How Have International Cuisines Influenced Food In Turkey?

Turkey’s rich history and diverse cultural influences have made its cuisine a melting pot of flavors and culinary traditions. From the warm spices of the Middle East to the aromatic herbs of the Mediterranean, international cuisines have played a significant role in shaping the culinary landscape of Turkey. In this article, we will explore how these diverse influences have impacted Turkish cuisine, resulting in a vibrant and delicious fusion of flavors that attracts food enthusiasts from around the world. So get ready to embark on a mouthwatering journey as we uncover the fascinating ways international cuisines have influenced the food in Turkey.


Overview of Turkish cuisine

Turkish cuisine is known for its rich and diverse flavors, blending influences from various cultures and regions throughout history. The cuisine reflects the country’s unique geographical location, as Turkey serves as a bridge between Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Turkish cuisine is characterized by its use of fresh ingredients, aromatic spices, and expertly prepared dishes.

Definition of international cuisine

International cuisine refers to the food from different countries and cultures around the world. It encompasses a wide range of flavors, cooking techniques, and ingredients. International cuisine is a reflection of the global exchange of culinary traditions, as countries and cultures influence each other’s food through migration, trade, and colonization.

Background of international influences on Turkish cuisine

Throughout history, Turkish cuisine has been influenced by a variety of international cultures and regions. The culinary traditions of the Ottoman Empire, Arab and Persian influences, the Silk Road, European cuisine, Middle Eastern flavors, Mediterranean dishes, Central Asian and Turkic tribes, Asian spices, North African spices, and American fast food culture have all left their mark on Turkish cuisine.

Historical Influences

Influence of Ottoman Empire cuisine

The Ottoman Empire had a profound impact on Turkish cuisine. The empire’s extensive territory included diverse regions, each with their unique culinary traditions. The Ottomans incorporated these diverse influences into their own cuisine, resulting in a rich and eclectic culinary heritage. The Ottoman Empire introduced a wide range of ingredients, spices, and cooking techniques, which still form the foundation of Turkish cuisine today.

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Impact of Arab and Persian influences

Arab and Persian influences on Turkish cuisine can be traced back to the Islamic conquests of the Middle Ages. These influences brought an array of new flavors and ingredients, such as saffron, almonds, and pistachios. Arab and Persian culinary techniques, such as the use of spices, slow cooking methods, and intricate preparations, also influenced Turkish cuisine, giving it complex and aromatic flavors.

Contribution of the Silk Road

The Silk Road, an ancient trade route connecting Asia and Europe, played a crucial role in the exchange of goods, including spices, herbs, and culinary traditions. Turkish cuisine was greatly influenced by the vast array of ingredients and flavors that traveled along the Silk Road. Spices like cinnamon, cloves, and ginger were introduced to Turkish cuisine, adding depth and complexity to dishes.

European Influences

Introduction of potatoes and tomatoes

European influences on Turkish cuisine took hold during the Ottoman Empire’s expansion into Europe. The introduction of ingredients such as potatoes and tomatoes revolutionized Turkish cooking. Potatoes became a staple in dishes like “patatesli kofte,” while tomatoes found their way into sauces, stews, and salads. These ingredients brought new flavors and textures to Turkish cuisine and continue to be widely used today.

Influence of French culinary techniques

During the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire experienced a period of modernization, including the adoption of French culinary techniques. The French influence on Turkish cuisine can be seen in the refinement of cooking methods, the emphasis on presentation, and the use of sauces and stocks. French-inspired dishes, such as “mille-feuille” and “quiche,” were incorporated into Turkish cuisine, showcasing the fusion of French and Turkish flavors.

Adoption of coffee culture

The European influence on Turkish cuisine extended to the adoption of coffee culture. Coffeehouses, a notable feature of European culture, became popular in Istanbul and other major Turkish cities. Coffee quickly became a beloved beverage, and the art of Turkish coffee-making became deeply ingrained in Turkish culture. Today, enjoying a cup of rich and aromatic Turkish coffee is an essential part of the Turkish culinary experience.

Middle Eastern Influences

Arab and Lebanese influences on kebabs and mezes

The influence of Arab and Lebanese cuisines on Turkish cuisine is evident in the popularity of kebabs and mezes. Kebabs, succulent skewered meats, were introduced to Turkey by Arab and Lebanese immigrants. The flavors of the Middle East are captured in dishes like “shawarma,” “shish kebab,” and “kofte,” which have become iconic Turkish specialties. Similarly, the tradition of sharing small plates, known as mezes, also stems from Middle Eastern influences.

Shawarma and its influence on Turkish street food

The introduction of shawarma to Turkish street food culture has made it a beloved and widely available delicacy. The influence of the Levantine dish can be seen in Turkish dishes like “döner kebab,” where succulent layers of marinated meat are slowly roasted on a vertical spit. Turkish döner kebab has become a global sensation and has found its way into fast-food establishments worldwide.

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Influence of Iranian cuisine on Turkish pastries

Iranian cuisine has long been intertwined with Turkish cuisine through cultural and historical connections. The influence of Iranian cuisine can be seen in the exquisite and delicate pastries of Turkey. Pastries like “baklava” and “sütlaç” are made using techniques and flavors inspired by Persian cuisine. The use of rosewater, saffron, and nuts in Turkish pastries can be traced back to Iranian culinary traditions.

Mediterranean Influences

Greek influence on Turkish cuisine

Turkey shares a lengthy history and a cultural exchange with Greece, and the influence of Greek cuisine on Turkish cuisine is significant. The flavors and ingredients of the Mediterranean region have profoundly impacted Turkish cooking. Greek-inspired dishes such as “dolma” and “tzatziki” have become staples of Turkish cuisine. The abundance of fresh seafood and olive oil is also a testament to Greek influence.

Italian influences on Turkish pasta and pizza

Italy’s proximity and historical connections with Turkey have resulted in Italian influences on Turkish pasta and pizza dishes. Turkish pasta, known as “makarna,” is often served in a rich tomato sauce and topped with various ingredients, much like Italian pasta dishes. Pizza, or “pide” in Turkish, also showcases Italian influence, with toppings like cheese, meats, and vegetables.

Spanish and Portuguese influences on seafood dishes

Turkey’s coastal regions have been influenced by Spanish and Portuguese culinary traditions, particularly when it comes to seafood. The coastal towns of Turkey have embraced the flavors of the Mediterranean, with dishes like “grilled fish” and “seafood paella” showcasing this influence. The use of olive oil, garlic, and citrus in seafood preparations is reminiscent of these Southern European cuisines.

Central Asian and Turkic Influences

Influence of nomadic tribes on meat-based dishes

Central Asian influences on Turkish cuisine can be traced back to the nomadic tribes that once traversed the region. Meat-based dishes like “kebabs” and “manti” showcase the influence of these nomadic traditions. The rich flavors and tender textures of Turkish kebabs, typically made from lamb or beef, are reminiscent of the hearty and robust dishes favored by Central Asian tribes.

Introduction of pilaf and rice-based dishes

Rice is a staple in Turkish cuisine, and its introduction can be attributed to the Turkic tribes that migrated to Anatolia. Pilaf, a rice dish cooked in broth, was brought to Turkey by these tribes and has become a beloved part of Turkish cuisine. Turkish pilaf is often flavored with aromatic spices like cinnamon and cumin, reflecting the influence of Central Asian cooking techniques.

Influence of Turkic tribes on traditional Turkish flavors

The Turkic tribes that settled in Anatolia had a significant impact on the flavors of Turkish cuisine. Garlic, yogurt, and cumin, commonly used in Turkish cooking, can be traced back to the culinary traditions of these nomadic tribes. Traditional Turkish dishes like “yogurtlu kebab” and “bulgur pilaf” are a testament to the fusion of Turkic and Middle Eastern flavors.

Asian Influences

Introduction of spices and flavors from the Silk Road

Asian influences on Turkish cuisine are vast, largely due to the exchange of spices and flavors along the ancient Silk Road. Spices like ginger, cloves, and turmeric were introduced to Turkish cuisine, adding depth and complexity to dishes. Asian flavors can be found in traditional Turkish dishes, such as “corba” (a spicy soup) and “pilaf” (rice dish), showcasing the influence of Asian culinary traditions.

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Influence of Chinese cuisine on Turkish stir-fries

Chinese cuisine has also influenced Turkish cuisine, particularly in the realm of stir-fried dishes. The technique of quick cooking over high heat, characteristic of Chinese stir-fries, has been embraced in Turkish cooking. Turkish stir-fried dishes often feature an array of fresh vegetables, meats, and flavorful sauces, reminiscent of Chinese stir-fry preparations.

Japanese influence on Turkish sushi and seafood dishes

Japanese cuisine has gained popularity worldwide, and Turkish cuisine is no exception. Sushi, a staple of Japanese cuisine, has found its way into Turkish cuisine. Turkish sushi, known as “maki,” features a variety of ingredients rolled in rice and seaweed. Additionally, the Japanese emphasis on fresh seafood has influenced Turkish seafood dishes, resulting in the incorporation of raw and marinated fish in Turkish cuisine.

North African Influences

Influence of Moroccan cuisine on Turkish tagines

North African influence on Turkish cuisine can be attributed to the close historical and cultural ties between the two regions. Moroccan cuisine, particularly the use of aromatic spices, has influenced Turkish tagines. Tagine dishes in Turkey feature a variety of meats, vegetables, and fruits cooked together with fragrant spices, creating a harmonious blend of North African and Turkish flavors.

Introduction of couscous and North African spices

The introduction of couscous to Turkish cuisine is another example of North African influence. Couscous, made from durum wheat semolina, is a beloved staple in Turkey, particularly in dishes like “keskek” and “iskender kebab.” North African spices, like cumin and coriander, are also featured in Turkish cuisine, adding warmth and depth of flavor to various dishes.

Influence of Egyptian cuisine on Turkish street food

Egyptian cuisine has influenced Turkish street food culture, particularly in popular snacks and street food items. One notable example is “koshari,” an Egyptian street food dish consisting of rice, lentils, pasta, and topped with a flavorful tomato sauce and fried onions. Turkish street food vendors have embraced this dish, adapting it to include local ingredients and flavors.

Americas Influences

Introduction of chili peppers and spices

The Americas have left their mark on Turkish cuisine through the introduction of chili peppers and spices. Prior to the Columbian Exchange, Turkish cuisine was not characterized by spicy flavors. With the arrival of chili peppers from the Americas, dishes like “acili ezme” (spicy tomato and pepper dip) and “adana kebab” (spicy skewered meat) have become iconic and reflect the fusion of Turkish and American flavors.

Influence of American fast food culture

American fast food culture has had a significant impact on Turkish cuisine, particularly in urban areas. The influence of American fast-food chains can be seen in the popularity of burgers, pizzas, and fried chicken in Turkey. Turkish adaptations of these fast-food favorites often incorporate local ingredients, resulting in a unique fusion of American and Turkish flavors.

Adoption of international desserts like cheesecake and brownies

Turkish cuisine has enthusiastically embraced international desserts like cheesecake and brownies. These treats, considered foreign at one point, have become popular and widely available in Turkey. Turkish adaptations of these desserts often feature traditional flavors and ingredients like pistachios or Turkish delight, adding a distinctive twist to these international sweets.


Turkish cuisine is a testament to the wide range of international influences it has embraced throughout history. From the culinary traditions of the Ottoman Empire to European, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Central Asian, Asian, North African, and American flavors, Turkish cuisine is a melting pot of diverse and unique flavors. The evolving nature of Turkish cuisine continues to be shaped by international influences, resulting in a vibrant fusion of flavors that is both distinctively Turkish and globally appreciated.