Mainly featuring dishes inherited from The Ottoman Empire, Turkish cuisine is vibrant with variety. Although most of these wouldn't necessarily be considered conventionally healthy dishes, it's not hard to find a flavour that suits every individual taste. From flaky doughs to meat stuffed eggplants and vegetables soaked in olive oil, here is a comprehensive (yet not exhaustive) list of what Turkey has to offer.

Savoury Pastries & Bread

When I think of Turkish comfort food, I remember my Grandma's baked filled pastries made with our special thin flaky dough called yufka. The ultimate diet-breaker, rek, is either prepared in a large, usually pyrex, pan and cut into portions or as individual treats. Although the stuffing can be almost anything from spinach to minced meat, the following are the most common types:

1. Su Böreği

A notoriously hard börek to make, Su böreği gets its name from the way it's prepared. Although there are a lot of common cheats to achieve a great börek without the effort, traditionally it is prepared by layering dough with crumbles of cheese (sometimes with added herbs). The layering process also usually involves boiling the dough. Finally, the whole börek is then cooked in the oven until the bottom crisps up.

*Disclaimer: The video above depicts a special type of this börek made with butter and lots of gooey cheese.

2. Sigara Böreği

Translated to "cigarette börek," the dish gets its name from it's small, cylindrical shape made of fried dough. The thin yufka is wrapped around a variety of fillings: usually feta, minced meat, or potato.


Gözleme is a savory pastry dish, made with the classic thin yufka dough that is lightly brushed with butter and eggs, filled with various toppings, sealed, and cooked over a griddle. The name of this street market staple derives from the Turkish word göz, translated to "compartment", which is used to refer to the pocket in which the various fillings reside

4. Pogaça

This bread-like treat is baked after being stuffed with a filling mixture that can consist of all or some of the following: potatoes, ground beef, cheese, and fresh herbs. They are usually also sprinkled with sesame after a gentle brushing of egg wash.

5. Simit

This is a round dough sweetened with molasses and encrusted with sesame seeds. It's a breakfast and street food favorite.

6. Bazlama

Bazlama is a single layered, flat, circular, and leavened bread. It is like a leavened version of pita.

Meat Dishes

As a newly turned vegan, I probably don't appreciate these enough but that doesn't stop me from sharing these notable dishes.

7. Adana & Urfa Kebap

Named after the cities that are most famous for Kebab, Adana and Urfa Kebabs are mixtures of minced beef, lamb and spices packed around flat metal skewers, which are then placed on a live coal grill. Even though both varieties contain onions, garlic, cumin and red pepper flakes, Adana Kebab is significantly heavier on the red pepper, making it notably spicier.

8. Döner/Iskender Kebap

Made of meat cooked on a vertical rotisserie, the meat slices of a döner kebab may be served on a plate with various accompaniments. The most popular combination is called iskender, which is served with hot tomato sauce, melted butter and yogurt over pieces of sliced meat that lay on pieces of leavened pita bread. The fillings are made into a sandwich or wrapped in lavash to create döner durum.

9. Cokertme Kebap

 The base is made of thin french fries and occasionally pieces of pide. This is topped with thin strips of meat, tomato sauce, and runny yogurt.

10. Beyti Kebap

This variation of doner is wrapped in lavash, sliced and finally topped with tomato sauce and yogurt.

11. Alinazik Kebab

In this dish, cubes of sautéed lamb are mixed with a tomato puree and placed on top of smoked and spiced eggplant, which is grilled, pureed and then mixed with garlicky yogurt.

12. Imam Bayildi & Karnıyarık

Stuffing eggplant with minced vegetables and/or minced meat is a crowd pleaser that was inherited from the Ottoman empire. Imam bayildi, which translates to "the imam fainted", is the vegetarian version usually served at room temperature and Karnıyarık, which translates to "split stomach", contains minced meat and is served right out of the oven.

13. Lahmacun

Both of these weighty dishes can be thought of as Turkish versions of pizza. Lahmacun is a thin dough topped with minced meat and minced vegetables such as onions, tomatoes and parsley, as well as spices such as cayenne pepper, paprika, cumin and cinnamon.

14. Pide

Pide, on the other hand, is heavier on the dough and is formed in a flattened boat shape. The base can be topped with a huge variety of toppings including cheese, minced meat, eggs and spinach depending on your choosing.

15. Mantı

Manti is the ultimate crowd pleaser. It is an extraordinary dish that consists of tiny lamb-stuffed dumplings topped with three sauces: caramelized tomato, brown butter, and garlicky yogurt. These sauces added on top of either the fried or boiled dumplings, makes this dish sheer heaven on a plate.

Vegetarian Dishes

Here are some dishes to prove meat doesn't mean flavor.

16. Menemen

Menemen is one of the most famous hot breakfast items in a Turkish household. The traditional Turkish version is made with eggs, tomato, green peppers, and spices such as ground black pepper, ground red pepper, salt and oregano. It is usually enjoyed with any type of bread that is used for dipping in the scrumptious egg dish.

17. Mıhlama

Popular in the northern region of Turkey, mihlama is a mix of butter, corn flour and cheese combined in a pan for the ultimate bread-dipping experience.

18. Mücver

A popular way to consume zucchini, mücver is made of eggs, flour, parsley added to grated vegetables (which tends to be zucchini). These delicious savoury pancakes are usually served with whipped, seasoned yoghurt

Vegan Dishes

Although meat is the heart of most traditional family meals in Turkey, these next few dishes still prove to be delicious without any animal products.

19. Ciğ Köfte

Traditionally made with raw minced-meat, the modern version of this dish is meatless by law due to hygienic necessities. Therefore, the meat is replaced by ground walnuts, hazelnuts, and potato or by a lentil paste. This paste is mixed with tomato paste, pepper paste and spices along with bulgur that has been kneaded with chopped onions and water until soft. Lastly, green onions, fresh mint and parsley are mixed in. The dish is popularly served as a wrap or along with lettuce.

20. Kısır

Kisir is an attempt to call carbs a salad. Like its sibling tabbouleh, kisir is made with bulgur. The grain is finely ground and cooked to be mixed with a tomato paste and parsley. Additionally, cubed and sautéed onions, garlic, sour pomegranate molasses, cucumbers and lemon juice, are added.

21. Yaprak Sarma

Following the trend of vegetarian options, yaprak sarma ("leaf roll" in English) comes in a variety of fillings wrapped in grape or chard leaves. Although recipes vary from family to family, this traditional dish is usually either served hot with chard and minced meat filling or cold with grape leaves and a spiced rice filling that sometimes contains currants.

22. Zeytinyağlılar

Our final food is more a selection than a single dish. Most vegetarian dishes are contained in this category such as Imam bayildi, cold sarma and the most popular dish, green beans. Zeytinyaglilar translates to "[food] that contains olive oil.” We Turks love our veggies, but you know what makes them better? Olive oil. Almost all cooked vegetables are doused in olive oil with a little sugar and lemon giving them a tangy, sweet and rich aroma

Street Food

23. Midye Dolma (Stuffed Mussels)

One of the most popular street foods, midye dolma is stuffed with herbed rice, pine nuts and currants. They are topped off with freshly squeezed lemon juice right before eating.

24. Kokoreç

I’m not going to draw circles around this, so Kokorec is basically lambs intestines wrapped around skewers and cooked on a rotisserie, usually on the streets. I know it sounds all kinds of gross, but it is one of the best drunk-foods, especially in sandwich form at 2am.

I definitely haven’t made a good argument for the health freaks out there; however, I can promise all of these foods are worth the calories. And, for the dessert lovers out there: fret not! There is more dessert to be seen and eaten in Turkey than I could possibly fit into one article, so keep your eyes peeled for another convincing argument for Turkish cuisine, this time on the sweeter side.