10 Delicious Turkish Desserts and Sweets to Try
Turkish desserts! Famous in the country for their sweetness, palatable lightness, and an overwhelming ability to tempt you to a second helping, visitors upon arriving in Turkey should try at least one recipe if not more. Forget the Creme Brulee of France, do not bother about the famous Tiramisu of Italy, and as a Brit, please forgive me for saying that Turkey has far more delicious choices that put our Apple Crumble and Spotted Dick to shame.
Like many other culinary dishes of the country, most Turkish desserts have a story to tell. Steeped in cultural heritage, and drawing in a variety of influences from around the Arabic and European world, each dessert often has a meaning or local urban legend behind their recipe. They also frequently stem from the Ottoman kitchens or even further back to the nomadic Turk tribes of the eastern world.
Sometimes, the choices are incredibly simple yet addictive. For example, seasonal fruits mark the end of a delicious meal; either served in a restaurant or at home, and even better is the unusual combination of white cheese and honeydew melon whose flavours blend to cleanse the palette. However, more complicated and sometimes strange choices exist, and we insist that if you try a selection of our suggestions below, you will probably end up as a newfound fan of Turkish desserts.
1: Kadayif and Kunefe
Kadayif is a simple combination of shredded wheat, nuts, and overly sweet syrup. Add some soft white cheese to the ingredients and it becomes Kunefe, a diet-busting dessert originating from Palestine. Ideally, a healthy lash of white dondurma (ice cream) covers the top of it, along with a sprinkling of ground pistachio nuts and usually thanks to the dense and sweet combination, one serving is enough.
2: Firinda Sutlac
Anyone who is a fussy eater or too shy to dive straight into the deep end would be wise to sample Firinda Sutlac first that is a slight variation of the traditional western rice pudding. Baked in a clay dish, the milk-based delicacy is not over sweet and is a gentle ride into the culinary diversity of Turkish desserts.
3: Tavuk Gogsu
This extremely complicated dish will probably raise a few eyebrows because the main ingredient is chicken. However, the chicken is traditionally ground into a fine paste so the taste and consistency blends in perfectly with the other ingredients of milk and sugar and a fine dusting of cinnamon. Stemming from the Ottoman kitchens of Turkey, this dish is one of the country’s signature alternatives.
Traditionally served in the first month of the Islamic calendar, local legends say Asure stems from the days of Noah and when he landed the ark. Asking everyone to contribute the last remaining food they had, Noah made this pudding and these days, there are many variations of the recipe, but traditional ingredients include grains, dried fruits, and sugar.
This name literally means burnt bottom milk pudding, but the burnt bottom comes from caramelised sugar, which adds a heavy crunch to the lightness of the other ingredient of milk. This dish is refrigerated and is a heavenly delight to eat during summer.
An article about Turkish desserts and sweets would not be complete without a mention of baklava that is probably Turkey’s most consumed dish. Sold in restaurants as a dessert and in baker’s shops as a snack, the combination of flaky filo pastry, pistachio nuts, and sweet syrup can overwhelm anyone with sensitive teeth. When visiting a Turk for dinner or as a present, baklava is an ideal choice. Many different regional variations exist but Turks generally agree the best comes from Gaziantep, and the well-known baklava shops in Istanbul that do a roaring trade stem from that area.
Street vendors sell this crunchy, sweet, oblong shape snack that is typically the size of a large walnut. Despite its hefty dose of sugar, westerners often find the taste simple and easy on their palette. A warning for food lovers though because the deep fried dough is addictive and eating more than you mean to, is easily done.
You may be surprised to see dondurma on this list because it is simply ice cream but Turkish ice cream is different. Traditionally made from using salep and mastic, it has a more solid consistency and the street sellers comically demonstrate this with their colourful performances while serving it. The best ice cream comes from the region of Maras and if it is specialised-made, will be so thick and gooey that you need a knife and fork to eat it.
Known in the Western world as Turkish Delight, this sweet has also become a favourite souvenir. Again, stemming from the days of the Ottoman Empire and invented by Bekir Effendi in the late 18th century, it is sold in a variety of flavours and with or without nuts. This soft, chewy sweet is also traditionally served after a Turkish cup of coffee to lighten the palette and cut through the heavy lingering taste.
Although not unique to Turkey, helva is widely sold in supermarkets and in confectioners. Once again, a variety of flavours is available, but the base ingredient in the most popular version is flour, mixed with crushed sesame seeds. Traditionally given upon the death or anniversary of a death of someone close, a woman remembering the passing of her father may give helva to her neighbours on that day.
You may also enjoy reading about…
- Turkish Delight's Intriguingly Sweet History
- Baklava: The Sweetest Delight and the National Dessert of Turkey