Turkish Cuisine

The Ultimate Guide to Turkish Cuisine: Where to Eat and What to Try

Discover the best places to eat and what to try in Turkish cuisine with this ultimate guide. Turkish food is an essential part of the country's culture, and there's no better way to experience it than by indulging in its diverse and mouth-watering dishes. From street food to fine dining, Turkish cuisine has something for everyone. This guide will help you navigate the culinary world of Turkey and experience the country's unique flavors and ingredients. So, get ready to explore the cultural and culinary capital of Turkey, Istanbul, and discover the regional specialties of Anatolia, the Black Sea, and the Mediterranean. Don't forget to try traditional Turkish drinks like çay (tea), ayran, boza, and rakı to complement your meal and complete your culinary journey. Follow our tips for dining out in Turkey to fully enjoy the country's culinary delights. Let's embark on a gastronomic adventure through the flavors of Turkish cuisine!


Istanbul is a food lover's paradise that offers an array of culinary delights. From the savory taste of Turkish kebab to the sweet indulgence of baklava, Istanbul has it all. If you're looking for a quick snack, the street food scene is a must-try. Simit, the perfect bread ring encrusted with sesame seeds, and döner kebab, a juicy sandwich filled with succulent meat and vegetables, are just a few examples of the delicious street food available in Istanbul.

For a more upscale dining experience, try iconic dishes like the rich and hearty manti, a type of dumpling served with creamy yogurt sauce, or the succulent grilled meat dish known as kebab. These dishes are sure to satisfy your taste buds and give you an authentic Turkish dining experience. And don't forget to save room for dessert – Istanbul's sweet treats like baklava and Turkish delight are not to be missed!

Anatolian Cuisine

Anatolian cuisine is a rich mix of flavors and ingredients that reflect the diverse regions of the country. Traditional dishes like testi kebab, karniyarik, çiğ köfte, and stuffed grape leaves are a must-try for anyone interested in Turkish cuisine. Testi kebab, also known as "pottery kebab," is a specialty of Cappadocia, where meat and vegetables are slow-cooked in a clay pot. Karniyarik is a popular eggplant dish from the Aegean region, stuffed with ground meat and vegetables. Çiğ köfte, a raw beef dish mixed with bulgur, spices, and herbs, is a classic example of southeastern cuisine. And stuffed grape leaves, or yaprak dolma, are a staple part of the Ottoman cuisine, typically filled with rice, herbs, and minced meat.

As you delve deeper into Anatolian cuisine, you'll discover a world of unique ingredients and flavor combinations that vary depending on the region. From lamb dishes in Central Anatolia to seafood specialties in the Aegean, there's something for everyone. And don't forget about the endless varieties of Turkish meze, small dishes served before a meal that are meant for sharing and sampling.

Regional Specialties

Turkey's diverse regions offer unique dishes and flavors that are a must-try for any food lover. The Aegean coast boasts an abundance of fresh seafood, including octopus, squid, and fish. The Southeastern region is known for its spicy kebabs and stews, featuring ingredients like lamb, chickpeas, and eggplant. In Central Anatolia, you'll find hearty dishes like testi kebab, a meat stew cooked in a clay pot, and mantı, Turkish dumplings filled with spiced ground meat and served with yogurt and garlic sauce. The Black Sea region is famous for its anchovies, prepared in a variety of ways like hamsi pilavı, a dish of rice mixed with sautéed anchovies, and muhlama, a cheesy cornmeal dish. Don't forget about the Eastern region, where you can try unique dishes like çemen, a spicy dip made from hot peppers and walnuts. Be sure to explore the diverse regional specialties for a true taste of Turkish cuisine.

Black Sea Cuisine

When it comes to Black Sea cuisine, the use of anchovies, cornmeal, and tea are prominent ingredients in many dishes. One must-try dish is hamsi pilavı, which is a pilaf made with anchovies and rice. Karalahana çorbası, a soup made with kale and beef, is also a popular dish in the region. Muhlama, a dish made with melted cheese and cornmeal, is another unique flavor to try in the Black Sea region.

In addition to these dishes, the Black Sea region is also known for its use of honey and hazelnuts in many desserts. Akçaabat köftesi, a type of small meatball made with hazelnuts and parsley, is another must-try dish in the region.

  • Hamsi pilavı - a pilaf made with anchovies and rice
  • Karalahana çorbası - a soup made with kale and beef
  • Muhlama - a dish made with melted cheese and cornmeal
  • Akçaabat köftesi - small meatballs made with hazelnuts and parsley

Overall, the unique ingredients and flavors of Black Sea cuisine make it a must-try for visitors to Turkey.

Mediterranean Cuisine

Mediterranean cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines in the world, known for its fresh ingredients and simple flavors. Turkish cuisine has also been influenced by Mediterranean flavors, making it a must-try for any food lover. Some of the most famous Turkish Mediterranean dishes include Türk mutfağı, şakşuka, and hummus.

Türk mutfağı is a traditional Turkish dish that consists of grilled chicken or lamb, seasoned with garlic, lemon, and mixed herbs. Şakşuka is a vegetarian dish made of eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, and onions, all roasted and blended together with olive oil. Hummus, a chickpea-based dip, is also a staple in Mediterranean cuisine and can be found on most Turkish menus.

Other popular Mediterranean dishes to try in Turkey include seafood dishes such as grilled octopus and stuffed mussels, as well as vegetable dishes like stuffed zucchini flowers and artichokes. Don't forget to try some of the regional specialties as well, such as the stuffed grape leaves of the Aegean coast or the spicier flavors of the Southeast.

Street Food

Turkish street food is a true delight for food lovers. These dishes are perfect for a quick and tasty snack while exploring the city. One of the most popular street foods is simit, a type of bread covered in sesame seeds. You can find simit vendors on almost every corner, and it's a great option for breakfast or a midday snack. Another must-try street food is döner kebab, a dish made from spit-roasted meat that is shaved off and served on bread or in a wrap. The meat is usually chicken or lamb and is often garnished with fresh vegetables and sauces. For seafood lovers, midye dolma is a great option, which are stuffed mussels with a rice filling seasoned with spices. Whether you're exploring Istanbul or any other city in Turkey, these street foods are a must-try for a true taste of Turkish cuisine.

Turkish Drinks

No trip to Turkey is complete without experiencing the country's wide array of traditional drinks. Turkish cuisine is closely tied to its beverages, and every meal can be complemented by a perfect drink. Some of the most popular traditional beverages in Turkey include çay (tea), ayran, boza, and rakı.

  • Çay: Tea is a staple in Turkish culture and is consumed throughout the day. Served strong in small glasses, it is often accompanied by a cube of sugar and a slice of lemon.
  • Ayran: This refreshing yogurt-based drink is perfect for cooling down on a hot day. It is made by mixing yogurt, water, and salt, and is often served with kebabs or other meat dishes.
  • Boza: This fermented drink is made from millet, sugar, and water. It has a thick, creamy texture and a slightly sour taste. It is often garnished with cinnamon and roasted chickpeas.
  • Rakı: Known as the national drink of Turkey, rakı is an anise-flavored alcoholic beverage typically served with meze dishes. It is often consumed with water, which turns the clear liquid into a milky white color.

Whether you're enjoying a steaming cup of çay in a bustling bazaar or sipping rakı under the stars, traditional Turkish beverages are an essential part of the culinary experience.

Turkish Coffee

Turkish coffee is not just a drink, it's a cultural experience. It is brewed very differently from regular coffee, using finely ground beans boiled in a cezve (a small copper or brass pot), and traditionally served in a small cup with a piece of Turkish delight on the side.

To make Turkish coffee, start by adding water, coffee, and sugar (if desired) to the cezve and stirring to combine. Place it on low heat and let it simmer without stirring until the coffee begins to bubble up. Remove it from the heat, let the bubbles subside, and then return it to the heat until it boils up again. Repeat this process a few times, then pour it into small cups.

Drinking Turkish coffee is a social activity and typically enjoyed in a group setting. The last few sips are often left in the cup to read the coffee grounds for fortune-telling. So, enjoy your Turkish coffee like a local and fully immerse yourself in Turkish coffee culture.

Turkish Tea

Turkish tea, also known as çay, is an important part of Turkish culture and daily life. Its history dates back to the Ottoman Empire, when it was introduced to the country by traders from the Far East.

The traditional method of brewing Turkish tea involves a two-tiered kettle called a çaydanlık, where water is boiled in the lower section and loose tea leaves are steeped in the upper section. The resulting tea is strong and often served in tiny glasses, accompanied by a cube of sugar or a traditional Turkish sweet like lokum (Turkish delight).

Aside from being a popular beverage, Turkish tea also has a social significance in Turkish culture. It is often accompanied by lively conversation and is considered a symbol of hospitality, with guests often being offered a glass of tea upon arrival at a home or business.

Whether you enjoy it in a bustling tea garden or in the comfort of your own home, Turkish tea is a must-try for anyone visiting Turkey. And don't forget to try it with a traditional sweet for the ultimate Turkish tea experience!

Tips for Dining Out

When dining out in Turkey, there are a few things to keep in mind to fully enjoy the country's culinary delights without any confusion or faux pas. First and foremost, it's important to remember that many restaurants serve meze, small dishes meant for sharing, as a starter. It's also common to order a mix of hot and cold meze to try a variety of flavors.

Another important tip is to try the local specialties and ask for recommendations from locals or the restaurant staff. Don't be afraid to ask for a translation or explanation of the dishes, as menus may not be available in English at certain places.

Additionally, it's common for restaurants to bring complimentary bread, olives, and cheese to the table. These items are not free, so be aware that they will be added to your bill if you consume them. Also, be sure to check the bill thoroughly as some restaurants may include additional items without your knowledge.

Lastly, it's important to know that tipping is customary in Turkey. While 10% is standard, it's always appreciated to leave a little extra for exceptional service.