Turkish desserts are quite unique and exotic in their flavors, although when many people think of exotic, they think of the Caribbean islands or far-off Asian destinations. Baklava is not the only sweet dish the region is known for; in fact, it's not nearly as popular as many other Turkish delights. Bursting with flavors that vary from fruity to luxurious and syrupy sweet, there's truly nothing quite like having the pleasure of a spread of Turkish desserts laid out in front of you.
Each one is rooted in Turkish history and has an origin that's as unique to the dish itself as each Turkish landmark is to the country. Turkish desserts are also light, making them easy to eat multiples of in one serving... and trust us, once you try them, you'll understand why it's so tough to eat only one!
One of the most beginner-friendly desserts, so to speak, according to Property Turkey is firinda sutlac. This dish can be described simply as a version of rice pudding but without all the sugar that's typically used in the western version of the dish. Additionally, it's a common dessert that's made for family gatherings and social dinners, making it popular in restaurants, supermarkets, and at home. The pudding is also cooked in a clay pot which also gives it a distinct baked flavor and texture, with the perfect amount of golden-brown skin on top.
In a surprising twist, this dessert is actually made with a base of chicken - but don't let that throw you off! Tavuk gogsu is a traditional sweet dish that combines pulverized chicken with binders such as milk and sugar to create a jelly-like treat that's delicious, sweet, and slightly spiced due to the sprinkling of cinnamon that gets dusted atop it. The texture of the dessert is slightly chewy which gives the dish an interesting mouthfeel, as well. It's commonly found in coffee shops and goes well with a cup of Turkish coffee.
Originating in Palestine, kunefe is very similar to another dish, kadayif, but with the addition of soft cheese. It's surprisingly simple to baklava but with a center that's chewy in texture and full of sweet syrup with a nutty flavor. The top of this unique dessert is crispy and crunchy which contrasts greatly with its filling, and it doesn't stop there - the whole thing gets topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream just before serving. It is very sweet but it's one of the most delicious sweet treats you'll ever try in the region.
Also known as 'burnt pudding,' the actual 'burnt' part of this pudding comes from the caramelized sugar on the bottom of it, similar to the caramelized sugar that acts as the 'burnt' part of a creme brulee. The reason this dessert is so good is thanks to its contrast in textures - the bottom, which becomes the top, is golden-brown and slightly crispy, while the inside is incredibly chewy and pudding-like. The flavor of kazandibi is similar to sweet cream, making it the perfect dish to eat when the weather is warm.
Lokum is also called Turkish Delight in other parts of the world, and this includes a wide range of treats similar to candy or lollies in other countries. While each Turkish Delight varies in size, flavor, and appearance, they all have the same gummy-like consistency and sweetness. These are often served with coffee as a means to cut through the robustness of a cup of Turkish coffee, but they can be eaten on their own, as well. Most people visiting Istanbul will find these in souvenir shops as they've become quite popular around the world. If you're visiting the country, these are a must-try.
Another candy that's loved far and wide is helva. This confection takes quite a bit of effort to make from scratch so for those wanting to try it for the first time, it's best to find it already made. This sliceable candy-like dessert is usually given between neighbors and friends whether it be in memory of a loved one's passing or on the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Helva comes in a variety of flavors but the most popular is the traditional, plain flavor, which uses crushed sesame seeds as the base for its ingredients. Those wanting to try this unique sweet can find it in supermarkets as well as confection shops.