green peppers, a regional specialty. These coastal areas also produce amazing olive oil for dipping fresh baked breads.
No Turkish meal is complete without a spread of meze small plates and appetizers. Standard meze selections include creamy haydari yogurt dip, smoky baba ghanoush made from charred eggplant, and plump falafel chickpea fritters.
Don’t miss the creamy feta cheese, juicy olives, and endless fresh vegetables that also make up a classic Turkish meze spread.
Mezes are the perfect snack alongside rakı, Turkey’s popular anise-flavored spirit. This drink pairs well with fish, seafood, and zesty meze.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with Turkey’s desserts like baklava, kunefe, and sutlac. Baklava’s crisp, flaky phyllo layers hide a sweet syrupy pistachio or walnut filling.
The cheese-based pastry kunefe is soaked in sweet syrup then topped with pistachios. Sutlac features rice pudding enriched with rose water and cinnamon.
After dinner, order a Turkish coffee or tea accompanied by lokum (Turkish delight). These gelatinous cubes dusted in powdered sugar come in rosewater, pistachio, and other flavors.
Some of the best local flavors are found in Turkey’s bustling street markets. Don’t miss simit – bread rings encrusted with sesame seeds and often served for breakfast with cheese or jam.
Another top street food is lahmacun, a thin pizza topped with spicy minced meat and vegetables.
Sweet-savory pastries like poğaça and gözleme are also popular Turkish street foods. Poğaça comes stuffed with cheese, potatoes, or minced meat, while gözleme features savory fillings like spinach and feta folded into a crepe-like pastry.
For an overview of Turkey’s highlights, book a culinary tour. Many tour companies like International Kitchen offer cooking classes combined with market visits and gourmet restaurant meals.
Some specialized tours like Istanbul on Food focus on regional delicacies and off-the-beaten path eateries. Luxury cruises offer amazing European shore excursions in Turkey that immerse you in the local culinary scene.
With its blend of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean influences, Turkish cuisine has something for every palate. From Ottoman-era kebabs to sweet baklava, this country is a food lover’s paradise.
Arm yourself with this guide and get ready to dive mouth first into Turkey’s remarkable culinary offerings. Afiyet olsun (“bon appetite”)!