I have always loved eating breakfast. I grew up being told that it is the most important meal of the day. I never really considered breakfast as a meal for social gatherings but have learned differently in Turkey.
Turkey is a dreamy place for breakfast lovers like me. Turkish breakfast may seem extreme or elaborate, with an array of dishes covering the entire table, but families use this time to sit down and socialize. A great way to start your day!
Although in today’s busy schedules, Turkish families have changed their weekdays’ breakfast to mainly a simit (sesame type bagel) and cay (Turkish tea). On the weekends, it is an elaborate meal, eaten late morning and covers the entire table.
Turkish breakfast varies in different regions. For the most part, they have the same everyday staple dishes that make up a traditional breakfast. If a guest visits your home, breakfast becomes more of a special occasion, taking on a buffet-style presentation.
Turkish breakfast isn’t just a meal; it’s an experience!
Traditional Turkish Kahvalti (breakfast)
The word kahvalti originates from two words meaning “before coffee”. Traditionally, Turkish coffee is strong, usually served after breakfast to aid in digestion. The Turks typically drink tea with their breakfast.
The Turkish people love their tea. I wrote all about the history and love for tea in Turkey in a previous blog. Drinking tea is a social experience and a sign of hospitality. Turkish people do like coffee, but as they serve their coffee particularly strong, it is not advisable to drink it on an empty stomach.
Let’s begin to examine the menu!
Warm Fresh Bread Choices
Don’t even think about going on a keto diet while in Turkey! Turks love their bread. Although they don’t have specialized breakfast bread, you will indeed find all sorts of bread goodness on the table. The most common bread you will see is a simit that reminds me of a sesame hearty pretzel-type bread, somewhat like a bagel but larger in size. Simit is usually paired with cheese and spread of some kind. Another typical bread you may find at the table is bazlama, a think flatbread also known as “village bread”.
Turkish breakfast rarely includes a sweet pastry except for one that I highly recommend is pisi, also known as boorstog or bwirsaq. It is a fried flaky pastry dough, sometimes filled with cheese. Many Turks dip it in their tea, but I prefer to dip it in honey!
One of my favorite pastry dishes is (cheese) borek. Borek is made of thin sheets of filo dough that are stuffed with cheese or mincemeat. Sometimes you will be served borek filled with potatoes or spinach and feta, much like Greek spanakopita. My favorite out of all is the water borek!
Artisan Cheeses and Yogurt
Turkey produces an assortment of fruits, vegetables, and grains, but if you think it will be easy to be a vegan, think again! Much of Turkish cuisine consists of meat, cheese, and eggs. Almost every Turkish breakfast comes with a side of several different artisan assortments of cheeses, made from goat, sheep, or cow’s milk.
Beyaz penir (white cheese) is the most common cheese served with breakfast, like feta cheese. If you like cheese with a bit of punch, you must sample the tulum cheese. Tulum cheese is a crumbly goat’s cheese mixed with walnut halves and melted butter. My favorite is dil peynir, a string cheese like mozzarella cheese and has a mild flavor.
My husband’s favorite is kaymak, a thick & sweet clotted cream typically served with honey. I think he would eat kaymak with anything if he could!
Fried, Scrambled, Boiled, or Menemen Eggs
Eggs are a part of almost all cultures’ cuisine around the world. Turks love their eggs and are a staple in their breakfast.
A boiled egg is commonly served at hotels or hostels as a part of the breakfast.
My favorite is a fried egg in butter, ‘sunny side up,’ cooked in a small copper skillet called a sahan.
One of the most popular egg dishes served in Turkey is menemen. The dish consists of scrambled eggs, onions, red and green peppers, and tomatoes with some spices, cooked in lots of butter. Flatbread is eaten alongside menemen to soak up the juices from all the butter. It tastes similar to an omelet but juicier and spicier.
A dish commonly cooked for the Ottoman sultans and still being served today is called cilbir. Cilbir is a poached egg in yogurt and includes herb butter with chili flakes.
If you like eggs for breakfast, you won’t have a problem in Turkey!
If you are a meat lover and like it to accompany your eggs, you have several choices in Turkey. The most common is called sucuk, a sausage made from ground beef, garlic, and other spices such as sumac, cumin, and red pepper. Sucuk is like dried salami. Also eaten with eggs is a type of cured beef with a thick layer of spices called pastrami.
Egg and Sucuk
To help create a healthy balance from all the rich foods served at a Turkish breakfast, adding a side dish of cucumbers and tomatoes helps refresh your palate. I find this true as I like eating fresh raw veggies alongside a fried egg and cheese. Other vegetables you may find on the table are shallots and radishes. The light, crispy crunch compliments other dishes on the table.
Nuts and Dried Fruit
Living in the Anatolia region of Turkey, walnuts are commonly served as a part of their breakfast. Depending on where you are in Turkey, you may be served different nuts or seeds for breakfast. If you are in the Black Sea region, you may have hazelnuts, or in Afyon, you will be served poppy seeds. Traveling throughout Turkey is fun because each region prides itself on its dishes, and so you get to experience unique flavors.
Dried fruits usually include dates, apricots, and figs, which are all my favorites. Eating these with kaymak (sweet cream) is so delicious!
Green & Black Olives
Olives are an essential part of the menu in Turkey. Almost every meal of the day will include olives. On the breakfast table, you will find an assortment of green and black olives. My husband always likes to finish his breakfast meal with a few olives and a piece of bread. Turkey has such a wide variety of olives… of all colors and sizes and taste slightly different.
Honey, Butter & Jam
The beauty of Turkish breakfast is that you will always have something savory or sweet to enjoy. Along with a mixture of bread and cheeses, you will also be served an assortment of butter, jams, and honey. If you like Nutella spread, you won’t be disappointed as you can find these smooth, rich spreads easily in Turkey. Believe it or not, you will also find different flavors of honey based on the flower/tree pollen in that region you are visiting.
What I love about Turkey is that the condiments are all-natural with no preservatives and have such a rich flavor. This is not the time to be shy! Try them all…
Finally, Turkish Coffee
At this point, you are probably so full you can hardly breathe, but a Turkish breakfast wouldn’t be complete without a Turkish coffee. I guarantee Turkish coffee will give you a spike of energy you didn’t know you needed after such an elaborate breakfast!
Turkish coffee is an extra-finely ground coffee. Using a Turkish coffee pot called a “cezve,” add 3-4 oz of water (depending on pot) and 1-2 heaping teaspoons of coffee in the pot. Do not stir. Bring to a rolling bubble but not boil as coffee sinks in water stir. After it has cooked for about 3-4 minutes, turn off the heat and let it steep for a few minutes. Ready to serve. You will notice coffee grinds in the bottom of the cup (do not drink them). Coffee will be dark and intense!
Experiencing a Turkish breakfast is something you will never forget. I love this meal because everything is served in small dishes so that you get to have a sample of everything. You never feel like you get too much of one item on the menu. Give yourself at least two hours to enjoy this meal as it is meant to be an experience!
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