Traditional Turkish Food (No, Doner is Not Traditional)

What is the first thing that springs to mind when thinking of Turkish food… is it the famous Doner, perhaps? Well, you’d be wrong, even though it’s a well-loved food item, it’s not Turkish.

Below, we have a list of the 8 most popular and traditional meals from Turkish cuisine to get you closer to discovering this rich in flavours Mediterranean food.

1. Adana Kebab

kebab with tomatoes, onions,Pide bread



All big cities in Turkey have a famous dish and this hand-minced lamb meat is named after the fifth largest city, Adana. The delicious meal with a variety of herbs and spices is grilled on an open mangal which is filled with charcoal.  If you are new to Turkish cuisine, then this might be an ideal option for you as the ingredients are very close to Western food. Enjoy Adana Kebab with fresh Pide bread, grilled paprika and tomatoes as well as onion salad.


2. Imam Bayildi

aubergine with peppers and parsley
Flickr: joannova


A famous theory says that the funny name of this dish, which literally means ‘the Imam fainted’, comes from the deliciousness of the meal. The slowly baked aubergines are filled with different ingredients including tomatoes, paprika and parsley, all cooked in olive oil. Meat fans can also add minced meat to the vegetables. The irresistible interaction of herbs and vegetables will make you understand why the poor Imam fainted!


3. Lahmacun

Flat Turkish 'pizza'
Flickr: gsz


If you want to have good value for your money, then a Lahmacun might be the perfect solution for you! The equivalent of this dish would be the Western pizza but the base is a lot thinner so that you can top it with a variety of salad and onions and fold it into a wrap. To have the maximum traditional and refreshing experience, drink a cold Ayran with it.


4. Yaprak Sarmasi

Bowl of stuffed vine leaves
Flickr: Context travel


If you’re travelling to Turkey, you have to try this creative and laborious meal. Usually a starter, Yaprak Sarmasi is a combination of rice and minced meat carefully wrapped in vine leaves. You can also leave the meat out and enjoy the Sarma with tomatoes, parsley and a number of other herbs for a vegetarian option. Traditionally, this healthy meal is eaten with yogurt, but you can eat it on its own and it’s just as delicious – the various combinations of Sarma dish are amazing, there’s a version to suit every taste.


5. Manti

manti with yogurt and paprica
Flickr: Camera on autopilot


Taking its origin from Kayseri, a city in the heart of Anatolia, Manti consists of minced meat stuffed into a special dough and served with yogurt. As it takes a long time and dedication to prepare this traditional food, it might be a little more expensive than the majority of other dishes. In order to try out Manti, you should look for local restaurants as a lot of tourist-aimed businesses do not offer this culinary delicacy!


6. Kisir

couscous, Feta, pomegranate and parsley
Flickr: Blue moon in her eyes


Although Kisir is usually served as a side dish in Turkish cuisine, it can also be enjoyed as a main dish if you add Feta cheese and simply have a bigger portion. Kisir is a very refreshing meal, particularly during the Turkish summer when the temperatures are much higher. The main ingredients include fine couscous, tomatoes, and parsley. But there are no restrictions to your own creativity! In this version you can see pomegranates, in others you will find spring onions – try out different versions of the meal and decide the best for yourself.


7. Kofte

meatballs in a pan
Flickr: chez loulou


The Turkish version of minced meatballs is called ‘Kofte’; however they feature a lot of different herbs and spices, making them a distinctive and delicious meat dish. There are so many different variations of Kofte that it would take pages to describe all of them. Every region in Turkey has its own recipe and regardless of which Kofte you order, you’ll most likely receive boiled rice and Coban Salatasi (a special Turkish salad with Feta) or fresh baked bread to accompany the dish.


8. Borek

various types of Borek on display
Flickr: Context Travel


Borek is one of the most ancient elements of Turkish cuisine with numerous different varieties. Turkish children love Borek, which consists of dough stuffed with cheese (usually Feta), minced meat or different vegetables. Enjoy Borek for your breakfast or for a quick snack at any time of the day. But make sure to get a fresh, warm Borek in order to taste the savoury melting cheese inside!

Indeed, Turkish cuisine is full of delicious, mouth-watering dishes. Fresh ingredients, skilful hands and a passion for food result in an array of traditional dishes you’d want to taste over and over again.