Authentic Turkish Desserts – As someone who loves to explore new recipes, I can’t help but appreciate the mention of Turkish delights in classic literature like C.S. Lewis’s ‘The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe’. It’s no secret that many travel writers rave about the exotic desserts from this part of the world. I believe it’s a result of the rich cultural history of the Ottoman Empire that led to the fusion of different flavors and techniques in their cuisine.
For those with an insatiable sweet tooth or those seeking a more refined taste, there is definitely something for everyone in the dessert section of Turkish cuisine. From traditional baklava to lesser-known delicacies, the options are endless. To make it easier for you, I’ve curated a list of some of the best Turkish desserts. However, I must warn you that these treats are so deliciously tempting, they might just lure you away from your diet!
10 Best Turkish Desserts
The pinnacle of Turkish desserts, this treat made from crispy layers of phyllo dough stuffed with ground pistachios is served everywhere in Turkey. After being baked, it’s drenched with sweet, honey-like sugar syrup infused with lemon. The creamy, buttery smell emanates from each satisfying crunch. The sound, the taste, the texture – this is a sensory experience.
Notoriously made in the southeast city of Gaziantep, the name ‘baklava’ was registered by the European Commission as a Protected Geographical Indication. Invented in Ottoman Topkapı Palace kitchens in the middle ages, today, you can find versions with walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, fresh clotted cream fillings, and even a chocolate version!
2. Cezerye (Turkish Jelly Tots)
Meaning “carrots” in Arabic, while this simple vegetable may not be the first thing you think of when it comes to rich, sweet treats, I assure you there is far more to this beloved candy than its name implies.
Cezerye combines carrot, coconut, walnut, and hazelnut or pistachio, melding them into a sweet, thick paste that is hardened, then cut and served either as chunks and pieces or packaged as candy bars.
Packed with sweet and nutty goodness, these candies are enjoyed throughout the day in Turkey and are commonly eaten as an energizing afternoon snack.
3. Lokum (Turkish Delight)
The star of the show. Not only literature, but this creative candy has also inspired artists of different industries: from being a precursor to the jellybean to even being included in perfumes. Previously called ‘Rahat ul-hulküm’, which is derived from Ottoman Turkish, the Turkish Delight lives up to the name: the comfort of the throat. A small piece of heaven.
Although they are delicious enough to be embedded in various desserts, like chocolates, a common complaint seems to be that the ones back home aren’t as chewy. The ones floating around in Istanbul seem to have that perfect ratio of starch to sugar and flavor. Offered as something to drown away the bitterness of Turkish coffee, you may also find those with nuts, shredded coconut, or even exotic flavors like a rose.
4. Tavukgöğsü (Chicken pudding)
This is a fun prank to play with your friends. Take a carnivore to a dessert shop in Turkey. Order the tavukgöğsü. Let them finish the whole thing before you translate what they ate: The Chicken Breast. (seriously, do not do this prank to your vegetarian friend) Yes, you heard right. This viscous milk pudding is considered to be one of the signature dishes in Turkey.
Previously a delicacy served to the sultans; this milk-based pudding has its roots in the Roman Empire. Usually topped with a generous helping of cinnamon, the thick pudding is shaped like a log. You’d never guess what’s inside!
For the vegetarians, rest assured. There is a meat-free version available. Usually called Muhallebi, ask around for the type of dessert that’ll shock your senses.
Also known as Noah’s pudding, this traditional Turkish dessert is said to have originated when the ark rested on Mount Ararat. Allegedly a pudding was made from the exhausted supplies on the ship. Hence, if you spend any time living in Turkey, don’t be surprised if someone knocks on your door to offer you a plate as a symbol of peace and love.
This is an unusual dessert that you absolutely have to try to understand. There isn’t any classic recipe as everyone puts their spin on it. A cross between a pudding and porridge, you may find grains, nuts, dried fruits, pine nuts, and various surprises couched in the pink porridge. This fragrant dessert may have up to twelve, maybe more, ingredients and is usually vegan-friendly.
6. Ayva tatlısı
The quintessential quince dessert. If you’re a fan of Christina Rossetti, this popular Turkish dessert will remind you of the famous Goblin Market. Just like in the poem, it would be advised not to underestimate this seductive Turkish dessert.
It is made by poaching quince fruit in hot, sugary water. Then it’s thickened up with pectin to make a viscous, soft, delicate yet aromatic dessert. The yellow quince transforms like the ugly duckling into a majestic pomegranate pink. As cozy as a fireplace, this sweet treat is one for the winter. Perhaps it’s the Christmassy spices like cloves and cinnamon that give this treat its treasure-like quality. Usually served with a touch of cream and a sprinkling of nuts, this may become your new annual tradition.
Turkish ice cream belongs to a league of its own. The star of ice cream in Turkey is the notorious Maraş ice cream. If you’re fortunate to see it in real life, you may find that this ice cream is loaded up on a stick the way the doner is. Known for its crazy feats, this ice cream is so tough that (thanks to salep, a.k.a orchid bulbs) it has both lifted and broken cars. Producing one bit of this ice cream requires the same strength as carrying 5 tonnes.
Thick, chewy, and slow to melt, this ice cream originates from the city and region of Maraş. When the street vendors, dressed in exotic Ottoman clothing, aren’t playing pranks on their customers, this ice cream can be consumed with a knife and fork.
8. Helva (Turkish Halva With Flour)
You don’t have any fancy ingredients in your pantry but you are craving something sweet so badly? Give this simple Turkish Halva Recipe (un helvasi) a try. You only need 4 ingredients (butter, flour, sugar, and water) and a little time for this thick and creamy dessert.
9. Kadayıf (Angel’s Hair Dessert)
Don’t be fooled by its poetic name, as kadaifi, or angel’s hair, is far from being an innocent dessert! It is a dish of special kadaifi noodles and pistachios or walnuts, baked in the oven and finished with a generous drizzle of traditional lemon syrup.
Many Turks enjoy a slice of this delicious cake with a dollop of cottage cream. When it comes to the question of pistachios or walnuts, I personally prefer the pistachio version, but walnut kadaifi is just as delicious.
Consumed with a glass of cold milk, a slice of this unique and wonderous Turkish dessert is enough to get you hooked, no questions asked.
Also known as Knafeh to Arabic speakers, this iconic dessert has been around for centuries. This is also made with string pastry (shredded wheat or kadayıf) soaked in sweet sugar syrup. However, the surprise is the creamy, unsalted goat’s cheese inside. Most popular in the Arab world, the Turkish version hails from Hatay, a region that borders Syria.