Istanbul is a delicious destination for sweet-toothed travelers looking to embark on a pastry pilgrimage. Turkish culture takes its desserts seriously — every patisserie, candy shop and café has a signature treat.
Here are five classic Turkish treats and where to find them.
Turkish Afternoon Tea
Try a Turkish-style afternoon tea at Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, a striking neoclassical building in the city’s historic quarter. This heritage hotel was recently renovated but retains an Ottoman-era ambiance that comes to life for afternoon tea.
La Pistache, the Four Seasons’ haute patisserie, creates local and European delicacies using the finest locally sourced ingredients. The unforgettable spread is accentuated with local jams, tasty cheeses and a bevy of traditional flavors, such as pistachio and rose. La Pistache’s other specialties, fine truffles and chocolates, also make an appearance.
Sutlaç, the Turkish version of a rice pudding, is a beloved milky dessert typically cooked at home. But you’ll find Istanbul’s finest interpretation of it at the Five-Star Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul. Here, the dish is prepared with spices and mastic gum, adding a unique flavor. Gazebo Lounge serves the sutlaç scorched on stunning Karaca porcelain dishes made of real pearl with the hotel’s signature peacock motif. It’s an elegant dessert worthy of a sultan in an Ottoman palace (the hotel formerly was one).
There are many fantastic places to find this Turkish favorite made of a flaky, layered pastry with honey and nuts. One sublime spot is Five-Star Mandarin Oriental Bosphorus, Istanbul’s Cake Shop. While piles of colorful, custom-made cakes and chocolate adorn the marble counters, the several types of baklava will entice you most. Have the shop luxuriously wrap your treat to take home or enjoy a few bites on the premises with a stunning view of the Bosphorus as your sweet backdrop.
Baklava pairs wonderfully with tea, so make sure to have a cup of rose, mango, mint or one of Mandarin Oriental’s other vibrant flavors.
It may sound unusual to the Western palate, but one of the favorite desserts of the sultans in Old Istanbul features chicken. Tavuk göğsü uses shredded poultry for texture to create a cinnamon-flavored, pudding-like dish. This exquisite treat offers a taste of Istanbul’s history. And Emirgan Sütiş, one of Turkey’s most famous dessert shops specializing in a host of dairy-based desserts, is a great place to try it.
The delicious jelly confection known worldwide as Turkish delight is rolled in powdered sugar and flavored with rose, orange and other fruits. The colorful, jewel-like lokum tastes as beautiful as it looks and can be found in almost any café or sweet shop. Many places even serve a complimentary square with Turkish coffee.