Turkish cuisine with its very rich history has long been considered as one of the greatest in the world. Turkish culinary traditions have roots over for 1,300 years back. The fact that Turkey’s located in between Europe and Asia, together with its Mediterranean climate aid to its interesting food.
The Turkish people are descendants of nomadic tribes from Mongolia, which is why their traditional food recipes also have several influences from Chinese and Persians – such as noodles and manti. And as the Turks moved further westward into Anatolia, they encountered Grecian cuisine and are introduced to olive oil and seafood.
Their street foods are also rich with varieties, form the spicy Tantuni or wrap to their beautiful sweet snacks like the world famous Baklava. You can even have main meals and breakfast in the street with the likes of Borek as their staple dish.
Are you ready to dive in yet?
Go through our list complete with pictures to assist you when you’re trying to order from a menu at a Turkish restaurant near you. We’d like to warn you that it’s a mouth-watering one, so scroll at your own risk!
Menemen is Turkey’s answer for the good old fashioned scrambled eggs. It’s a typically spicy, runny egg dish with onions, tomatoes, and green peppers. You can find Menemen almost everywhere from bus stations, diners, and even your neighbor’s dining table.
This dish is typically eaten during breakfast hours, but due to simplicity, it’s relatively common to see it at any time of the day. Eat it with some bread to soak up the leftover juices!
2. Ispanakli Borek
Ispanakli Borek is a delicious dish made out of pastry sheets, spinach, milk, eggs, and seasoning. It’s similar to a quiche, as both are creamy, comforting meal. Ispanakli is also seasoned with cumin, so it brings out the warmth in the vegetable. The sesame seeds on top make an interesting textural difference.
3. Mercimek Corbasi
Mercimek Corbasi is a lentil soup that’s packed with nutrients. An assortment of vegetables like potato, onion, and carrot are softened and blended with red lentils to make this hearty soup. It’s then topped with crunchy croutons as an interesting contrast in texture. This soup is something you can make at home as comfort food.
This dish is a Turkish version of the salad, made from beans, onion, parsley, and sumac. It has many different varieties, like the ones in Antalya with their sesame oil. This healthy dish can also have additional ingredients such as artichoke, pea, chickpea, and potatoes.
If you’ve ever tried Greek Tzatziki, this is a Turkish version of that. The difference is Turkish Cacik is the more watery version of the yogurt, salt and cucumber mix.
Cacik is often served as an appetizer and is spiced up with a bit of salt, olive oil, garlic, and dill as a base. You can find Cacik in any Turkish restaurant, and it’s best eaten with traditional Turkish bread.
If you ever want to indulge in fried street food, Mucver is your answer. This golden deep-fried creation is made from grated zucchini, courgette or potatoes, egg, onion, dill, cheese, and flour. It’s tasty and crunchy, the perfect meal for your afternoon snack.
7. Imam Bayildi
Imam Bayildi means “the imam fainted.” It’s a dish containing a whole stuffed eggplant with onion, garlic, tomatoes that are simmered in olive oil.
Imam Bayildi is one of the most famous zeytinyagli or olive oil based dishes. You can have it either at room temperature or warm. You can also find this dish in other countries, such as Bulgaria, Israel, Macedonia, and Greece.
8. Zeytinyagli Dolma
Dolmas are grape leaves stuffed with rice. Zeytinyagli means “in-olive-oil”; and unlike the meat versions, these dolmas are served cold. These are simple appetizers in any popular Turkish restaurants. Make sure you get a taste of this favorite Turkish dish.
9. Nohutlu Pilav
This dish can be considered as one of the most popular and ubiquitous meals in Turkey. You can eat this dish as a main meal or a side course, at a five-star restaurant or your friend’s house.
Nohotlu Pilav merely is rice and peas, or to be more specific chickpeas. This dish is super creamy and tasty, and that’s because of the large amount of butter used to give it richness during the finishing. Locals usually add a spoon of plain yogurt at the end to give it extra freshness.
Bakla is a fava bean puree commonly served as an appetizer. You can easily spot Bakla in any meyhane around turkey. What’s more, this dish is so simple you can prepare them at home. Eat it with bread or as a side dish for your main course.
11. Tavuk Pilav
Even though it’s commonly sold on the streets, Tavuk Pilav is still a substantial enough meal that can keep you satisfied. The people in Istanbul usually order this dish as a quick lunch as it’s fast, hot and filling.
Manti is a Turkish dumpling, filled with your choice of meat. This delicious dish has two main ingredients only: dough and filling, which are grounded beef or lamb, onion, salt, and pepper. Eat them like the locals do, which is by having them with yogurt on the side.
Kofte can also be commonly called meatballs, but they don’t just come in spherical shapes. Kofte is ground meat that’s mixed with crumbled bread, minced onions, and spices.
One of the most popular varieties called Izgara Kofte is grilled and served with roasted green peppers, chopped parsley, crumbled dried red peppers and rice and bread on the side.
You can find this next dish in Turkey and its surrounding areas because it’s so good it’s bound to spread. Sucuk is a variety of spicy beef sausages.
Sucuk is traditionally made with ground beef and is well known as being very spicy. This is because it’s made with a lot of flavorful ingredients such as salt, black and red peppers, garlic, cumin, sumac. It’s then fermented for several days, leaving a pleasant taste with high-fat content that’s perfect for frying and grilling.
If you haven’t heard of Kebap, you probably have been living under a rock. When you visit Turkey, be sure to try the original Kebap at the place where it all began.
Kebap is the common name for a dish where meat is coated around a skewer and grilled to perfection. They have several varieties like lamb, beef, or even chicken. Grab a portion and satisfy your hunger for Turkish Kebap once and for all.
16. Sis Kebap
This dish is a popular meal of skewered and grilled cubes of meat. It’s traditionally made with lamb, but now they also have beef and veal. In Turkey, the Sis Kebap and the vegetables it’s served with are grilled separately.
Sis itself is what the skewers are called. Many other cultures also have their own of Sis Kebap, such as Shashlik in the Caucasus region. But to enjoy the original Sis Kebap in all its glory, there’s no other place but Turkey.
17. Iskender Kebap
Iskender Kebap is often called as the King of Kebaps. The name itself was derived from the inventor – Iskender Efendi. It’s made of two main ingredients – roasted lamb and flatbread called pide. The spongy pide is the perfect vehicle to soak up all the juices from the roast lamb.
If you want to go authentic, the original family, Iskenderoglu family, the direct descendants of Iskender Efendi still has a single restaurant in Bursa where people from all over the world come to have their Kebaps.
18. Yogurtlu Kebap
Just like other Kebaps, Yogurtlu Kebaps are made out of lamb, beef or veal meat. The difference is this Kebap is taken out of the skewers and then put into a bed of yogurt, together with tomato sauce. The yogurt and tomato present a great contrast to the fatty meat. Making this dish fresh and flavorful.
19. Adana Kebap
This particular Kebab is named after a city in Turkey, Adana, which is obviously where it was originated from. Although several regions have their spice level for this Kebap, the constant factor is the use of lamb meat.
The lamb meat is mounted on a skewer and then grilled over charcoal. The meat and spices are often mixed with water first for better handling. The cooked kebabs are served over warm flatbread, roasted vegetables and topped with parsley.
Turks love their lamb! Kebaps were originally made from lamb, and Pirzola is Turkish lamb chops. It’s a very classic dish, tossed with ground black pepper, oil, salt, lemon, lime then barbecued. Get your hands ready, because it’s best to eat it cave men style.
21. Midye Dolma
Flavorful, fragrant seafood – already drooling. Midye Dolma is mussels stuffed with aromatic rice. It’s a classic, local Turkish meal that’s often sold by street hawkers in the streets of Istanbul during summer nights.
The rice is mixed with pine nuts, onions, tomatoes, raisins, and fresh mints. It’s then stuffed into fresh mussels before it’s baked. The result is the mouth-watering Midye Dolma, that won’t last for more than 15 minutes on the table.
Karniyarik is fried eggplants that are accompanied with minced meat, onion, parsley, garlic, and tomato filling. When you visit Turkey, this dish is a must try. A tip from the local, if you want to try to make them yourself, make sure to get, and they are the juiciest ones.
23. Kuru Fasulye
Turks love their beans, and this dish is a testament to that. Kuru Fasulye can be cooked without meat, or even dried thin spiced slices of beef. It’s served with plain rice, and tursu or pickles and sauerkraut. It’s said that the street vendors near the Suleymaniye Mosques sell the best Kuru Fasulye.
Snacks and Street Foods
Simit is baked dough that is dipped in molasses and crusted with sesame seeds. If you see them around Turkey, you can look at their similarities with bagels. It’s also a breakfast food that can easily be brought around and eaten on the go, making it the perfect snack as you stroll the streets of Istanbul.
25. Balik Ekmek
Balik Ekmek is a fish sandwich that you can find anywhere near the shoreline. It’s hard to resist the tasty sandwiches when you passed through the street vendors as the wonderful smell will surely get your attention.
Do as the locals do and get Balik Ekmek from the street vendors, or maybe if you’re feeling tired you can order one from the restaurants. But be warned, according to locals Balik Ekmek from the streets tastes much better and authentic.
Some people call Lahmacun the Turkish pizza on the account that it looks very similar. It’s a very simple meal of thin dough topped with minced meat, onion, and red pepper.
Lahmacun is often topped with parsley and lemon juice, giving this Turkish pizza a fresh and healthy taste. People usually roll it into a wrap and enjoy them with a drink of cold Ayran.
If you see this dish, you might be reminded of a wrapped burrito, because Durum is a wrap of chicken, beef, cheese or veggie that can be customized according to your taste. It’s a staple for the Turkish street food, and surprisingly healthier than you expected.
Tantuni is very similar to Durum; the difference is Tantuni has designated ingredients. It features beef, tomatoes, peppers and a generous sprinkling of spices. It’s then wrapped in a tortilla for easy consumption.
You can get Tantuni anywhere in Istanbul, and have it either spicy or less spicy. We recommend ordering it spicy and have a bit of an adventure with your taste buds!
29. Midye Dolma
If you like seafood, then Midye Dolma is the perfect snack for your afternoon. Midye Dolma is mussels on a half shell, mixed with spicy rice and served with a squeeze of lemon juice.
You can find Midye Dolma on the streets at night and have yourself an eating spree. Be careful not to overdo it, because the rice will expand in your stomach.
Kokorec is not for the faint-hearted, because it’s a spiced and skewered sheep’s intestines. It’s served in half a quarter or quarter of a bread loaf with grease and salt. It might fool you because from the outside it looks just like another meat sandwich.
According to the locals, it’s the perfect hangover food because it’s greasy and filling. Pick your Kokorec wisely, because the intestines need to be cleaned thoroughly for you actually to enjoy the taste. For a safe bet, go for the most popular and packed street vendors.
Who doesn’t love baked potatoes, and Kumpir is the ultimate baked potatoes. It has an assortment of toppings, like cheese, sausage, corn, mayonnaise salad, peas, and carrots. It may seem like a street snack, but you’ll feel like you just ate a whole meal when you’re finished with it.
Borek is a dish eaten during breakfast hours in the morning and usually comes with cheese in between layers of dough. The tastiest Borek though can only be found in any Turkey family kitchen.
Another Turkish version of bagel, but with a softer texture. It’s usually a treat for breakfast, and you can slice your Acma in half to spread some jam, or even slide in some delicious cheese, cucumbers, and tomatoes to make it savory. Acma is the perfect vehicle for your food!
Pogaca is the perfect savory snack that can be enjoyed by young and old. You can also stuff it with anything you like, from cheese, olives or potatoes.
Pogaca is similar to Simit and is usually sold in the bakeries or by street vendors. It’s one of Turkey’s best breakfast foods when you’re in a hurry to be eaten together with warm tea.
35. Beyaz Peynir
Beyaz Peynir’s literal meaning is white cheese. It’s a brined cheese produced from unpasteurized sheep, cow or goat’s milk that has a slightly grained appearance. The taste is reminiscent of Feta, and it’s crumbly and rich.
It has several styles, such as the nation matured cheese curd to strong matured curds that has more of a pungent aroma. It’s usually consumed during breakfast or incorporated into foods.
Turkish Pide is personally one of my favorite food out there. It’s a version of a Turkish pizza with toppings that can be customized according to your taste. It’s considered as one of Turkish comfort food, and it’s easy to see why.
Traditional Pide is cooked in hot clay ovens and made with flour, yeast, sugar, and salt. What makes it special is the toppings, ranging from spinach, eggs or even meat. It’s a delicious filling meal you won’t want to miss.
Gozleme is hand rolled dough that can be stuffed with spinach or potato that’s cooked over a griddle. These street snacks are so addictive; it’s never enough to order one. The Gozleme is pressed thin and cut into smaller pieces and served with fresh lemon slices.
You can find Gozleme almost everywhere in street fairs that involved Turkish food. The dough is fried with very hot olive or sunflower oil, making it very crispy and savory on the outside. Be sure to grab several portions in all variants if you ever run into one, and thank us later!
This is a simple dessert that would shock you with its flavorful taste. It’s made from various spices, flavorings, and dry fruits; and is usually baked just before you eat them. It has a walnut filling that gives you a surprise as you bite into it, and the spices and soft milk butter create a unique and satisfying taste.
This crispy dish is made from finely shredded filo dough and baked with walnuts. It’s a very popular dish that can be bought all over the country. It’s especially popular during the holiday seasons as locals eat them during gatherings or gift them to the family.
Kazandibi means the bottom of the pan, and it’s something you wouldn’t want to miss because legend has it it was a favorite of the Ottoman sultans. It’s chicken pudding that’s stuck in the bottom of the pan and is then caramelized. It has a smoky flavor with chicken aroma; an acquired taste.
41. Tavuk Gogsu
If you hear about chicken in a dessert, you might squirm. But for this Turkish dessert, you would want to change your mind at least once.
Tavuk Gogsu is a very thick pudding with thin slices of chicken breast. It’s often served with maras ice cream and cinnamon. If you’re not feeling the chicken combo, you can order kazandibi, which is the same dish without chicken.
One of the most famous Turkish desserts ever. Whether you are running around in a traditional market in Turkey, or any street market in the world – you can easily see Baklava.
In Turkey, you can get Baklava as a vegetarian option for your dessert, because traditional bakers in Istanbul won’t ever use anything but olive oil to prepare Baklava. The vegan Baklava is deemed as a higher quality one by Turkish people, so make sure you try the traditional Baklava when you visit.
A creamy, delicious rice pudding that’s the perfect comfort food. Sutlac is made by mixing rice with milk or water, then spiced with local flavors. It’s then garnished with cinnamon and raisins and sweetened with sugar or sweetener.
Another pudding dish, Muhallebi is one of Turkey’s most popular milk desserts. Muhallebi is made with mastic and often covered with grated pistachios. Order it the Turkey way and ask for some ice cream on top of your Muhallebi.
45. Maras Dondurmasi
This is one of the most annoying desserts you probably would have in your life. That’s because you have to work hard to get this delicious ice cream from the seller.
But once you get it, the thick and creamy texture is worth it. It comes from the region of Maras. Sometimes it’s so thick; locals even eat it with knife and fork!
This dish is a specialty from the Antakya region. It’s a two-layer shredded pastry that has a thick layer of melted cheese in between. Like many other Turkish desserts, Kunefe is then soaked in wonderful sugar syrup.
The flaky shredded pastry pairs perfectly with the fluffy cheese and sweet syrup. Topped with pistachios, it’s a dish that you won’t want to miss when you visit Turkey.
47. Turkish Delight
If you’ve never heard of it, you might want to expand your social circle. Turkish Delight, or Rahat Lokum, are chewy sweets made of starch and sugar gel. It has many different flavors and is often garnished with assortments of fruits and nuts.
The colorful jellies will awaken your inner child, but the grown-up flavor like rosewater or bergamot orange will give this candy the appeal you need.
Sekerpare is little cakes made of almond-based dough that are very sweet and delicious. The baked dough is then soaked with hot sugar syrup then left to cool down. When it’s cooled, Sekerpare is very crumbly, and it melts in your mouth.
This dessert is not just a favorite among Turkey, but also all over the Middle East. Helva is made from semolina flour and is baked to perfection that melts perfectly as you bite into it. You can get baked Helva in many of Turkey’s restaurants.
Pismaniye might remind you of cotton candy when you encounter it. After all, it’s made by blending flour roasted in butter, then pulled into fine strands just like cotton candy. You can also order these traditional candy covered in chocolate, making it even more decadent than ever.
51. Ayva Tatlisi
A dish that’s perfect during the cold winter nights, Ayva Tatlisi is made by boiling quince with cloves and sweet syrup. The quince is then filled with clotted cream and walnut. The beautiful combination of soft quince and cream with the crunchy walnuts will make this dish a favorite of yours.
52. Tulumba Tatlisi
If you’re a fan of deep-fried food, you might want to give Tulumba Tatlisi a try. It’s a very sweet dessert made by deep frying unleavened dough balls and then dipped into syrup while hot. Tulumba is crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside. Take it another notch and dip them into chocolate if you dare!
If you’re a vegan, then you can breathe a sigh of relief because Asure is a Turkish dessert that has no animal products in it. Asure is a type of pudding made with grains, fruits, dried fruits, and nuts. It’s a celebratory dish and is usually consumed during the month of Muharram – the first month of the Islamic calendar.
This dish is not just well known in Turkey, but it’s also known as Basbousa in Egypt. Revani is made from semolina cake that’s soaked in syrup that’s mixed with rose water. The rose water makes this dessert fragrant and decadent.
55. Cevizli Sucuk
Sucuk is commonly known as Turkey’s fermented sausage, but fear not – this is the dessert version of Sucuk that doesn’t involve meat. It’s made by dipping a string of walnuts into grape molasses mixture and hung out to dry; The texture is very gummy and chewy – reminiscent of your childhood snacks.
Dubbed as the national drink of Turkey, this alcoholic drink will certainly not disappoint you. The anise flavor makes the drink goes down very smoothly, and you’ll hardly notice it, but you’re probably already on your third glass by now.
Locals usually drink Raki together with their appetizer, and you can easily find Raki during dinner time. Try the Turkish way, and order Raki with appetizers while sitting outside at one of the restaurants in Istanbul.
Ayran is a cold yogurt and water mixed with salt. This drink is an acquired taste, and not everyone is going to like it at first. Turks, on the other hand, love this drink, and you can even find this in the local McDonalds!
Turkish coffee looks a lot like a dark espresso, but the brewing process makes it so easy to drink. Finely ground coffee beans are boiled with sugar until foam appears on top. The coffee is dark, sweet and smooth.
I had an experience drinking Turkish coffee that’s worth mentioning. Some say that the grounds left in the cup after drinking tells a story. Turn the cup upside down, and then check out the shapes made by the grounds leftover. The cool thing is, you don’t get to decipher it yourself, but your companion will do it for you. Although it may not be accurate, it sure is fun!
Salep is an exclusive drink that’s only sold when it’s cold, winter nights. It’s a sweet milky drink that’s sprinkled with cinnamon which you can find anywhere in the streets of Istanbul. In the traditional recipes, they use orchid roots as a thickener, although nowadays they use corn starch instead.
People usually enjoy Salep with other sweet treats while browsing around on the streets. Go and grab one as you munch on that Baklava.
Cay is Turkish Tea, and it’s similar to any other black tea you’ll find. But drinking Turkish tea is more about the experience than the taste itself. In Turkey, drinking tea is a social event where people gather and socialize.
Boza is a thick, slightly fermented drink that has a sweet and sour taste. This drink is said to be one of Turkey’s oldest drink recipe to have survived until modern times. It uses fermented millet as the main ingredient and is usually topped with cinnamon.
When you first see Salgam, you’re probably going to freak out a little over the color. Salgam is red carrot juice that has a dark rich red color, similar to beetroot. It’s a salty, spicy and flavored juice that’s usually served with Raki and Kebab. This drink leans toward the savory side and may need a little getting used to.
Maybe you can already tell by the name what this drink is going to be. Limonata is a Turkish version of lemonade, but the difference is Limonata is not as sour as the regular lemonade.
That’s because the lemon rinds and sugar are rubbed together or cooked before mixed with the lemon juice. And that gives Limonata a smooth, sweet taste without the sourness.
64. Meyan Serbeti
Meyan Serbeti is a drink that you can buy easily during the summertime to cool down your days. It’s made of licorice, and some people call it the Turkish cola. You can always find them in a Turkish bazaar, and it’s sold by peddlers that hold it in a big flask on their back – get your camera ready because you wouldn’t want to miss their pouring action.
Sira is a slightly fermented grape or apple juice that has a very high fructose content thanks to its origin. Because of that, this drink is very sweet, and when it comes to this drink, a little goes a long way.
Beer is one of the favorite drink in Turkey, and Bomonti is one of the most well-known beer. It’s the first beer company in Turkey, and it’s still the people’s favorite until now.
Although it was rebranded and bought by another company, the original recipe is still used. So grab yourself a bottle of history and drink some Bomonti.