There is a fine food tradition in Turkey, going back hundreds of years to the royal kitchens. Dinners with family and/or friends are special and it is considered very poor form for individual family members to fix themselves a meal separate from the rest of the family.
The tradition of the Turkish meze platter is an essential part of Turkish culture.
Turkish mezes are perfect for social gatherings and are designed to promote talking through their casual, shared eating. Meze, or Turkish tapas, are small quantities of food served at the start of a meal.
They are usually cold and the emphasis is on fresh, healthy ingredients. Also, they are usually vegetarian!
Ordering Turkish Meze at a Restaurant
Whether eating in a restaurant or hosting a meal at home, most meals begin with mixed mezes. Most restaurants will supply 1 or 2 mezes free of charge but Turkish people will usually want to supplement with additional plates.
Many Turkish restaurants don’t have menus so you will be invited by your waiter to go up to the kitchen and inspect the mezes. The waiter will explain each dish. Most restaurants have a selection of 20 or so mezes, all made freshly on the day. So for a table of 2, it is normal to have 3 or 4 mezes.
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Turkish Meze Traditions
Turkey has a fine heritage and rich traditions around liquor. Your meze should be accompanied by wine or raki, an anise-flavored liquor known as “lion’s milk”. It is usual to dilute raki by adding water to it, upon which it will turn cloudy. Most Turkish people select raki as their accompaniment rather than wine.
There are many types of meze to choose from. Typically there will be vegetable-based dips, marinated vegetables, salads and breads. It is all very social with the plates being placed in the center for guests to help themselves.
It is typical for Turkish meze dips to be served over a long duration, often 2 hours before the main course is served. It is also typical to eat the mezes in a garden or balcony setting and then sit around and talk as the raki takes effect! It’s a lovely tradition you’ll want to take with you long after leaving Turkey.
Normally the main course of grilled fish or grilled meat will follow the mezes, following the fresh flavors with something a little stronger.
Turkish Mezes are certainly a great way to start a meal and healthy to boot! Today’s Turkish meze menu has 5 mezes to choose from and it is a lovely contrast of tastes and colors. It’s also really authentic – most of the recipes came directly from people we knew in Turkey!
Please let us know what you think, leave us a comment below. Do they taste just like the meze you remember from Turkey?
Turkish Food and Yogurt
Yogurt is a feature of these Turkish starters, featuring substantially in two of the five options here. And, I have to say that we really enjoyed Turkish yogurt. It is thicker than Greek-style yogurt! Try and find it if you can. And, if you can’t source it, use Greek-style or Bulgarian-style.
More Turkish recipes on Compass & Fork:
Another Turkish recipe, yogurt soup can be served cool in summer or warmed in winter. Easy to make and healthy.
In Turkey, we quite often enjoyed a pomegranate breakfast, featuring yogurt, as well as this delicious and healthy fruit. Absolutely superb in summer.
And finally, Turkish manti with garlic yogurt sauce. Manti is often called Turkish ravioli and the garlic yogurt sauce is killer.
Turkish Meze Menu
It is normal to start a meal with a Turkish mezze platter accompanied by copious amounts of bread. They are therefore similar to Spanish tapas but tend to be cold rather than hot.
A Turkish meze platter is sure to impress everyone and get the conversation flowing. The freshness, color, taste and not to mention the health aspects will leave you wanting more.
You can make one, some or all of the dishes! It’s a great way to start off a dinner party. In this set, you will experience different textures, colors and tastes.
The earthiness of raw beets (beetroot) in a yogurt-based dip, the recipe for which was kindly provided to us by a Fethiye market vendor from whom we bought many of our vegetables over a period of months.
An olive-based salad that might just have become our favorite salad ever (we thought that Asian-based salads held that title). The combination of the salty olives and the sweet molasses was a delight to savor, and something totally different.
Roasted and then vinegar-marinated red bell peppers (capsicums) that are truly gourmet. You won’t believe you’ve gone without it all these years.
Another yogurt-based dip, this time with carrots and finally mixed olives, simple, elegant and juicy. Apart from the finishing garnishes and dressings, the dishes can be prepared in advance! Perfect for a party.
|Servings||Prep Time||Cook Time|
- Beet, Garlic & Yogurt Dip
- 2 beets (beetroots) medium, washed, raw*
- 4 cloves garlic crushed
- 2 cups yogurt Turkish or Greek style*
- 4 sprigs parsley
- Mixed Olive Salad
- 1/2 lb olives good quality, mixed*
- 1/2 onion, salad (red) medium, thinly sliced
- 2 cucumbers, lebanese small, halved lengthways, de-seeded
- 2 tomatoes medium, de-seeded, cubed
- 1/2 cup parsley flat leafed, roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses *
- 2 tbsp olive oil extra virgin
- 1/3 cup walnuts roasted, crushed
- Marinated Roasted Bell Peppers
- 6 bell peppers (capsicums), red medium, whole
- 2 cloves garlic peeled, crushed
- 4 tbsp vinegar good quality*
- 1 tbsp oregano, fresh, leaves finely chopped*
- salt, ground sea
- 2 tbsp parsley flat leafed, finely chopped
- Yogurt Carrot Dip
- 6 carrots medium, grated
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup yogurt Turkish or Greek style*
- 2 cloves garlic chopped finely
- salt, ground sea
- 2 olives green*
- Mixed Olives
- 1/2 lb olives good quality, mixed*
- Trim and peel the raw beets and then grate them.
- Place in a bowl. Add the garlic and yogurt and mix all ingredients together.
- Add some parsley as a garnish before serving.
- Using a small knife, pit the olives and place the olive cheeks in a bowl.
- Add the salad onion, cucumbers, tomatoes and parsley. Toss.
- Just prior to serving, dry roast the walnuts until golden in a small pan. Then crush and add to the salad.
- Prepare the dressing by whisking together the pomegranate molasses and olive oil. Drizzle over the salad and toss again.
- For a smoky taste, light an open grill BBQ. Over a medium heat, cook the whole bell peppers until charred and soft, about 20 minutes. You can also instead use your oven broiler (grill).
- Allow the peppers to cool and then deseed the peppers and cut into broad slices.
- Place on a large, flat dish. Sprinkle the garlic, vinegar, oregano leaves and sea salt over the peppers and reserve until needed.
- Just prior to serving, finely chop the parsley and sprinkle over the peppers. This dish may be served cold or at room temperature.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Place the grated carrot in the pan. Cook for about 10 minutes or until soft. Allow to cool.
- Combine the yogurt and garlic. Season with the sea salt. Add the cooled carrot and garnish with some olives.
- Place the olives in a serving bowl.
Despite being hard, the beets grate easily.
Warning: Do not wear white clothing while grating the beets!
Turkish-style yogurt is thick. If you can't find it use Greek yogurt instead.
For your olives, find a good quality delicatessen and buy fresh, whole olives. Pitted olives can be dry. Or buy high quality bottled olives. Please don’t use canned olives.
It is worth sourcing the pomegranate molasses. The combination of the sweetness of the molasses and the saltiness of the olives is a highlight. You can substitute with honey if you cannot find.
Fresh thyme leaves can be used instead of oregano leaves. Dried oregano or thyme may also be used but reduce the quantity by half.
Any type of vinegar may be used, provided it is of good quality. The sweetness of the peppers will mellow out the vinegar and leave your guests wanting more.
Mrs Deborah Corthorn
I’ve made all today as I’m entertaining my Turkish friend, he loved them, I also made turkish pide for the first time, been going turkey now for the past 26 yrs and love the country as well as the food… Thanks for sharing the recipes, will defo be making again.
This makes me miss Turkey and meze so much! Definitely going to make the beet/garlic/yogurt one soon.
I love the color on that one. But all of those mezes are good! Thanks for your comment.
We are in Turkey right now and oooh, the Turkish food is so good! Thanks for sharing this recipe with us!
The mezes in Turkey are just great aren’t they?
This platter looks really colorful, perfect party snack!
Yes it is a bit of a colorful dish. But it tastes just as good as it looks. Thanks for your comments. Cheers….Mark
The recipe looks delicious and the recipe is just awesome
Glad you like! It is a feast for both the eyes and the stomach!
The items on this platter looks delicious. I have pomegranate molasses for a roasted chicken recipe and am always looking for other ways to use it. I will have to try these recipes soon.
Hi Nicky. Thanks for your comment. We really enjoyed pomegranate molasses in Turkey. We use pomegranate molasses in Warm Lentil Salad as well.
Some interesting colors you’ve got going on in this platter! I bet it’s great for parties!
Whitney, thanks for your comment. Yes a real rainbow effect isn’t it? It’s tasty and healthy and it can be prepared in advance with only a few minutes work just before you serve. Cheers….Mark
Chrissa - Physical Kitchness
This spread not only looks amazing but so healthy and good-for-you ingredients. I’m so envious of your travels! Great blog!
Thanks so much for your kind comments Chrissa. We were very pleasantly surprised how good the quality and range of vegetables was in Turkey. Traveling and cooking sure is a good combination. Cheers….Mark
Thank you for this. I love meze and you have taken away the problem of decision making AND given us the recipes. You’re a star
Hi Germaine. Thanks for your comment. There is no doubt that a choice of 3 or 4 mezes not only looks impressive but does take away any potential for indecision. Cheers….Mark
Razena | Tantalisemytastebuds.com
I love Turkish food and this is a wonderful variety of mezze. I had a few meals at the Deraliye restaurant in Istanbul that specialized in Ottoman palace cooking and it was really amazing.
Razena, thank you for your comment. We loved Turkish mezes and particularly walking up to the kitchen to see what was on offer. It really gets you in the mood for the rest of the meal and is great for conversation.
The Deraliye sounds like it would be amazing. Thanks you for adding it. Next time we are in Istanbul, we’re going. I think it would be fascinating to be served in the tradition of the Palace.
All of these look delicious and would be gobbled up in our house. We love to eat this sort of thing. Funny you should mention the “lion’s milk.” Anise liquor is very popular in Spain and it’s not unusual for my husband to order a coffee with a very small serving (chupito) of anisette. They’ll also drink it with water or served over ice.
Very interesting they drink something similar in Spain. Anise does seem to be common both in liquor and as a spice in food. Ouzo in Greece/Cyprus is another place where the flavour is popular.
Thanks for the comment