Turkish breakfast isn’t just a meal, it’s an experience. Designed to be social, shared, and savored, Turkish breakfast consists of many small plates both sweet and savory, accompanied by bread and graced with çay (Turkish black tea) served in traditional tulip-shaped glass cups. This unique concept, named serpme kahvaltı, consists of small plates with different products and tastes such as a cheese platter, a tomato and cucumber platter, fresh herbs, peppers, jams, tahin-pekmez (tahini and grape molasses), butter, bal-kaymak (honey and clotted cream), different types of olives, olive oil with spices for dipping bread in, eggs - either sahanda yumurta (fried eggs) or menemen (scrambled eggs with tomato and green pepper) - a spicy red pepper paste called acuka, sucuk (spicy cured beef sausage), simit (round-shaped bread dipped in molasses and topped with sesame seeds), börek (a flaky pastry that can be filled with cheese, spinach, or meat), and other Turkish pastries.
The importance of serpme kahvaltı is to share the food, which is literally spread across the entire table, and altogether to enjoy the experience with family, friends, neighbors, loved ones, or whoever is hungry! This is a highly traditional way to enjoy breakfast for long hours. Turkish people go out on weekends to have breakfast with family and friends at popular cafés and restaurants, or go to the countryside for a rustic breakfast experience.
The breakfast usually starts with drinking a cup of Turkish tea and at the end, Turkish coffee is served to aid digestion. Turkish coffee is usually served with a lokum (Turkish delight) in the traditional way. Actually, the word “breakfast” in Turkish, namely kahvaltı, is a combination of the words “coffee” (kahve) and under or before (altı). This is because Turkish coffee is strong to drink on an empty stomach, and you need to eat something before enjoying it – thus, the word kahvaltı can be literally translated as “before-coffee.”
As breakfast takes long hours and is bountiful enough to fill you up, the other meals of the day can be skipped or a simple, light dinner might be adequate.
Thanks to its diverse fauna, rich culinary heritage, and abundant landscape, numerous breakfast options in Türkiye are enriched with local, artisanal products that can be found nowhere else. This stunning diversity actually reveals why breakfast means so much to Turkish people. Let’s discover together some of Türkiye’s most tempting regional breakfasts!
Aegean Türkiye’s Regional Breakfast
The breakfasts of Aegean Türkiye are abundant in lush greens, olives, and extra virgin olive oil. The fresh herbs and olives of the region are paired with Ezine beyaz peyniri (full-fat white cheese from the district of Ezine) or Bergama tulumu (traditional cheese mostly made of ewe's milk and aged in sheepskin sack) and boyoz, and make for an incredible meal! You can find the best tulum in Bergama District – make sure to enjoy it at breakfast alongside fresh vegetables and herbs, and a hot cup of Turkish tea! Aegean Türkiye’s breakfast also offers all kind of jams which are mostly homemade with fresh ingredients such as apricots, all kinds of berries, roses, citrus fruits, figs, quince, eggplants, pomegranates, herbs, walnuts, mastic, and even mandarin peels!
Gaziantep’s Regional Breakfast
Gaziantep, which has a worldwide reputation for its cuisine, has a very special breakfast. Beyran (a hearty soup made with rendered lamb fat that's topped with rice and shredded lamb meat) is one of the most popular and preferred breakfast dishes in the region, and is accompanied by katmer (thin phyllo dough, lots of pistachios, sugar, and butter served with clotted cream), nohut dürüm (chickpea wrap), ciğer dürüm (liver wrap), sahan kaymağı (milk cream), muhammara (roasted spicy red pepper dip with walnuts), yumurta piyazı (egg salad), and much more.
Van’s Regional Breakfast
Van’s breakfast spread is the richest in Türkiye. Van and breakfast are, in fact, synonymous in Türkiye, and Van-style breakfast restaurants have opened to fanfare in major cities like İstanbul and Ankara. The Van breakfast table is famous for its rich selection and offers a menu consisting of completely natural products. Restaurants that specialize in Van breakfasts serve regional delicacies such as the famous otlu peynir (herbed cheese), a slightly crumbly, potent cheese spiked with an herb called sirmo, locally referred to as “wild garlic.” Traditional Van çöreği (a special kind of pastry baked in stone ovens), murtuğa (eggs with flour and butter), and kavut (a very old halva recipe) are also served for breakfast, accompanied by cups of freshly brewed Turkish tea.
And while some of these establishments may be representing the city well, to truly experience the famous breakfast, you need to travel to the source!
Black Sea Türkiye’s Regional Breakfast
In each province of the Black Sea region, a typical breakfast offers different delicious and natural products. Mıhlama, also known as muhlama or kuymak, is the most renowned specialty. It is made by slowly cooking corn flour, butter, and melted kolot (also known as koleti) cheese, and resembles fondue. It is eaten by dipping pieces of fresh, crispy bread into the mixture - be careful not to get cheese on your clothes as the cheese is very stringy! Other unique regional flavors are kaygana (local omelet made using flour), turşu kavurması (fried pickles), mısır ekmeği (corn bread) and a variety of pides (flatbreads). Your breakfast in the fresh air and lush nature of the Black Sea will probably be one of the best breakfasts of your life! Also, make sure to try a slice of warm local Vakfıkebir bread with a generous dollop of local butter and the world-famous Anzer honey, produced in the high plateaus of the Black Sea that are full with wild endemic flowers.
Staples of Turkish Breakfast
A Turkish breakfast is the best way to get your day started anywhere in the world. It's filling, giving you all the energy you need, but light so you're not weighed down all day. It offers lots of variety, so the picky eaters can choose what they like. It's also vegetarian- and vegan-friendly, but still with some lovely meat products for the carnivores. In short, it can please any palate. Let's take a closer look into the staples of a typical Turkish breakfast.
Please note that regional differences are broad, with various products and tastes served in different spots across the country. The items below, however, are generally included in a standard Turkish breakfast, while different places will add a local flavor to the staples.
Turkish Tea Culture
More tea is consumed in Türkiye than any other country in the world, and it starts at breakfast. In Türkiye, black tea is much more common than any other kind of tea and çay (Turkish Black tea) is made in a teapot called çaydanlık, consisting of two parts. The bigger part is used to boil the water. A portion of that boiled water is then added to the second, smaller pot on the top, filled with spoonfuls of tea leaves. Turkish tea has a strong taste but is never bitter, and is served in beautiful fluted glass cups, adding to the aesthetics of breakfast. Although it was late to become an integral part of Turkish life, tea has a history of 5,000 years and has now become an indispensable part of Turkish culture. Turkish brewing techniques and presentation have a significant share in this success. Tea is consumed at all hours of the day and is a must at breakfast. All you need is a nice cup of Turkish tea to complete your incredible morning feast.
Tomato and Cucumber Salad
Peppers are often added, but tomatoes and cucumbers are essential to any Turkish breakfast, particularly Çengelköy cucumbers, which are smaller and tastier than normal cucumbers. Obviously, this salad is typically served with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt to bring out the flavor.
Beyaz peynir (white cheese) is an absolute must at any Turkish breakfast table, and typically there's a variety of different types of cheese at breakfast. The options are numerous: Kars kaşarı (aged kaşar cheese from Kars Province), Kars gravyeri (local gruyere from Kars Province), Van otlu peyniri (herbed cheese from Van Province), lor (low-salt, low-fat cheese curd), dil peyniri (stringy fresh milk cheese) and many more. Tulum cheese (cheese aged in goatskin casing) is popular all around Central Türkiye, and is a crumbly sharp cheese that goes wonderfully well with walnuts and freshly baked bread. Çökelek (curd cheese made from yoğurt) is excellent in pastries and is often seasoned to give in an extra bit of flavor. If it is served on its own, it’s often presented with a drizzle of olive oil and black cumin seeds. Mihaliç cheese from the Marmara region of Türkiye is the perfect choice for delicious grilled cheese sandwiches with its salty and sharp taste.
Usually both black and green olives will be served. Be prepared for delicious Turkish olives to be better and more flavorful than any you've ever had before!
You'll find some form of cooked eggs at almost every Turkish breakfast. Probably the most common egg dish is called menemen, a popular breakfast staple made of scrambled eggs, tomato, green peppers, and spices. Cheese or meat can be added - it's sweet and delicious regardless of how you have it!
If menemen doesn’t sound to your taste, boiled eggs and sucuklu yumurta, fried eggs with beef sausage called sucuk, are also very common at a Turkish breakfast table.
Bread is another critical part of Turkish breakfast. Standard Turkish white bread, called ekmek, with a crispy crust and a light fluffy inside, is always hot and freshly baked. A sesame seed-covered, round, crispy bread called simit is also present at just about every Turkish breakfast. From there, açma and poğaça breakfast rolls, often stuffed with anything from cheese to meat to olive paste, are commonly served. The bread is used to eat with the salad and to soak up any sauce from a menemen, olive oil, or some of the other tasty dips on the breakfast menu.
Bal-Kaymak (Honey and Clotted Cream)
This is a luxury at most breakfasts, but it's an absolute must. The unique clotted cream known as kaymak is rich, and Turkish honey, bal, is also famed to be amongst the best, with hundreds of different types to offer. The variety depends on the local fauna and all honey is 100% natural. In fact, honey straight off the comb is also very common in Türkiye, with locals heading to the store and buying an entire honeycomb rather than a jar.
Butter is produced from two different materials in Türkiye, cream and yoğurt. The butter produced from fresh or strained yoğurt is called yayık tereyağı (yayık butter) and has been traditionally produced in Türkiye for centuries.
This varies from region to region, but acuka is basically a spread made of tomato and/or red pepper paste, walnuts, and spices, and is part of breakfast all over the country. It's often got a bit of a kick to it, so watch out!
Jams and Marmalades
Turkish cuisine has an extraordinary jam culture and most regions have a variety of jam for which they're most famous. You'll find different locally made products wherever you happen to be, and they'll all be equally 100% natural and delicious. Oftentimes, sugar isn't even added, allowing the flavor of the fruits to stand on its own!
Jam culture in Turkish cuisine has come down to the present day from the time of the Ottoman Empire, where jam was a luxurious and indispensable food. A part of the imperial kitchen was reserved for jam-making and there the cooks made jams full time. Jam was also considered a healing food in Ottoman cuisine. Sugar was first used by pharmacists in Ottoman times. At that time, the health benefits of fruit tree flowers were identified by Ottoman physicians. In Ottoman cuisine, jam was produced from many plants: melons, watermelons, eggplants, green lemons, almonds, hazelnuts, Erguvan (Judas tree) flowers, lotus flowers, etc. Special gardens were designed for the cultivation of products that were used for jams. For rose jam, known as the “sultan of jams,” special roses were grown in the garden of the Edirne Palace. The way the jam was presented was also very important. There were special jam jars, and guests were given jam before being served Turkish coffee. After a big dinner banquet at the palace, jam was always served. The stylish and sparkling jam jars imported from Europe stood out during these presentations.