Complete Turkish Food Guide
This Turkish food guide will take you through everything you need to know to plan your food tasting itinerary in Turkey. Turkish people have a passion for eating well. They often prepare meals together with a smorgasbord of options.
For many Turks, dinner is the most important meal of the day. Part of the Turkish tradition of dining out is going to a restaurant or street vendor specializing in one type food such as kebabs, kofte, grilled fish or pide and sharing the dishes that are served in the middle of the table. The cold dishes would be served first, then the hot dishes.
In Istanbul you can find traditional European style service in some restaurants, but if you’re looking for a traditional Turkish experience, look for the restaurants specializing in one type of food.
The experience of eating in Turkey is to be shared with others and not to be rushed. Take your time to drink your tea or coffee, eat slowly, enjoy conversation, and simply be with your friends and family. One of the beautiful things about Turkey is you will not be rushed out of a restaurant. Sit, chat, drink and enjoy.
Don’t forget to get your tips on planning your first trip to Turkey to use with the food guide.
Food Regions in Turkey
Turkish food is influenced by Central Asia, Middle Eastern and Balkan cuisine. Modern Turkey is divided into 7 regions each producing and specializing in a specific area of Turkish cuisine.
The Marmara region where Istanbul, Bursa & Edina are located is where the Ottoman empire’s wealth, industry and gourmet foods were located. You’ll find regional foods all over the city in Istanbul with any restauranteur jumping at the chance to open a location in the city. Located on the Marmaris, this area is known for small fish, mezes, raki, white wine and puddings.
The Aegean region’s largest cities are Izmir, near Ephesus and Bodrum and have a heavy Greek influence on its cuisine. With the Greek islands a stone’s throw off the coast, and abandoned Greek villages in this region of Turkey, you can imagine the mix of foods and culture. The Aegean region is more liberal in its view of alcohol and is known for its wines, olives, salads, herbs, wild weeds, and seafood.
The Mediterranean region consists of the larger cities of Antalya, Kas, Fethiye and Adana and grows most of the fruits and vegetables in the region. There is nothing like walking down the street and picking an orange straight from the tree and eating it. This region is known for large fish, salads, oranges, lemons and figs. If you’re looking for the best fish in the area, look for the Balik Evi (Fish House.)
The Southeastern region’s largest cities are Gaziantep, Urfa and Mardin and is influenced by the neighboring countries of Iraq and Syria. The famous cig kofte and isot chili pepper come from this region. This area produces some of the world’s best pistachios, in turn the most delicious baklava and kunefe. You’ll find ample supply of kebabs, bulgur wheat, baklava, kunefe and peppers in Southeastern Turkey.
The Eastern region’s largest cities are Van, Kars and Malatya. Eastern Turkey is bordered by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and has a large Kurdish population that all influence the food in this region. You’ll find delicious cheeses, dried fruits, grains, and lamb.
The Central region’s largest cities are Ankara, Konya, Kayseri, and Cappadocia are known as the agricultural heartland of Turkey growing most of its vegetables and grains. This area is unique in cooking most dishes with butter instead of olive oil. This area is known for its borek pasteries, lamb casseroles, beef pastirma and fruit molasses.
Black Sea Region
The Black Sea region’s largest cities are Trabzon and Samsun. This region is famous for a fish called hamsi with over 200 different recipes for it. You’ll also find this region is passionate about hazelnuts, corn, salad greens, tea and pide bread.
Famous Drinks in Turkey
Best Turkish Sweets
Beginner's Glossary of Turkish Food
AyranPronounced (eye-rahn). The other national drink after raki, made with yogurt, salt and water. ...