Turkish Food: The 12 Most Popular Dishes

Turkey, a vibrant fusion of different cultures, is home to some of the most diverse and mouth-watering culinary experiences. Perfectly situated at the crossroads of various cuisines, its unique blend of Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Central Asian, and Eastern European influences guarantees that there’s something for everyone. Whether you are planning a trip to Turkey or just wishing to explore the delicious world of Turkish dishes, this article dives into the top 12 best Turkish dishes you must try. Get ready to embark on a tasty journey through Turkey’s bustling streets and elegant restaurants.

Turkish Food - The 12 Most Popular Dishes

Key Takeaways

  • Explore the diverse flavors of Turkish cuisine, influenced by various regional culinary styles.
  • Try the top 12 most popular Turkish dishes for a complete and satisfying experience.
  • Dive into the exciting world of Turkish street food and fine-dining establishments.

1. Çiğ Köfte

Çiğ Köfte

Çiğ Köfte, traditionally a meat dish, was prepared with raw mince and an abundance of spices. Special Turkish plates were used to shape the mince into long rolls as the spices were added. This dish was typically reserved for special occasions and served with rice and salad.

Today, however, Çiğ Köfte has transformed into a vegan dish, as raw mince is now banned from shops and restaurants. Instead of mince, a paste of onions, tomatoes, and red peppers is used. The paste still utilizes the special plate to shape it into distinctive rolls, and it’s served alongside rice and lettuce leaves.

As you explore various restaurants, you’ll likely find Çiğ Köfte as a light appetizer before the main course. This dish offers a delicious and authentic taste of Turkish cuisine, now adapted to contemporary dietary preferences – including vegan options like bulgur and lentils. So, next time you’re dining out, give Çiğ Köfte a try and enjoy a delightful start to your meal.


2. Dolma

Dolma, meaning “filling”, is a delightful dish where you can get creative with your choice of ingredients. You can use peppers, zucchini, vine leaves, cabbage leaves, or chard leaves as the outer wrapping.

To stuff these leaves, combine ground beef and rice, seasoned with a variety of spices. Roll up the leaves, then cook in diluted tomato paste to create a mouth-watering meat-filled dolma.

For vegetarians, you can switch up the filling with a mixture of vegetables and pastes. The key is to stuff the leaves with something tasty that suits your preference.

To complete the dish, serve your dolma with a side of yogurt – a signature accompaniment to almost any Turkish dish. Enjoy the flavorful, customizable experience of creating and eating your very own dolma!


3. Hamsi

Being a seafood lover, you’ll undoubtedly appreciate the taste of Turkish Hamsi – a delicious anchovy-based dish stemming from Turkey’s vast coastline. In fact, fishing plays a prominent role in the country’s bustling economy.

Your taste buds will relish savouring Hamsi freshly caught from the Black Sea. Although frying Hamsi is the popular method of cooking, you can also enjoy it poached or baked. The whole anchovy, coated with a light layer of flour, is arranged in a wheel formation while cooking – an aesthetic that sets it apart.

To complete your meal, Hamsi is most commonly served with a refreshing green salad, and accompanied by various side dishes. Customize the seasoning to suit your preferred taste, and relish this delectable, healthy, and versatile dish.

İmam bayıldı

4. İmam Bayıldı

İmam bayıldı, a widely loved dish in Turkey, showcases the delicious versatility of eggplant. To prepare this flavorful dish, you’ll first cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, creating multiple smaller slits. Generously fry it with olive oil, a prominent ingredient in Mediterranean and Turkish cuisine.

As the eggplant absorbs the rich olive oil, you’ll fill the slits with a mix of tomato or onion sauce, incorporating herbs and seasonings to enhance its taste. Next, bake it in the oven until tender and golden.

Serve this mouthwatering İmam bayıldı with bread and yogurt, and savor the earthy flavors and satisfying heartiness. Although this dish doesn’t feature spinach or zucchinis, consider trying other Turkish recipes that highlight these popular vegetables for a well-rounded culinary adventure.


5. Kahvaltı

Turkey takes breakfast seriously, offering an assortment of delectable dishes that cater to a variety of tastes. A traditional Turkish breakfast spread, known as kahvaltı, usually includes:

  • Cheese: Various types and flavors, often paired with crispy bread
  • Bread: Options like ekmek (traditional bread) and pita (flatbread) are popular
  • Simit: A round bread covered with sesame seeds, often compared to a bagel
  • Eggs: Menemen, a classic Turkish dish features scrambled eggs, tomatoes, peppers, and onions
  • Honey and kaymak: A sweet and creamy mix often enjoyed with bread or lavash (thin flatbread)
  • Salads, vegetables, and fruits: Fresh produce that adds vibrant colors and flavors to the meal
  • Olives: A staple in Turkish cuisine, offered in various types
  • Deep-fried dishes: Cured meats and dough pastries filled with an array of conserves and sauces

Don’t forget the tea! Turkish breakfasts are incomplete without a steaming cup of tea, which is available in many varieties. With diverse selections in different locales, you’ll never tire of experiencing kahvaltı during your stay.


6. Karnıyarık

If you’ve enjoyed the eggplant dish İmam bayıldı, you’ll definitely love its meaty counterpart, Karnıyarık! Karnıyarık is a prime example of Turkish dishes offering both vegetarian and meaty options to satisfy everyone’s taste buds.

To make this dish, the eggplant is sliced in half with several slits along the sides, then fried in olive oil to absorb the earthy flavors. Afterwards, it’s stuffed with a scrumptious combination of vegetables, sauces, and meat. The most popular meat selections for this dish are ground beef and lamb.

Once completed, Karnıyarık is baked in the oven and typically served with some tasty bread and yogurt on the side. While it might not look the neatest on the plate, this delicious and filling meal perfectly represents the essence of Turkish cuisine. Enjoy exploring the flavors of Karnıyarık and treat your taste buds to this amazing meaty spin on a classic eggplant dish.


7. Kebap

Kebaps, often associated with Turkey, come in many enticing variations for you to choose from. Regardless of the type, they all feature meat that has been thinly sliced, cubed, or minced, and plated or wrapped with salad or vegetables. Chicken, lamb, or beef are the most common meats used in kebaps, sometimes even combined in a single dish.

Popular Kebap Options:

  • Adana kebab: Spiced minced beef is squished onto skewers and cooked over a fire. This popular option can be found in many places.
  • Shish kebab: Perfectly crispy and delicious, this consists of cubed pieces of meat on a skewer, grilled to perfection.
  • Doner kebab: Perhaps the most well-known kebab outside of Turkey, it’s made from meat sliced from a rotating stack, then served wrapped in bread with salad and sauce.

In Turkey, kebaps are not only abundant but also incredibly filling, making them the perfect meal to keep you going during your exploration of the country. With a variety of options to choose from, there’s a kebap for everyone, ensuring that this dish never loses its appeal. So, during your next visit to Turkey, relish the delicious flavors of these iconic kebaps.


8. Köfte

When you visit Turkey, you’ll discover special köfte restaurants, dedicated to serving various types of köfte. These delightful meatballs, with a unique Turkish twist, are made from spiced minced beef, shaped into small rolls and fried to perfection.

You can enjoy köfte with a wide range of side dishes, making each meal a different experience. One popular accompaniment is a hot red pepper sauce that elevates the dish’s flavor.

As you savor the taste of köfte, you’ll find yourself craving more of this incredibly delicious Turkish dish.


9. Mantı

Mantı might resemble Italian ravioli, but it’s actually a distinct Turkish dish made with dough. These little parcels can be filled with a mixture of meat or vegetables for a vegetarian option. To enhance their flavor, they are served in a tomato sauce, melted butter with chili pepper, and garlic yogurt.

This delectable combination might sound unusual at first, but it’s a favorite in many Turkish restaurants. If you’re short on time, you can even find ready-made mantı at shops to heat up and enjoy at home.

As a traditional recipe passed down through generations, mantı evokes a sense of nostalgia for many Turkish people and is worth trying for an authentic taste of Turkish cuisine.


10. Meze

Meze is a delightful Turkish tradition where a variety of small dishes are enjoyed together, similar to Spanish tapas. As you taste these appetizers, you’ll experience an array of flavors, often eaten with friends during social gatherings.

Grab your favorite drink (traditionally raki), and indulge in these common meze selections:

  • Salad mixtures: Refreshing combinations of vegetables, often with a hint of mint
  • Vegetable mixtures: Delicious blends of cooked or marinated vegetables
  • Seafood-based dishes: Mouthwatering plates featuring fish and other seafood
  • Turşu: Crunchy, tangy pickles that elevate the meal
  • Olives: A staple in Turkish cuisine, enhancing the meze assortment

Remember, the goal of meze is to spend hours enjoying good food and company!

11. Sugar

Turkey has a love affair with sugar, satisfying their sweet tooth with an array of sugar-based dishes and desserts. Among the famous treats are Turkish delights, which have gained worldwide popularity and pride in their origin. Pairing these sweets with Turkey’s fantastic ice cream makes the perfect indulgence during hot summer months.

The country offers a wide selection of sweets, desserts, and pastries that creatively combine sugar with bread, nuts, spices, and different types of cheese. As you explore, you’ll discover food establishments entirely dedicated to providing you with the best dessert experience – don’t miss them! A well-stocked pastry or sweet shop is where you’ll uncover some truly delectable delights.

One traditional treat you’ll find in Turkey is bread soaked in syrup or baked with nuts and sugar. These scrumptious creations often come sprinkled with extra sugar or coated with caramelized sugar or honey for an extra sweet touch. So, treat yourself to Turkey’s sweet sensations – they’re sure to please!


12. Zeytinyağlılar

In the midst of Turkey’s famous kebabs and seafood, it’s a delight to discover delicious vegan-friendly options like Zeytinyağlılar. Found in almost any restaurant and stall across the country, these vegetable dishes are prepared with generous amounts of olive oil and served cold. The name itself means “those with olive oil”, reflecting the dish’s simplicity and primary ingredient.

Preparing Zeytinyağlılar is incredibly easy – just cook and season your choice of vegetables, and serve it like a salad dish. The beauty of it lies in the variety you can achieve with different combinations of vegetables. You can cater it exactly to your tastes, ensuring that there’s always something new and exciting on your plate.

To make it a more wholesome, satisfying meal, Zeytinyağlılar is often served with rice mixed in, elevating it to a filling main course. So, the next time you’re exploring the rich and diverse culinary landscape of Turkey, be sure to give these nourishing, versatile and flavorful vegetable dishes a try!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are popular Turkish dishes?

Here are some popular Turkish dishes you might want to try:

  • Kebabs: Grilled meat on skewers or döner kebab style.
  • Meze: A variety of small dishes served as appetizers.
  • Dolma: Stuffed vegetables, often with rice and spices.
  • Baklava: A sweet pastry made with layers of filo dough, nuts, and syrup.

What is the significance of different food cuisines in Turkey?

Turkish cuisine is a reflection of the country’s rich cultural heritage. Due to its location, Turkey has been historically influenced by various civilizations, resulting in a diverse and flavorful cuisine. You’ll find Mediterranean, Central Asian, and Middle Eastern influences in Turkey’s culinary scene, each bringing unique ingredients and cooking techniques.

What are some must-try Turkish foods?

Some must-try Turkish foods include:

  • Lahmacun: Thin and crispy pizza-like dough topped with minced meat, vegetables, and herbs.
  • Menemen: A delicious egg, tomato, and pepper dish, typically eaten for breakfast.
  • Simit: A circular, sesame-crusted bread roll, often enjoyed with tea.
  • Ayran: A cold yogurt-based beverage, perfect for refreshing yourself on a hot day.

How does Turkish food culture differ from others?

Turkish food culture emphasizes fresh ingredients, traditional cooking techniques, and sharing meals among family and friends. Mealtimes in Turkey often feature a variety of dishes served at once, allowing everyone to taste various flavors. Hospitality and generosity are essential parts of the food culture, as traditionally, visitors are treated to elaborate feasts.

Are there similarities between Turkish and Greek cuisines?

Yes, there are similarities between Turkish and Greek cuisines, thanks to historical, cultural, and geographical connections between the two countries. Both cuisines share dishes like baklava, dolma, and tzatziki (called cacık in Turkey), as well as an emphasis on fresh ingredients and the use of olive oil in cooking. However, each cuisine has its unique flavor profiles and cooking traditions.

What is the traditional Turkish manti dish?

Manti is a traditional Turkish dumpling dish, typically filled with minced meat and spices. The dumplings are boiled or steamed and served with a yogurt sauce, often garnished with melted butter and spices like paprika or chili flakes. Manti showcases the influences of Central Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine on Turkish food, and it’s a comforting, delicious dish you should definitely try.

Turkish Food - The 12 Most Popular Dishes

Turkish Food: The 12 Most Popular Dishes (+Turkish Chicken Kebab)

These recipes are sure to please. So, gather your family and friends and enjoy. Let us know your thoughts!
5 from 7 votes
Total Time 34 minutes
Course Appetizer, Breakfast, Dessert, Drinks, Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine turkish
Servings 4
Calories 355 kcal


  • 2 lb. skinless boneless chicken thighs cut into cubes
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1.5 tsp. cumin
  • 1 cup Greek yogurt


  • Whisk everything together except the chicken.
  • Marinate chicken in the mixture.
  • Thread chicken onto skewers.
  • Grill for 6 minutes on all sides.


Select your favorite recipe.
Organize all the required ingredients.
Enjoy the food.


Calories: 355kcal
Keyword Turkish Cuisine, Turkish Dishes, Turkish Food
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Cassie brings decades of experience to the Kitchen Community. She is a noted chef and avid gardener. Her new book "Healthy Eating Through the Garden" will be released shortly. When not writing or speaking about food and gardens Cassie can be found puttering around farmer's markets and greenhouses looking for the next great idea.
Cassie Marshall
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