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Top 10 Turkish Dishes

Last Updated on June 26, 2024

Turkish cuisine is one of the most celebrated in the world. Turkish people love to cook, eat, and share their food. Knowing how good Turkish cuisine is, we are taking you on a tour introducing you to the top dishes in Turkey. We’ll introduce you to a variety, dishes for meat lovers to vegetarians, from street foods to Ottoman meals. Not only will you read about how the ingredients form these delicious meals, but also read a bit about their history and importance in Turkish Cuisine.

 It is impossible to limit Turkish Cuisine to only 10 dishes, as there is so much more to it, but these are some of the most well-known and well-loved.

Turkish Lentil Soup

1. Mercimek Çorbası

The most popular soup in Turkey, Mercimek Çorbası, translated as Lentil Soup, was ranked as the third-best soup in the world by TasteAtlas in April 2023. In almost every restaurant or food place you can find this soup. Some people even like to have it for breakfast, as it is full of nutrients, and vitamins, keeping you full for a long time. Some of the main ingredients of the soup are lentils, potatoes, carrots, and onions. Usually, a spicy red butter sauce is drizzled on top of it, and for those who like, finished off with a squeeze of lemon. Being a soup lover, this is for sure a taste you would never get tired of. Thus, coming to the main question, who doesn’t like Mercimek Soup?

menemen, traditional Turkish food

2. Menemen

A hearty breakfast is important for a good start to the day. If you have ever been to Turkey, you must also know how Traditional Breakfast is served. Yes! I am talking about that never-ending table. As every table has its star dish, Menemen is and always has been everybody’s favorite meal on that breakfast menu.  Being an egg-based dish, Menemen is made of simple ingredients: eggs, tomatoes, green peppers, and onions. Whether Menemen should be with or without onions has been a major topic of discussion for years, and still no proper answer is given to it. Thus, it is totally up to personal preference. Personally, I like it with onions, because it breaks the eggy taste, and adds a nice flavor. All you need is a piece of fresh bread along with a perfect cup of Turkish tea, and you are ready to dig in. 

 

Read more about Turkish Breakfast.

Iskender kebap

3. İskender Kebap

İskender, a specialty dish of Bursa, a city in Turkey, is one of the most popular meat dishes in Turkey. A combination of thinly sliced meat (döner), bread, and tomato sauce, topped with sizzling butter, and served with yogurt. All around Turkey, you can find Iskender restaurants, as it sort of turned into a comfort, fast food dish. As someone who went personally to Bursa and had Iskender there, I can for sure say that the taste of Iskender in Bursa is on a whole different level. As I always say, everything tastes best in its original place. So if you happen to go to Bursa, don’t come back before eating Iskender at the oldest Iskender place in town since 1867, called Kebapçı İskender.  

 

Mantı

Whenever I meet a foreigner in Turkey, I always ask what their favorite Turkish meal is. Almost every time I get the answer ‘Mantı’, which I can totally relate to.  Mantı is a sort of Turkish pasta, stuffed with ground beef, and topped with creamy yogurt, and a spicy buttery sauce. Sounds good already, but wait until you try it! Though being so delicious, the preparation of Mantı takes quite a bit of time.  A very thin dough is rolled out and cut into small square shapes, after being filled with a small amount of meat, it has to be folded perfectly in order not to open while boiling. Housewives in Turkey sometimes come together to prepare mantı and turn this into a social activity. One of my favorite versions of mantı is the fried one. Though not very traditional, I like it as it gives a nice crunch to it. 

Pide

Pide is another popular pastry dish, a flat bread stuffed with various ingredients. Although it sounds a bit like Lahmacun, mentioned earlier, it’s a totally different thing. Whereas ‘Lahmacun’ is very thin and only topped with a meat mixture, ‘Pide’ has a thicker dough, filled or topped with endless desired ingredients. Usually, the most popular ones are Kaşarlı (with Turkish melting cheese), Sucuk-Kaşar (Turkish sausage and cheese), and  Kuşbaşılı (with cubed meat and red/green peppers).

Read more, about different sorts of Pides around Turkey…

Lahmacun

One of the most liked traditional foods, Lahmacun is a thin Turkish pizza without cheese. People in Turkey love it because it's not only quick and simple, but also delicious. Baked in stone ovens, Lahmacun is a very thin dough that is topped with a mixture of ground meat, onions, parsley, and spices. With its crunchy crust and perfect flavors, Lahmacun is best when topped and rolled up with some fresh parsley, a sumac onion salad. and a squeeze of lemon. Usually people in Turkey love to have ‘Ayran’, a salty yogurt drink, with Lahmacun, which helps balance the flavors.

Hünkarbeğendi

A dish dating back to the Ottoman Empire, Hünkarbeğendi was one of the favorite dishes of Sultan Murad the 4th (1612-1640). This is also where the name of this dish comes from, translated as ‘the Sultan liked it’. As we mentioned earlier, eggplant was and still has a great place in Turkish Cuisine. This dish is made with roasted eggplant, mashed, and mixed with a bechamel sauce, until smooth. This mixture is topped with cubed lamb meat and a spicy buttery sauce. Read more about Ottoman Restaurants in Istanbul.

Sarma

Sarma is a dish made of grape leaves and stuffed with a rice filling. Dating back to the Ottoman Period, Sarma, such as mantı, has a long preparation process. After the grape leaves are soaked in water, aromatic rice with spices, herbs, and a bit of ground beef is prepared. Not everyone uses ground beef to make sarma, it can also be prepared entirely vegetarian, which is my personal favorite way to have it. The soaked leaves are later filled with the rice mixture and rolled into finger-thick rolls. This rolling process is what takes the most effort, but once done, it is layered in a casserole, and cooked until tender. After plating, sarma is topped with a garlicky yogurt mixture, and a spicy buttery sauce.  

 

Karnıyarık

Karnıyarık has a very special place for me. Being one of my favorite Turkish meals, Karnıyarık is an eggplant dish. Eggplant is very widely used in Turkish cuisine, especially in fried form. First, let's come to what the word Karnıyarık actually means, ‘karın’ means belly, and ‘yarık’ means split. Why Split-belly then? This popular dish is made by cutting the eggplant horizontally in the middle and filling it with a ground beef mixture. Thus, ‘split’ comes from cutting it, and ‘belly’ from the filling placed right in the middle, resembling a belly. After all the filling process, the eggplant is left to cook, for all the flavors to fully emerge and turn into an incredible dish. Usually, rice is consumed as a side dish, which is also a very significant aspect of Turkish Cuisine.

Etli Kuru Fasulye

Think about a delicious, and gooey dried bean stew, perfectly spiced and hot out of the pot. To add more flavor to it, usually, a few pieces of meat are added to elevate the dish. This is where the word ‘etli’ comes from, meaning “with meat”. You can also find places that don’t make it with meat, but less commonly. Usually consumed with rice, and turşu (Turkish pickles), ‘Kuru Fasulye’ is among one of the best homemade comfort foods. This dish is one which tastes better the longer the flavors have to develop, so some people will intentionally eat it the next day once the flavors have seeped in more.

 

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