The Best of Turkish Cuisine: Traditional Foods You'll Love

Aug 01, 2023


Turkey’s location in both Europe and Asia makes it easy to draw culinary inspiration from the surrounding areas, as well as from its own heritage as part of the Ottoman Empire. The result is an eclectic cuisine that’s rich in flavors and textures, and offers plenty of tasty dishes you’ll want to try when you visit this fascinating country. Here are some of the best traditional Turkish foods you should make sure to taste on your next trip to Turkey

Patlican Salatasi - Stuffed Eggplant Salad

One of Turkey’s most beloved summer dishes, Patlican Salatasi is an eggplant stuffed with a delicious combination of herbs and spices. The flavor profile has a Middle Eastern vibe to it and pairs wonderfully with grilled meats and poultry. Cooking time: 30 minutes to prepare, 1 hour to marinate, 10 minutes cooking time per eggplant. Serves 4-6 people as a side dish. ~~~

Antep Ezmesi - Gaziantep Spicy Sauce

This smoky red pepper paste is a common part of many dishes and spreads on its own or as an accompaniment to roasted eggplant, lentil puree, hummus, chicken stuffed with rice and nuts or even sprinkled over a salad. Give it a try! But beware – it’s spicy! Some find it too hot to handle, but if you can work your way up to eating ghost peppers (those Thai peppers with more than 1 million Scoville units), then you should be fine.

Iskender Kebab - Meat on Shaved Bread with Tomato and Yogurt

In Turkey, each region has its own variations on kebabs. Some don’t have bread as a base, others are based on vegetables. The Iskender kebab is famous across all of Turkey and bears a resemblance to shawarma—lamb cooked on a vertical skewer and served wrapped in pita bread.

Mantı - Turkish Dumplings

These dumplings are one of my personal favorites. They’re light and delicious, but definitely won’t feel like you’re eating a diet meal. The dumplings are served with yogurt, red pepper paste and a side of chicken to make it a full meal. Eating mantı is an experience—it takes time to eat properly, but is definitely worth it!

Lokum (Turkish Delight), Not Just Another Candy

No matter where you are in Turkey, you’re likely to find lokum (the country’s popular version of Turkish delight) – it’s practically impossible to walk more than a few feet without being offered a piece. Indeed, as much as Europeans have come to expect paella and tapas in Spain, or pâté and croissants in France, many visitors try lokum for their first taste of Turkey.

Baklava - A Caramelized Pastry Delight

Baklava is a rich, sweet pastry composed primarily of layers of filo dough filled with chopped nuts. In Turkey, it’s typically eaten at special occasions such as weddings and religious holidays. If you can’t make it to Turkey anytime soon, try making it yourself—it’s easy!

Musakka - A Layered Mashed Potato & Onion Dish That's a Favorite Anytime

This is a typical Turkish dish that’s often served for dinner. It’s made by layering many thin layers of potato, chopped onion and olive oil in a pot with salt, pepper and garlic powder. It takes about an hour to cook, but it can be frozen before or after cooking for later consumption. This is a dish that you would definitely want to try while visiting Turkey! Köfte - A Favorite Meatball Dish From Turkey: Köfte is one of those dishes that comes from all over Europe, but has been modified slightly by each country that has adopted it. The word köfte means meatball in Turkish and these little meatballs are typically made from ground lamb, beef or chicken mixed with parsley, onions and spices like nutmeg.

Lahmacun - Flatbread Sandwich with Spicy Meat, Cucumber, Onion & Tomato Salsa

For those who’ve never tried Turkish cuisine, a good place to start is with lahmacun. This traditional dish is essentially a folded flatbread covered in minced lamb and onions, with a little tomato and cilantro added for extra flavor. It comes with raw slices of red pepper, cucumber, and onion alongside fresh parsley sprigs. Break apart one piece at a time to get to all its tasty layers.

When you visit Turkey, you will not be disappointed by the food choices. Experience the culinary joys of Turkey on your next vacation. Book your trip today: Inspiring Istanbul and Malta