Turkish Delight (Lokum)

Last Updated on April 22, 2024

When Turkey is mentioned the first thing that comes to mind is the famous lokum, Turkish Delight. The inseparable duo of Turkish coffee, an indispensable treat of every home and bayram, lokum is one of the most consumed sweets in Turkey. With its history dating back to the 16th century, Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir is known to be the one who spread lokum all over the world. 


The story of the creation of Turkish Delight begins in the late 1700s, when Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir, confectioner to the imperial court in Istanbul, listens to the sultan rant:

Hard candy! I’m tired of hard candy!” the sultan growled as he cracked a tooth on yet another sourball. “I demand soft candy!

Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir had come to the imperial capital of Istanbul from the Anatolian mountain town of Kastamonu in the late 1700s to hear his emperor’s plea. That moment was when Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir’s blood rose! His face turned grim with conviction! He set his jaw with determination! He was going to take bold and decisive action!

He marched into his confectioner’s kitchen and thought up a recipe: he mixed water, sugar, corn starch, cream of tartar and rosewater, cooked it up, poured the mixture into a flat pan slicked with almond oil, and let it cool. Then he sprinkled it with powdered sugar, cut it into bite-sized chunks and…his hand trembling, his eyes bright with anticipation, his mind fraught with trepidation, his lips quivering to receive the morsel… and took a bite of his creation!

What happened? No crack of candy crunched by his mighty alpine jaws? No shower of sugary splinters scattering through his oral cavity? This new confection was soft and easy to chew, a pleasure, a treat for both palate and teeth! It was… it was…a comfortable morsel!

Rahat lokum (“comfortable morsel”), nowadays called simply lokum, or Turkish Delight, was an instant hit, especially at the palace. Ali Muhiddin became a celebrity overnight as palace bigwigs traipsed down the hill from Topkapı Palace to Eminönü on the Golden Horn to buy boxes of lokum to thrill the jaded palates of Ottoman potentates.

Learn How to Make Lokum 

After turning back from your trip to Turkey, and falling in love with this mouth-watering sweet, you can be sure that it won’t take long for you to miss this dessert. Let me give you good news, being far from Turkey isn't a reason not to have lokum. With its simple ingredients, and easy preparation, from now on you can make your own Turkish delight at home. 

Here is our Turkish delight recipe for making lokum at home.

Where to Buy Turkish Delight

You can still buy lokum at Ali Muhiddin’s original shop in Eminönü today, almost 250 years since the intrepid confectioner saved his sultan from sourballs. It’s on Hamidiye Caddesi at the corner of Yalı Köşkü Caddesi, two blocks east of the Yeni Cami (New Mosque).  The candy making expertise has continued until now. You can find all types of Turkish delights.

Over the centuries Ali Muhiddin’s descendants, which is still a family business, fiddled with the recipe, adding different touches like walnuts, pistachios, oranges, almonds, clotted cream, and chocolate. However, the plain rosewater original is still a favorite.

Lokum (Turkish Delight) is now made and sold in thousands of shops throughout Turkey, and enjoyed most commonly with Turkish coffee. Another favorite place to buy Lokum is in Afyon, where the rich local clotted cream is used to make kaymaklı lokum.

When you visit a shop, don’t be afraid to ask for a free sample: say “Tadımlık!” or “Deneyebilir miyim?” meaning “Can I have a taste?”. For more Turkish words and phrases, see our Turkish Language Guide.

Ali Muhiddin Hacı Bekir
Hobyar, 1, Zahire Borsası Sk., 34112 Fatih/İstanbul
Tel: +90 (212) 522 0666

—Tom Brosnahan, updated by Julide Koca



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