11 Foods to Challenge Your Eyes & Tastebuds: Offal Dishes in Turkey

Tripe, tongue, tail, trotter offal meats on display at local butcher shop, kadikoy street food tour
From left to right: beef tripe, oxtail, beef tongue and sheep trotters

Offal dishes are an essential part of Turkish cuisine and are loved by Turkish people. In the old days in Turkey, no animal part was wasted, and every type of meat imaginable was eaten.

Most animal parts such as the heart, brain, tripe, tongue, liver, intestines are still widely consumed in today’s society in Turkey. Some others have fallen out of popularity over time due to being considered unhealthy or their rarity nowadays; spleen, lungs, testicles, and kidneys.

If you have never tried eating things like brain salad, tripe soup, or grilled intestines before then, this is your chance to see what all of the fuss has been about! You will not find a more adventurous and delicious list than the Turkish offal dishes below. These delightful offal delicacies offer an intriguing flavor that can only be found in specialty restaurants in Turkey. Fortunately for offal aficionados, there are plenty of restaurants in Turkey that serve the below dishes.

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1. Kelle Paça Çorbası (Head and Trotters Soup)

Kelle Paça soup is similar to Armenian “khash” soup that is also cooked in many Caucasian countries. In Turkey, it is made of beef cheeks and lamb trotters. It is flavored with flour, chili red pepper, and butter and served with garlic and vinegar sauce on top. Kelle Paça soup is absolutely delicious & hearty and considered one of Turkey’s best and healthy soups.

With its garlicky solid flavor, this soup is also famous as a hangover soup in Turkey.

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2. Billur Kebabı (Ram Testicle Kebab)

Ram testicles (on the right) is cooked on skewers

This kebab is made from ram testicles. Ram testicles are cut in half, and the outer membrane is removed and cut into cubes, and cooked on the barbecue. High in protein and low in calories, it is popular among sportspeople.

3. Şırdan (Stuffed Abomasum)

Şırdan is one of the most popular Turkish offal dishes

The abomasum is a part of a cow’s stomach and is one of the trendy offal dishes in Turkey. This rubbery layer of the stomach is stuffed with seasoned rice, pepper paste, onions, cumin, and black pepper mixture, then stitched together and boiled in giant cauldrons.

The result is unreal, both in appearance and flavor. The tender meat and spicy flavor lingers on in every bite and leaves an unforgettable aftertaste unlike any other dish out there. The addictive taste of Şırdan will make you crave this dish for years.



4. Beyin Salatası (Brain Salad)

Brain salad is one of the favorite appetizers for offal lovers. The sheep brain is boiled as a whole, and the membrane is peeled and cut into small pieces. It is served with parsley, lemon, vinegar, and olive oil sauce.

5. Dana Dil Söğüş (Boiled Beef Tongue)

As a hearty dish, the beef tongue might be one of the most delicious offal offerings in Turkey. However, due to its high-fat content, those with cholesterol problems should not eat excessive amounts of beef tongue.

While cooking beef tongue is easy, preparing it for cooking can be time-consuming. The best way to prepare a cow tongue is by soaking it in cold water for at least 24 hours. You will also need to keep changing the water every 2-3 hours, or else tongues’ color will darken during cooking and make your dish look unappealing. Finally, before you cook the tongue, it must be brushed with a stiff brush to avoid harmful substances. 

It is cooked in a pressure cooker and served cold with olive oil, thyme, and red pepper flakes on top.

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6. Beyin Çorbası (Brain Soup)

While not very popular, this healthy and nutritious soup can be found at some specialty restaurants in Turkey. The soup has small pieces of lamb or beef brain and is flavored with garlic, rep pepper flakes, flour, egg yolk, and vinegar.

7. İşkembe Çorbası (Tripe Soup)

Tripe soup has been an iconic dish in Turkish cuisine for centuries, and it’s served at nearly every restaurant that specializes in soups as well as being cooked in Turkish homes.

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.

In Turkey, the quality of the tripe soup determines the quality of a restaurant and its reputation. Therefore, many business owners pay utmost attention to the taste of their tripe soups to earn loyal customers that will return for more delicious meals.

Related: Turkish Tripe Soup Recipe

8. Kokoreç (Grilled Lamb Intestines)

chef slicing grilled lamb intestines called kokorec which is a famous street food in Istanbul

One of Turkey’s most popular dishes, kokoreç, is sold at street food vendors and in restaurants throughout the entire country.

Thoroughly rinsed and cleaned lamb intestines are wrapped around the sweetbreads on a skewer and grilled on fire (preferably charcoal). After the whole skewer is cooked, slices of kokoreç are finely chopped and mixed with oregano, salt, red pepper, sometimes cumin, and fresh tomato. The mixture is then served in bread as a sandwich.

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9. Kuzu Kelle (Grilled Sheep Head)

Kuzu kelle is not a dish that would sound or look appetizing to most people, but it has been one of the specialties in Turkish cuisine for centuries.

The whole sheep head is cooked in rotating ovens for hours before it’s served. Do not worry; you’ll forget the eye-catching appearance of this dish once it is on your table; as it is not usually served as an intact head but instead carefully cracked into pieces. This way, you can enjoy all parts of the head – brain, eyes, cheeks, and tongue easily without fighting your way through a stubborn skull or gelatinous fat to get at them.

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10.Mumbar Dolması (Stuffed Intestines)

Smiling waiter offering us a plate of mumbar (stuffed intestines) during flavours of old city tour

Prepared from sheep intestines, mumbar dolması is one of the essential and famous Ottoman palace cuisine dishes. This flavorful dish is made by carefully filling large sheep intestines with rice, tomatoes, garlic, onion, cumin, black pepper, and salt mixture.

Known for its intense spices, this food is not usually eaten during hot summer days. It’s one of the most popular dishes in eastern Turkey but is also available all across the country.

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11. Ciğer Tava, Ciğer Şiş, Arnavut Ciğeri (Fried Liver, Liver Shish Kebab, Albanian Liver)

Ciğer tava (fried liver)

Ciğer tava or “yaprak ciğer” (leaf liver) is one of Turkey’s delicious and heavily consumed offal dishes. Thin slices of calf liver are covered in flour, deep-fried, and served with onions. Edirne city is famous for its ciğer tava, and the liver dish here is considered the best in Turkey.

Ciğer Şiş (liver shish kebab) is a popular Turkish dish consisting of small pieces of beef liver on skewers grilled over charcoals. It usually comes with an assortment of salads and mezes to help balance out the meal.

Arnavut Ciğeri (Albanian liver) is another popular liver dish in Turkey. Different than its counterparts, small cubes of calf liver are sauteed with potatoes and onions and served with a sprinkle of cumin or a squeeze of lemon.

A cold glass of Turkish yogurt drink, ayran, pairs well with any of these liver dishes.

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Final words

Our world is full of delicious and unusual foods. This article highlights 11 Turkish foods that are especially challenging to your tastebuds, but you will be rewarded with a unique new culinary experience if you’re willing to take the plunge. If you want to dive in and explore authentic Turkish cuisine or simply want some inspiration, these dishes may be just what you need. Grab a fork and get ready to try something new today!


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