90 Turkish Food/Drink Words And Phrases

How many people do you know have eaten their way across Turkey? Probably very few. Although Turkish cuisine is incredibly rich, healthy and regional, it still remains among the lesser-known global cuisines. Familiarize yourself with these food and drink phrases, and then plan a trip to Istanbul (or to your local Turkish restaurant) to experience fresh Mediterranean cuisine at its finest. In general, Turkish food varies from region to region — and restaurants are typically classified by the type of food they serve. In the mood for fish? Then head over to a balıkcı — literally "fisherman" in Turkish. If you're craving meat, then a kebacı would be your best bet. The list includes everything from all the types of of kebap you need to know (and there are many), to ice cream and rakı, the national spirit.

A quick note on Turkish pronunciation: There are a few letters that are unique to the Turkish alphabet. The letter 'Ç' is pronounced 'ch.' The same principle applies to 'Ş', which is pronounced like 'sh'. There is only one silent letter in the alphabet, which is 'ğ.' The Turkish word for yogurt is 'yoğurt' pronounced 'yo-urt.' You will also see 'Ü' which sounds like 'ew' (as in few), and 'Ö', pronounced like 'eh'. There are also two variations of the letter 'i', the second of which looks like this: 'ı', and sound like 'euh'. Rakı, the national Turkish spirit is pronounced rak-euh.


  • Rakı: The national spirit of Turkey — an unsweetened, anise-flavored alcoholic drink
  • Ayran: A cold drink of yogurt seasoned with salt
  • Çay: Tea
  • Süt: Milk
  • Bira: Beer
  • Kahve: Turkish Coffee
  • Sade: No sugar (Turkish coffee comes either with our without sugar which you need to specify when ordering)
  • Az şekerli: A little sugar
  • Orta şekerli: A moderate amount of sugar
  • Çok şekerli: With lots of sugar
  • Kırmızı şarap: Red wine
  • Beyaz şarap: White wine
  • Su: Water
  • Maden suyu: Sparkling water
  • Meyve suyu: Fruit juice
  • Şerefe!: Cheers

Breakfast Terms

  • Kahvaltı: Breakfast
  • Menemen: Scrambled eggs with vegetables, similar to shakshuka
  • Börek: Baked pastry made with phyllo dough stuffed with meat or vegetable

  • Ispanaklı börek: Spinach börek

  • Peynirli börek: Cheese börek

  • Kıymalı börek: Ground beef börek
  • Açma: a ring-shaped savory bun
  • Poğaça: A flaky, savory pastry, served sade (plain) or peynirli (with cheese), kıymalı (minced meat) or zeytinli (black olives).
  • Beyaz peynir: Salty white cheese
  • Kaşar: A moderately fatty sheep's cheese similar to the Greek kasseri
  • Hellim: Halloumi
  • Sucuk: Dry, spicy beef sausage
  • Ekmek: Bread

Street food


  • Et: Meat
  • Kebap: Grilled meat
  • Şiş kebap: Meat grilled on a skewer
  • Iskender kebap: Döner kebab prepared from thinly cut grilled lamb basted with hot tomato sauce over pieces of pita bread, slathered with melted sheep butter and yogurt.
  • Yogurtlu kebap: Döner kebab prepared from thinly cut grilled lamb topped with yogurt
  • Adana kebap: Minced meat kebab mounted on a wide iron skewer and grilled
  • Tavuk: Chicken
  • Pirzola: Lamb chops
  • Çiğ köfte: A raw meat dish
  • Köfte: Meatballs


  • Balık: Fish
  • Lüfer: Bluefish
  • Midye dolma: Mussels stuffed with rice
  • Levrek: Seabass
  • Barbunya: Red mullet
  • Kalkan: Turbot
  • Sardalya: Sardines
  • Karides: Shrimp
  • Ahtapot: Octopus
  • Izgara: Grilled
  • Kızarmış: Fried

Menu mainstays

  • Meze: Appetizers
  • Pilav: Pilaf
  • Salata: Salad
  • Bulgur Pilavı: Bulgur pilaf
  • Mercimek corbasi: Lentil soup
  • Piyaz: White bean salad
  • Dolma: Stuffed grape leaves
  • Cacik: Tzatziki
  • Manti: Turkish ravioli filled with minced meat and topped with garlic yogurt, melted butter, dried mint, ground sumac and red pepper powder.
  • İç pilav: Rice with liver, currants, pinenuts, chestnut, cinnamon and herbs
  • Zeytinyağlı: Vegetables cooked in olive oil
  • Yoğurt: Yogurt

Types of restaurants

  • Meyhane: Tavern
  • Balıkcı: Fish restaurant
  • Kebapcı: Steakhouse
  • Ocakbaşı: Specific type of steakhouse with a large open grill
  • Lokanta: Literally translated as 'tradesmen restaurant.' No-frills eateries that are the backbone of every Turkish neighborhood.
  • Hisap: The check
  • Afiyet Olsun: "Bon appétit!"


  • Tatlı: Dessert
  • Sütlü tatlılar: Milk-based desserts
  • Kaymak: Heavy cream
  • Yufka: Paper-thin sheets of unleavened flour dough (phyllo)
  • Tavuk göğsü: Pudding made with milk and chicken (local speciality)
  • Baklava: Shredded phyllo with nuts and syrup
  • Sütlaç: Rice pudding
  • Muhallebi: Milk pudding
  • Lokum: Turkish delight
  • Maraş Dondurması: Turkish ice cream made of goat milk and salep
  • Salep: Flour made of orchids, used in ice cream or prepared as a hot drink
  • Künefe: Cheese pastry soaked in syrup
  • Kabak tatlısı: Candied butternut squash

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