Grains and Breads
Facebook icon
Twitter icon
Printer icon
Email icon
Grains and Breads

Breads and Other Dough-Based Foods in Turkish Culinary Culture

Prof. Dr. Mahmut Tezcan


Meat and hamur işi (literally, “dough work” a Turkish term which refers to all dough-based foods besides bread, including pasta) are two important categories in Turkish culinary culture. The meeting of the two has given rise to a synthesis in which agriculture and animal husbandry have played a role. Since their migration from Central Asia and later into Anatolia, the Turks have engaged in an economy based on agriculture and animal husbandry for centuries. This economic structure has been reflected in culinary culture in the class of foods known as kebab. Kebab emerged as a combination of hamur işi (pide) and meat (animal husbandry), and has remained popular for years.  The large number of kebab shops in our cities and even in our most gentrified neighborhoods exist as a symbol of our national culture. This is not true only in our large cities; in rural areas as well as small towns, meat and bread make an inseparable combination.

The Importance of Bread

  • Both bread and water are considered holy. Bread is considered a blessing from God, thus even a small piece is considered precious.
  • Bread is a source of energy. It is the most inexpensive source of calories needed by the human body.
  • The expression “bread money” refers to a person’s job. In other words, one who has a profession earns his bread. For this reason, bread has been identified with another very important factor, one’s occupation.

The word “bread” also contains the idea of satisfying ones hunger, it is the first thing to come to mind when one things of filling the stomach. For this reason it’s the most important item to stave off hunger. Even dry bread is seen as sufficient. This is the source of the proverb, “Let there be a son even if he is crazy, let there be bread even if it is dry.”

Turks don’t feel full unless there is bread.

In this paper I will leave the issue of meat for now and concentrate on breads and other dough-based foods.

Types of Bread

Bread is generally made by the combination of grain flours with water, salt and yeast, which is allowed to ferment and then baked.

Bread is a chief staple in Turkish culture, and for this reason there are many different types. So many that according to their cooking methods, they have taken many different names, shapes and flavors.

The type of flour used, it’s strength, the presence or absence of leavening, and the addition or absence of oil, eggs, meat, cheese, various vegetables and herbs are all taken into account when classifying the various types.

Historically as well as in the present, bread has been made either as a loaf, as bazlama or as yufka. All three are common today.

Bazlama, küskeç, sinçü and pide are the chief types of bread which were made historically and have survived to the present (Ögel:37). The flours used in their making are wheat, rye and corn flours.

Ak ekmek: Meaning “white bread,” his was a special bread made from well-sifted wheat flour. In the Khorezmshah period, this type of white bread was known as ak ötmek. The Mongols learned to make this bread from the Turks. Some Turkish tribes also gave a white color to bread by the addition of milk.

Kara ekmek: “Black bread.” Some breads made with barley and millet flours truly were black, hence their names.

Some types of bread were also made in the form of meat pide.

Darı ekmeği (millet bread): This was eaten in Mongolia and in the Altay mountains. It was eaten mostly by the poor.

Yufka: This is mostly a bread of theYörüks and Turkmen. It is an unleavened bread baked on a sac, a convex griddle. We know from Göktürk inscriptions that the Turks were eating this bread 1,300 years ago. Torn into pieces and eaten with food, yufka is also eaten in the form ofdürüm, a “roll-up” or “wrap,” in which it is rolled around cheese or other ingredients; it is very popular throughout Anatolia. Yufka is also preferred because of its storability. In the heat of summer, when heavy agricultural work is underway, yufka bread is preferred over other types.

Bazlama: This is cooked on a sac and is generally leavened.

Somun: This is the familiar loaf type bread, leavened and made at home.

Other types of bread include saç ekmeği, iki saç arası ekmeği, mayalı, tepsi ekmeği (tava ekmeği, yağlı ekmek) and ebeleme.

Another type of bread with many varieties is çörek. These include güllaylı çöreği, mısır çöreği, yazma çöreği, çoban çöreği, ağa çöreği, and kete.

There are also small-sized breads made only for children, such as the cücü made in Afyonkarahısar and külçe baked in Ankara.

In addition there are dishes made from leftover, stale bread, such as tirit and ekmek dolması (stuffed bread).

Pide is a type of flatbread made generally out of a rather soft dough, topped or filled with ingredients such as cheese, ground meat, eggs, sucuk, pastırma, and spinach.

Baking Bread

Turkish breads are baked in a variety of ways, including in an oven, on the walls of a tandır, directly in coals, in a pot buried in embers, and on a convex griddle called a sac. Today most breads are baked in ovens and in a sac. Below are the names of some local breads according to where they are baked.

  • Çorum (Pıt-pıt)
  • Artvin (Kakala)
  • Kastamonu (Göbüt)
  • Kars (Kalın)
  • Konya (Gömeç)

Hamur İşi Yiyecekler - Foods Based On Dough

Foods made with dough also have an important place in Turkish culture, so much so that they constitute a separate class, hamur işi, literally, “dough work.” The most important complimentary ingredients to these foods are yogurt and meat. Various spices such as pepper and sumac, and oil/butter are added to lend flavor.

Below are the most common dough-based foods from various regions of Anatolia. At the top of the list is mantı.


Mantı is a dish resembling tiny ravioli. The word is used in Central Asia by the Kazakhs and the Uygurs. In some places it is known as Tatar Böreği and exists in many different forms, such as Çorum and Kayseri mantısı.


A type of bun resembling the Turkish poğaça is called samsa by the Uygurs. In Turkey there is a sweet called samsa tatlısı.


This is a dish made with yufka made from an egg dough, meat and butter.


Made in the Elazığ region, this is a type of mantı made by cutting the stuffed dough in squares and topping with butter, hot pepper, pepper paste and yogurt.


Another dish made with flour in the Erzurum region.

Pasta Type Dishes

Macaroni and Noodles are storable foods made by drying wheat dough. They may be eaten plain or mixed with ground meat, cheese or pepper/tomato paste. Today factory made pasta is available ready-made. However erişte is a type of noodle made at home by housewives. In Anatolia, it is made especially as a part of preparation for winter, within a tradition of women’s work parties.


Börek (also appears in the form böreği)is one of the most popular “dough-based” foods. The duo of baklava and börek can be considered one of the richest cornerstones of Turkish cuisine. Böreks can be divided into three groups:

a) Böreks made with dough layered with fat: Examples of this type are talaş and bohçaböreks.

b) Yufka böreks: There are many different types in this group, including tepsi, sigara, su böreği. The common characteristic is that the various doughs are rolled out very thin with a rolling pin called an oklavaGözleme is a yufka cooked on a griddle and layered with oil.

c) Böreks made from raised doughs: These included muska böreği and kol böreği.

Böreks owe their flavor to the variety of ingredients with which they are filled. This may include cheese, ground meat, spinach, potatoes, leeks (in Thrace), as well as pastırma and sucuk.

Böreks owe their flavor to the variety of ingredients with which they are filled. This may include cheese, ground meat, spinach, potatoes, leeks (in Thrace), as well as pastırma and sucuk.

Dough-Based Sweets

The love for dough-based foods also extends into the area of sweets, and there are many different types. After being shaped into the appropriate shapes, the dough is either baked or deep fried, and then doused with or soaked in syrup. Their flavor is affected by the composition of the dough, whether it is leavened or not, and the presence or absence of ingredients such as oil or eggs in the dough/batter, as well as the addition of garnishes such as clotted cream, walnuts, hazelnuts and other ingredients. Some, such as lokma are round, and others, such as kadayıf resemble threads. Another type of kadayıf is yassı (flat) kadayıf,or ekmek kadayıf  (bread kadayıf).

Künefe, which is very popular in Gaziantep and in Southeast Anatolia, is a type of kadayıfstuffed with cheese, served hot with syrup. The variety of dough-based sweets gives an idea as to the richness of Turkish cuisine. Some other examples are: baklava, bülbülyuvası, dilberdudağı, hanımgöbeği, hanımparmağı, hurma tatlısı, samsa, sarığı hurma, şambaba, dürüm, şekerpare, padişah, tulumba tatlısı, vezirparmağı, revani, and kurabiye among others.

Tatlı yiyelim, tatlı konuşalım
Meaning “let us eat sweets and have sweet conversation” this proverb is an expression of the Turks’ love for both good conversation and sweets.

Hamur İşi Dishes in the Age of Industrialization, Social Change and Urbanization

The quick changes in Turkish culture and social life are influencing our culinary culture as well. Is the flight from the villages to the cities and industrializing causing us to eat less bread? A look at our culture will tell us that the answer is “no,” because villagers who migrate to the cities, living in economic hardships and in shantytowns are mostly getting by on bread. Many do not even buy bread but rather make their own at home. In their workplaces (government offices etc.) one can see that the young people working in the cafeterias and other service personnel take large amounts of bread with their food. Neither have the local city residents abandoned bread or other baked goods and pasta; these habits continue. The Turks, among whom both men and women are generally overweight, stand out among people from other countries because of their high consumption of bread and other dough-based foods.

Another phenomenon proving that bread and other baked goods have not lost their popularity is the large number of bakeries and bread outlets in the cities. The widespread consumption of simit (sesame-covered bread rings) and sandwich type foods also show the popularity of bread. In addition, we see that the rest stops for intercity buses mostly sell börek, çörek and gözleme. In the weekly markets in the cities, women from surrounding villages come in and sell yufka, bazlama and gözleme. These are enjoyed by both the shanty town dwellers as well as the local city residents, for whom such foods have taken on a nostalgic quality as well. Bread and other hamur işi have now become a health issue for today’s city dwellers. The health dangers of obesity are constantly the subject of the media and public discussion, and it is said tat people should eat less bread, baked goods and pasta. Though this may be true from a modern medical perspective, our doctors and dieticians know very well how difficult it is for the Turkish people to make such a change.


Bread, baked goods and pasta are a cultural habit. In this sense, the subject is completely anthropological in nature. Whether sweet or savory, they are indispensable because of the very nature of Turkish cuisine. They are a custom that arose as a necessity, out of the agricultural and animal husbandry-based economies of Central Asia and Anatolia. They are the products of a centuries-old culture which are very much alive today and will continue to survive. Thus for those who are dieting for health reasons to forego such foods will be stressful; an example that proves the indispensable nature of bread in Turkish society.


1. Barın, Nimet: “Türkiye’de Ekmek Türleri, Tüketim durumları ve Bu Ekmeklerin Besin Değerleri”, Geleneksel Türk Yemekleri ve Beslenme isimli kitapta, Haz. Feyzi Halıcı, Konya Turizm Derneği Yayını, Konya, 1982. 
2. Eröz, Mehmet: Milli Kültürümüz ve Meselelerimiz, Doğuş Yayın ve Dağıtım, İstanbul, 1983.
3. Oğuz, Burhan: Türkiye Halkının Kültür Kökenleri (1), İstanbul, 1976.
4. Ögel, Bahaeddin: Türk Kültür Tarihine Giriş (4), Ankara, 1978, Kültür Bak. Vay. No:244.
5. Arlı, Mine: “Türk Mutfağına Genel Bir Bakış” Türk Mutfağı Sempozyumu Bildirileri, Kültür Bak. Yayını, 31 Ekim- 1 Kasım 1981, Ankara 1982.

« previous page     1    2    3    4    [5] 

About Us     Privacy     Site Map     Contact Us