If you ever visited Turkey or was introduced with Turkish cuisine, you’ll know that their cuisine is a mix of cultural exchanges and historical heritage that happened when the Ottoman Empire spread from the Arabian Peninsula to the far west of the Mediterranean. And just like the rest of Turkish cuisine, Turkish desserts and sweets are just as delicious and bring out the best of both worlds! So, if you have the sweet tooth, you’ll just love Turkish desserts; they have everything from simple puddings and ice cream to sophisticated phyllo dough and even meat desserts.
So, whether you’re planning to visit Turkey soon or want to try to make something at your home, here are the 37 best Turkish desserts.
Pişmaniye is often compared to cotton candy even though the preparation method is quite different. This delicious dessert is made by blending flour roasted in butter and pulling it into strands. This delicious sweet is usually garnished with ground pistachio nuts but if that’s not sweet enough for you, in some regions, you can find Pişmaniye prepared with chocolate milk.
As you can see, on this list biscuit-like cookies aren’t very popular in Turkey but this one is an exception. Acıbadem kurabiyesi is a biscuit-like sweet made of almonds (very popular in Turkish cuisine as you’ll see below), egg whites, and sugar. You can get these cookies in every Turkish bakery. They have a chewy structure and are usually served alongside a cup of coffee or some ice cream.
Rice pudding is beloved in all parts of the world and every country has its own version. Turkey’s version is called Fırın Sütlaç it has a very simple preparation method and it’s one of the most beloved Turkish desserts. Turkish rice pudding is prepared with milk, rice, rice flour, sugar, and vanilla often topped with grinned hazelnuts and cinnamon. The whole mix is finally browned in salamander broiler and sugar is added depending on whether it’s consumed for dinner (this isn’t uncommon) or as a dessert.
If you ever visited Turkey or any of the Balkan countries (like Macedonia), you surely tried burek; a delicious pie stuffed with meat cheese or different vegetables. But wait, it gets better than this! In Turkey, you can also find a sweet version of burek, filled with chocolate or honey, pistachios, apricots, and other fruits.
This dessert is probably the one with the most bizarre name on this list of Turkish desserts, at least when translated to English. Pestil translates to ‘fruit leather’. The dessert is made by mechanically pulverizing different kinds of fruits and spreading it out into a flexible edible material that can stay preserved for several months.
Kaymaklı Kayısı is one of the most unique Turkish desserts. Apricots are very popular in Turkey and the Malatya region is one of the biggest apricot producers in the world, so it’s not a surprise that one of the most popular desserts in Turkey is made of apricots. Kaymaklı Kayısı is prepared by cooking dry apricots in a sugar syrup (until they become soft) and stuffing them with buffalo milk (kaymak) and ground pistachios. The final result is a dessert that delivers a perfect combination of textures and flavors- creamy, fruity, and nutty at the same time.
This list of the best Turkish desserts couldn’t be complete without Şerbet, one of the most popular drinks in Western Asia that happens to be originating from Turkey. This sweet, carbonated soft drink dates back to the Ottoman Empire and was once enjoyed with every meal by sultans and their guests. Throughout history, this drink was reserved for special occasions (getting married, childbirth, etc.) but today, Şerbet is enjoyed every day and the flavor variety is richer than ever. You can get it in rose, tamarind, cardamom, poppy, pomegranate, raspberry, and many other flavors.
Şambaba – Şambali
This semolina cake is one of the most popular street desserts in Turkey. Even though this sweet actually originates from Syria (Şam is the Turkish name for Damascus), it’s equally popular in Turkey. The cake consists of flour, egg, milk/yogurt, and molasses with kaymak between the two pieces of cake topped with peanuts.
Cevizli Sucuk (Küme)
Cevizli sucuk or Küme is a delicious dessert made of dried fruits and walnuts laced on a string and dipped in thick unsweetened grape. In the end, the sweet is left to dry in the sun after which you can find it being sold on street food stalls around the country. Similarly like Şambaba, this sweet originates from another country (Georgia) but Turkish people have mastered the art of making this delicious dessert.
Şekerpare translates to ‘a piece of sweetness’ and if you taste it, you’ll see why this is a rather descriptive name. This sweet and sticky cookie is made from flour, semolina, and powdered sugar, baked until golden brown, and topped with sweet syrup. And when I say topped, I mean completely covered with it. This popular sweet can be found in any bakery or sweet shop and is one of the most popular Turkish desserts and it’s the perfect companion to a cup of Turkish coffee.
Irmik helvası is a slightly different version of the much more popular halva. This delicious snack is prepared by roasting semolina with flour, sugar, oil (margarine or butter), and other additives such as pine nuts, water, and milk. Irmik helvası can be eaten hot or cold.
Revani is one of the most famous Turkish desserts that’s even popular in a lot of other countries. Similarly to a few other of the above-mentioned desserts, revani is made from semolina soaked in sweet syrup and its flavor is enhanced by adding some orange flower water and sprinkling some chopped pistachios on the top.
This easy to prepare, yet delicious pudding consists of almonds, milk, sugar, and rice flour. Usually, it’s sprinkled with pistachio nuts or coconut shavings on the top for the finishing touch. Keşkül is usually served cold in tiny, authentic bowls, and eaten with a spoon.
The main ingredient for this seemingly peculiar dessert is quince (that sour fruit related to the rose). I was surprised too when I first heard of it and was hesitant on whether to try Ayva Tatlısı or not but in the end, I was pleasantly surprised. This dessert consists of boiled or baked quince topped with kaymak, raisins, and sweet syrup that’s sweet enough to turn even this sour fruit into a delicious dessert.
If you ever wander around Bursa’s streets, you’ll inevitably notice this delicious treat being sold in boxes pretty much anywhere. Kestane Şekeri is a popular regional sweet that’s made by boiling chestnuts and dipping them in hot syrup and sometimes coating them with chocolate. It’s tiny, it’s sweet, and it’s one of the most addictive Turkish desserts you’ll ever find.
Zerde is another sweet pudding made of rice, fruits, and water (not milk). If you’re curious where the attention-catching yellow color comes from, it’s a result of mixing the pudding with saffron. This dessert was most popular in regions where you can find paddy fields but today, it’s popular across the country. Zerde is a traditional festive dish that’s served at weddings, birth celebrations, and during the sacred month of Muharram.
Kaymaklı Ekmek Kadayıfı
We mentioned a couple of puddings above but this one is a little different. The best way I could describe this Turkish dessert is as ‘bread pudding’. It’s a regional specialty of Afyonkarahisar and one of the oldest Turkish desserts that’s an important part of the local cuisine even today. Traditionally, it’s served with sweet kaymak and topped with raisins or other fruits.
What if I tell you that pumpkin pie isn’t the only way you can use pumpkin in a dessert? In fact, Kabak tatlısı is one of the most creative things to do with pumpkin when it comes to desserts. This traditional dessert is prepared by sprinkling the pumpkin with sugar, baking it, and topping it with chopped walnuts and kaymak. It’s one of the best winter desserts I have ever tasted.
Maraş Ice Cream
Maraş is an ice cream that’s as old as the much more popular gelato and just as tasty. This ice cream dates back to the 16th century, it’s made from goat milk, sugar, and orchids powder, Arab gum, and salep and it has a slightly denser texture than the gelato. Maraş ice cream comes in different flavors, but the most popular ones are peach, pistachio, vanilla, and red currant.
You can get Maraş ice cream from street vendors or dondurması shops across the country; they’re the same ones that play tricks before finally putting the ice cream in your cone. And if this ice cream sounds exotic and unusual, you’ll surely love this next one!
Did you ever try eating an ice cream with a fork and a knife? The Turkish word ‘kesmek’ translates to ‘cut’ while ‘dondurma’ translates to ‘ice cream’. Therefore, the name is quite self-explanatory. Similarly to the Maraş ice cream, this ice cream is also made from salep, goat milk, and orchid powder but the kesme dondurma uses a specific beating method that gives the ice cream a texture dense enough to form a solid shape when frozen. Hence, the right way to eat it is by waiting for it to slowly melt in your mouth. The most popular flavors are caramel-almond, chocolate, mixed fruits, peanut, orange, and pistachio.
Similarly to maraş ice cream ‘magicians’, you’ll also find a lot of street vendors around Turkey that make a show out of making this delicious Turkish sweet. The origin of macun dates back to the Ottoman empire. Traditionally, it was a traditional Turkish herbal paste consisting of grape molasses and 41 different plants and spices and was created to cure the mother of Suleyman the Magnificent. He was so happy with the results that he organized a whole festival devoted to this sweet, paving the path for macun to become one of the most popular local sweets.
The best way to describe Macun is as colorful Turkish toffee paste that comes in different varieties and flavors and uses a lot of local herbs but the most popular versions are the fruity ones. Historically, macun was served in a round tray with separate compartments for various flavors and it’s still served like this in a lot of restaurants but the ‘stick’ version (the one you get on the streets) is also gaining popularity.
Güllaç is a popular Turkish dessert that is traditionally consumed during the month of Ramadan. Its first mention in history is in 1539 when it was served (officially) for the first time for the celebration of the circumcision of Suleiman the Magnificent’s son in 1539. According to several Turkish historians, this delicious phyllo dough is the predecessor of baklava. The main ingredients for preparing this delicious dessert are rose water, milk, pomegranate, and walnuts and the most common toppings are hazelnuts, pistachios, and almonds.
According to the Islamic beliefs, when Noah survived the big flood, he prepared a pudding with the remaining ingredients and that pudding is Aşure. Whether this is true or not, today Aşure is one of the most popular Turkish desserts. You can find more varieties of this dessert but in its most basic form, it’s a mix of sugar, wheat, chickpea, and haricot beans with dried fruits (fig, apricot, or raisin) and nuts.
Tavuk Göğsü is one of the most distinguishing and unique Turkish desserts. I know having chicken breasts for dessert sounds weird but trust me, this is absolutely delicious! In case you’re wondering how chicken breasts can become a dessert, the answer is ‘in a pudding’. Tavuk Göğsü is a rice white pudding made of chicken breasts that doesn’t have any rice and doesn’t taste like chicken at all. The texture is creamy and smooth but thick enough to be chewy and after topping it with cinnamon and vanilla, it’s turned into one of the tastiest desserts you’ll ever try.
This dessert is quite similar to baklava; the main difference is the syrup and the quantity of milk and water that’s added. That’s why sütlü nuriye has a whitish look and tastes less heavy than baklava. The story behind the origin of this dessert is linked to the coup of 1980 when the economy went into a deep recession and people had to come up with creative ways to save money and creating this poor man’s version of baklava was a great way to save money.
Şöbiyet is a phyllo dough dessert that consists of milk and semolina. The mix is boiled until it becomes a thick pudding after which 10 layers of phyllo dough are placed on top of each other with a butter dressing. For the finishing touch, walnuts and sweet kaymak are added on the top, the square pieces are cut in triangles, baked again, and topped with sweet syrup and grand pistachios. As you can see, the preparation requires a lot of efforts but it’s totally worth it.
The best way to describe bülbül yuvasi is like a circular version of baklava. Similarly to baklava, this dessert is phyllo dough that contains nuts. The rolls are shaped into rings with the pistachios being placed in the hallows of the rings after cooking the dough. Before serving, the dessert is topped with sweet syrup that gives this dessert its distinguishing sweet flavor.
Halka Tatlısı (Brothel Dessert)
Also known as ‘kerhane tatlisi’ that translates to ‘brothel dessert’ probably because it was previously served in brothels but today, it’s one of the most popular street desserts in Turkey. The best way to describe Halka Tatlısı is as churros covered with sweet sherbet. It’s one of the sweetest and stickiest Turkish desserts but traditionally, it’s still eaten with hands, so if you want to try it, prepare to get your fingers sticky.
Halva is one of the oldest desserts on this list and one of the rare ones that precedes the Ottoman Empire. Halva originates from the Middle East and its earliest mention in history dates back to the 7th century. Today, you can find halva anywhere from Central Europe to China and from Russia to North Africa, making halva one of the most popular desserts in the whole world. There are different varieties of halva in different parts of the world but the two most common ones are the flour-based version with a gelatine-like texture and a nutty version that crumbles a lot easier.
Muhalebi is another dessert that originates from the Middle East that has found a home in Turkey and probably the oldest dessert on this list. The origin of this dessert is linked to the Sasanian Empire around the third century, making muhallebi one of the oldest versions of custard. The traditional preparation method includes shredded pieces of chicken and Turkey is one of the rare countries that still serves muhallebi by following its original, authentic recipe.
If you ever traveled to Turkey or some of the Slavic countries, you probably tried sarma but did you know that there’s also a sweet version of the popular cabbage roll? Don’t worry though, this dessert doesn’t consist of sauerkraut. The wrap consists of one layer of dough while and inside the stuffing consists of fıstık ezmesi (pistachio butter). That’s where the distinguishing color comes from. Unlike what you might think, this color is 100% natural and doesn’t include any chemicals or food coloring. To give this green goodie its sweet flavor, for the finishing touch, the sweets are dipped in sherbet.
Burma is yet another sweet that consists of several layers of sweet, thin phyllo dough placed atop of each other and wrapped around a rolling pin. Before baking, the sweet is dressed with butter and dipped with sherbet. That’s why the final result is a sweet with a hole in the middle. In the end, the hole is filled with nuts or pistachios that give the sweet a crunchy texture.
No trip to Turkey is complete without trying künefe and you can smell this dessert from miles away while walking on the streets in any Turkish city. This dessert consists of a thin noodle-like pastry that’s deep-fried and soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup layered with cheese or clotted cream and nuts. I know cheese might not be something you would like in your dessert but after trying künefe, you will change your mind. After all, there’s a good reason why this dessert is popular not only in Turkey but also in the Middle East and the Balkan.
The word lokma translates to ‘bite’ in English and it’s one of Turkey’s most popular quick desserts you can get on the street. Lokma is a chestnut-sized piece of deep-fried dough flavored with sugar, sherbet (or sweet lemon syrup), honey, and cinnamon. This sweet has a rich tradition and it’s always served by people who celebrate a special occasion or mourn the loss of a loved one.
Tulumba Tatlısı (Tulumba)
If you want to taste one of the sweetest sweets in the world, Turkish tulumba might be just that. This delicious street dessert is made by deep-frying dough balls and soaking them in sherbet (liquid sugar) while they’re still hot. This gives the sweets a crunchy texture on the outside and soft, semi-liquid sugary texture on the inside. And if a sweet that’s covered in sherbet isn’t sweet enough for you (or you just want to get a. diabetes), try tulumba with chocolate syrup.
Lokum (Turkish Delight)
In Turkish culture, lokum is the most common thing to bring when visiting someone’s home (Turkish people never go to someone’s house empty-handed). More popular in the western world as Turkish Delight, this confection of gel, starch, and sugar quickly took over the world after it was exported in Europe in the 18th century. The preparation method includes chopping dates, pistachios, and hazelnuts/walnuts and bounding all ingredients by the gel. Before serving/selling, lokum is usually cut into tiny cubes and traditionally served with a cup of Turkish coffee.
Finally, we saved the best for last; baklava is hands down, the most popular Turkish dessert. From Sarajevo to Baku, everyone claims their baklava is the best one in the world but no one can make it better than the Turkish. In different parts of the world, you’ll find baklava in different shapes and sizes but in its essence, this dessert consists of chopped nuts spread inside numerous layers of phyllo dressed with batter and sherbet or honey. It might sound easy, but this recipe is actually quite hard to make and baklava-making is a real art!
How did you like this list of Turkish desserts? Which one is your favorite? Do you think we didn’t mention some other important Turkish desserts? Let us know in the comments!
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