Imagining Turkey without its aromatic flavors is like imagining a dog without its bone. Turkish desserts and sweets pose great significance in this transcontinental country. It symbolizes diversity, celebrates culture and heritage, and honors the palate of anyone who gets a taste.
The first time I had an experience with Turkish sweets, I was instantly blown away by the richness of the dish. It was no other than a syrupy baklava—and although I had tasted baklava before, that particular dish just had a different experience to it. After gobbling up a number of other Turkish desserts, I finally drew my conclusion: The Turks don’t hold back on taste, at all!
If you are planning to visit Turkey, enjoying traditional Turkish desserts and sweets is non-negotiable. So, pin this list of famous Turkish sweets for your next trip to this bounteous destination!
Baklava and other filo pastries
Arguably, baklava tops the list of the most famous Turkish desserts. Although this saccharine dish has variations across the globe, Turkish baklava wins with its generous fillings and syrup. Typically, Turkish baklava is topped with chopped pistachio. Many locals argue that this ingredient is what truly sets their baklava apart.
2. Burma baklava
Another Turkish sweet pastry abundant in filo dough layers, burma is a baklava variant rolled to take a tubular shape. Boiled in lemon juice and deep-fried in butter, this crispy dish is sweet and fulsome. Like every Turkish baklava, burma is topped with ground pistachio—and inside its tube are more pistachio nuts, of course!
3. Börek (Burek)
Burek is a filo pastry that can be served in different ways. Most countries fill their burek with meat, cheese, or vegetables. But in Turkey, burek is yet another delectable Turkish pistachio dessert. In the country, it is most commonly served sweet—with pistachios, apricots, chocolate, and other fruits and syrups.
4. Kadaif (Kadayif)
While not as popular as baklava, kadayif is still a traditional Turkish sweet you most definitely have to try. Basically, kadayif is a palm-sized Turkish sweet pastry made of shredded filo dough. Traditionally, it is served soaked in sugary syrup and topped with dried fruit. It is notably one of the oldest traditional Turkish desserts.
5. Künefe (Kanafeh)
Resemblant to kadayif, kanafeh adds a layer of soft white cheese to the mix. Most variants of this Turkish cheese dessert even have pistachio nuts, clotted cream, and ice cream—all these ingredients lead to texture and flavor bursting in your mouth! Just imagine a Turkish dessert that tastes spongey, tangy, and sweet at the same time.
Turkish candy and other bite-sized treats
6. Lokum (Turkish delight)
Love it or hate it, Turkish delight is a staple in the historic country. Traditionally cut into tiny cubes, this Turkish candy is mostly served with a cup of Turkish coffee or tea. Turkish delight also makes a great souvenir, as you can buy grams of it for an affordable price at the Spice Market. But if you just want to have a taste of this confection, many restaurants—even side vendors!—offer this for their guests.
7. Tahini halva (Turkish sweetmeat)
As one of the older traditional Turkish sweets, halva has made a global name for itself. Nowadays, you will find it in supermarkets across the globe! When it started in Turkey, halva was served during burial ceremonies or death anniversaries. It can be made flour-based or nut-butter based. On the other hand, tahini is a mid-eastern condiment prepared with hulled sesame seeds. Combined, the flavors allow flavorful melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
8. Pişmaniye (Floss halva)
Floss halva, or pişmaniye, deserves its own spot in this list of famous Turkish desserts. Unlike regular halva, floss halva is made by flossing halva strands until it resembles a ball of cotton candy. Made with butter-roasted flour, floss halva is typically garnished with pistachio nuts. Interestingly, other Turkish regions serve floss halva with chocolate milk!
9. Lokma (Fried sweet dough)
Bite-sized and easy to consume, lokma is a famous Turkish sweet that resembles donuts. This ball-shaped pastry is deep-fried and flavored with sugar and sherbet, but you can also score ones with other toppings. Honey, cinnamon, and sesame are just some popular ingredients to add to the lokma dessert.
10. Tulumba (Fried dough pastries)
Sweet tooths will definitely enjoy a serving of Turkish tulumba dessert. This candied street dish is made of bits of fried dough soaked in sherbet. The dough itself infuses starch and semolina, creating a light but crunchy delicacy.
11. Ayva tatlısı (Quince dessert)
A winter favorite, Ayva tatlısı (quince dessert) is a classic Turkish sweet made of the seasonal fruit. To prepare this meal, Turks poach quinces in sugar and water. Slowly simmered then topped with kaymak (Turkish clotted cream), Ayva tatlısı tastes delicious as it smells fragrant.
Cookies, cakes, and ice cream
12. Şekerpare (Turkish cookies)
Those who love Turkish honey desserts will absolutely adore sekerpare (“a piece of sweetness”)—a famous Turkish sweet with a name it properly deserves. Made of semolina, flour, and syrup, these Turkish cookies are sweet and moist. A classic dish, Şekerpare has become a household staple that is also widely available in most Turkish bakeries.
13. Maras dondurma (Turkish ice cream)
Maras dondurma, or Turkish ice cream, is an experience in itself. Made of cream, whipped cream, mastic, salep, and sugar, this traditional Turkish dessert is distinctively chewy and slow to melt. More than its flavor, dondurma is a must-try because of how it is sold. Dressed in traditional Ottoman clothing, most Turkish vendors tease customers with tricks using their dondurma stick before ultimately serving the ice cream.
14. Revani (Turkish-style semolina cake)
If you are a cake person, definitely do not miss out on revani. Also known as basbousa, revani is a delicious semolina Turkish dessert made of soft yellow layers that create a sponge-like texture.
15. Acıbadem kurabiyesi (Turkish biscuit)
Turkey is not so much a fan of biscuits as it is pastries. But, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have any! A traditional Turkish dessert, Acıbadem kurabiyesi literally translates to “bitter almond biscuit.” Besides almond, this dish requires sugar and egg whites to give it the chewy texture locals love pairing with a cup of Turkish coffee.
Sweet and savory Turkish puddings
16. Tavuk göğsü (Chicken breast pudding)
A fusion of sweet and savory tastes, Tavuk göğsü is shredded chicken breast infused with milky flavors that melt in your mouth. It is understandable that you might find the concept of chicken breast as Turkish pudding absurd. But considering that this tender dessert was served to Ottoman sultans back in the day, you should know that this unique Turkish pudding is really good!
17. Kazandibi (Caramelized dairy pudding)
Another Turkish pudding, Kazandibi literally translates to “the bottom of the pan.” It is named such, as the dish is made of the parts of Tavuk göğsü that have stuck to the bottom and sides of the pan. Once scraped off, the overcooked pudding is rolled into a caramelized Turkish dessert.
18. Keşkül (Turkish custard)
Turkey is abundant in nuts, so it just makes sense that its most famous Turkish desserts incorporate these. A variant of Turkish custard, Keşkül dessert uses almond-based milk as its base, along with egg and vanilla. It is then topped with almonds, pistachios, and shaved coconuts.
19. Asure (Noah’s Pudding)
Otherwise known as Noah’s Pudding, Asure is believed to have existed since the Old Testament time. In fact, many Turks believe that Noah (of Noah’s Ark) was the first to cook Asure dessert. Ingredients include fresh and dried fruit, nuts, beans, and grains that have been pantry staples in Turkey since time immemorial.
20. Fırın sütlaç (Rice pudding)
Love pudding but are not in the mood to be adventurous with your food? Don’t worry—Turkish pudding comes in less surprising forms, too! A cold baked rice pudding, fırın sütlaç is probably the least intimidating Turkish pudding. That said, it is a famous Turkish dessert among travelers as it is available in most restaurants.
21. Safranlı zerde (Turmeric rice pudding)
Another sweet Turkish pudding, Safranlı zerde is composed of rice, fruits, and water. Its distinctive yellow color comes from turmeric—where the Turkish dessert derives its name. Other Turkish chefs opt to add saffron to achieve the yellow hue, as turmeric is an acquired taste.
Every Turkish dessert truly offers a memorable experience. Our tip? Before heading to Turkey, research its history and heritage to have a more enjoyable time exploring their food culture. The diversity of each Turkish sweet says a lot about how the nation has welcomed different practices throughout the years.
Consider this list of delicious Turkish desserts and sweets as a guide as you explore the rich food culture in Turkey. But, know that the colorful nation has a lot more delectable culinary wonders that you can try! Traditional Turkish desserts and sweets vary across regions, so make sure to empty your bellies for a filling food trip ahead.