Cheese consumption begins at breakfast in Turkey, where it's most often the main course, and continues throughout the day. Turkish meat dishes like kaşarlı köfte (meatballs stuffed with cheese) combine meat and cheese. Cheese is also served as a starter, or meze, with fish and meat entrees. Crumbled or grated cheese is also added to salads.
Aegean Region: Some local cheese types that must be tried are İzmir tulum cheese, Ayvalık sepet cheese, Seferihisar armola cheese, kopanisti, Tire çamur cheese, Çökelek and Karaburun lorlu keçi tulum cheese.
Mediterranean Region: Some local cheese from the Mediterranean are Kozan öfeleme cheese, Mersin’s bezde tulum cheese, çökelek and çörekotlu çömlek cheese (with nigella seeds).
Marmara Region: Ezine white cheese, Edirne white cheese, Kırklareli kaşarı, Malkara kaşarı, Bursa and Balıkesir mihalıç cheese, and Çerkes, Abaza and kaymaklı lor cheese are the most valued local cheese of the Marmara region. Ezine and Edirne white cheese are products registered with a “protected geographical indication”.
Black Sea Region: Local cheese from the Black Sea region are, among others, Giresun çökelek cheese, Keş cheese, Rize kurçi cheese, Çamlıhemşin minzi cheese, Trabzon ovma yayla cheese, Abaza cheese, Trabzon telli cheese, Trabzon külek cheese, Ordu torba cheese, Sürmene çökelekli mezele cheese, and Çorum kargı tulumu.
Central Anatolia Region: Local cheese from Central Anatolia includes deri tulumu from Ermenek, Karaman and Divle, Konya gök cheese, Develi sündürme cheese, and Avanos küp cheese.
Southeastern Anatolia Region: Local cheese from Southeastern Anatolia are Diyarbakır örgü cheese, Gaziantep sıkma cheese, and Urfa and Mardin cheese.
Eastern Anatolia Region: Some of the most popular local cheese from Eastern Anatolia are Erzincan şavak tulumu, Erzurum civil, Van otlu cheese (cheese with herbs), çeçil, Kars gravyer (Gruyère) cheese, and Göle and Kars kaşar cheese. At least 25 different kinds of herbs are used in the cheese production in Van. Erzincan tulumu (şavak), Kars kaşarı, and Erzurum civil and küflü civil cheeses have “protected geographical indication” status.
White Cheese: The most common cheeses in Turkey are fresh white cheeses, or beyaz peynir. These cheeses are similar to feta. White cheese is a staple at breakfast, as a filling in layered pastries and other baked goods, in salads, and as an appetizer or on a cheese platter.The best white cheeses come from Thrace and the areas surrounding the Sea of Marmara, but white cheese is produced all over the country. It can be made with cow, sheep, or goat's milk.
Fresh Kaşar Cheese: Another popular cheese common in Turkey is called "taze kaşar,” which means kashar cheese that hasn't been aged. Fresh kashar is a smooth, firm, light yellow cheese usually made from cow's milk. It's a very versatile cheese good for slicing, melting, grating, or eating straight up. It most often accompanies white cheese at breakfast. It's also used on pizzas, in sandwiches, and salads, and as the main ingredient in Turkey's classic comfort food, tost - in English, it's called a grilled-cheese sandwich.
Aged Kaşar Cheese: The city of Kars, in the northeastern region of Turkey, is most famous for producing Turkey's best-aged kashar cheese, or eski kaşar. The Kars variety of this beloved cheese is usually made exclusively with cow's milk or a mixture of cow and goat's milk. As the cheese ages, it forms a crust and mold on the exterior. The inside becomes dry and flaky. Its flavor most resembles Italy's Romano cheese, with even more tang, rich odor, and flavor. Aged kaşar is ideal for grating and is most often eaten at breakfast, as part of a cheese platter, or grated as a topping or filling in many dishes.
Tulum Cheese: Tulum is a general term used for a pungent, soft, sometimes crumbly form of white cheese made from goat's milk that varies greatly between regions. The branded versions of tulum that are sold in the supermarkets are uniform in type and sold across Turkey. Tulum is best served as an appetizer before meat fare. The traditional way is to serve crumbled tulum with walnut halves, sweet butter, and piping hot lavash flatbread before a plate of spicy kebabs.
Turkish Smoked Cheese: Smoked cheese is produced in the areas surrounding Düzce and Hendek in the Marmara region of Turkey. This cheese gets its robust flavor in special smokehouses that burn pine wood. This cheese has a wonderful aroma and rich, smoky flavor. It comes in wheels covered by a light brown, textured hull. Smoked cheese is normally eaten on its own or melted into sauces.
Stringy Fresh Milk Cheese: This fresh, white, stringy cheese, called "dil peyniri," must be eaten within a day or two. It's most often sold in rectangular logs and pulled apart in stringy strips or cut in chunks. Like mozzarella cheese, fresh dil is wet and has the best fresh, milky flavor in the first few days after production. Dil becomes very stringy when melted. That's why in Turkey, it's not the preferred cheese for use on pizza, taking a second seat to fresh kaşar cheese. Fresh dil is usually eaten for breakfast. It's quite popular with children because of its mild flavor.
Plaited Cheese: Plaited cheese, or örgü peyniri, began as a regional cheese from the areas near Diyarbakır in the southeastern region of Turkey. It is a hard, uniform, salty cheese made with cow's milk. It's a contender at the Turkish breakfast table and is used as an ingredient in certain Turkish appetizers.
Spreadable Fresh Milk Cheese: Labne is a bright white, fresh, spreadable cheese sold in tubs. It most resembles cream cheese but is much lighter in texture. Labne is yet another rich addition to the Turkish breakfast table and is especially loved by children. Like cream cheese, it is also used in many desserts, savory pastries, pies, and appetizers.
Low-Salt, Low-Fat Cheese Curd: Lor is a low-salt, low-fat form of white cheese with high protein content. It is a favorite with those who are health-conscious. Lor is inexpensive and is used to make lighter versions of traditional Turkish layered pastry, cheese pies, and desserts.