Everything You Need to Know About Turkish Breakfast
Turkish breakfast is the most important meal of the day and it can last for two hours. No hurry, but long talks (turkish — sohbet), delicious meals and at the end of this process — a cup of strong turkish coffee.
The breakfast can be much better if you will seat close to the sea. There are a lot of cafes in Istanbul with Bosphorus view or directly located near the sea.
From one region to another we can see some differences in products for breakfast and various dishes, but the style and idea are the same all over the Turkey.
So let’s find out all the secrets of this important part of turkish culture — türk kahvaltısı with IstanbulPoints.com!
Turkish Breakfast (Türk Kahvaltısı)
Breakfast is the first meal of the day and to many people, it is the most important. In Turkey, breakfast is taken extremely importantly. Known as Kahvalti, which literally means, before coffee, the meal is Turkey’s version of breakfast. One of the things that makes Kahvalti different that breakfasts in other parts of the world such as France, the United Kingdom, Canada, and United States, is that it is diverse and contains a variety of foods that are all eaten with tea (çay). The meal is consumed before drinking coffee, hints its name, Kahvalti. Coffee is drunk at the end of the meal to signify its end.
Kahvalti takes place every single day of the week. It’s just as much a part of life on Wednesday as it is on Sunday. In comparison, big breakfasts in the US or UK may only occur on the weekends when there is no workday. In some ways, Kahvalti can be compared to brunch in western countries. The meal that comes between breakfast and lunch often has multiple food items that are quite diverse. Brunch is also quite large, similar to Kahvalti.
Growing up in Turkey, I wasn’t allowed to eat a Pop-Tart on my way to school in the morning nor was cereal an option. In the mornings, I ate a little bit of cheese, some jam, eggs, and a few delicious olives before my mother sent me out for the day. On weekends, the spreads were even more elaborate. My family often went through several pots of tea before the pide bowl was empty and coffee was served.
Now, as an adult, Kahvalti feels like a consolation prize for the weekday grind. You put on your clothes and ride the subway all week long and now, you deserve a decadent breakfast. Turkish Kahvalti doesn’t make you a morning person in the least, but it does provide a boost to help you make it through the day. Here’s a guide on how to make your own spread, even if you can’t make it to Istanbul at the moment.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding does a great job of expressing how important meat is for Greeks, and, incidentally, Turks. As a Turkish person, I can also confirm that cheese is a very big deal. Feta cheese (beyaz peynir) is a true staple in Turkish meals. Another popular cheese is Kasseri, a hard cheese made from unpasteurized sheep milk, as well as lor, an uncured goat’s cheese that’s like Turkey’s version of cottage cheese. My personal favorite is a cheese from Erzurum that comes in long stringy pieces called civil peyniri. Bear in mind that a real Turkish breakfast spread won’t just have one cheese, but at least two or three. The goal is to sample as many flavors as possible.
If you want to buy some cheese after you tried turkish breakfast, here is some information about main types: less salty and soft — taze kaşar, more salty and a little more hard — eski kaşar, salty and crumbly cheese — tulum peynir, cheese for roasting — hellim peyniri.
Simit is the real star of the Kahvalti spread. It’s the ideal canvas for your cheeses and jams. The doughy, sesame-seed-coated rings are often sold on street corners, inside subway stations, and at virtually every bakery in Turkey. Typically, the Turkish bagel is ripped into smaller pieces and dipped into cheese or jam. For many people, simit is the perfect portable breakfast as it’s so readily available and rarely costs more than a few Turkish lira. Pide, which is the traditional bread option, is fluffy squares of dough coated in seeds that is absolutely delicious.
What kind of bread you can see at Turkish breakfast:
Simit (turkish bagel), açma — achma (soft bun), pişi — pishi (made on the pan small oily bun), sigara börek (tube with cheese).
Jams and Spreads (Ezme ve Reçel)
Black olive spread, also known as tapenade in some places, is a popular choice to put on pide. It is the perfect option if you like something salty and savory in the morning. For those looking for a sweeter option, drizzle pekmez, or molasses, on top of a thin coat of tahini. Because hazelnut is a key export, Turks are also really into hazelnut spreads and that includes eating Nutella. As for jams, most grandmothers spend half of the year sourcing the best fruits from their greengrocers. The rest of the year is spent canning and preserving those fruits until their grandchildren come by to take them home to eat. Sour cherry, apricot, and fig jams are classic Turkish options. My favorite is a beautifully fragrant bergamot jam.
It’s not right to talk about eggs without talking about sucuk, which is a dried, spicy beef sausage. Sucuklu yumurta, or eggs with sausage, is a Turkish person’s answer to having nothing to eat in the fridge. It may also be the answer to your wife, girlfriend or mum burning dinner into oblivion. It’s a breakfast favorite and the best part of sucuklu yumurta is dipping little pieces of pide bread into the spicy oils left behind from the fried sausage. If you’re a vegetarian, menemen will be your preferred alternative to sucuklu yumurta. Menemen is scrambled eggs with bell peppers, tomatoes and scallion, covered in oregano. If you are a carnivore in need of a veggie or two, it’s not unheard of to prep a Kahvalti spread that has both options.
Drinks come last because it might be difficult for brunch-loving Americans to stomach the idea of beverages served at Kahvalti. The traditional Turkish breakfast doesn’t include alcoholic beverages nor does it always include coffee either. Turkish tea, which is always black, although you’ll find herbal teas in restaurants, is the way to go if you’re looking to replicate an authentic experience. Most Turkish people only drink herbal and green teas for bedtime. Meanwhile, coffee is served at the end of Kahvalti and, of course, it is the Turkish version, which is far more bitter than coffee drunk in other parts of Europe and North America.
Where to try the best Turkish Breakfast in Istanbul
At first, you should decide which type of turkish breakfast you want to try: breakfast on the small plates (serpme kahvaltı), breakfast plate (kahvaltı tabağı) or village breakfast (köy kahvaltı) and tharditional Van breakfast (Van kahvaltı).
- Serpme kahvaltı, which means different type of food on the small plates, you can find in most of cafes or restaurants, It’s not cheap but delicious.
- Kahvaltı tabağı or breakfast plate you can try in bakeries or small cafes.
- Köy kahvaltı — village breakfast is very similar to the meal on the small plates, but more village style.
- Van kahvaltı — is traditional breakfast of the Van city, which located near lake Van in Eastern Anatolia region. It’s very rich and plentiful type of breakfast so you will not get hungry for many hours.
Here are some places in Istanbul, where you can try turkish breakfast:
In Sultanahmet area
- Çiğdem Pastanesi — classic turkish bakery, where you can eat breakfast and try different traditional sweets. Just get inside the cafe and you will find tables — make your order and enjoy. Here you can try turkish breakfast plate — Kahvaltı tabağı Location here.
- Sultanahmet Turkish Restaurant located not far from Theodosius cistern. Here you can try breakfast on plates (Serpme kahvaltı) and enjoy nice view of Sultanahmet mosque and the sea from terrace. See the location.
- Seven Hills Restaurant — delicious breakfast on the small plates and great view. In summer time when the weather is warm and sunny it’s really enjoyable to seat on the terrace and watch outside. Here you can try turkish breakfast on plates — Serpme kahvaltı. See the location.
- Gülhane Kandil Cafe — located right in the Gülhane park, this affordable place offers traditional breakfast dishes. Location.
In Beyoğlu area
- Cihangir Van Kahvaltı Sofrası — here you can try traditional breakfast of Van city. Cafe located in Cihangir area, about 15-18 minute walk from Istiklal street.
- Galata Kitchen — small cozy place not far from Galata Tower. Here you can eat turkish breakfast or try some vegeterian food. Location here.
- Namlı Gurme Karaköy — really great place to have breakfast. Fast service, delicious food and you can also buy some turkish products and delicacies here. Cafe located in one of the most interesting areas in Istanbul — Karaköy, famous for it’s graffiti and nightlife.
In Bebek area
- Near Rumeli Hisarı Fortress: Sade kahve and Kale Cafe, both with Bosphorus view. Sade kahve ıs the most popular place for breakfast here among locals. Especially, you should try çiğ börek — it looks like thin tortilla with meat inside of it. Location here.
- Divan Brasserie — Located near Bebek park, and has direct view to the sea. Near by you can find a Sturbucks. See the location.
- With Bosphorus view: Oba Park Kafe (location) or Aşşk kahve (location).
Lifehacks about turkish breakfast
If breakfast does not include in your accomodation, so you have to find where to eat budget-friendly. At first, try to look for bakeries — they open from 5 am, and in some of them you can find breakfast plate and tea service. Just ask: Kahvaltı var mı? Which means — Do you have breakfast? Even if they don’t have breakfast you can buy some fresh hot poğaça or simit and ask fo tea — small but nutritious breakfast is ready.
Keep in mind, that cafes near the sea and with beautiful view normally is more expensive then places without special panorama. So if you want to save money — don’t visit such places every day:)
Remember, that turkish breakfast, especially serpme kahvaltı and Van kahvaltısı — are very rich, so if you are not shure that you’ll be able to finish it, order the breakfast for one person (serpme kahvalti normally is for two persons). Don’t choose extra dishes — wait untill your breakfast come and make a decision after.