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Turkish desserts are a delicious and integral part of the country’s culinary culture.
While desserts like baklava or Turkish Delights get most of the attention, the tradition of Turkish sweets is vast and dates back centuries.
One of our most surprising discoveries while exploring the local food specialties in Turkey was the rich diversity of sweets and desserts.
From sweet pastries filled with nuts, creamy milk-based puddings to fragrant rosewater or bergamot-scented treats the options are vast.
For us, the best part of eating in Turkey was getting to the desserts.
On your culinary travels to Türkiye, make room for Turkish desserts and treats.
Get started with our comprehensive guide to the 17 most popular traditional Turkish desserts to try.
Top Turkish Desserts
1. Tavuk Gogsu – Chicken Breast Dessert
When you think of delicious desserts, you most likely won’t consider a Turkish food with chicken.
But, in fact, tavuk göğsü, which translates in English to “sweet chicken breast pudding,” does contain chicken.
This most unusual Turkish dessert looks like a roll stuffed with cream sprinkled with cinnamon. We would describe it as a milky-looking pillow.
Tavuk göğsü is made by first boiling down white chicken breast into shreds.
It is then mixed with milk, sugar, a thickener like cornstarch or rice flour, and spices like vanilla and cinnamon.
The taste is sweet and creamy, but the texture can be pretty thick, like a dense rice pudding.
Although you don’t taste the shredded chicken fibers, it makes the dessert fairly chewy. We enjoyed this classic dessert and found it quite filling.
The origin story behind tavuk göğsü dates back to the Ottoman Empire.
It was first served in Istanbul’s Topkapi Palace, and as the story goes, the Sultan asked for a sweet treat, but the palace’s kitchens had nothing to offer him.
Unwilling to disappoint, they got creative and came up with this sweet milk pudding made with chicken breast.
Arguably one of the most unusual Turkish desserts, tavuk göğsü is an experience not to be missed when you visit Turkey.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you love Turkish sweets or are curious about sweet and savory snacks from Türkiye, try Turkish Munchies. Turkish Munchies are hand-selected sweet and savory treats that give you a taste of authentic snacks from the country. Turkish Munchies boxes ship directly from the country with free shipping to the United States on orders over $50. Taste Turkish treats when you order a box of Turkish Munchies.
2. Dondurma – Turkish Ice Cream
Dondurma or Turkish ice cream, is another delightful traditional Turkish dessert.
The name which translates to “frozen” or “freezing,” is unlike ice cream found elsewhere in the world.
Turkish ice cream tastes sweet and creamy, but the texture is stretchy and chewy.
Dondurma gets its stretchy texture due to the inclusion of salep, a starchy powder from orchid roots.
The ice cream originates from the Kahramanmaraş region of Turkey, where orchids are also native.
The ice cream is made by mixing goat milk, sugar, and an aromatic resin known as mastic in some areas of the country.
These ingredients are hand churned to create the elastic texture of this Turkish ice cream.
In Turkey, the ice cream maker wears traditional clothing of the Ottoman period and works the dondurma with a long-handed paddle.
While you’ll find popular flavors like chocolate or strawberry, we recommend trying traditional flavors like kaymak.
Be aware the texture is quite thick, and it can be eaten with a knife and fork.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you would like to try these traditional Turkey desserts, we recommend taking a food tour with a local guide. See our guide to the best Istanbul food tours to indulge in authentic Turkish cuisine.
3. Firin Sutlac, Fırın Sütlaç – Turkish Rice Pudding
When it comes to Turkish desserts, fırın sütlaç or Turkish rice pudding is a classic. It’s widely served across the country in homes and restaurants and remains a staple dessert.
Turkish rice pudding uses fresh, unpasteurized milk. Making it is a labor of love, as it has to be stirred slowly and patiently.
Requiring only five ingredients; rice, water, milk, sugar, and cornstarch adds to its popularity. This dessert can be served hot but is typically enjoyed cold.
Like many other Turkish desserts, fırın sütlaç has origins in the Ottoman Empire.
Historically, rose water may also have been added to the recipe, and finely chopped pistachio nuts sprinkled on top.
Today, chefs and home cooks add their own special touch to this traditional dessert. Some add vanilla, lemon zest, or nuts for additional flavor.
The process of baking the rice in the oven is what distinguishes fırın sütlaç from stove-top rice pudding.
4. Ashure, Aşure or Ashura – Noah’s Ark Pudding
Ashure, also spelled Aşure or Ashura, is one of Turkey’s oldest desserts.
In English, the name translates to Noah’s Ark Pudding, made of grains, pulses, and dried fruits.
Legend has it that Noah first made the dessert on his Ark. With food supplies dwindling, he was forced to use leftover bits of food, throwing them into one pot.
The result was this delicious pudding which kept him full until the Ark reached its final resting place on Mount Ararat in eastern Turkey.
This traditional dessert has remained a staple of Turkish cuisine ever since. It symbolizes friendship, peace, unity, and love.
Where aşure was eaten in the cold winter months, you’ll find it year-round.
The ingredients and preparation techniques of Asure vary. When we first had it in Antalya, we didn’t like it. However, when we tried it again on a food tour in Izmir, we loved it.
Aşure is delicious, healthy, and full of interesting textures. It is a cross between porridge and pudding.
Dried fruits, legumes, and wheat are traditionally combined with everything from ground pistachio nuts and crushed hazelnuts to figs, currants, and more.
On your Türkiye travels, try Aşure in different places and find your favorite version.
5. Baklava – Nut Filled Filo Pastry
Baklava consistently ranks amongst the best Turkish desserts in and outside the country. It is also one of my favorite Turkish sweets.
Turkish baklava is flaky, buttery, and stuffed with ground pistachios or walnuts. The phyllo pastry sheets are soaked with sugar water, adding a sweet touch to the finely chopped nuts.
Baklava has its own regional flavors and ingredients. While in Turkey, we discovered Baklava from Gaziantep, a Unesco City of Gastronomy.
The Gaziantep baklava are made using local Gaziantep-grown pistachios, and they are to die for.
Just layered phyllo dough with bright green pistachio filling and a not-too-sweet sugar syrup.
Baklava pairs well with strong Turkish coffee or tea, which helps cut through the sweetness.
The shape of baklava varies from rectangular, diamond, or even triangular slices.
The origins of baklava are hotly contested, with Bulgaria, Armenia, Greece, and Turkey laying claims to it.
This popular Turkish dessert was a staple of Ottoman cuisine and took its current form in the kitchens of the Topkapi Palace in the fifteenth century.
When you visit Turkey, look for baklava from specialist stores. Try baklava from Gaziantep or Antep baklavasi. Also, look for Rosemary’s favorite, a milky, and creamy iced baklava.
6. Kunefe, Künefe – Turkish Sweet Cheese Pastry
Künefe is another one of our favorite Turkish desserts. We fell in love with it and even learned to make it in an Istanbul cooking class.
It’s a popular dessert in Turkey made with kadayıf or shredded phyllo dough, stringy cheese, and butter.
This dough is coated with butter, filled with stringy white cheese, and cooked in special Kunefe plates.
The final touch is adding a sweet syrup sweetened with lemon juice dribbled over the top of the pastry.
Kadayıf is a particular kind of shredded phyllo dough that is essential to künefe. Its strands are as thin as vermicelli noodles adding a wonderful texture to this delicious dessert.
Kunefe is enjoyed in different parts of the Middle East. The Turkish version originates from the Hatay region, which borders Syria.
Don’t hesitate to order Kunefe, one of the best Turkish desserts when you see it on the menu in the country.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: In Istanbul, consider taking a cooking class and learn to make Turkish desserts and sweets. Read our kunefe-making experience in our Istanbul cooking class and see the best cooking classes to take.
7. Pide – Tahini Pide with Honey and Kaymak
Pide is a famous Turkish stuffed flatbread. It is oval-shaped and served open-faced to display its toppings.
Traditionally, pide is a savory flatbread with cheese, spiced meat, eggs, sujuk, spinach, and more.
One of our most surprising discoveries in Turkey was a sweet version of pide with tahini or ground sesame paste.
Topped with honey and kaymak, a buffalo milk cream, this makes for one delicious dessert.
Traditionally, pide is cooked in hot clay ovens and found in pide bakeries known as Pideci.
The tahini or sesame pide originated in Ottoman cuisine and is a delicacy of the Bursa region in northwest Turkey.
We enjoyed our tahini pide topped with honey and kaymak. The warm, lightly baked bread with slightly crispy sesame paste, sweet honey, and kaymak was delectable.
While it’s a blend of delicious flavors, it can be pretty dense for dessert.
Share one amongst your group on your Turkey travels so you don’t miss one of the most unique Turkish desserts.
8. Bomba – Izmir Dessert
As soon as we told locals that we were going to Izmir along Turkey’s Aegean coast, try bomba was the first response we got.
Bomba are Turkish desserts from the Izmir region. They are small round-filled balls in a thin and crumbly dough. Despite their small size, they are actually quite dense.
The most popular bomba filling is chocolate sauce, though you’ll also find flavors like hazelnut or pistachio, which Rosemary tried.
In Izmir, you’ll find bomba desserts at bakeries and also sold by street food vendors.
While bomba desserts may not be the best-known traditional Turkish desserts, they are growing in popularity.
When Turkish people travel to Izmir, this filled dense ball is one of the most sought out desserts.
Like many other Turkish desserts, the history and origins of bomba are murky.
When we asked about the bomba’s origins on an Izmir food tour, we were surprised to learn that it was invented in Izmir in the last 20 to 30 years.
While it may not be a world-famous Turkish dessert, in Izmir, it is a must-eat.
9. Lokum – Turkish Delight
No list of Turkish desserts would be complete without mentioning Lokum or Turkish Delight.
As one of the best-known Turkish sweets, Turkish Delight comes in several flavors, textures, and even colors.
They are delicately flavored jellied confections or candies. Rosewater or orange water, cinnamon, and bergamot are some of the traditional flavors of this Turkish dessert.
Some also include chopped nuts, dates, or flaked coconut for additional texture. Powdered sugar is dusted over the Turkish Delight for a final touch.
Lokum pairs particularly well with strong Turkish coffee to cut through the bitterness.
Turkish Delight date back to the Ottoman Empire. And the name Lokum, with Arabic influences, translates to “comfort of the throat.”
As the legend goes, a Turkish sultan gathered confectioners at his palace, asking them to come up with the best Turkish dessert or sweet to add to his collection.
In the 1700s, the confectioner Haci Bekir Efendi contributed to the rising popularity of the sweet, having set up a shop in Istanbul that became famous for its Turkish Delight.
In the 19th century, a British traveler discovered Lokum in Turkey and took it back with him.
Unable to remember its name, he renamed it Turkish Delight, giving it its current name.
While we had tasted Turkish Delight before visiting Turkey, we loved discovering new subtle flavors like rosewater and bergamot.
10. Turkish Halva – Sweet Sesame or Flour Paste
Halva or helva is one of the most popular Turkish desserts. It is a paste-like sweet treat that is found in the Middle East, the Balkans, and South Asia.
We first tried halva while exploring local specialties through the Balkans and also on the island of Crete in Greece.
There are many different variations of halva; flour halva and some also made with nuts.
The three most popular versions of halva in Turkey are tahini halva, semolina halva or irmik helvasi, and halva made with wheat flour.
Tahini halva, the most classic version, is found across most confectionaries and markets in Turkey.
The main ingredients are tahini or sesame paste and sugar. It’s soft and crumbly and quite rich.
It is sold cut up into small ice cube-shaped boxes, which makes it easier to savor just a tiny bite.
Halva dates back to the Ottoman period, and it is possibly even older. It was particularly favored by Sultan Suleiman II the Magnificent, who had a special halva confectionery built next to his palace.
We had the tahini halva several times as it is the most widely available. The semolina halva is traditionally served at funerals, and we only had it a handful of times.
Beyond the three main kinds of halva, you’ll also find nut-based halva with almonds, walnuts or pistachios.
Floss or cotton candy-like halva and also halva flavored with rose water, saffron, cinnamon, and more.
Treat yourself to bite-sized pieces of this traditional Turkish dessert and find your favorite halva.
11. Kabak Tatlisi – Turkish Pumpkin Dessert
Kabak Tatlisi is another one of the traditional Turkish desserts that surprised us.
Not expecting a dessert made with pumpkin, it is actually quite delicious.
Kabak Tatlisi is a candied pumpkin dessert that is roasted in the oven and cooked with sugar syrup.
It’s a popular dessert found at restaurants and homes all over the country.
We tried this Turkish pumpkin dessert served plain with sugar syrup and also garnished with walnuts and tahini.
The version with walnuts and tahini was our favorite, and is one Turkey dessert worth seeking out.
Kabak tatlisi is typically enjoyed in the winter months, as this is when pumpkins and other squashes or gourds are most available.
Turkey’s pumpkins are prized, especially those from around the Black Sea Region
This delicious sweet dates back to both the Ottoman and Byzantine Empires. And you’ll find many ways to enjoy this pumpkin dessert in Turkey.
12. Kemal Pasha Dessert – Turkish Sweet Cheese Dessert
Kemal Pasha dessert originates from Bursa Province in the northwest of the country.
This Turkish dessert is named in honor of Turkey’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who was from the province.
As he was a great general, he was called Mustafa Kemal Pasha, and the people of the town dedicated this dessert to him.
We tried Kemal Pasha dessert for the first time at Bizim Lokanta, a traditional Izmir restaurant.
The dessert consisted of three delicious fried dough balls made with a special cheese from Bursa Province.
Our dessert was served with kaymak and crushed nuts, and a not-overly-sweet sugar syrup.
While we enjoyed it in the winter, we learned that it is served with ice cream in the warmer months.
This traditional specialty dessert is commonly found in the Aegean and Marmara regions of the country.
13. Keskul, Keskül – Turkish Almond Pudding
Keskül is a Turkish almond pudding and is one of the most popular Turkish desserts.
Keskül is another example of Turkey’s many milk-based puddings and desserts. This delicious milk pudding is made mainly of nuts and milk.
Almonds are the most traditional nuts used, though you can find more refined versions using pistachio nuts.
A fluffy and creamy pudding, keskül is from the Ottoman times.
Keskul originated as a meal for the poor, where donations collected in keşkül or beggars’ bowls were used to buy ingredients to make the pudding.
Today you’ll find this popular dessert at pudding shops or bakeries throughout Turkey.
14. Revani – Turkish Semolina Cake
Revani, or semolina cake, is another popular Turkish dessert.
We were surprised to find street vendors in Istanbul dedicated solely to selling this traditional sweet.
Revani is a moist sponge cake with a bread pudding texture. It is a soft sponge cake made of semolina, a kind of flour made from durum wheat.
The dessert is scented with orange water or lemon juice and soaked in sugar syrup.
We enjoyed it as is, though you can also have a side of ice cream or kaymak to go along with it.
The hint of citrus flavors makes the cake quite refreshing. And the syrup keeps the cake from drying out.
Revani has been a popular dessert among the Turkish people since the Ottoman times. It is believed to have taken its name when the Ottomans conquered the city of Yerevan in today’s Armenia.
If you are curious and want to taste Revani at home, you can have this orange infused cake delivered to your home.
15. Kadayif – Shredded Sweet Phyllo Dough
Kadayif are thin strands of shredded phyllo dough pastry that resemble fine noodles or vermicelli.
These thin wire-like noodles are used in many Turkish desserts like kunefe, baklava, and others.
The noodles are made by making a batter of flour and water and then passing it through a sieve-like perforated tray.
When the pasty dough hits the hot tray, it partially cooks before drying into long, thin strands like vermicelli.
This delicate and flaky phyllo dough adds a nice crunch to the Turkish pastries.
Popular varieties of kadayif include pistachio while others can be flavored with rose water, cardamon, or cinnamon.
Tel kadayif is one of the most popular Turkish desserts and sweets. It’s the most commonly available made with nuts like pistachio or walnut and citrus-infused sugar syrup.
Kadayif pairs well with Turkish tea, adding a sweet touch to the strong black tea flavors.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you love Turkish sweets, consider getting a Turkish Munchies box filled with tasty snacks shipped directly from Turkey. Read about our Turkish Muchies experience in our review Turkish Snacks Unwrapped: Is Turkish Munchies Box Worth It?
16. Tulumba – Turkish Churros
Fans of churros will love tulumba, which are often described as Turkish churros.
Golden brown in color, soft, crispy, and super sweet, tulumba is a delicious street food found at any Turkish bakery or roadside stall.
Tulumba are without doubt some of the most popular Turkish desserts, originating from the Ottoman Empire.
They are cheap and relatively easy to make, and are enjoyed every day, and also at special occasions like weddings.
Tulumba means plump in Turkish, in reference to the shape and appearance of these deep fried dough balls.
They are similar to churros in shape, as they are long pastries with an oblong shape.
Tulumba are soft, crispy, and juicy as a result of being soaked in syrup. The dough is made of water, butter, sugar, salt, flour, eggs, and semolina.
Tulumba’s famous shape is achieved by piping this dough through a star-shaped nozzle.
If you want a sweet treat after eating street food or to accompany Turkish coffee, treat your taste buds to this popular Turkish dessert.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: Taking a street food tour in Istanbul is a tasty way to try different Turkish street food desserts. We took this Istanbul street food tour in Kadikoy and loved discovering all sorts of delightful Turkish pastries. Read more about our review of this Istanbul street food tour in Kadikoy
17. Cevizli Sucuk – Walnut Sausage
The first time we saw this strange-looking dessert was while shopping at a local market in Antalya.
Curious, intrigued, and unable to communicate with the street vendor in Turkish, he cut a small piece for us to try.
We immediately understood that it was filled with nuts and its name, sausage, was due to its shape.
Cevizli sucuk is also known as walnut sausage. Its long and sausage-like shape comes from sewing walnuts onto a thin string.
They are then dipped into an evaporated grape juice mixture, the early stages of molasses, and dried over a wood fire into their final form.
Cevizli sucuk should be chewy but still soft. The walnuts add a pleasing crunch to the jelly-like molasses texture.
This traditional Turkish dessert is enjoyed as a snack all around Turkey. We liked the nutty contrast to the sweet molasses but could only eat a little at a time.
Cevizli sucuk is one of the lesser-known Turkish desserts and sweets worth looking for in the country.
Frequently Asked Questions About Turkish Desserts
What is Turkey’s Most Popular Dessert
The most popular Turkish dessert is baklava. Flaky filo dough is layered with nuts like pistachios or walnuts and drenched in sugar syrup to create this sweet treat, which continues to be one of the most popular and famous Turkish desserts.
What Is a Typical Turkish Dessert
Turkish desserts are typically milk-based or consist of some variation of dough that has been combined with nuts like ground pistachios or walnuts and sweetened with citrus-infused sugar syrup.
What are Turkish Sweets Called
Turkish sweets are known as Turkish Delights, a name given to the treats when they became popular in the British Empire during the nineteenth century. Turkish Delights or Lokum are jelly-like confections made of sugar and starch and flavored with nuts and spices.
Turkish desserts are a perfect way to end a meal or to enjoy as a sweet treat during the day.
What we liked best about them is that they are made with healthy ingredients like nuts and fruits and are not overly sweet.
The Turkish desserts and sweets also pair well with Turkish tea or strong Turkish coffee which are abundantly available.
The world of Turkish desserts is an unusual and delicious culinary adventure. You’ll discover and gain a new appreciation for flavor combinations that include chicken breast, rosewater, pumpkins, and more.
Have you had any of these Turkish desserts? Please let us know which ones in the comments below.
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Claire is co-founder of Authentic Food Quest and a lover of simple and exquisite cuisine. Since 2015, with her partner, Rosemary, she has been traveling the world as a digital nomad, creating content about local food experiences.
Her advice from visiting 45 countries and more than 240 food cities has been featured in Lonely Planet, Business Insider, Honest Cooking, Food Insider, and Huffington Post. She has also co-authored three books, including one in collaboration with Costa Brava Tourism.
An ex-mechanical engineer, Claire is responsible for SEO, keeping the website running, and the fun food & travel videos on YouTube.
When Claire is not eating, she can be found running or cycling. Find out more about Authentic Food Quest