10 Best Turkish Foods & Dishes

What Do Locals Love to Eat in Turkey?

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    Turkish cuisine is a combination of central Asian, Middle Eastern and European influences. Owing to the size of the country, regional variations are striking, but if you head to the popular tourist regions along the Mediterranean coast or the vibrant cultural capital of Istanbul you should look out for the dishes listed below.

    Packed full of fresh vegetables and herbs, the most popular Turkish dishes are as healthy as they are delicious. We have forgone the classic doner kebab in this list to bring you dishes that are really popular with locals in Turkey so you can discover something new and authentic. 

    1

    Mantı

    Almost every world cuisine has a meal consisting of dough with a filling and Mantı is a popular Turkish dish that is often referred to as the ‘Turkish dumpling’.

    The dough is usually shaped like a triangle or a pouch and is traditionally filled with ground meat and various spices. It's served with melted butter and mint, creating an incredibly appetising aroma. In some places, tomato paste is also added to the butter. All that's left for you to decide is whether or not the yoghurt should contain garlic. You can try this hearty delicacy at one of the many mantı shops.

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    2

    Taratorlu Piyaz

    This local delicacy offers a twist on the humble bean salad by adding sesame paste to the trio of beans, onion, and sumac. Sometimes tomatoes, egg, and green onion are included as well. Bean salad is served throughout the country as a side dish, but tarator bean salad is something the residents of Antalya eat either with shish kebab or even as a meal on its own.

    You can find tarator bean salad at most kebab shops. If you order it with shish kebab, ask that they be brought at the same time. Otherwise, you'll have finished this delicious tarator bean salad before your shish kebab is ready.

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    3

    Keşkek

    Considered an important part of Turkey’s cultural heritage, Keşkek is a delicious dish that’s prepared by cooking cracked wheat and meat in a pot or cauldron for a long period before mixing it with butter. This rich food warms your insides, and it’s frequently served at weddings and other celebrations. It’s sometimes made with chickpeas and chicken as well.

    You may see keşkek on the menu in restaurants that serve home-style cooking. Some restaurants only serve this time-consuming dish on certain days. Keşkek is also part of Greek and Iranian cuisine, but in 2011 it was officially added to Turkey’s “Intangible Cultural Heritage” list by UNESCO.

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    4

    Kabak Çiçeği Dolması

    One of the most delicious edible flowers, the squash flower, is the centrepiece of Kabak Çiçeği Dolması – a light and unforgettable dish that brings a breath of spring to the table. The flowers are gathered early in the morning and then stuffed with a mixture of rice, onion, tomato, and basil. They're then steamed or cooked with just a little water in a covered pan, before being served with lemon. You can find this delicacy in many restaurants – it’ll be listed among the appetisers and olive oil dishes.

    Incidentally, the reason the flowers are gathered early in the morning is that they close towards evening. The flowers also begin to close a short while after they are picked. So, to make them easier to fill, it's best to gather the flowers early and fill them soon after picking.

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    5

    Tarhana Çorbası

    Tarhana is a central part of the cuisine of Southeastern Europe and the Middle East. It’s a dried mixture of flour, yoghurt, and fermented vegetables. This fermented mixture is very nutritious and long-lasting, so it's often prepared during the hot summer months for convenient winter consumption.

    Tarhana is turned into soup by adding water and various vegetables, and it’s an unforgettable delicacy. Tarhana can be found at many restaurants that serve soup, but you can also find packaged tarhana in supermarkets. Many argue it is not a patch on the freshly made version, though.

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    6

    Baba Ghanoush

    Baba Ghanoush hails from the Eastern Mediterranean and is generally served as a starter or side dish. It’s an aubergine dip made by mixing mashed aubergine with yoghurt, olive oil, garlic, and lemon. Sesame paste and fresh pepper are sometimes added as well.

    It's one of the most popular summer aubergine dips and is an excellent choice, both as a complement to meat dishes or to a table of olive oil dishes. You can try this delicacy in restaurants known for their appetisers and olive oil starters.

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    7

    Shish kofte

    Shish kofte is just 1 of almost 300 kinds of meatballs found in Turkish cuisine, so it shouldn’t surprise you to know that every region has its own favourite variety. Meatball shish is made by mixing ground meat with various herbs and spices, putting it on a skewer, and then grilling it. Depending on the recipe, it may also include bread crumbs, garlic, onion, and egg.

    This meatball can be served with tarator bean salad, turning it into a filling feast of a dish. If you're on the move or in a hurry, you can ask for your meatballs to be made into a sandwich to take away.

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    8

    Su Böreği

    One of the first things that people think of when it comes to Turkish cuisine is su böreği (water pastry). This pastry is a time-consuming dish to make. The classic version includes cheese and parsley, but you should definitely try the minced beef and spinach versions as well.

    What makes this dish so difficult to prepare is that several layers of thin dough are rolled out and boiled, and then butter is drizzled between each piece of dough as they are layered. A filling is added on top of the middle layer. Once the pastry layers are completed, the result is put into the oven and baked until the top layer is golden and crisp. You can order su böreği for breakfast or lunch at most pastry shops, or order as takeaway to be snacked on throughout the day. Don’t forget to enjoy with a wasp-waisted glass of tea.

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    9

    Tandır Kebabı

    Tandır Kebabı, or tandoor kebab, is unique in both its taste and texture. This kebab is made from very fatty lamb cut close to the bone, spiced only with salt, and then cooked for a long time in a special oven, or underground. It's traditionally served either with pilaf or a soft, thin piece of lavaş bread.

    The meat is crispy on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth soft on the inside. This kebab, with its unforgettable aroma, can be found at kebab restaurants that specialise in tandoor.

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    10

    Hibeş

    This dish is used in Turkish cuisine both as a starter and as a sauce. The base is sesame paste, which is an essential part of the diet in coastal areas like Antalya. The paste is first thinned with warm water and then seasoned with lemon juice, garlic, cumin, and paprika.

    It’s ready when it has the consistency of mustard. You can spread it on a slice of bread or as a side dish along with a cut of meat. You can often find hibeş on restaurant menus among the appetisers and olive oil dishes.

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