Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Essential Pantry Items

Before we start making any Turkish dishes we need to know what is in the basic Turkish pantry.  I compiled a comprehensive list of what you would probably find and most of this is in my pantry as well.

Lets start with spices, Turks like their spices though not all areas indulge as much as the ones bordering the famous Silk Road as that is the route that bought them into the country.  When I lived in Istanbul one of my must go to spots was the Egyptian Bazaar ((Spice Bazaar).  It is in a beautiful old building and is always crowded with locals and tourists.  The colours, the smells, the textures and the sights are amazing.  You could probably find any spice you wanted to here.  They don't just sell spices it is also probably the best spot for buying Turkish delight, tea and coffee.

Even though this list is long to meet your most basic needs you would have to have:

chili hot and sweet
citric acid


 It is mainly used in meat dishes, köfte,  sausages, various dolmas and sweets.

It is used in baking, the making of rakı.

Arugula, Rocket Roka
It is made into salad, and also eaten with fried or grilled fish. It is frequently used as a garnish as well.

Frenk Fesleğeni
Recommended in eggplant and pepper dishes.

Bay LeafDefne
Used in various fish,meat,poultry,game dishes,kebabs and in certain pickles and preserved foods.

Black Pepper
It is used in almost any dish, and is one of the most basic ingredients in Turkish cooking.

Used for some pilavs and desserts.

Used in pastries, cakes and biscuits as well as sprinkled on drinks such as boza and salep.

Cloves Karanfil
Used to add flavor to compotes, syrups, cakes, ice creams and certain stews.

Mostly used in salads and also for garnishes.

 It is mostly used in meat dishes, köfte and in the making of sucuk.

Coriander / Cilantro Kişniş
Coriander is mostly used in syrups and liqueurs, as well as certain meat dishes. Candied coriander seeds are sometimes used in pastries. The leaves and shoots of the plant are chopped and added to soups and salads in some regions.

Curly Parsley
Frenk Maydonozu
Mainly used as a salad ingredient and in some regions as a salad itself seved with lemon wedges.

Used in pilaf, dolma fillings and certain sweets.

It is used in many salads and “olive oil” dishes.

Fennel Rezene
Used in cooked dishes and salads.

Fenugreek Çemen Otu
Used ground in pickles, soups and meat dishes.

It is mostly used in syrups, as a garnish for drinks and in the making of liqueurs.

These are used in poultry dishes and in marinades for meat.

Köfte Spice (Meatball Spice)
This is a spice mix composed of coriander, black pepper, cloves, bay leaves and wild thyme. It is mostly used in köftes.

A very similar plant to wild thyme, marjoram is used in salads as well as meat and vegetable dishes.

Used in foods ranging from soups to vegetable dishes. It is added to lamb and mutton, and is also generally used in salads.

Musk Plant / Mimulus moschatus
This herb is used in oily dishes such as goose, duck and eel, and in stews. 
NigellaÇörek Otu
It is sprinkled on çöreks, breads and certain salty cookies and crackers. It may also be used in salads.

Cevz-i Bevva, Muscat Cevizi, Hint Cevizi
Used in meat dishes as well as dolma and sarma, and in bechamel sauce and cheese dishes. 

Pine Nuts
Çam Fıstığı, Dolma Fıstığı, Dolmalık Fıstık
Used in dolma and aşure.

Poppy Seeds
Haşhaş Tohumu
Blue-black or white. It is used in baking as well as sautéed in oil and added to salads, canapés and appetizers.

Red Flake PepperPul Biber
Obtained by grinding hot red peppers. The Antep and Maraş varieties are especially prized, and are available in oiled and unoiled form. Also available in powdered form. I have seen this being made they add the oil when they grind it to make it easier.

The narrow, thick needlelike leaves of this bush are used in meat dishes and sauces. In its fresh form,

Sage is used in the Aegean and Marmara regions to make tea.

It is used in some soup and seafood soups, in pilafs and in desserts made with milk and rice. It does not dissolve in olive oil. Saffron is also used in a dessert called zerde. It grows in Western Asia and in Northern Anatolia.

Salep / Sahlep
Salep/sahlep is the name give to the tubers of orchids in the genera Orchis and Ophyris. The dried tubers are beaten into a powder, which is now ready for use. Salep grows chiefly in the Turkey’s western regions.

The seed is used in simit and other baked goods, and ground to make tahini.

This spice is made from the ground berries of a small tree which grows in Southeast Anatolia. It has a sour flavor and is used as a souring agent in kebabs and some salads. A syrup made by boiling the berries is also used in salads.

Its aromatic leaves are used in certain sauces and meat dishes as well as eggs and salads.

It is used in meat, fish and egg dishes.

It is used to add flavor to pastries and confections, cakes, ice cream, compotes and milk puddings.

White PepperBeyaz Toz Biber
Used widely.

Wild Thyme
Also known as “Greek oregano,” this herb grows throughout Anatolia, mostly in mountainous regions. It is dried and used in meat dishes, grilled meats, vegetables and fish. It is especially used in soups.

You also need bulgur and that comes in various grades  but the two most widely used ones are large and extra fine.  Large being for pilaf's and some soups and the extra fine for salads and köftes.  Yoğurt is also widely used,  For soups and to make a large range of Meze.  Rice like the bulgur comes in a range of sizes from the long grain varieties I grew up with to the broken ones that are good for making dolmas.  Sugar is consumed in large quantities with tea and coffee but it is also used for making syrups that forms part of baklava and many other lovely desserts.  Oil, once I asked my mother in law for some oil as I had run out and I needed to make the evening meal.  I thought she would at the most give me a glass and that would last me several days.  Most Turkish housewives will use a glass of oil to make any meal, they are not shy when it comes to adding it to their food.  Bread is probably the most important ingredient to any Turkish dish, Turks cannot eat food without it.  Sun dried tomato paste and sun dried chili paste.  I love this ingredient and have made it myself during summer.  It doesn't need to be refrigerated as it has been sun dried.  Most households will make about 20-25 kilos of this per year some women prefer to make a mixture of the tomato and chili but some purists like myself have to have all 3 to mix and match to our palettes.


  1. I have nearly all that in my pantry already! How much oil did your MIL give you? I would love to visit the spice bazar someday, maybe you could give me a tour?

  2. Welcome to blogger world Simcha! Thanks for sharing those useful information about Turkish spices.

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  4. Thankyou for the kind words Hulya. I will gladly give anyone a tour if they find themselves in this lovely country. My MIL gave me a 5 litre container and said that should last me the week :)