Ranging in flavour and delicacy to suit almost every palate, Turkish desserts are beloved by residents and visitors alike. Regarding the popularity of Türkiye’s sweet treats, Taste Atlas highlighted several famous Turkish desserts in its “Top 100 Desserts in the World”.
Globally Registered ‘Turkish Baklava’
Baklava, possibly the most well-known Turkish dessert, is a delightful pastry made of layers of paper-thin phyllo dough filled with finely crushed nuts and drenched in sweet syrup. Baklava and the iconic Gaziantep baklava – from Gaziantep, listed in the UNESCO Creative Cities Network for its gastronomic tradition – are separate desserts in the Taste Atlas guide. Gaziantep baklava, registered by the EU Commission as a flavour unique to Turkish cuisine, is one of Türkiye’s most important dishes in daily life and on special occasions. Although baklava is the general term for the pastry, the dessert takes on different names depending on its preparation and presentation. For example, fıstık sarma (pistachio wrap), also on the Taste Atlas, refers to a type of baklava made with pistachio, the most preferred baklava filling. Rolled in a single phyllo sheet, fıstık sarma is made with a dense pistachio paste, sometimes called ‘pistachio butter.’ As an elemental representation of Türkiye’s rich cultural heritage, baklava is a treat in any shape or style.
Another traditional Turkish dessert on Taste Atlas is künefe. Served hot, künefe features melted unsalted cheese sandwiched between two layers of shredded phyllo dough or semolina dough, then drenched in sweet syrup and garnished with crushed pistachios. The tastiest künefe is found in Türkiye’s South-eastern Anatolian provinces, and ‘Antakya Künefe, ’ the world-famous dessert of Hatay, has been registered in the EU as a ‘Protected Geographical Indication’.
A Traditional Heritage: Milk Desserts
Türkiye's milk desserts are as popular and delicious as the country's other culinary delights. Fırın sütlaç (baked rice pudding) is a popular traditional Turkish dessert made by combining milk, rice, and sugar; the pudding is baked, and its burned surface is garnished with cinnamon or hazelnuts. While this classic dessert is available across the country, many fans say that the best fırın sütlaç is served in areas known for dairy farming.
Dating back to the Ottoman era, kazandibi (caramelised milk pudding) has a soft consistency and a slightly burnt base. The dessert's name refers to the burnt bottom of the cauldron in which it is prepared. The authentic kazandibi is made by burning the bottom layer of tavuk göğsü (chicken breast pudding), the dessert made with shredded chicken breast. However, most kazandibi is served with butter, milk, rice flour, sugar, and starch, with the caramelised part on top, without shredded chicken breast. This traditional dish is served with Turkish coffee or tea like countless other fabulous Turkish desserts.
The Maraş Dondurma (Maraş ice cream) is also on the Taste Atlas guide. With a dense consistency, distinctive flavour, and aroma, Maraş Dondurma is a favourite dessert throughout Türkiye. The secret to this remarkable confection lies in its ingredients: The ice cream is made with milk from goats fed on natural grasses in Kahramanmaraş, while the flavourful “salep” comes from the roots of the purple orchids that grow in the area.
İrmik helvası, another Turkish dessert on Taste Atlas, is an indispensable part of Anatolian culinary culture. Prepared with slight variations in almost every province, the dish consists of semolina, butter, sugar, milk, and pine nuts. It is often served hot alongside a scoop of ice-cold Maraş ice cream.