You are visiting Turkey and Istanbul, and you want to find the best foods to eat? Then, you can’t go wrong with this list of delicious Turkish foods! We’ll cover everything from traditional Turkish cuisine and street foods to kebabs and even some vegetarian & vegan options. No matter your taste buds’ preference, there is something for everyone here.
So for this guide, we’ve compiled 44 of the most delicious Turkish foods that you need to try if you’re in town. You might be kicking yourself if you miss them.
1. Döner Kebab
This pita sandwich or lavash wrap is stuffed with thinly sliced meat (lamb, beef, or chicken) cooked on an upright rotisserie or vertical spit. In addition to the meat, the bread is also filled with tomatoes, onions, fried potatoes, and lettuce. For the sauce, you can have mayonnaise or ketchup. It is analogous to the Greek gyros or the Arab/Iranian shawarma.
The streets of Istanbul are lined with tasty kebab vendors. The döner is the most popular street food in this city and can be found on every block, making it perfect for a quick bite to eat anytime you get hungry!
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Baklava is a decadent dessert pastry made from layers of filo dough, which are then filled with chopped nuts and soaked in sugar syrup. It originated in Ottoman Palace kitchens and became the most popular dessert in Turkey.
Turkey is the country to be if you are looking for some of the most amazing baklavas that exist in this world. The different varieties have names like lady’s lips, nightingale’s nest, and palace baklava, which are all equally good but taste different depending on what nuts and filling they have.
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3. Şiş Kebab
Şiş kebab is one of the most popular types of food in Turkey. It’s usually made with marinated cubes of lamb, chicken, or beef cooked on a metal rod over charcoal and served on a plate with grilled tomatoes, green peppers, and rice pilaf or bulgur pilaf.
Some of the most popular şiş kebabs are “tavuk şiş” (chicken shish kebab), “kuzu şiş” (lamb shish kebab), “şaşlık kebabı” (thyme, olive oil, cream and soy sauce marinated and chopped steak fillets) and çöp şiş (smaller pieces of meat on wooden skewers).
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Kumpir is a popular Turkish dish that’s best described as a stuffed baked potato. It’s typically an oversized baked potato cut in half and filled with slices of various vegetables, pickles, mayonnaise, ketchup, grated cheese, olives, sausages, and other condiments.
One of the best places to try Kumpir is Ortaköy, a popular district in Istanbul.
Güllaç is a traditional Turkish dessert that is served during the month of Ramadan. It’s popular because it’s light and easy to prepare, along with being a perfect, refreshing dessert for after a long day’s fasting. Today, many restaurants and bakeries also serve it outside of the month of Ramadan.
Güllaç is made by pouring a mixture of heated milk and rose water on sheets of Güllaç and placing walnuts between these sheets. Usually, 6-10 sheets are used. Güllaç sheets are made by cooking a mixture of water and flour with starch in a pan. They are then dried after they cook.
The tulumba dessert that entered the Ottoman cuisine centuries ago for its richness and sweetness is a Balkan-inspired dish.
This popular Turkish sweet is surprisingly crispy, soft, and juicy at the same time. It’s deep-fried in oil, dipped into sugar syrup to make it sweeter with a golden-brown crust on the outside.
7. Tarhana Çorbası
One of the first soups that come to mind when talking about Turkish cuisine is tarhana soup. It’s made by adding vegetables, fresh herbs, and spices to yogurt before drying it and crushing the mixture into a powder. This powder can last for years and is simply boiled in water to make it a delicious soup.
One of the most ancient foods in Turkish cuisine, tarhana soup, is loved by many. It is nourishing and natural; it’s a must-have for babies on their first solid food diet.
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Lahmacun is popular street food in Turkey that, round, thin piece of dough topped with minced meat, tomatoes, onions, parsley, black pepper, and isot (red chili pepper), then baked in wood-fired ovens.
It is a favorite lunchtime snack in Turkey and one of the most common foods found at restaurants. Turkish people put parsley, onion, a little tomato, and lots of lemon in their lahmacun and make it a wrap.
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9. Iskender Kebab
Unlike doner kebab, this special kebab is always served on a plate and is not street food. It is made by layering delicious döner meat mixed with tomato sauce over sliced pita bread and generously topping it with melted butter. Iskender Kebab is usually served with roasted tomatoes and peppers and yogurt on the side.
The perfect combination of these ingredients will make you remember the taste and experience of Iskender kebab from time to time.
10. Zeytinyağlı Sarma (Stuffed Grape Leaves)
Zeytinyağlı sarma is another world-famous Turkish food that tastes much better in Turkey than anywhere else.
Fresh or brined grape, cabbage, or chard leaves are boiled and then filled with rice, onions, parsley, and spices wrapped tight and cooked in a deep pot. The vegetarian version is usually served with garlic yogurt on top.
The meat dish version is called “Etli Yaprak Sarma,” and it is cooked with minced beef.
“Sarma” can be served as an appetizer, a side dish, or even the meat option for the main meal. This exquisite traditional Turkish food found at most restaurants should be put at the top of your culinary bucket list.
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11. Köfte (Meatballs)
One of the most popular Turkish foods is meatballs. Turkey has hundreds of different recipes for this national delight; almost every city in the country seems to have its specific recipe. Köfte is cooked at home, served at restaurants, and it is even street food. Depending on the recipe, it may include bread crumbs, garlic, onion, egg, and ground beef meat or lamb meat.
In short, you will have plenty of chances to enjoy this iconic Turkish food during your visit to Turkey. We recommend trying at least 1-2 different types of köfte during your stay. Some popular köfte are Sultan Ahmet Köftesi, İnegöl Köfte and İzmir Köftesi.
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The traditional recipe for Künefe is believed to originate from Hatay, a Turkish city with strong ties with Syrian cuisine. Künefe is a cheese-filled, crispy dessert made with kadayıf, which is shredded wheat.
If you’re looking for something sweet but not too heavy, this dessert is your perfect choice. Künefe has an ideal balance of sugar, shredded wheat, and unsalted cheese.
Different from other syrupy desserts, künefe is both served and eaten warm. Most kebab restaurants serve this popular Turkish dessert.
Tiny mince-stuffed dumplings topped with butter-fried tomato paste and garlicky yogurt. The main difference between mantı from dumplings or ravioli is its small size, making it tastier but difficult to make. A sign of a delicious mantı is if you can fit 40 of them inside your spoon.
Just like köfte, mantı is a typical dish in Turkish cuisine, and many cities prepare it according to their tastes. The most popular type of mantı in Turkey is from Central Anatolia, and it is called Kayseri Mantısı.
This traditional Turkish dish should be one of the first new foods you try when traveling in Turkey.
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The hearty menemen is a staple in Turkish cuisine, and if you want to taste how the Turks like their eggs, this iconic dish will be your answer.
Menemen is a scrambled eggs recipe that has been around for generations in Turkey, and it’s now becoming popular throughout the world. This easy-to-make dish of eggs, tomatoes, onion, and green peppers will become one of your favorite breakfast dishes while you are in Turkey.
If your hotel doesn’t serve menemen at breakfast, go out for an authentic Turkish breakfast in Istanbul and taste this delicious eggs dish.
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Şakşuka is one of the traditional Turkish foods that’s heavy on garlic and tomatoes. It typically contains crushed tomato, eggplant, zucchini, olive oil, finely chopped onions, salt, and pepper to taste.
It is often served as part of a meze or as a Turkish side dish. It is usually served cold and a perfect meze for Raki, the national drink of Turkey. When it is time to order mezes, make sure this popular starter is on the table.
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16. Kuru Fasulye
One of the most popular Turkish foods is kuru fasulye, a stew dish made from dried navy beans. Turkey has some excellent takes on this humble legume that might just convert anyone who isn’t sold yet.
The recipe is simple yet highly nutritious; onions and tomato paste sauteed in sunflower oil and boiled together with the dried white beans like a soup (in fact, kuru fasulye is not a soup). Some recipes include various kinds of meats.
Many local restaurants include this masterpiece in their menu. It is usually eaten with rice pilaf and pickles.
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Tantuni is one of the tastiest street foods in Turkey. It is made with julienned beef, or lamb stir-fried on a traditional Turkish sac (a thin metal pan used for cooking food at high temperatures) with sunflower oil. After the meat is cooked, it’s wrapped in lavash with chopped onions, skinless tomatoes, and parsley. Do not forget to squeeze lemon in your tantuni and order a cold glass of ayran drink with it.
While it is not as popular as döner kebab (just not yet), if you search for this Turkish street food in any city in Turkey, it won’t take long before you find a great restaurant specializing in tantuni.
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18. Hünkar Beğendi
Hünkar Beğendi is one of the masterpieces created in the Ottoman palace kitchens. The literal translation of this dish is “Sultan’s Delight.” When they served this dish to an Ottoman Sultan for the first time, he was so ecstatic over it; they personified his euphoria in the name.
This old Turkish recipe is perfectly tender lamb meat placed on the smoky aubergine and melted cheese sauce.
Chefs need to master their skills for years to cook this delicious food. You can find Hünkar Beğendi in some high-end traditional Turkish restaurants across the country.
19. Ezogelin Çorbası
Ezogelin soup is one of the most traditional Turkish soups and can be found anywhere in Turkey. While not the same, it is similar to the equally delicious Mercimek Çorbası (lentil soup). Ezogelin Çorbası is prepared with tomato paste, rice, red lentils, bulgur, onion, and butter.
Just like most locals, squeeze some lemon in your soup before enjoying it.
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20. Cağ Kebabı
Cağ Kebabı is one of the famous kebab types in Turkey. It is originated in Erzurum city. You are not very likely to visit this beautiful but far eastern Anatolian city of Erzurum, but don’t worry, you can find authentic cağ kebabı in Istanbul.
This ancestor of doner kebab is a horizontally stacked and marinated lamb that rotates on a wood fire. Marination includes onion, basil, black pepper, and salt.
Cağ kebabı meat is medium-cooked, soft, juicy, and flavorful, making it perfect for placing in your lavash bread and making a wrap.
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21. Perde Pilavı
This dish is like a work of art. Rice, chicken, pine nuts, butter, and spices such as oregano and black pepper are enveloped in a thin layer of dough, topped with almonds and currants, and cooked inside fez-shaped pots. It looks like a cake at first glance.
This rice dish is prepared for weddings because it symbolizes the building of a new home.
22. Testi Kebabı
This specialty of the Cappadocia region translates as pottery kebab and is prepared in pottery casseroles. It is usually made with a mix of meat, tomatoes, onions, eggplant, potatoes, and some other fresh vegetables. All ingredients are placed in a clay pot, the lid of the pot is sealed with dough, and it is slowed cooked in wood fire ovens for 4-8 hours.
This central Anatolian dish is available in touristy parts of Turkey nowadays and is cooked in smaller clay pots. To entertain the guests, the pot is broken with a small hammer.
Gözleme is one of the grab-and-go foods that is served in tourist destinations. It’s sometimes called a Turkish pancake, but it is prepared differently from regular pancakes.
All sorts of tasty fillings are put on a handmade phyllo dough, wrapped up, and cooked until it’s golden brown and crispy. Some popular fillings are spinach and feta cheese, grated cheese and mashed potatoes, minced meat, and cheese or mixed gözleme. You can choose the stuffing according to your taste.
This popular Turkish food will be one of your dearest dishes in Turkey. It comes with dozens of different toppings, is reasonably priced, delicious as a good pizza, and is available in every corner possible.
The base of the pide is a boat-shaped dough similar to western pizza crust without tomato sauce. Toppings vary widely and include but are not limited to Turkish cheese, sucuk (spicy Turkish sausage), green peppers, ground meat, chopped meat, spinach, tomatoes, pastrami, eggs, mushrooms, doner meat, chicken meat, and spices.
You can even find many vegetarian and vegan versions of pide. This dish is usually confused with pide bread which is a basic bread type in Turkey.
25. Su Böreği
Su Böreği is the star of all Turkish pastries and börek and is considered one of the most challenging recipes in Turkey. It translates as “Water Börek” symbolizing the soft and juicy handmade phyllo sheets inside. The tricky part of this recipe is giving it the right softness and juiciness inside.
Phyllo sheets are cooked in simmering water and then stuffed and baked. 12 of these phyllo sheets are brushed with butter and sprinkled with cheese in between, and baked in the ovens. The result is crunchy outside and melting soft inside.
It is eaten for breakfast available at most bakeries in Turkey. Su Böreği is also cooked at home to serve important guests.
Simit (similar to a bagel) is popular street food and can be found at street vendors and bakeries all around the country. The capital city of Turkey, Ankara, is famous for its simit.
Before it is cooked, traditional simit is covered in sesame seeds and dipped in grape molasses, giving it a caramelized color and a hint of sweetness.
While there is no need for another food to enjoy this Turkish delicacy, water buffalo clotted cream, honey, cheese, or traditional Turkish tea are some of the best options if you want more flavors. Typical Turkish breakfast usually has a simit served with it.
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27. Çiğ Köfte
Finely grounded fatless lamb, bulgur, onions, garlic, tomato, and hot pepper paste is treated with extremely hot spices (isot, pul biber) and kneaded until the lamb is cured (cooked) by these hot spices. As the meat is not properly cooked, it should be consumed fresh and can’t be stored overnight.
Çiğ köfte is sold all around Istanbul and is one of Turkey’s most famous street foods. Still, fortunately, the original recipe above has been banned for commercial production due to health reasons.
Nowadays, nearly all the Çiğ köfte in Istanbul are prepared without meat, making it a fantastic vegan food! This delicious street food is usually wrapped in lettuce and eaten with a squeeze of lemon. You can also have it wrapped in lavash bread.
28. Maraş Dondurması (Maraş Ice Cream)
Sorbet, gelato, and most other types of ice cream are also served in Turkey, but none are as unique and special as Maraş Dondurması.
This ice cream is sweet, creamy, stretchy, and sticky at the same time. This stretchy stickiness is thanks to the inclusion of the roots of wild orchids called “salep.” In addition to salep, this ice cream is made with the milk of goats fed with thyme, crocus, astragalus, and hyacinth plants.
This Turkish ice cream is one of the best ice creams globally, and authentic Maraş Dondurması should be at the top of your food list to try in Turkey. It has an unbeatable aroma that will have you licking all over it before devouring every last bite.
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29. Lokum (Turkish Delight)
Turkish delight is one of the top 10 Turkish foods in many sources, and they’re right. Although its recipe might be simple, it tastes like something special due to its unique blend of flavors, making it a favorite across many cultures throughout centuries.
Lokum is based on a gel of starch and sugar. Expensive varieties consist mainly of full-size, crushed, or ground pistachios, hazelnuts, or walnuts bound by the gel; traditional varieties are often flavored with rosewater, mastic, pomegranate, or lemon.
The bliss of tasting the authentic Turkish delight will make you think about all other fake delights found outside Turkey, but each bite is worth a regret.
This unique Turkish dessert has a religious background. According to Islamic belief, Noah made this dessert with the last ingredients he had when he set foot on land after the Great Flood. In English, it is known as Noah’s Pudding.
The original recipe has 41 ingredients including, apricots, raisins, currants, figs, pine nuts, wheat, walnuts, hazelnuts, chickpeas, and navy beans. All these are sweetened with sugar and fruit juices and cooked all together in one large pot.
Aşure is much more than just a delicious dessert in Turkey. It has an important place in Turkish culture, and there’s even a particular month for it. During this time, people cook and offer their neighbors aşure to remember various religious events that happened in old times.
This dish is easily identifiable in dessert shops by its vibrant toppings.
Turkey is famous for its wide selection of milk-based desserts, and Sütlaç is the most famous and delicious of them all. This old and traditional Turkish dessert is similar to the rice pudding found around the world.
It is a light and healthy dessert and is usually eaten after heavy meals. Cooked in every Turkish home and available at most restaurants, it will be hard to miss this sweet treat.
The most prevalent version is called “Fırın Sütlaç,” which is baked in an oven to give it a caramelized skin.
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Mücver is similar to hash browns, but it is mostly prepared with zucchini instead of potatoes in Turkey. The ingredients are grated zucchini, eggs, onions, flour, parsley, and dill.
Mücver can be served as an appetizer or as the main course and usually comes with garlic yogurt on top. It is perfect for hot days, providing you with the freshness and light flavor of zucchinis.
This dish is not the most common one on this list of best Turkish foods. If you ever have mücver on any restaurant’s menu, it is best to order it just in case there may not be another chance.
33. Türk Kahvesi (Turkish Coffee)
In 1517 the Ottoman Turks conquered a small Yemeni town named Mocha and took their coffee beans back home. They were unaware that this was the beginning of an empire’s favorite drink!
Turkish coffee is cooked by boiling, not brewing, or mixing with hot water, unlike many other types of coffee. Coffee consumption is customary after meals or when guests are over at the Turkish household.
Turkish coffee has a strong taste and is usually served in espresso-sized cups. Serving a Turkish delight or a small piece of chocolate with it is a common tradition in Turkey.
Fun Fact: You don’t have to pay for an expensive fortune teller when you can get it by downloading one of the many so-called “fortune telling” apps on your phone. Just take a picture of any coffee cups, and learn about what’s in the future for you!
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If you’re an eggplant fanatic, then Turkey is the perfect place for your culinary pilgrimage. The country’s cuisine features many ways to cook this tangy purple vegetable, with recipes ranging from vegetarian dishes like “İmam Bayıldı” or meat dishes such as the delicious Turkish version of “Moussaka.”
Karnıyarık translates as “split belly”; eggplants are sliced opened in the middle and stuffed with onions, tomatoes, peppers, and ground meat before being cooked for perfection in the oven. It is often accompanied by rice, yogurt, or cacık.
35. Adana Kebab
From the list of kebab types in Turkey, Adana kebabs are undoubtedly one of the most popular among meat lovers.
Adana kebab is generally made with beef mince mixed with lamb tail fat. The tail fat makes it juicy and flavourful. Mince is skewered and cooked on a charcoal grill. It is either served on a plate with bulgur pilaf and sumac flavored salad or as a lavash wrap with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and parsley.
Adana city is one of Turkey’s best-kept culinary secrets. They are known for their spicy kebabs, and the city claims ownership of some of the most delicious in the country. While there are good kebabs available all over Turkey, some say that if you want to experience the best kebab ever, it can only be found at their birthplace: Adana!
36. İçli Köfte
İçli köfte, which translates as stuffed meatballs in English, is a traditional Turkish appetizer or main meal and is sometimes found as street food in Istanbul.
Balls of dough made from a mix of fine bulgur, potato, and spices are used as the outer shell and filled with beef or lamb mince. It is then cooked by boiling or grilling. It can be consumed hot or cold.
It’s often challenging for cooks and home chefs alike to prepare this complex recipe, and therefore it is becoming a delicacy at restaurants in Turkey.
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37. Tavuk Göğsü (Chicken Pudding)
Is it a dessert and has real chicken in it? Confirmed.
Does it taste like chicken? Busted.
Is it delicious? Plausible.
Tavuk Göğsü is made of real chicken breast meat, cornstarch, milk, rice flour, and sugar. It is a popular dessert in Turkey and is easily found at most restaurants and dessert shops.
Tavuk Göğsü is one of the oldest and most fascinating dishes in Turkish cuisine. It’s a dish that dates back to the medieval ages when any form of thickening agents like starch was not invented yet, and shredded chicken meat was used to thicken desserts.
Related content: Turkish Chicken Breast Pudding Recipe
38. Bal & Kaymak (Honey & Water Buffalo Clotted Cream)
This underrated mouth-watering Turkish specialty should be on top of the “Worlds Best Flavor Combos” list.
The traditional way of making Turkish kaymak is to boil the raw water buffalo milk gently, then simmer it on low heat for two hours, and then the cream is skimmed and left to chill overnight. This fresh cream is drizzled with pine honey and eaten mostly at breakfasts in Turkey.
The creamy richness of this delicious breakfast pairing will keep your energy level high throughout the day, so enjoy it with Turkish bread or simit at every breakfast to guarantee that you never feel tired or drained during your Turkey visit!
Related content: Traditional Turkish Breakfast in Istanbul
39. Çöp Şiş
This is a type of Turkish shish kebab, but çöp şiş is generally cooked on wooden skewers rather than iron ones and the pieces of meat are pretty small.
The tail fat placed between the meat in çöp şiş helps to make the tiny pieces of meat juicy and flavourful, while also providing a nice contrast of texture. If you’re disappointed with dry, flavorless meat on a stick before, these little bits of delight will change everything for your taste buds.
This popular Turkish dish is often served with lavas, a kind of flatbread you can use to wrap your çöp shish kebab with fresh onions and tomatoes.
40. Etli Ekmek
Etli ekmek can easily rank among the top 10 bread-based Turkish dishes for locals. Similar to pide mentioned on this list of best Turkish foods, Etli ekmek has a thinner crust and fewer varieties. The meat is never machine minced for Etli ekmek, it is finely chopped by hand.
Konya, Turkey’s hometown for etli ekmek as well as many other traditional Anatolian dishes such as Arabaşı Çorbası, Fırın Kebabı, Tirit and Höşmerim. Konya is also a scenic locale that was home to the renowned mystic, Rumi.
41. İşkembe Çorbası (Tripe Soup)
İşkembe Çorbası has been a staple in Turkish cooking for centuries. It’s served at nearly every restaurant specializing in soups as well as cooked by all of Turkey’s baby boomer and Gen X mothers.
After thoroughly cleaning the beef tripe, it is pressured cooked with flour, butter, onions, and lemon.
Tripe soup is often served with a vinegar-garlic sauce on the side, or it can be mixed with an egg yolk and lemon juice sauce after cooking.
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The Turkish dish, kısır, is a popular and delicious meal that any housewife can make quickly. It generally requires no more than five-six ingredients, which often include bulgur, tomato paste, spring onions, parsley, fresh mint, and pomegranate molasses. You can think of kısır as a bulgur salad.
Locals will often prepare kısır on their way to visit neighboring friends or family members to snack on this unique food while chitchatting. There are monthly gatherings called “day of kısır” in local communities, which is a women-only gathering.
Kısır is also offered as an appetizer in many restaurants.
Katmer is an ancient flaky pastry of Anatolia, traditionally eaten during breakfast; but rather appropriate as a dessert with a cup of Turkish çay (Turkish tea).
Katmer is essentially a flaky pastry prepared like flatbread (yufka) or baklava. However, what makes this food different (and exceedingly indulgent and delicious!) are the generous amounts of butter and oil used to prepare the pastry.
This pastry is flipped in the air and stretched by hand until it becomes paper-thin and see-through. It is filled with crushed pistachios, sugar, and kaymak (water buffalo clotted cream) and folded into an envelope. Cooked on a large sac (thin iron plate) and served hot with grounded pistachio nuts on top.
This special Turkish dessert is available in many kebab restaurants in Turkey and Istanbul.
44. Bulgur Pilavı
Bulgur is an ancient cereal food made from the cracked parboiled groats of wheat. It can be cooked to make various dishes, pilafs, and it’s often used as an ingredient in soups or salads for added texture and flavor.
Bulgur Pilavı is a classic hearty and healthy pilaf dish that is easy to make and is an alternative to rice pilaf. It can be served with many traditional Turkish dishes such as Taze Fasulye (green beans), Kuru fasulye, kebabs, and vegetable dishes.
Bulgur, tomatoes, onions, and green peppers are sauteed and boiled in enough water and meat stock before being served with the main meal.
The Turkish food culture is a diverse and delicious one. If you’re looking for some new foods to try or just want to learn more about the rich history of this region’s food tradition, we’ve listed the 44 most popular Turkish dishes that are sure to tantalize your taste buds. From homemade Turkish favorites like kısır to more traditional fare like baklava, there’s something for everyone in Turkey. With so many options available on Turkish cuisine, be sure not to miss out on exploring all the incredible flavors of this beautiful country!
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