In Turkish cuisine, yogurt is an essential and distinctive element found in many dishes like cacik, haydari, and cilibir. It’s also used as a main ingredient in some soups and mezes, as well as in dressings for salad.
Yogurt is known around the world and made from cow or sheep’s milk, with the addition of live bacteria, taking about a day to transform to this lush creation while also offering many health benefits.
When trying new Turkish cuisines, it doesn’t hurt to try some healthy ones which are both not only delicious but are big local favorites too.
In Istanbul, yogurt can be served at all meals, breakfast, lunch, dinner, as an accompanying dish, or included in the main entre. It is often a blended ingredient in preparing pastries, cakes, and many soups.
Whether served hot or cold, visitors are often amazed at how much the Turks love their yogurt. It’s a culinary staple, so much so, that you’ll even find some drinks like ayran made up entirely of yogurt.
Top Turkish Yogurt Cuisine
A combination of two foods that Turks love to eat, yogurt, and eggs. This is an ancient dish but is popular in modern times as well. Ingredients are simple to come by and it makes a wonderfully tasty and nutritious Turkish breakfast, brunch, or lunch.
This dish involves flawlessly poached eggs that are placed on yogurt with garlic blended in finishing with a drizzling of butter sauce with added red pepper. It can also be offered with oregano, salt and pepper, mint, and a hint of light red pepper and served with crunchy bread on the side.
2. Yayla Corbasi
This is a classic Turkish soup from the north region of the Black Sea. This soup is not served cold like others but warm and is most comforting. The name for this soup is yayla corbasi, named after the meadow mountains of the Black Sea region.
It is a blend of rice and yogurt and has a light mint flavor. It is an excellent tonic for colds with its soothing qualities and has also been given to patients in Turkish hospitals who have undergone operations. It is a wonderfully, nourishing, feel-good, velvety soup.
3. Atom Meze
Another popular meze that contains peppers which are the hottest of Turkish cuisine. This appetizer is made with strained creamy yogurt, red blazing hot chili peppers, which are seared in sizzling butter and poured over the yogurt. It is the peppers that achieve the atom effect.
This is a starter dish served with toasted pita or bread. To lessen the heat, dip bread in a healthy amount of yogurt first and then some of the buttery chilis, sparingly. If you are not a fan of spicy, hot dishes, ask your chef if they can prepare atom with some fresh sweet Turkish peppers instead.
4. Tepsi Mantisi
When you use an English oven to translate Tepsi Mantisi, it comes out as Tray Dumplings. In some regions of Turkey, it’s also known as Kayik Mantisi, or Boat Dumplings due to it floating good looks. Tepsi Mantisi is also very similar Kayseri Mantisi, but instead of being boiled on a stove, the dumplings are baked to perfection in an oven.
The outer dough is made of whole wheat flour, eggs, water and a splash of salt, and the inside is filled with ground beef, onion, parsley, and a pinch of ground pepper. The meat sauce is made from tomato paste, butter, and paprika. Then the topping is big dollop of yogurt mixed with garlic gloves, with an option of mint and sumac to add extra flavor.
5. Eggplant Salad
This dish is another meze that is served at almost every grill or tavern. Even though it won’t take long for friends to devour this yummy appetizer, it takes some lengthy preparation and a whole lot of love on the chef’s part.
Before removing the skin, eggplant is either cooked slowly in the oven or over coals, which is the traditional way. The skin is then removed and the eggplant mashed with salt, oil, and garlic and then drenched in rich dense yogurt. Tomato sauce is then often poured lightly on top.
6. Purslane Salad
As known as Yogurtlu Semizotu Salatasi in Turkish, the purslane leaves are doused in a dressing of strained yogurt and minced garlic.
Being quite tasty, purslane will have the roots cut off when preparing because just the delicate leaves are used and these should be soaked and rinsed well. The leaves are very fragile, so care must be used, but they give a nice crunch to this dish.
Purslane also contains numerous health benefits, vitamins, minerals, and Omega 3 fatty acids which are so beneficial for cardiovascular health and found mostly in fish.
In Turkey, cacik can be an appetizer, snack, or side dish but is commonly offered as a soup that is served chilled. This is made with a blend of water and yogurt.
Cucumbers are then peeled, grated and mixed with crushed garlic, and stirred into the yogurt/water blend. This is salted and often a pinch of dill is added or some fresh green mint, chopped. Depending on your chef’s tastes this dish can be thicker like a creamed soup or thinner like a broth.
Haydari is a Turkish tapas or meze, which are appetizers that can be served hot or cold. This meze is a popular favorite and is served in almost all taverns or meyhanes in Turkey.
It is similar to a thick cacik but does not include cucumber as an ingredient. It contains dill, mint, garlic, and various seasonings and is served with crusty bread any time of the year. Just be careful not to fill up on too much of the delightful bread and dip or you won’t have room for your entree!
9. Carrot Salad
This dish is another nice light salad that adds the sweetness of crispy carrots, with savory yogurt while adding a one, two punch of garlic. Carrot salad with yogurt is a nice before dinner salad or can be eaten as a light lunch.
While not a dish you can eat, these cold and refreshing, yogurt-based beverages are found everywhere in Istanbul.
Also known as buttermilk, aryan is made by blending yogurt with water, and salt in just the right way that it becomes foamy and bubbly on top and tastes light and dreamy.
Sometimes ayran is carbonated and often a sprinkling of fresh mint is added to make it especially cooling, very reviving on a hot summer day. This is an excellent salty/sweet drink that is invigorating on its own, but pairs well with pide, cig kofte, kebab, tantuni, borek, meat, or rice.
Ayran, along with being delicious, contains calcium, protein, and probiotics, making it not only enjoyable but beneficial for your health. Some say it can cure hangovers, sunstroke, indigestion, and more.