Exploring the Flavors of Turkish Cuisine

Exploring the Flavors of Turkish Cuisine: A Guide to Essential Herbs

Turkish cuisine is renowned for its rich flavors, aromatic spices, and diverse culinary traditions. Central to these dishes are the various herbs that lend unique tastes and aromas to the food. Let’s delve into the essential herbs used in Turkish cuisine and discover how they elevate traditional dishes. Plus, enjoy a special recipe for a classic Turkish dish at the end!

1. Parsley (Maydanoz):

Parsley is a staple in Turkish cooking, known for its fresh, slightly peppery flavor. It is often used fresh in salads, mezes, and as a garnish. This versatile herb can be found in dishes like Tabouleh and Cacik (a yogurt and cucumber dip).

2. Mint (Nane):

Mint adds a refreshing taste to Turkish dishes and is used both fresh and dried. It pairs exceptionally well with yogurt and is commonly used in beverages. Mint is a key ingredient in Ayran (a yogurt drink), Dolma (stuffed grape leaves), and various salads and cold dishes.

3. Dill (Dereotu):

Dill provides a unique, slightly sweet flavor to dishes. It is frequently used fresh in salads, with fish, and in yogurt-based dishes like Cacik. Dill also enhances the taste of egg dishes like menemen.

4. Cumin (Kimyon):

Cumin, used both whole and ground, offers a warm, earthy flavor. It is a fundamental spice in Turkish meat dishes and stews, adding depth to recipes such as Köfte (meatballs) and various kebabs.

5. Oregano (Kekik):

Oregano is commonly used dried in Turkish cuisine. It imparts a robust, slightly bitter flavor to dishes and is often sprinkled on meats or used in marinades. Oregano is a key component in Lahmacun (Turkish pizza) and kebabs.

6. Thyme (Kekik – sometimes called Zahter):

Similar to oregano but milder, thyme adds a subtle, aromatic flavor to dishes. It is used both fresh and dried in Turkish cooking and is great for grilled meats, fish, and vegetable dishes.

7. Bay Leaves (Defne Yaprağı):

Bay leaves are used whole to impart a subtle, herbal flavor to soups, stews, and pilafs. They are often included in pilafs, stews, and soups like Mercimek Çorbası (lentil soup).

8. Sumac (Sumak):

Ground sumac adds a tangy, lemony flavor to dishes and is often sprinkled over salads and meats. It is a popular ingredient in salads like Shepherd’s Salad and is used to enhance grilled meats and kebabs.

9. Rosemary (Biberiye):

Rosemary, used fresh or dried, adds a pine-like, aromatic flavor to dishes. It pairs well with meats and roasted vegetables and is a favorite for seasoning roasted lamb and chicken dishes.

10. Basil (Fesleğen):

Basil adds a sweet, aromatic flavor to Turkish dishes. It is used fresh in salads, sauces, and as a garnish. Basil enhances various salads, tomato-based dishes, and cold dishes.

Traditional Turkish Recipe: Köfte (Turkish Meatballs)


  • 500g ground lamb or beef
  • 1 medium onion, grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (kimyon)
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano (kekik)
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground sumac (optional)
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/4 cup breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil for frying


  1. Prepare the Mixture: In a large bowl, combine the ground meat, grated onion, minced garlic, chopped parsley, cumin, oregano, black pepper, salt, and sumac. Mix well.
  2. Add Egg and Breadcrumbs: Add the beaten egg and breadcrumbs to the meat mixture. Mix until all ingredients are well incorporated.
  3. Shape the Köfte: Shape the mixture into small meatballs or patties, about 2 inches in diameter.
  4. Cook the Köfte: Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Fry the köfte in batches, cooking each side for about 4-5 minutes, or until fully cooked and browned on the outside.
  5. Serve: Serve the köfte hot with a side of rice or flatbread, and a fresh salad.


The use of herbs in Turkish cuisine is integral to its distinctive flavors and aromas. Each herb brings its own unique character, enhancing the taste of traditional dishes. By incorporating these herbs into your cooking, you can bring a touch of Turkey to your kitchen.