The Influence of Turkish Cuisine
Facebook icon
Twitter icon
Printer icon
Email icon
The Influence of Turkish Cuisine - How the Ottoman Turks Affected Middle Eastern Cuisine

Sarabeth Asaff

The Mediterranean diet is frequently thought to be one of healthiest forms of eating today. Food lovers often incorporate olive oil, fish, lamb and yogurt into their diets on a regular basis. Chefs who specialize in Middle Eastern cuisine will frequently boast the health benefits of their foods.

As word of this cuisine spreads, with its focus on olive oil, chicken, lamb and salads so does the use of these foods in Western culture. Dishes such as shish kebabs and Tabbouleh are becoming so ingrained in Western diets that little thought is given to their origin. From coffee to salads, many of the foods eaten throughout the world today are due to the influence on Middle Eastern cuisine by the Ottoman Turks.

The Extension of the Ottoman Turks

At the height of the Ottoman Empire, from approximately 1453 to 1650 the Ottomans controlled not only the Middle East, but extended their rule through Egypt, Eastern Europe and Inner Asia. The entirety of the Ottoman rule lasted from 1453 until 1909 with tight control of areas such as Lebanon and Greece.

While many of these countries would prefer to focus on their own cultures and history, the truth remains that the Ottomans had a large impact upon the foods and cuisine eaten in many areas.

Similarities in Middle Eastern Cuisine

The spread of Ottoman influence through the countries they ruled explains a great deal of the similarities in Middle Eastern Cuisine. Regions of varying countries will always boast their own recipes and ways of cooking, but the similarities of foods, spices and techniques between cultures remains.

One of the areas this can be seen so prominently is in the spelling variations of similar dishes, such as the filo desert pronounced Baklava by many cultures, but pronounced Baklawa by the Lebanese. Other ways include the use of certain ingredients not found in the cuisines of other areas of the world, such as grape leaves and rose water.

The Spread of Influence

During their time in power in the Ottomans' influence over many countries blended in several ways. While the Turks brought several dishes and ways of eating to varying countries, such as the use of olive oil in salads and the cooking of lamb, they also spread influences they gained from other countries.

Turkish coffee has its roots in Arabic coffee although the spread of this beverage is due to the Ottoman influence in other cultures. Other foods influenced and spread by the Ottomans include:

Filo deserts such as Baklava or Baklawa

Deserts with honey

Grape leaves

Kafkas, or lamb meatballs

Eggplant dishes


Wedding soup

The use of rose water




By taking the time to learn about the history of the foods eaten today, it's possible to learn ways of cooking them that may have otherwise slipped away in translation. Try topping Greek Salads with lamb instead of chicken, eating yogurt with fresh cucumbers and mint, rather than fruit and serving fresh vegetables with olive oil as a starter. Getting in touch with the roots of these dishes can also help influence the times of year they are made, such as cookies in the spring.

Take some time to consider the origins of the foods eaten every day, and appreciate the fact that these Mediterranean foods are as wide spread and available as to be incorporated into today's healthy diets.

"The Influence of Turkish Cuisine" by Sarabeth Asaff


About Us     Privacy     Site Map     Contact Us