Popular Turkish Desserts: 17 Desserts You Simply Can’t Miss (2023)

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Want to know which Turkish desserts you should try on your trip to Turkey? Let me share my favorites!

If you have a sweet tooth and you’re headed to Turkey, this post on Turkish desserts is the perfect one for you!

Turkey is known for some amazing desserts and regardless of what you typically eat, there is one here that is sure to fit within your palette!

The problem may be that there are too many to try!

After personally trying nearly all of these in my time in Turkey I have found that some are too sweet for me, a couple have become favorites and others still that I’m not a fan of.

There are even a couple of healthier options if you’re into that as well!

I know it can be overwhelming to figure out what to try. I hope that as you read through these 17 delicious desserts you’ll have a better idea of which to try.

Or you can try all of them!

Regardless, you will find them to be the sweet treat you didn’t even know you were looking for!

17 Best Turkish Desserts and Sweets to Try

While each one is great on its own, there are some, like Turkish baklava or sütlaç, that seem especially delightful with a cup of strong Turkish coffee or a glass of tea.

There are some desserts classified as sütlü, which simply means “with milk” or “milky.” They are definitely some of my favorites.

Check out the best food tours in Istanbul

1. Aşure (Noah’s Ark Pudding)

Asure or Noah's Ark Pudding in a metal tray at sunset

This Turkish dessert is especially popular during Muharram, the Islamic calendar’s first month. Being it’s a lunar calendar, it changes every year.

Given it is believed that Noah’s Ark landed on Mt. Ararat, this is a popular dish believed to have originated from the pudding made by Noah.

Basically, it is believed he made a pudding from the grains, dried fruits, and nuts that were left on the boat.

The interesting thing about this dessert is that it is different depending on who makes it.

It’s usually made with whatever is around. If you have hazelnuts, add those in. If you don’t have raisins but do have cranberries, there you go.

So if you have had it once, you may try it again and see if you like it better the next time.

2. Kabak Tatlısı (Turkish pumpkin Dessert)

Turkish Dessert - Candied Pumpkin

This Turkish dessert has a surprisingly large amount of sugar as it is what is used to soften the hard flesh of the pumpkin.

It is pretty easy to make. Here is a pretty easy recipe to follow.

It is often paired with whipped cream and or walnuts for an even better flavor.

3. Dondurma (Turkish Ice cream)

Turkish Dessert - Ice Cream

Turkish ice cream is often described as elastic. This is because it is a special ice cream that is made with salep powder.

This powder is also used in a famous Turkish drink called Sahlep.

Sahlep is a product made from the bulbs of orchids, adding an elastic texture. It makes it chewier and sticker than many normal ice creams. Definitely something worth trying!

This Turkish dessert can be found year-round in tourist areas.

4. Lokma (donut holes)

street food - lokma in a plastic container with a toothpick to eat it.

I simply love lokma when it is fresh.

I have only eaten it a handful of times in the 2.5 years I have lived here because it is so sweet but the flavor is absolutely amazing!

It is a Turkish street food that is completely worth a try.

They essentially are fried doughnut holes that are sweetened with a sugar syrup.

There will often be options such as ground pistachios or shredded coconut to put on top though I am a fan of the “sade” plain ones.

These are special from the other Turkish desserts also because you will often see a lokma truck on the side of the road giving out free lokma (though you can get a serving on the street for 10-20 ₺).

There are a couple of reasons.

  1. Someone died and they are honoring the deceased on the anniversary of their death. The custom is that one will go up and pray for the living family member and the deceased.
  2. Because Islam is a works-based religion, many will purchase a certain amount of servings and have people go serve it on the streets as a good deed. It is their way of doing a good job.

5. Halva (Sweet sesame dish)

Turkish Dessert - Helva

Helva has a very unique texture and flavor. This dry-textured Turkish dessert is made from large amounts of sugar with sesame nut butter, and tahini.

You will often see it with pistachios and other flavors mixed in. You will see this throughout Turkey and the Middle East.

Also, something to note, while it is quite sweet, it is also packed with vitamins from the tahini and when mixed with pistachios, even more nutrients.

6. Pİşmanİye (Turkish Cotton candy, kind of)

Turkish Dessert - Pismaniye

This is a fun one to eat. It is quite similar to cotton candy though different all at the same time.

For starters, cotton candy is just spun sugar. But Pişmaniye is made from flour, butter, and sugar.

You can watch this video on how it is made…have fun trying to make it yourself!

You will find it in a variety of flavors and packaged in a way that is easy to take home to friends and family who didn’t come with you.

7. Sütlaç (Turkish Rice pudding)

traditional firindan sutlac or oven rice pudding dusted with crushed peanuts

Sutlac is one of my favorites. This is Turkish rice pudding. I had a roommate in college who introduced me to rice pudding.

I loved it immediately because pudding normally has a texture that I can’t eat. But rice pudding is heavenly.

You will often see it served with a portion of peanuts that you can add or sprinkle some cinnamon on top. I highly recommend the latter as it is the best way to try.

If you have time and are feeling adventurous, I highly recommend a trip up to Hamsikoy by the black sea.

Taste it in any other region then head out there and your mind will be blown by the flavor difference.

Fall of 2021 a Turkish friend and I went on a road trip up to the Black Sea region and stopped in Hamsikoy just for the sutlaç and it was completely worth it.

The flavor is so much richer, almost like it is made with cream instead of milk.

When we asked the owner of the restaurant about it, he said it was because the cows were free-roaming and able to eat such a wider variety of plants which impacted the milk.

So so delicious!

8. Künefe (Sweet Cheese pastry)

Turkish Dessert - Kaymakli Kunefe

Kunefe is a much-loved dessert by Turkish people. I am much more picky with this one as the flavor has to be just right for me.

It is a shredded wheat type of pastry with a cheesy filling soaked in a sweet syrup.

Kunefe is definitely best if you have it kaymaklı (with cream) or with ice cream (dondurmalı). It is definitely a dessert that should be tried while in Turkey.

You can find it quite easily though most often is served at kebab restaurants.

9. Katmer (Pıstachıo pancake)

A traditional Katmer dessert with ground pistachios on top

Next is my favorite Turkish dessert: katmer. This dish is native to Gaziantep. The picture above is Gül Katmer, or rose katmer because of the shape.

It is more often found in a square shape and cut into 4 sections.

This is a crisp phyllo dough stuffed with ground pistachios and clotted cream/cheese-type filling. My favorite is when it is served with ice cream or kaymak (unsweetened clotted cream).

Because pistachios increase energy levels and reduce morning fatigue, this is often eaten for breakfast by locals in Gaziantep.

The flavor of this dessert is so incredibly lovely. Enjoy! This post on the 7 Regions has lots of other regional food recommendations.

A tray of three different baklava and a turkish tea. Pistachio baklava, Tratitional Turkish Baklava, and Chocolate Baklava

10. Baklava (Flaky Sweet Pastry)

Sink your teeth into a world-renowned masterpiece of Turkish cuisine—Baklava.

This dessert, graces tables during festive occasions and everyday moments alike.

It consists of layers of paper-thin pastry dough with a medley of finely chopped nuts (pistachios or walnuts are quite common).

Then it is delicately baked and bathed in a fragrant honey or syrup.

When it is well done, baklava has a crispy exterior, an irresistibly nutty core, and the perfect amount of sweetness.

In my opinion, it is often too sweet but there are some that are less sweet than others. You can always add kaymak to it to cut the sweet also.

Each golden layer whispers of a timeless tradition, a dance of textures and flavors that will awaken your senses.  

Also, the photo above has a chocolate baklava. That was so much better than I anticipated it to be. While it isn’t traditional, it’s worth trying!

bombaci in Fatih the best place to get a bomba

11. Bomba (Nutella Pastry)

I realize my photo above isn’t actually a picture of the dessert.

You see what happened was my local friend said this was the best place to get them from. In my haste to try it, I neglected to take a photo.

But never mind that. Prepare to be enchanted by the bomba, a modern delight that captures hearts with its rich Nutella-infused core.

While the bomba was created in Izmir, there isn’t clear information about who created it but it is a newer dessert.

It is believed to be an evolution of the Murabbalı mecidiye from the Ottoman Empire which was typically stuffed with apricot preserves.

With a name that means “bomb,” this dessert indeed detonates flavor on your taste buds.

A golden, flaky exterior envelops the velvety Nutella within, creating an explosion of chocolatey goodness.

Bomba is a dessert for the daring, a contemporary twist on Turkish pastry that bridges cultures and indulges the palate.  

kazandibi a traditional turkish dessert that is like a stiff pudding and has a flavor similar to rice pudding without the rice.

12. Kazandibi (Caramelized Milk Pudding)

In the realm of velvety pleasures, Kazandibi reigns as a caramelized milk pudding that reveals the patience and skill of the one who made it.

As the name suggests—translating to “bottom of the cauldron”—this treat is born from the golden transformation of milk and sugar.

The result?

A pudding with a dual personality: creamy beneath and caramelized above.  

I remember thinking when I first had this dessert that it tasted a lot like sütlaç to me. There is a similar flavor though quite different textures.

irmik helvasi dessert on a glass plate

13. İrmik Helvası (Turkish Semolina Halva)

İrmik Helvası has a simplicity and mild sweetness to it. It is perfect for the one who wants something sweet but not too sweet.

It is made with semolina flour (think cream of wheat), butter, and sugar playing harmoniously in each bite.

This dessert, served on special occasions and cherished everyday moments, is a testament to the power of basic ingredients.

I remember the first time my Turkish roommate taught me how to make this. As we made it I couldn’t help but feel like I was making a drier cream of wheat.

We added nuts and just enough sugar to make it sweet but not sweet like many of the syrup-drizzled desserts across Turkey.

Definitely recommend trying this one traditional Turkish dessert.

14. Acıbadem Kurabiyesi (Turkish Almond Cookie)

Elevate your sweet journey with Acıbadem Kurabiyesi, these delicate Turkish almond cookies that are known for their subtlety and finesse.

Ground almonds along side a touch of sugar and a bit of butter, create mildly sweet cookie that pairs perfectly with your afternoon Turkish tea.

These cookies are quite delicious despite their simplicity.

15. Sütlü Nuriye (Milky Baklava)

Sütlü Nuriye is a variation of the beloved Baklava.

How you might ask?

Layers of buttery pastry and crushed pistachios are combined with a milk-soaked layer, creating a perfect combination of flavors and textures.

I especially love this because baklava is often too sweet for me but the milky layer cuts some of that sweetness, really making it a perfect blend of the two.

As you savor this delectable blend, take in the mingling of tradition and innovation.

It is a testament to the endless possibilities within Turkish dessert craftsmanship.  

piles of lokum or turkish delight at the grand bazaar

16. Lokum (Turkish Delight)

Discover the allure of Lokum, the famed Turkish Delight that has tantalized taste buds for centuries.

Every time I hear this name I immediately think of Edmond in “The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe.”

My second thought is to “Aplets & Cotlets” that we would get when we would visit my grandma in Washington.

Having the real thing in Turkey was absolutely magical.

These confections are dusted in powdered sugar and come alive with flavors ranging from rose and lemon to pistachio and pomegranate.

A delicate chewiness (when they are fresh) gives way to a burst of flavor, transporting you to the heart of Turkish bazaars.  

17. Kemalpaşa Tatlısı (Kemalpaşa Dessert)

Indulge in the delectable charm of Kemalpaşa Tatlısı, a dessert that carries the name of a town and the essence of Turkish tradition.

This dessert, comprised of small, dumpling-like cakes soaked in syrup, offers a glimpse into the regional flavors that define Turkey’s culinary tapestry.

With a history that traces back centuries, Kemalpaşa Tatlısı is a sweet embodiment of culture and community.

These are easy to make at home and that way you can cut the sweetness of them by about half, making them even better in my opinion.

If none of those seemed healthy enough for you, my favorite healthy treat is some delicious, plump dates and walnut combo.

They are the perfect combination of sweet and nutty.

Of course, there are so many more options. Turkish delight, baklava, tulumba tatlısı, almond cookies, cakes and so much more!

I hope you enjoy eating your way through Turkey!

Are there other Delicious Turkish desserts that I didn’t list here?

Well, I will see you around. If you’re looking for other food posts, I did one on Turkish foods you should try.

Afiyet Olsun! (Turkish version of “bon appetit”)

read more:

Turkey Vacation Basics

When I plan a trip these are the websites I use. Hope they help you plan your next adventure as well!

FLIGHTS: I am a huge fan of Skyscanner and WayAway.

VISAS: You can use the free e-visa portal here but for a few extra dollars you can use iVisa and someone else will handle any issues that may come up.

E-SIM: When I traveled to SE Asia I discovered e-sims and I’m never going back. Airalo has been easy and cheap!

TRAVEL INSURANCE: I use TravelInsurance.com for my trips abroad.

CAR RENTAL: I have loved working with Discover Cars when I rent cars in country.

AIRPORT TRANSFERS: I have used these transfers many times and they are always great. If you’d like more options, I also recommend GetTransfers.com as they allow you to compare companies.

ACCOMMODATION: Find the best Turkey hotel deals on Booking.com.

CITY TOURS & DAY TRIPS: You can browse GetYourGuide’s website to find just the tour you’re looking for!

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