Turkey is known for its unique cuisine with world-renowned desserts. So, visiting Turkey without eating dessert would be a shame.
Of course, the names of popular desserts can be hard to remember since most are in Turkish. So, if you want to try delicious Turkish treats during your next visit to Turkey and are looking for a list of dessert names, I’ve got you covered!
This traditional dessert list contains unique Turkish desserts that I know you’ll love.
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1. Aşure – Noah’s Ark Pudding
Aşure is a traditional dish made by mixing different ingredients in various cultures in the Balkans and Middle East. Armenians, Bosnians, Bulgarians, Sephardic Jews, and Turks prepare the dish on religious holidays.
Despite being one of the best Turkish desserts, Turks make ashure primarily on the religious Day of Ashure, which marks the parting of the Sea by Moses and the salvation of Israelis.
However, you don’t have to follow this tradition. If you like the taste, you can make ashure any time of the year. It has a relatively easy recipe compared to most Turkish pastries. All you need to make Turkish dessert, ashure, is bulgur, garbanzo beans, white beans, raisins, apricots, orange peel, and cloves.
For the perfect ashure, you should start by soaking the bulgur, garbanzo beans, white beans, and raisins in separate bowls overnight. Next day, cook the garbanzo and white beans until tender, then set them aside.
Boil the drained bulgur in a large saucepan and simmer until tender. Stir in sugar, add the beans, drained raisins, apricots, orange peel, and cloves.
Simmer the mixture, then pour the pudding into serving bowls. You can garnish the creamy puddings with sesame seeds, walnuts, ground pistachios, currants, and cinnamon. Allow the ashure to cool before serving.
2. Turkish Delight – Also Known As Lokum
Lokum, Turkish Delight, the name does not matter! These iconic sweets are the perfect gift you can buy for your friends – and for yourself.
Mainly made of starch and sugar, lokum is a sweet and flavorful snack that usually accompanies Turkish coffee or Turkish tea. From traditional gül lokumu, “rose lokum,” to kuş lokumu, “bird lokum,” Turkish cuisine boasts a ton of different types of lokum.
So, in the middle of such abundance, you might be wondering where to find the best lokum. Thankfully, finding the best Turkish delight isn’t tricky. You can purchase the finest quality lokum at any shop that sells famous Turkish desserts or in the Grand Bazaar.
3. Halka Tatlı – Ring Dessert
We can describe halka tatlı as the Turkish version of churro. It’s made of fried dough and, unlike churro, soaked in syrup. Although it’s a street treat, you can find halka tatlı almost every pastry in Turkey.
4. Höşmerim – Sweet Cheese Dessert
If you’ve heard of a delicious Turkish dessert with cheese, it’s hoşmerim. This iconic dessert is popular in the Aegean, Marmara, Trakya, and Central Anatolia regions of Turkey.
It is known that the dessert’s name comes from the Persian hoş-maram, “sweet cream.” However, a common folk etymology tells a different story regarding the dessert’s name.
According to the local legend, a soldier came home after long years of war and asked his wife to make him a dessert. She used the only ingredients at home, cheese, semolina, and sugar, to prepare a unique dessert. When she served her husband the dessert, she asked: “Hoş mu erim?” meaning: “Is it nice, my husband?”
Although the story ends here, we can answer on behalf of the man: Yes, hosmerim is quite a unique and delicious treat. Savory notes of the cheese and sugar’s sweetness create an unexpected balance, making hosmerim a light yet flavorful dessert.
5. İrmik Helvası – Semolina Halva
İrmik helvası is a semolina-based Turkish dessert often prepared for special occasions. In the Ottoman Era, the dessert was made after the war and known as Gaziler Helvası, “warrior’s helva.” That might be the reason why it’s still served at funerals.
The dessert has an easy recipe. All you have to do is cook semolina with flour, sugar, and butter. You can add pine nuts or milk to give flavor. It’s worth noting that the recipe for irmik helvası might differ from one region to another.
6. Kabak Tatlısı – Pumpkin Dessert
If you think Turkish cuisine is full of semolina and milk-based desserts, you’re wrong. In Turkey, there are lots of creative desserts made with fruits. A great example of this is the Turkish pumpkin dessert, which is another addictive dessert Turks have.
This popular dessert is made by cooking peeled pumpkin and topping it with walnuts, tahini, and kaymak. You can also add some dondurma or Turkish ice cream to it to enhance the flavor. If you’re looking for different tastes, we recommend you give kabak tatlısı a try.
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7. Koz Helva – Walnut Helva
Koz helva is a type of nougat made with sugar, honey, egg whites, almond, walnut, peanut, and chestnut. Sometimes, fruits, particularly raisins, and various spices can also be added to koz helva.
Thanks to the dried nuts and fruits in it, Koz Helva makes a great snack with high nutritional value. It’s also a perfect dessert if you’re looking for a healthy alternative to processed sweets.
Although it’s not as popular as lokum or regular helva, koz helva is still widely consumed in various regions of Turkey. You can find small koz helva bars in almost any Turkish store.
8. Lokma – Fried Sweet Dough
Lokma pastry is of significant importance in Turkish culture, especially in the country’s western regions. In İzmir, you can eat lokma almost anywhere since it’s customary to give free lokma in a loved one’s memory.
The dessert originated from Egypt and spread to the Balkans through the Ottoman Empire. Today, different types of lokma are made in Turkey, Greece, Cyprus, and various Arab countries.
Some Jewish societies in the Mediterranean, such as Romaniotes, make lokma, or zvingoi as they call it, as Hanukkah treats. Also, Arab Christians make the dessert at Epiphany.
Although various Muslim societies in the Middle East make lokma-like desserts during the month of Ramadan, Turkey doesn’t have such a tradition – at least not in the country’s West.
The main difference between various lokma types is actually their shape. For example, the spherical lokma is called saray lokması, or “the palace lokma.” The donut-shaped ones, on the other hand, are mostly known as İzmir lokması.
9. Muhallebi – Milk Pudding
Muhallebi is a type of dessert pudding made with rice, sugar, milk, rice flour, starch, or semolina. Most desserts below, for example, sütlaç or keşkül, are different types of muhallebi.
Historical records show that only two types of muhallebi were made during the early Ottoman period. One was tavuk göğsü, made with shredded chicken breast, and one meatless recipe. Of course, over time, muhallebi recipes became more decadent with the introduction of new ingredients, such as cocoa.
Besides being a dessert alone, muhallebi is also widely used as decorations for Turkish cakes.
10. Tavuk Göğsü – Turkish Chicken Breast Pudding
Tavuk göğsü, literally Turkish for “chicken breast,” is a type of milk pudding with shredded chicken breast. Although it emerged as a dessert served at the royal Ottoman palace, tavuk göğsü became a popular sweet dish among the public in almost no time.
The common belief regarding the dessert’s origin suggests that the recipe for chicken pudding goes back to the Roman Empire and was passed to the Ottomans via Byzantines. However, since there isn’t any solid evidence for this Roman connection, the origins of tavuk göğsü are still uncertain.
The chicken-free version of the dessert is called yalancı tavuk göğsü, “faux chicken breast,” which is a regular pudding that’s ornamented with cinnamon.
11. Kazandibi – Burnt Milk Pudding
Kazandibi is a traditional Turkish dessert developed in the kitchens of the Ottoman Palace by the sultan’s cooks. The dessert’s name means “bottom of cauldron” and refers to how the cooks in Ottoman times made the dessert by burning the bottom of the pot tavuk göğsü.
However, most restaurants and recipes no longer use tavuk göğsü to make kazandibi – probably because it would be wasting the delicious tavuk göğsü. The most popular recipes involve cooking a regular pudding and burning its bottom to prepare kazandibi. Of course, if you wish, you can use tavuk göğsü or even keşkül to make kazandibi.
Despite being an easy recipe that uses basic ingredients, kazandibi is a delicious treat for those with a sweet tooth. If you visit a Turkish restaurant in Turkey, you should give this unique delicacy a try.
12. Keşkül – Almond Milk Pudding
Known as Turkish almond pudding, keşkül is a delicacy boasting a delicious and light taste. The dessert, dating back to the Ottoman period, is one of the most popular sweets in Turkish cuisine.
Keskul is one of the easy Turkish dessert recipes. All you need to do is place egg yolk, sugar, rice flour, and cornstarch in a saucepan and mix. Then, add half a cup of milk to the mixture and continue beating until it gets a smooth texture.
You can mix in the remaining milk and add some ground almonds. You can also add desiccated coconut to add some flavor.
After mixing all the ingredients, you can place the saucepan on low-medium heat to bring the mixture to a gentle simmer. After cooking the mixture for a few more minutes, you can add vanilla paste to give it a sweeter taste.
13. Sütlaç – Turkish Rice Pudding
If you’ve tried different Turkish dishes, you must’ve realized that Turks use rice a lot. And desserts aren’t an exception to Turks’ love for rice. Sütlaç is a perfect example of this.
You can do this easy recipe with only short-grain rice, milk, sugar, cornstarch, rose water, and a handful of pistachios. You must cook short-grain rice and milk on the stovetop until the milk boils. Then add sugar and cornstarch. If you want, you can add egg yolks and vanilla to increase the flavor. You can finally add rose water to give your sütlaç a sweet taste.
Sütlaç is usually garnished with pistachios, cinnamon, and dried rose petals. Of course, you can add various dried nuts to make your sütlaç look even tastier.
14. Fırın Sütlaç – Baked Rice Pudding
The popularity of fırın sütlaç, a different version of the traditional sütlaç recipe, is a delicious option for those who like the original dessert. Plus, besides a few extra steps, preparing fırın sütlaç isn’t harder than regular sütlaç.
The first step of preparing fırın sütlaç is quite similar to regular rice pudding:
What makes fırın sütlaç so different from regular rice pudding is its distinctive baking process. After preparing the pudding, you must put it in the oven for further baking, imparting a golden-brown color to the top layer and setting the pudding.
A fırın sütlaç is typically served with cinnamon on top to enhance the dessert’s flavor. If you want, you can add some nuts or even pistachio as a topping.
15. Paşa Tatlısı – Pasha Dessert
Paşa tatlısı, or pasha dessert, is a popular Turkish dessert from the Aegean and Marmara regions. While most people call this dessert Kemalpaşa tatlısı, regional differences might occur. For example, in Tekirdağ and its periphery, the dessert is known as kadı helvası, “Judge’s Helva.”
The good news is that paşa tatlısı is one of the easy Turkish dessert recipes. While you can knead the dough yourself, you don’t have to. Almost all Turkish bakeries sell paşa tatlısı dough in small packages with about 20 pieces. You can prepare a sugary syrup and soak the dessert in this syrup for half an hour.
16. Pestil – Fruit Leather
Pestil is a Turkish dessert made of dried fruit pulp, milk, honey, flour, starch, and various nuts. Sometimes, pestil is filled with a mixture of pistachio and walnut.
Its nutritional benefits and delicious taste make pestil a great snack. Plus, since it doesn’t contain any additives, it’s a perfect alternative to processed food.
Although pestil is mainly served on special occasions, such as bayrams, you can eat this delicious dessert with coffee or tea.
17. Revani – Semolina Cake
Another semolina-based Turkish dessert, revani, is a popular delicacy in the most parts of Turkey. The dessert is usually served in diamond-shaped pieces, each ornamented with a walnut or chestnut in the middle.
While the dessert is flavored with orange flower water in some parts of the Mediterranean, the Turkish version of the recipe mainly uses rose water. You can find revani in most Turkish bakeries and sweet shops.
18. Şekerpare – Almond Based Pastry
Şekerpare can be one of the sweetest inventions in Turkish history. The dessert, which literally means “piece of sugar,” is prepared by baking soft balls of almond-based pastry and dipping them in a thick syrup.
The dessert is usually garnished with almond, walnut, pistachio, or chestnut. Its syrup can be flavored with lemon juice or vanilla to enhance the taste.
The dessert is commonly prepared for special occasions, such as bayrams. Although it isn’t as popular as baklava or other classic Turkish desserts, şekerpare is among the best sweets you can try in Turkey.
19. Tel Kadayıf – Shredded Wheat Dessert
Tel kadayıf, shortly kadayıf, or Turkish shredded wheat dessert in English, is another syrup-soaked dessert Turks love. Tel kadayıf is usually used for preparing other desserts, such as kunefe or burma kadayıf.
However, if you don’t want to spend time with another dessert, you can basically lay tel kadayıf on a sheet pan and pour sugar syrup over it. You can also sprinkle some pistachio over it and serve it with dondurma.
20. Künefe – Cheese Pastry in Syrup
Also known as Turkish vermicelli dessert, Künefe is a tasty Turkish dessert you should definitely try.
The traditional kunefe is a thin, noodle-like pastry layered with white cheese – or mozzarella – and soaked in syrup. Pistachio, walnuts, chestnuts, clotted cream, or dondurma are often used as topping for kunefe.
Although it was among the most popular Ottoman desserts, kunefe’s history dates back to the pre-Ottoman era. Today, you can find kunefe in many Balkan or Middle Eastern cuisines.
Preparing an easy kunefe Turkish dessert recipe is actually relatively easy. You should start by preheating the oven to 375ºF. Then, finely chop the kadayıf and mix it with butter and milk.
In the next step, lay this mixture on a baking dish, layer with a cheese and pistachio mixture, bake for 45 minutes, and prepare a sugar syrup infused with lemon juice and rose water.
When the kunefe comes out of the oven, drench it with 2/3 of the syrup, keeping the rest for serving. You can decorate your kunefe with a scoop of delicious Turkish dondurma and some pistachio.
21. Burma Kadayıf – Rolled Shredded Wheat Dessert
One of the most delicious Turkish sweets, Burma Kadayıf, is among the best desserts in Turkey. Like tel kadayıf or künefe, this dish also has finely shredded phyllo dough, known as kadayıf, as its main ingredient.
The name burma kadayıf literally means “twisted kadayıf” due to its coiled shape. The dessert is usually served with pistachio or walnut topping.
Preparing burma kadayıf involves wrapping the kadayıf around a sweet filling. This filling often consists of pistachio or walnut mixed with sugar.
Then, burma kadayıf is baked until it turns brown. The dessert is soaked in a sugar syrup for a while to add sweetness. You can adorn the dessert with pistachio or walnut to give it a visually appealing look and increase its flavor.
Of course, you should remember that different regions in Turkey might have their own version of the dessert.
22. Tulumba – Fried Sweet Dough with Syrup
If you walked along the streets of İzmir or İstanbul, you must’ve seen some street vendors with cylindrical brown things in their carts. It’s a popular Turkish pastry, tulumba.
Among the best street desserts in Turkey, tulumba is a treat you can find everywhere. The deep-fried and syrup-soaked dessert is very similar to the Mexican churro in both taste and recipe.
The dessert is made from a yogurt-based dough and can come in different shapes. For example, halka tatlı is actually a form of tulumba.
Dondurma and kaymak are typical toppings for the dessert. You can also sprinkle some pistachio over it to add flavor.
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23. Baklava – Layered Pastry with Nuts and Syrup
Who doesn’t like famous baklavas? One of the most popular Turkey desserts, baklava is known for its sweet syrup and rich filling.
This layered Turkish pastry is made of phyllo, or yufka, as Turks call it. When layering yufka, thin sheets of phyllo dough are brushed with oil or butter. According to tradition, the yufka used for Turkish baklava should be as thin as possible to allow the layering of multiple sheets without making it too difficult to eat.
Although Greeks and Turks have a tiny dispute over the ownership of the dish, we can all agree that baklava, no matter who makes it, is the best thing you can ever try.
Historical sources tell us that ancient Greeks and pre-Ottoman Turks both made baklava-like desserts. So, we can say baklava possibly has multiple origins, with the modern recipe appearing during the Ottoman period.
Also, we cannot proceed without mentioning other types of baklavas. In Turkey, there’s a myriad of different baklava recipes.
Here are some of the most prominent ones:
- Fıstıklı baklava (pistachio baklava): This baklava Turkish dessert is the most classical type. It’s a traditional recipe made with a pistachio filling. You can find fıstıklı baklava wherever you go in Turkey
- Cevizli baklava (walnut baklava): Another popular baklava type is cevizli baklava. While most people consider it a cheaper alternative to fıstıklı baklava, cevizli baklava boasts a unique and delicious taste that is all its own
- Şöbiyet baklava: Is it baklava or is it something like baklava? Doesn’t matter! Şöbiyet is a dessert like fıstıklı baklava. Its sole difference is a unique filling made of milk, semolina, and pistachio or walnuts, giving the dessert its unique flavor
- Midye baklava (mussel baklava): This baklava tastes just like fıstıklı baklava or cevizli baklava. The only difference is its distinctive, mussel-like shape.
- Soğuk baklava (cold baklava): Yes, all baklavas are cold served. However, soğuk baklava differs from traditional baklava in various aspects. Unlike regular ones, cold baklava has more milk and little syrup, giving it a lighter taste. It’s also less expensive than other baklavas
- Sütlü Nuriye (milky Nuriye): Although milky baklava recipes go back to the 18th century, the modern recipe for sütlü Nuriye appeared around the late 20th century. During the 1980 Turkish coup d’état, ingredient prices became so expensive that pastries had to use cheaper ingredients for baklava. Some pastries used milk instead of syrup and filled baklava with chestnut, which is significantly cheaper than pistachio and walnut. This milky dessert, called sütlü Nuriye, still has a certain popularity
Most Popular Turkish Desserts Wrap Up
Our culinary journey through the delicious Turkish desserts has been nothing short of a sweet adventure. From the world-renowned baklava to the lesser-known but equally delectable künefe, each dessert has its own unique story and flavor that reflects the rich and diverse culture of Turkey.
Whether you’re indulging in a creamy kazandibi or savoring a piece of lokum, these Turkish delights are more than just treats; they are a testament to Turkey’s historical and cultural tapestry. We hope this list inspires you to explore and enjoy the exquisite world of Turkish desserts and satisfies your sweet craving.
Afiyet olsun (bon appétit)!