Desserts & Confectionary
Most Turkish desserts have a story to tell. Thanks to Turkey’s rich and diverse cultural heritage, most desserts are linked to a urban legend, a story that is intricately part of the recipe. Many dessert recipes date back to Ottoman times or even further back to Central Asiannomadic Turkic tribes.
Fruit-based desserts: ayva tatlısı (boiled quince with syrup), kabak tatlısı (boiled pumpkin with syrup), incir tatlısı (dried fig with walnuts and syrup), kestane şekeri (boiled chestnuts with syrup)
Milk-based desserts: fırın sütlaç (Turkish rice pudding), tavuk göğsü (milk pudding with shredded chicken breast), aşure (also known as Noah’s pudding – a seasonal dessert resembling porridge with grains, dried fruits, and nuts), kazandibi (caramelized milk pudding), güllaç (thin layers of güllaç sheets with milk and rosewater), keşkül (almond milk pudding), pepeçura (grape pudding), zerde (saffron pudding)
Desserts with syrup: baklava, şöbiyet, lokma (Turkish sweet fried dough), kadayıf (shredded wheat with nuts), künefe (shredded wheat with cheese, served hot), şekerpare (tender and soft semolina cookies), tulumba (deep fried unleavened dough balls), ekmek kadayıfı (Turkish bread pudding)
Helva (Helva): Helva, meaning “sweet,” is a very traditional dessert which dates as far back as, at least, the Ottoman era. Helva with flour or semolina is often made for celebrating good news such as a birth, a recovered patient, a wedding, but also for the grief after a death, or on the anniversary of a death. It is traditionally shared with family, friends, and neighbors after the prayers.
Helva comes in a variety of forms all around Turkey; regions or even cities have their own way of making helva. Some famous varieties are
İrmik helvası (semolina helva), un helvası (flour helva), tahin helvası (tahini helva), höşmerim (cheese helva), süt helvası (milk helva), pişmaniye, and çekme helva.
Lokum (Turkish Delight): Invented in the late 18th century, it is sold in a variety of flavors, and with or without nuts. This soft, chewy sweet is also served with a cup of Turkish coffee to lighten the palate. Lokum is one of the best souvenirs to take home from Turkey.
11 TURKISH DESSERTS THAT AREN’T BAKLAVA
This thick pudding has very thin slices of chicken breast and is often served with Maraş ice cream (dondurma) and cinnamon. If chicken is not your thing, you can try kazandibi, which is the same thick pudding except with a burnt caramel top.
Ridiculously sweet, these little cakes are made with an almond-based dough and then drenched in hot sugar syrup. By the time they’re cold, the şekerpare is a bit hard and crumbly but melts in your mouth to reveal the sweet syrup.
Another one of Turkey’s most popular milk desserts, muhallebi is a pudding that’s made with mastic and often covered with grated pistachios. Of course, you can always ask for a scoop of Maraş ice cream as well.
A specialty of the Antakya region, künefe is composed of two layers of crunchy kadayıf (shredded pastry) with a thick layer of melted cheese in between and soaked with sugar syrup. The melted cheese and the sweet syrup go together perfectly, while the crunch of the kadayıf (always topped with grated pistachios) is divine.
The closest thing you can get to cotton candy in Turkey, pişmaniye is made by blending flour roasted in butter, which is then pulled into fine strands. In some regions, you can get pişmaniye covered in milk chocolate, which is extremely sweet and glorious.
A wintertime favorite, ayva tatlısı is made by boiling quince with cloves and syrup and then topping the quince with kaymak (clotted cream) and walnuts. The same dessert is also made with pumpkin and is just as heavenly.
One of the only Turkish desserts with no animal products, aşure is a type of pudding made with grains, fruits, dried fruits, and nuts. You’ll see Turks enjoying this dessert in large quantities during Muharram, the first month of the Islamic calendar. It is a tradition to make aşure for your family, neighbors, and friends.
Turkish revani dessert is made from a semolina cake that’s soaked in simple syrup. Some revani recipes also add an extra touch, such as rose water to the syrup to make the dessert even more fragrant.
Sucuk is usually known as Turkey’s fermented sausage with many herbs, however, cevizli sucuk is an entirely different creation. Made by dipping a string with walnuts into a grape molasses mixture, the sweet sucuk is then hung out to dry and cut into pieces and enjoyed as a gummy-like dessert.
A specialty of Bursa, chestnuts from Uludağ are boiled, dipped into hot syrup, and then cooled. Sold in boxes, this treat is very addictive and sometimes even covered in chocolate.
This very sweet dessert is made by deep-frying unleavened dough balls and then soaking them in syrup while they’re still hot. Tulumba is always crunchy on the outside and soft and very sweet on the inside, and is sometimes even served with chocolate sauce.