Turkish breakfast isn’t just a meal, it’s an experience. Designed to be social, shared, and savored, Turkish breakfast consists of many small plates both sweet and savory, accompanied with bread and endless cups of tea. Usually a Turkish breakfast includes eggs, either fried or scrambled with tomatoes (sahanda yumurta or menemen). Cucumbers and tomatoes are consistently part of breakfast, as are olives, a plate of local cheeses, honey, and kaymak, a dairy product similar to clotted cream. Often there will also be jam, butter, a red pepper paste called acılı ezme, sausages, and börek, a flaky pastry that can be filled with cheese, spinach, or meat.
Serpme kahvaltı is a highly traditional way to enjoy the breakfast for long hours. Turkish people go out on weekends to have breakfast around the Bosphorus with a breathtaking view, to the countryside, to popular cafés and restaurants, etc. The concept of serpme kahvaltı consists of small plates with different products and tastes such as a cheese platter, a tomato and cucumber platter, herbs, jams, tahini and grape molasses, butter, kaymak and honey, different types of olives, olive oil with spices, spicy tomato paste, eggs, omelet, bread and simit, peppers, and Turkish pastries.
The importance of serpme kahvaltı is to share the food which is literally spread across the entire table and altogether enjoy the experience with family, friends, neighbors, loved ones, or whoever is hungry! The breakfast usually starts with drinking a cup of Turkish tea and at the end, Turkish coffee is served to aid digestion. Turkish coffee is usually served with a lokum (Turkish delight) in the traditional way.
As the breakfast takes long hours and is enough to fill you up, the other meals of the day could be skipped or a light dinner would do.
Aegean Turkey’s Regional Breakfast
Breakfasts of the Aegean region are abundant in lush greens. Herbs and olives of the region paired with fresh feta cheese and the doughy treat boyoz, make for an incredible meal. You can find all kind of jams which are mostly homemade with fresh ingredients such as apricots, all kinds of berries, roses, citrus fruits, figs, quince, eggplants, pomegranates, herbs, walnuts, mastic, and even mandarin peels!
Turkish cuisine has an extraordinary jam culture that has come down to the present day from the time of the Ottoman Empire.
Jam was a luxurious and indispensable food of the Ottoman era. A part of the kitchen was reserved for jam-making and there the cooks made jams full-time.
Jam was also considered a healing food in Ottoman cuisine. Sugar was first used by pharmacists in Ottoman times. At that time, the health benefits of fruit tree flowers were identified by Ottoman physicians.
In Ottoman cuisine, jam is produced from many plants: melons, watermelons, eggplants, green lemons, almonds, hazelnuts, Erguvan (Judas tree) flowers, lotus flowers, etc. Special gardens were designed for the cultivation of products that were used for jams. For rose jam, known as the “Sultan of jams,” special roses were grown in the garden of the Edirne Palace.
The way the jam was presented was very important. There were special jam jars, and guests were given jam before being served Turkish coffee.
After a big dinner banquet at the palace, jam was served. The stylish and sparkling jam jars imported from Europe stood out during these presentations.
Gaziantep’s Regional Breakfast
Gaziantep, which has a worldwide reputation for its cuisine, has a very special breakfast. Beyran soup, one of the most popular and preferred breakfast products in the region, is accompanied by katmer dessert, chickpea wrap, liver wrap, sahan cream, muhammara, egg piyaz, etc.
Van’s Regional Breakfast
Van’s breakfast spread is the richest in Turkey. Van and breakfast are, in fact, synonymous in Turkey, and Van-style breakfast restaurants have opened to fanfare in İstanbul and Ankara. At these restaurants, they serve regional delicacies such as the famous otlu peynir, a slightly crumbly, potent cheese spiked with an herb called sirmo, locally referred to as “wild garlic.” Traditional Van çöreği (a special kind of pastry), murtuğa (eggs with flour and butter), and kavut (a very old recipe of halva) are also served for breakfast.
And while some of these establishments may be representing the city well, to truly experience the famous breakfast, you need to travel to the source!
Black Sea Regional Breakfast
It’s difficult to describe Black Sea breakfast from a province to another. Black Sea breakfasts offer different delicious and natural products in each province: mıhlama, turşu tavalı (pickle pan), mısır ekmeği (corn bread) and a variety of pide’s. The breakfast you will have in company with the unique air and lush nature of the Black Sea will probably be one of the best breakfasts of your life.
Turkish Tea Culture
Every breakfast spread in Turkey is graced with çay and the traditional tulip-shaped cups. Although it was late to become an integral part of Turkish life, tea has a history of 5,000 years and has now become an indispensable part of Turkish culture. Turkish brewing techniques and presentation have a significant share in this success. Tea is consumed at all hours of the day and is a must at breakfast. All you need is a nice cup of Turkish tea to complete your incredible morning feast. Make sure to drink tea brewed from tea leaves gathered in the Black Sea region.
Butter is produced from two different materials in Turkey, cream and yogurt. The butter produced from fresh yogurt or tulum yogurt (a strained yogurt produced from cow, goat, or sheep milk) is called yayık tereyağı (yayık butter) and has been traditionally produced in Turkey for centuries.
The Black Sea region also makes a traditional butter called vakfıkebir tereyağı (vakfıkebir butter). It is obtained by processing pure milk cream of the highest quality using traditional methods. With its unique natural yellow color, unique smell, and completely natural ingredients, it has an unmatchable taste.
Kaymak is a creamy thick dairy product with a rich taste. The traditional method of making kaymak is to boil milk slowly, then simmer it for two hours over a very low heat. After the heat source is turned off, the cream is skimmed and left to cool (and mildly ferment) for several hours or days. Kaymak has a very high percentage of milk fat - around 60%.
TOP TEN BREAKFASTS IN THE WORLD
Turkish breakfast is the best way to get your day started anywhere in the world. It's filling, giving you the energy you need, but light, so you're not weighed down all day like some other popular breakfasts we could name (*cough* English breakfast *cough*). It's got tons of variety, so the picky eaters among us can pick and choose what they like and what they don't. It's organic-friendly, vegetarian-friendly (but still with some lovely meats for the carnivores amongst us), and even vegan-friendly. In short, it's got something for everyone and is the perfect way to get your day started. So, what’s in it? Let's find out!
Note: Regional differences are broad, with different things served in different spots. This is an average Turkish breakfast. Different places will add a local flavor to the base listed below.
Start Your Day with a Freshly Brewed Turkish Tea
More tea is consumed in Turkey than any other country in the world, and it starts at breakfast. Black tea is much more common than any other kind of tea, and in Turkey it's made in something called a çaydanlık, which separates a concentrated form of tea and boiled water. It's strong but never bitter, and studies have shown that Turkish tea helps regulate blood vessels and the heart, lowering the chance of a stroke or heart attack. It's served in beautiful fluted glass cups, adding to the aesthetics of the breakfast.
Tomato and Cucumber Salad
Peppers are often added, but tomatoes and cucumbers are essential to any Turkish breakfast, particularly Çengelköy cucumbers, which are smaller and tastier than normal cucumbers. Obviously, salad is typically served with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt to bring out the flavor.
White cheese is an absolute must at any breakfast, and typically there's a variety of anywhere between 1-4 different types of cheese. Aged kaşar, çeçil, tulum, lor, and other cheeses are common, though white cheese (similar to feta) is the only cheese that is more or less required.
Usually both black and green olives will be served. Be prepared for Turkish olives to be better and more flavorful than any you've ever had before!😉
You'll find eggs cooked in some form at almost every Turkish breakfast. However, the way might vary. Probably most common is the dish cooked in a traditional pan called menemen, made of eggs, tomato, green peppers, and spices, with salt and oregano sprinkled on top. Cheese or meat can be added to it - it's sweet and delicious regardless of how you have it!
If that's not to your taste, boiled eggs, omelets, and fried eggs with beef sausage (called sujuk) are all also very common at a Turkish breakfast table.
Bread is another critical part of Turkish breakfast. Standard Turkish white bread, called ekmek, with a crispy crust and a light fluffy inside is always hot and freshly baked. A sesame bagel-like bread called simit is also present at just about every Turkish breakfast. From there, açma and poğaça breakfast rolls, often stuffed with anything from cheese to meat to olive paste, are commonly served. The bread is used to eat with the salad and soak up any juices from a menemen, olive oil, or some of the other delectable dips on the breakfast menu...
Bal Kaymak - Honey and Clotted Cream
This is a luxury at most breakfasts, but it's an absolute must. The clotted cream of kaymak is as good a cream as you'll find anywhere in the world, and Turkish honey is also famed to be amongst the best, with hundreds of different types on offer. The variety depends on the flowers they're pollinated from and all honey is 100% natural. In fact, honey straight off the comb is very common in Turkey, with locals heading to the store and buying an entire honeycomb rather than a jar.
This varies from region to region, but some form of tomato paste and nuts, often walnuts and spices, is part of breakfast all over the country. It's often got a bit of a kick to it, so watch out! 😊
Jams and Marmalades
Finally, Turkish jams are famous, in large part because Turkish fruits are so wonderful. Most regions have a variety of jam that they're most famous for, so you'll find different locally made products wherever you happen to be, and they'll all be equally 100% natural and delicious. Oftentimes, sugar isn't even added, allowing the flavor of the fruits to stand by itself!
Back by popular demand, even MORE incredibly flavorful Turkish cheeses for your tasting pleasure!
Çökelek Cheese along the Mediterranean
Çökelek cheese is an unsalted and light cheese that is made from yogurt and comes from different parts of Turkey's Mediterranean region. It's excellent in pastries and is often seasoned to give in an extra bit of flavor. If on its own, it’s often served with a drizzle of olive oil and black cumin seeds.
After the cheese is made, it's usually aged for many months to bring out its flavor, making it rich and creamy - so much so that it is also served with meat dishes. After it's matured, it's dried out to harden and is truly one of the best cheeses in Turkey.
Kargı Tulum Cheese from Çorum
Tulum cheese produced in Kargı in the province of Çorum along the Black Sea is slightly more conventional than Bergama tulum. It can be made of cow, sheep, or goat's milk (or more often than not a mixture thereof) and is not salted in the way Bergama tulum is, meaning it's a little crumblier and a little sharper.
It's matured and is an excellent accompaniment to a big dinner full of rich flavors. It's often sold in either a sheepskin or goatskin, and at times has a buttery consistency to match its sharp flavor. It's typically matured for around 6 months and goes wonderfully well with walnuts and freshly baked bread.
Otlu Peynir (Herbed Cheese) from Van
As the name suggests, with Van herbed cheese, the cheese isn't doing all the work! The cheese itself is typically made from either sheep or cow's milk and is semihard with a salty flavor. However, the majority of the flavor comes from the incredible number of herbs that are put in, many of them local and endemic to the Van region of Turkey.
Twenty to twenty-five herbs are added, most commonly including varieties of the genuses of Allium, Thymus, Silene, and Ferula. But each village around Van tends to have its own local herbs that they add (or don't), and as the cheese itself has grown in popularity, so have the varieties it comes in. Herbs added are often wild, such as wild garlic (sirmo in Turkish) which gives the cheese a distinct aroma.
The cheese itself developed for medicinal purposes when healing herbs needed to be eaten in large quantities, and in specific due to the lack of scientific knowledge regarding which herbs in particular were the most beneficial to health. So, the cheese was produced to create a tasty way to consume many different wild herbs known only to local doctors. The herbs are brined before being added to the cheese contributing to the cheese's salty flavor. The cheese is typically matured around 6 months to bring out the flavor. The final product is a yellowish, semihard cheese with a garlicky aroma and a fair scent of fresh thyme as well.
Otlu peynir is often grated into omelets and also goes incredibly well in sauces, or simply eaten as a meze appetizer with some bread and butter.
Koleti Cheese from Trabzon
Koleti cheese is local to the Black Sea region of Turkey and is particularly famous for its use in the dish of mıhlama. Koleti is made from unpasteurized milk and when the milk turns to cheese, it is doused with boiling water and left to cool before being sliced and aged at least 3 months.
Mıhlama is made by mixing cornmeal and either butter or clotted cream with the cheese for an incredibly rich, cheesy dish that's cooked slowly so the cheese is stringy and melted, and served piping hot.
Kaşar Cheese from Kars
Kaşar cheese, or eski kaşar (literally old kaşar) as the matured version is known, is perhaps the cheese that is most widely used in foods compared with eaten on its own. It has a buttery and tangy flavor that makes it suitable to eat with any meal. When aged over 6 months, as it usually is in the northeastern region of Kars, it develops peppery notes that go incredibly well with just about anything. It can be made from cow, sheep, or goat's milk though cow's milk is the most common. It often accompanies white cheese at breakfast as a very different flavor.
Before it's been aged, kaşar cheese is smoother and lighter. It melts very well and is used as the primary melting cheese in Turkish dishes, though it's excellent for slicing or grating as well. It's used in pizzas, sandwiches, or, most commonly, in grilled cheese sandwiches simply called "tost" (toast) in Turkish.