For most people, baklava and Turkish delight are the only traditional Turkish desserts or sweets they know. But, the rich cuisine of Turkey has much more to offer. These desserts usually fall into one of these three categories.
Desserts in Turkey made with fruits and vegetables include fresh and dried fruits that are stewed. Apricots and figs are transformed into delicious treats once topped with fresh cream. Milk-based desserts include a range of puddings which are sometimes baked. “Keskül” is a milk pudding made with coconut. Pastry-based desserts such as Baklava and Kadayif are soaked in syrup. Turkish cuisine places a lot of importance on elaborate pastries and simple stewed fruits.
Here Are Some Of The Best Traditional Turkish Desserts
1. Şekerpare – Will Melt In Your Mouth
In the old Turkish, ‘Şekerpare’ means ‘a piece of sweet’. Made with almond dough and semolina these little Turkish cakes are soaked in hot sugar syrup flavoured with lemon until cold when they become melt-in-your-mouth crumbly. This treat is made in nearly every Turkish household and sold in most bakeries and patisseries (which are called ‘pastane’ in Turkey). It is possibly the second most known Turkish dessert after Baklava. Kneading the dough slowly by hand is the key to perfecting this dish. Each piece tastes best when it’s completely soaked in syrup.
2. Muhallebi – Turkey’s Most Popular Milk-Based Dessert
One of Turkey’s best known milk-based desserts, this rice pudding is often covered with grated pistachios. It is usually flavoured with culinary rose water. Rice flour is usually used to thicken the pudding. Legend has it that this dessert was introduced into Arab cuisine in the late seventh century by a Persian cook. The cook served it to an Arab general by the name of Al-Muhallab ibn Abi Sufra. He enjoyed it so much that he ended up naming it after himself. This dessert is popular not just in Turkey, but also Israel and several other Mediterranean countries.
3. Tavuk Göğsü – A Signature Dish You Cannot Miss
Considered a ‘signature’ dish of Turkey, the traditional version of Tavuk Göğsü is made with thinly sliced chicken breast, creating something like blancmange. Modern versions use a fine powder instead. Kazandibi is a similar thick pudding minus the chicken. It used to be served to Ottoman sultans in the Topkapı Palace. The more traditional version uses white chicken breast meat. This delicious treat is very similar to the medieval “white dish” (blancmange) that was common in the upper-class cuisine of Europe.
4. Künefe – The Perfect Blend Of Sugar And Cheese
Also called Kanafeh, Kunafah and several other similar variations, this delightful treat is composed of two layers of crunchy pastry (kadayıf) filled with melted cheese and soaked in sweet syrup, this is a speciality of the Antakya region. It is originally from Hatay (Antioch), a city on the South of Turkey, and tastes best with the cheese from that region. Some regions also add ingredients like nuts or clotted cream. Künefe can be served either hot, warm or even cold. A balanced combination of both sugar and cheese makes this sweet treat absolutely delicious!
5. Aşure – A Healthy Snack
Popularly called Noah’s Pudding, this dessert is extremely healthy. It’s usually made with a range of ingredients including dried fruits, legumes and whole grain wheat that are sweetened with sugar and fruit juices and cooked all together in one pot. It also contains apricots, raisins, currants, figs, pine nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, chickpeas, and navy beans It is usually enjoyed during Muharram. Legend has it that the dessert was was made by Noah himself. After weeks on the ark when the waters began to recede and the food depleted, Noah threw bits of everything he had left on the ark into one pot. This is also why this dessert is considered to be the ‘oldest dessert in the world.’
6. Pişmaniye – For Lovers Of Pistachios
Made by blending flour roasted in butter and sugar, it is then pulled into fine strands. Like many other sweets, it is often garnished with ground pistachio nuts. Often compared to cotton candy, it is actually quite different. Pişmaniye dates back to the 15th century. It comes in several varieties and is either plain or coated with chocolate, topped with ground pistachios or walnuts, and flavoured with vanilla or cocoa powder. Pişmaniye is usually found in tourist gift shops. The advantage of this particular sweet is that it lasts longer and can be stored without refrigeration, thus working as a great gift to bring back after a long voyage.
7. Ayva Tatlısı – Perfect For The Winters
A winter favourite, quince is boiled with cloves and sweet syrup. It is then filled with apple or quince meal, walnuts, and raisins and topped with kaymak (clotted cream). Quince is most delicious when fully ripe but can also be enjoyed raw. Its slightly sour flavour can be tough to handle for some, which is why this fragrant fruit is most often cooked. It is best enjoyed over a cup of coffee and can be served warm or cold.
8. Revani – A Popular Dessert Around The Middle East
Known as Basbousa in Egypt, this traditional Middle Eastern sweet cake is made from semolina and soaked in simple syrup. Sometimes rose water or coconut is also added. Different versions of revani exist around the eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, including Greece, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, and Arab cuisine.
9. Tulumba – Served Fresh And Hot By Street Food Vendors
A popular dessert of the former Ottoman Empire, this sweet is made by deep-frying unleavened dough balls and then soaking them in syrup while they’re still hot. It is similar to jalebis and churros, crunchy on the outside and soft and very sweet on the inside. Tulumba is a popular street food sold by vendors who fry it and serve it hot on the spot. The dough used to make it contains starch and semolina, which keeps the dish light and crispy.
10. Cevizli Sucuk – Also Known As Churchkhela
A sucuk is a popular Middle Eastern fermented spicy sausage, but the cevizli sucuk (or churchkhela) is a candle-shaped candy made by dipping a string with walnuts into a grape molasses mixture which is hung out to dry.
11. Kestane Şekeri – Hot Nuts Boiled In Syrup
These candied chestnuts are a speciality of Bursa. Known as marron glacé in France, they are made by boiling the nuts and then dipping them in hot syrup.
BONUS: Baklava – The Delight We Are All Familiar With
We cannot have a list of Turkey’s best sweet delights without talking about baklava. We initially wanted to speak about other traditional desserts only but it seems almost criminal to leave out this delight because it is popular for a reason. Found not just in Turkey but in large parts of the Middle East, Egypt, The Balkans and Central Asia, this dessert is rich and sweet. Made with layers of filo pastry, it is stuffed with an assortment of nuts and then sweetened and held together by honey, syrup or sometimes frosting. They come in several shapes and sizes. Perfect baklava crumbles in your mouth, leaving you wanting more.
Turkish Desserts Are The Perfect Treat For Your Taste Buds
Sweets and desserts have always remained a distinctive element in Turkish cuisine since the Ottoman times. Today, Turkish desserts also serve relevant social functions. A dessert called Irmik Halvah made with semolina is also offered on occasions of major changes in people’s lives such as a birth, a death, induction into the army and so on.
Also read: 25 Places You Must Visit in Turkey
There are different types of sweets of Turkish origin like Muhallebi, Orcik candy, Kestane Şekeri, Cevizli Sucuk.
Baklava is the most popular Turkish dessert, renowned globally.
Many Turkish desserts are packed with dry fruits and other ingredients that are rich in nutrients. These include Ayva Tatlısı and Revani.
The origin of Turkish delights is unknown exactly but it is believed to have originated in Turkey in the 18th century.