Meals in Turkey

Information on mealtimes in Turkey with details on breakfast, main courses, desserts and eating out...

Breakfasts in Turkey are dominated by fresh bread. It is often eaten with salty white cheese, yogurt, tomatoes, cucumber, olives and boiled eggs or butter, jam and honey. The other popular breakfast choice is cheese- or meat-filled pastries from pastry shops.

At lunch time home food or ev yemek is popular, and includes delicious meat and vegetable stews.

Meals out in Turkey usually start with a plate of appetisers or mezes. These are often served on a large platter with a variety of hot and cold snacks. Typical cold mezes include humus, pureed aubergine (patlican salatasi), stuffed vine leaves (yaprak dolma), stuffed mussels (midye dolma) and Circassian chicken (cevizli tavuk). Hot snacks include kalamari, sautéed lamb's liver and borek, which are thin pastry layers stuffed with meat, cheese or spinach. A mezes platter often includes salads, particularly in southern Turkey; they contain bitter cress (dereotu), fresh mint (nane) or sorrel (kuzu kulla) served in a garlic yogurt.

Main courses are usually based around meat or fish kebabs, though it should be noted that in Turkey, kebabs encompass a broader range of meals than is usually understood elsewhere. The spices used to add flavour to the dish vary around the country. Et sote and coban kavurma are types of goulash and are very popular. Guvec dishes are casseroles cooked in earthenware pots. It is also not unusual for a vegetable dish to be served as a main course and Turkey is not a difficult country to eat in as a vegetarian.

L'İşkembe is an important part of Turkish culture. It is a tripe soup with crushed garlic, red pepper, vinegar and oregano, and is considered to be medicinal after a heavy night of drinking.

Fish dishes have an elevated status in Turkey, particularly along the coast. The fish served in restaurants often reflects what has been caught locally, with swordfish (kilic), turbot (kalkan), bluefish (lufer) and lobster (istakoz) being common.

Desserts are often plates of seasonal fruits, which will often include green almonds in spring. A bigger selection of desserts can be found in pudding shops (pastane) where classic Turkish sweets such as Turkish delight (lokum), baklava, kadayif and helva can be found. Other popular choices are profiteroles, rice pudding (sutlac) and asure, which is traditionally said to contain the 40 different ingredients left in the kitchen of the Ark when Noah sighted Mount Ararat.

Meals usually finish with coffee, traditionally a thick Turkish version, though now Italian-style espressos are gaining popularity.

Although the fast food chains that are ubiquitous in the modern world are becoming widespread in Turkey, the majority of people still choose Turkish cuisine.