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7 Turkish Desserts that are NOT Baklava

Discover the less famous but just as noteworthy desserts of Turkey

We all know that baklava is great, and Turkey is home to some of the best baklava in the world. But this success means that baklava tends to overshadow the countless other Turkish desserts that are just as delicious. Below are some of the desserts that were my favorite growing up in Turkey.


1. Künefe

Künefe is a popular dessert all around the Middle East, and is essentially a sweet grilled-cheese sandwich. It's made by arranging a thin layer of cheese between two layers of "kadayıf" (phyllo), baked in an oven and served with ample amounts of syrup and a side of "kaymak" (clotted cream).


2. Tavuk Göğsü & Kazandibi

Yes, this is actually a dessert with real chicken breast. And it is delicious. You can think of tavuk göğsü as vanilla pudding with chicken breast fibers for an extra chewy structure. Kazandibi, literally meaning bottom of the pot, is the same dessert but with the top caramelized and maybe a little burnt. It pairs great with "kaymak" (cream) ice cream. It is very hard to do either dish justice here, just try it — when else are you going to get a chance to eat chicken for dessert?


3. Fırın Sütlaç

Fırın Sütlaç is one of Turkey's traditional comfort desserts. It's rice pudding baked in individual (traditionally clay) ramekins until the top forms a golden to burnt-brown crust. As a child I always begged my grandmother to make me sütlaç, and to this day I claim her sütlaç is the best.


4. Lokma

Lokma is the donut hole perfected. It's a quintessential street-food dessert staple in the south of the country, especially in the touristy areas of İzmir/Çeşme and Bodrum. Street vendors will make small balls of dough at rapid-fire speed, deep fry them and soak them in sweet syrup. It's the Turkish equivalent of donut holes or funnel cake, and to me it's much better than both.


5. İrmik Helvasi

İrmik (semolina) Helvasi is a traditional Turkish dessert made by toasting semolina in butter until it turns golden brown and then mixed with syrup. It is best served hot, often with kaymak ice cream. My favorite helva growing up was always served formed as a dome on top of a scoop of ice cream.


6. Tulumba

Tulumba is the Turkish equivalent of a churro. Similar to lokmas, it's a bit of dough that is deep fried and later doused in syrup. It's distinctive shape results in quite crispy edges and it's a restaurant classic throughout the country.


7. Pişmaniye

Pismaniye is a quite interesting Turkish confection that is almost like a dense cotton candy. Unlike cotton candy, sugar is spun together with flour resulting in a much heavier (and drier-feeling) fiber structure. It's often sold in gift shops and is eaten in strands. I remember discovering pişmaniye as a child on a drive from Istanbul to Bodrum. I was fascinated by this fibrous dessert food and ate a whole box of pismaniye strand by strand.


Honorable Mentions

There are countless Turkish desserts I'd recommend, so here are a few more in a lightning round

  • Kemalpaşa: A small, sweet syrupy cake often served at kebab restaurants

  • Un Kurabiyesi: An incredibly dry cookie, often found in the Çeşme region

  • Muhallebi: Turksih pudding

  • Şöbiyet: Like a milky/wet baklava

  • Güllaç: A rice based dessert often had during Ramadan with rose water

  • Ayva/Kabak Tatlisi: Syrupy roasted pumpkin or quince, served with cream

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