One of the places that Mike and I visited together in 2018 was Turkey. We spent a week at this amazing destination, particularly in the cities of Istanbul and Ankara. A few of the many attractions we visited and enjoyed were the ancient Hippodrome, the Yedikule Fortress, Grand Bazaar (to shop for souvenirs) and Ankara’s citadel district.
Besides the awesome cultural and tourist attractions, we fell in love with Turkish cuisine. One of the many things that set Turkey apart from the rest of the world is how their people start their mornings. They make delicious and nutritious Turkish breakfast, which Mike and I tried on the second day of our journey.
What’s a Turkish Breakfast?
Kahvalti, the Turkish word for breakfast, is more than just one dish. It’s a spread of bite-sized Turkish delicacies. It gives you the energy you need to get work done (or in our case, tour Turkey’s two amazing cities).
Turkish breakfast has tons of variety, which is good news for picky eaters, as they can choose what food items to include and leave behind on their plate.
When you visit Turkey, you may find that the breakfast served in one region may differ from another — and that’s perfectly fine. You’ll get to experience unique flavors and sample more dishes as you move around the country.
What Food and Drink Can You Find at a Traditional Turkish Breakfast?
When locals think of Kahvalti, the first drink that comes to mind is tea.
Here’s the “tea”: Turkey consumes tea more than any other country in the world. Believe it or not, the Turkish drink 6.96 pounds (3.16 kilograms) of this beverage in a year. The people here prepare black tea using a çaydanlık, a special double teapot that brews the tea leaves and boils the water. You’ll find them served in elegant fluted glass cups, which entices you to drink the tea and enjoy your meal.
Besides tea, you’ll find these food items on a traditional Turkish breakfast:
This is another important component of a Turkish breakfast. The type of bread usually served is an ekmek, a hot and freshly baked Turkish white bread with a light and fluffy interior and a crispy crust. Besides ekmek, you may find simit (sesame bread) on your breakfast plate.
Spreads and Jams
You could eat ekmek and simit by themselves — or slather them with the jam or spread of your choice. One popular option you could try is pide, a savory and salty black olive spread. If you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth in the morning, add molasses, known in Turkey as pekmez. Another sweet and familiar option is hazelnut spread — perfect for Nutella lovers.
Then, there are fruit jams. Among the classic options out there are bergamot, fig, sour cherry and apricot. What’s unique about Turkish jams is that some of them don’t have any added sugar, allowing the sweet and fruity flavors to take on the spotlight.
You’ll find a variety of white cheeses in a Turkish breakfast. Some of them include beyaz peynir (Feta cheese), lor (uncured goat cheese) and Kasseri (hard cheese made using unpasteurized sheep milk).
When served with an authentic Turkish breakfast spread, you won’t see just one cheese. Chances are you’ll find two or more of these dairy products, so don’t be afraid to sample them all, even if you’re not a cheese lover.
This Turkish breakfast food is a spicy dip made from nuts and tomato paste. It may also contain walnuts and other spices that will fire up your taste buds. If you have a hankering for spicy food, you’ll fall in love with this dip.
You’ll find this ingredient paired with sucuk, a spicy and dry beef sausage. Together, they form sucuklu yumurta, also known as eggs with sausage. The best part of this breakfast favorite is dipping the small pieces of pide into the spicy oil that’s coming from the sausage.
If you’re looking for a vegetarian option, you could menemen a shot. This scrambled egg dish consists of scallion, bell peppers, tomatoes and lots of oregano.
Turkey produces lots of olives for olive oil production. Still, you’ll find table olives when you enjoy a Turkish breakfast. The green and black olives in this country are quite flavorful.
This staple breakfast Turkish dish is a tasty combination of Kaymak, a creamy and delicious clotted cream made using milk from a cow or a water buffalo, and honey.
What makes Turkish honey different from other types of honey produced is that it’s a hundred percent pure. As a matter of fact, many locals source the honey straight from the comb. This means purchasing the whole honeycomb instead of getting the product directly from the jar. How natural can you get?
Cucumber and Tomato Salad
A healthy Turkish breakfast wouldn’t be complete without these two ingredients. Turkey uses Çengelköy, a variety that tastier than your run-of-the-mill cucumber. You’ll see this salad served with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil to elevate the flavor of this simple but mouth-watering dish.
Is Turkish Breakfast Healthy?
You bet it is.
Eating this type of breakfast is filling, refreshing, but not too heavy on the stomach. Plus, it’s quite balanced in terms of nutrition and flavor.
The healthy goodness doesn’t stop at breakfast, though. Turkish cuisine itself is healthy. The fresh herbs found in Turkey that are used to flavor dishes, such as rosemary, dill and parsley, have antioxidant properties that help boost the immune system, improve your digestion and reduce bad cholesterol.
What’s more, Turkish food has plenty of vegan and vegetarian dishes that you can eat on your own or with fish, meat or rice. When you visit Turkey, you’ll surely love the freshly prepared meals, the locally produced olive oils and the traditional and wild herbs and spices that bring out the flavors of the dishes.
Can You Prepare Turkish Breakfast at Home?
If you’re unable to visit Turkey right now, you could at least learn how to prepare a simple Turkish breakfast using whatever ingredients you have in your local market. This way, you’ll enjoy the health benefits of this breakfast and inspire you to visit this Middle Eastern country one day.
Here are a few ingredients that should appear on a simple but hearty Turkish breakfast dish:
- Black and green olives
- Sliced tomatoes, cucumbers and green peppers
- Hard-boiled eggs
- White cheese, such as feta or mozzarella
- (Optional) Cured meat like salami
- Salt and pepper (for seasoning)
- Parsley or other herbs (for garnish)
Note: This Turkish breakfast recipe isn’t set in stone. The important thing is that the dish needs to have a little bit of everything: eggs, veggies, herbs and other healthy ingredients. Express your creativity by adding more ingredients, such as freshly baked bread, or settling with a few good ones. You call the shots in this Turkish food recipe.
Once you have all the ingredients, cut the eggs in any way you like and place them in the center. Then, plate the veggies around the egg. How you arrange them is up to you. Finally, sprinkle the plate with salt, pepper and parsley. Congratulations! You’ve just made a delicious and nutritious Turkish breakfast.
Travel Bonus Guide: Visiting Istanbul in the Future? Try One of These Breakfast Joints
If Turkey happens to be on your travel bucket list, Mike and I recommend that you try an authentic Turkish breakfast at least once during your stay. If your hotel or accommodation doesn’t serve breakfast, consider hitting up these breakfast places in Istanbul:
Mesopotamian Terrace Restaurant & Café, Sultanahmet, Fatih, İstanbul
Enjoy Turkish breakfast along with a spectacular view of Hagia Sophia and the Bosphorus when you dine in this restaurant. Once you’re done, you could make your way to Istanbul’s touristy spots like the Basilica Cistern and the Blue Mosque.
Namli Gurme, Karakoy, İstanbul
This place allows you to make your personalized Turkish breakfast dish. It’s kind of like a buffet that lets you choose whatever ingredients you want.
Sabbah Kahvaltı Şarküteri, Batı Ataşehir, İstanbul
If you’re staying in Atasehir, one of the luxurious districts of Istanbul, choose Sabbah as your go-to breakfast restaurant. Although the menu items are a bit costly, the restaurant’s products are fresh. Plus, you get to make your menu here just like Namli.
When you want to start your morning right, don’t just settle for coffee, tea or fresh juice. Pair these drinks with a healthy Turkish breakfast right in the comfort of your home. Oh, and don’t forget to include Turkey in your bucket list if you’re a traveler (you won’t regret it).