Yoghurt is an integral part of Turkish cuisine. Visitors are often astounded at just how prevalent it is, from breakfast, lunch and dinner, hot or cold, the love is strong. Here is a list of the tastiest yoghurt based dishes for you to try.
Ayran is everywhere in Turkey! You’ll scarcely be able to go anywhere without seeing this frothy beverage enjoyed by all one and all. Loved in part for its health benefits - it’s an excellent probiotic, high in protein and calcium - ayran is said to cure just about everything: sunburn, indigestion, hangovers, sunstroke, you name it. But what is it?
Ayran is a yoghurt based drink made by diluting yoghurt with water and adding salt. When mixed just so, it develops a light froth and is a creamy yet light and refreshing beverage. In the summertime it’s not unusual to see ayran with fresh mint. This variation brings out the sweet-salty flavour combination loved across the globe and creates a delicious, refreshing drink. Try it with rice, meat, kebab, cig kofte, tantuni, pide, borek - the list is endless!
Cacik in Turkey is more often served as a chilled soup. Cacik is available year round, but is especially refreshing and delightful in the summertime, when it is often served over ice. Made with diluted yoghurt, finely diced or grated cucumbers, minced garlic and bunches of chopped fresh mint, the consistency may be thinner like a chilled soup or thicker like a creamy drink, according to the chefs wishes. Cacik can be a snack, thirst quencher or soup-like appetizer, the choice is up to you!
Moving on from drinks and chilled soups, let’s turn our attention to mezes. For those that don’t know, Mezes are small plates that are often yoghurt or olive oil based. Meyhanes are Turkish taverns where food and drink are enjoyed with friends over many hours. There are a variety of cold meze dishes, shared in the middle of the table, before the main courses arrive.
Haydari is a dish you’ll see in most meyhanes (taverns) in Turkey. It’s a favourite for most enjoying delicious mezes(Turkish tapas). Haydari is a thick yoghurt dish seasoned with garlic, mint and dill. Best served with crunchy bread, you’ll find it throughout every season. Haydari is a delicious start to a meyhane night, as an accompaniment to meat and kebab dishes or on its own. Afiyet olsun!
Atom is, as the name suggests, an atomic flavour-taste sensation. Rich creamy yoghurt is the base of this dish but the star is the firey red chili peppers seared in butter. Like all chili dishes, the heat level depends on the type of chilis used and how much you can tolerate. To be on the safe side we recommend dipping some bread into the dish and scooping up some of the delicious red butter with a healthy heaping of yoghurt and proceed from there. Atom is one of those mezes that is so simple, yet so delicious and will certainly have you coming back for more.
Purslane With Strained Yogurt and Garlic
Purslane (Semizotu) is common in many middle-eastern and Turkish dishes, though it’s not well known in other parts of the world. Often considered a weed, purslane is high in vitamin C and Omega-3 fatty acids. It has an earthy flavour and a delicious crunch. This dish combines the leafy green with thick, garlicky yoghurt. Semizotu is a common meze dish, served in most meyhanes and found year round.
Carrot Salad with Garlic Yoghurt
This dish has it all; crunchy carrots, flavourful garlic and creamy, salty yoghurt. The sweetness of the carrots is balanced by the salt and cream of the yoghurt, while the garlic adds an extra kick of flavour.
Eggplant and Yoghurt Salad
Eggplant and yoghurt salad is one of Turkey's meze staples. You will rarely find a local who’ll pass on this delicious meze dish, and you will rarely find a tavern or grill that doesn’t serve it. No matter what you call them, lovers of eggplant will enjoy Turkey's treatment of this meaty vegetable. For something that is typically eaten hastily, this dish actually takes some time and love to prepare. Eggplants are either smoked over coals (the traditional way) or cooked in the oven at a low heat, before the skin is taken off and they are mashed with garlic, oil salt and then covered in thick creamy yoghurt. The garlicky eggplant and yoghurt salad is then often drizzled with a blended tomato sauce, for an extra kick of that famously fresh Turkish produce. Highly recommended as a side dish, a meze or to enjoy on its own. Which will you choose?
Cilbir (Chil-bir) combines two of Turkey’s great loves: eggs and yoghurt. This dish dates back to Ottoman times and is still incredibly popular because of it’s delicious taste, creamy consistency and the widespread availability of its core ingredients. Cilbir makes an excellent brunch-lunch dish, you'll also notice many Turks whip this up at home for an easy, nutritious meal.
The best Cilbir will feature perfectly poached eggs sitting pretty on a base of whisked garlic yoghurt and drizzled with a delicious red pepper butter sauce. Served with crusty bread and traditional Turkish seasonings of mint, mild red pepper, oregano and of course, salt and pepper. Çilbir will leave you feeling content, full and ready for more exploring.
Hailing from the northern, Black Sea region, yoghurt soup is also known as yayla (plateau) soup, named after the mountain meadows of the region. For those of you used to having your yoghurt cold in some form or another, yoghurt soup can be a bit of an odd concept to get your head around, yet this soup is comforting, light in taste and recommended for those in need of nourishment. Made with yoghurt, rice and flavoured with a light dusting of mint, this soup is creamy, delicious and easily found across Turkey in restaurants and cafes.