Classic Turkish Recipes

Posted by Sacred Elements on

As promised, sharing a few of favorite culinary staples from my family here in Southern Turkey where I live part time and where we hope to one day have a regenerative farm to grow all the ingredients for our Sacred Elements Tonics

Everything is sourced locally, handmade or both. The weekly pazar or farmer's market is a must as packaged food is rarely consumed. Instead, many dishes are crafted throughout the day and into the evenings from dried, raw and fresh ingredients. Most meals are balanced with a mountain of vegetables, grains and spices and will occasionally include meat and dairy. Most of their goods are purchased in bulk and made with leftovers in mind for later snacking.

Turkish Breakfast

Let's begin with a quick overview of what a typical Turkish breakfast looks and tastes like!

Kahvaltı (breakfast) - a truly unique experience - is a thoughtful collection of small plates, fresh bread and chai. Not a quick bowl of cereal or toast, but a hearty array of sweet and savory bites generally including scrambled eggs in butter or hard boiled eggs sliced and topped with high quality olive oil, salt, red pepper flakes, cumin and minced parsley. Black and green olives (generally home cured) are a staple, as is a small bowl of date syrup topped with tahini to dip your bread. You'll also find a plate of freshly picked veggies including sliced cucumbers, tomatoes, sweet peppers, and topped with whole sprigs of parsley and mint and often sprinkled with fresh lemon. An array of locally handmade white cheeses both aged and fresh are ever present as is a bowl of freshly harvested honey for dipping various breads. Sliced potatoes, either fried or boiled, are topped with olive oil, cumin, salt and minced parsley. And then there's my all-time favorite: olive salad! Locally or home cured green olives are sliced, pitted and topped with chopped parsley, green onion and tomato, then sprinkled generously with sumac, olive oil and lemon. Then you scoop it all up with a piece of torn bread. 

Oh, then there's the bread! Small, family owned markets are everywhere here, dappled on most street corners and throughout every neighborhood. Generally you'll pop over to one of these each morning where a glass case of freshly baked bread awaits. You grab a few various shaped loaves for breakfast that will then accompany the other meals throughout the day.

For dessert, they often serve a tray of seasonal fruits like chunks of pomegranate, orange slices, various melons like watermelon or kavun (pictured below) along with freshly roasted nuts. To drink, we enjoy dessert with chai or a glass of red wine!


How to make Turşu

Turşu is a simple, delightful snack on its own or served as side dish. We often munch on these pickled, crunchy veggies between meals or after dinner. They pair well with freshly roasted nuts and a glass of wine or chai. 

 You will need:

One large glass jar with lid to fit about 6 cups of roughly chopped vegetables.

Choose vegetables in season and good choices include carrots, beets, cauliflower and cabbage.

Chop into snack sized pieces about 2 inches long.

In a large mixing bowl, combine:

  • 1 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup of lemon juice
  • 4 tablespoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar

Mix until the salt dissolves and add 1 liter of water.

Combine all liquids and pour into jar, covering all the vegetables until submerged.

Close jar with lid to secure well.

Lay a towel on a table or countertop and turn jar onto its side. Roll gently back and forth to completely cover all vegetables and disperse the liquids evenly.

Place in a cool spot out of direct sunlight and repeat the rolling every day or so for a week. After about seven days your delicious picked vegetables are ready to enjoy! 



I'll never forget the first time tasting Ciğkofte. It was stormy winter day in Mersin and seven of us were sharing the small but comfortable apartment for the weekend. My brother in law wanted to make a special signature Turkish lunch for me. I had no idea what a beautiful and laborious process it would be! Two hours of constant kneading and mixing produced a scrumptious, fresh and hearty vegetarian meal for us all to enjoy, with leftovers for days.

I watched fascinated as he worked his hands into a mountain of raw bulgar, and slowly "cooked" it adding garlic, pepper paste, lemon, spices and occasional additions of boiling water. It was fascinating to watch this labor of love slowly become a delicious, healthy and satisfying meal! 

To make Ciğkofte you will need:

  • 2 onions
  • 1/2 lemon sliced into four pieces
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 lb fine bulgur 
  • 5-6 Tbsp isot crushed hot pepper flakes
  • 1-2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1 8 oz jar of red, hot pepper paste
  • 1 16 oz jar tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup freshly chopped green onion
-Tea pot of boiling water kept hot throughout the process.
-Process the onions in food processor or diced until very fine/minced.
-Pour dried bulgar onto a hard surface and form a mountain with a well, like a volcano (they use a cleaned kitchen countertop to do this work).
-Then into the well add onion, garlic, lemon, olive oil, cumin, isot, tomato paste and pepper paste.
-Slowly incorporate the mixture with both hands, pressing down and out and circling your hands around and over again on top of the mountain. 
-Keep rubbing all the ingredients with your palms pressing hard and pushing away then scooping it back, over and down again in a fluid motion. Once the mixture is incorporated, slowly pour a few tablespoons of boiling water over the mixture every five minutes or so to get the right consistency. Keep a bowl of cold/ice water next to you to dip your hands throughout the kneading process.
-Keep kneading for about 45 mins to an hour until the bulgur softens and becomes almost a paste.
-Scoop small chucks into your palm and squeeze gently to give the right shape as seen in the picture, about 2 inches long and 1 inch wide.
Serve with romaine lettuce leaves and lemon wedges.


Celeriac Salad

This yummy salad is a quick and easy addition to a summertime meal. Perfect as a side dish on a hot day.

You will need:

  • 2 medium-sized celeriac bulbs, shredded
  • 1 lemon, juice
  • 2 cups plain yogurt
  • 1 green apple, shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoons of salt (add more to taste
  • 1 clove of garlic, mince
  • Handful of raw or toasted walnuts

To make the salad

Grate the peeled celeriac and green apple with the coarse side of the grater the place shredded bits into a large bowl filled with water and add lemon juice. Allow to soak 10 minutes.

In another bowl, mix yogurt, salt and garlic.
Then, drain celeriac and apples and add to the yogurt mixture and blend slowly until combined.
Pour into a serving bowl and top with walnuts.
Chill in the fridge for an hour before serving for best flavor and enjoy!


Celeriac Salad with green apple, celeriac, walnut & homemade yogurt is such a treat during the warmer spring months as it's a cooling yet comforting side dish or snack. My mama (annem) here shreds, mixes and tops off this yummy dish with walnuts and love just before spooning it into my unsuspecting yet delighted mouth!  


My mother in law effortlessly crafts mouthwatering meals daily, so it's difficult to decide which to share here! I settled on one I found rather fascinating and versatile as you can use fresh chard (pazi) leaves which are available year round in most climates and you can use the stuffing for most hollowed out veggie like bell peppers, eggplant or zucchini.

You will need:

20-30 medium chard leaves

1 cup white rice

1 onion, minced

1 pinch black pepper (varies depending on your taste)
1 pinch salt (varies depending on your taste)
1 pinch dried mint leaves
1 tablespoon dried currants (optional but delicious)
1 cup water
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lemon sliced in half
-Saute onion in olive oil for 3 minutes, pour rice over and continue saute another 3 mins
-Add black pepper, salt and 1 cup water, stir over medium heat for one minute and then add mint
-Cover and simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally until rice begins to absorb the water, then remove from heat and let cool, the rice will still be firm at this point
-Create a bath of hot water and lemon juice from one lemon (or turunç) and then dip each chard leaf to soften
-With a wooden mallet smash down the vein of each chard leaf to flatten
-Next, take cooled rice mixture and fill each chard leaf with 1-2 teaspoons rice depending on the size of the leaf 
-You want to place the mixture at the bottom third of the leaf (closest to you) so you can roll away from you one time and then fold over the two sides and then continue to roll until the leaf is finished and shaped into a log about 3 inches long and one inch wide.
-Place each dolma inside a large pot, line them up side by side in a circular fashion, stacking them as you go
-Once all the leaves are rolled, slice one lemon into about 8 pieces and layer those on top of the dolmas
-Then, place a large plate face down to hold everything in place
-Pour one cup of water over the plate, cover the pot, and turn on high heat  
-Bring to a boil for ten minutes and allow to steam
-After ten minutes, remove from heat but keep covered for anther 10-20 minutes until cooled
-Enjoy with a cold bowl of yogurt sprinkled with salt and dried or fresh mint leaves


Did you know?

Here at SE we have a unique version of what we consider "merch". Not really one for t-shirt, mugs or buttons, instead we curated a beautiful array of handmade bamboo, flax and Turkish cotton peştemals. Used traditionally as a wrap, skirt, scarf and towel, these lush textiles come from support women owned shops here who craft incredibly soft, versatile textiles for our store! See them here

Food culture

Here are a few glimpses of everyday food here in Southern Turkey:

At the pazar buying fresh ingredients in bulk for the week of meals 

Homemade olives are a staple here and take about two months to cure.

Hope you enjoy and have fun trying out of few of these dishes too!

Sending out the love from my other home here in Turkey,




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