Turkish spices

Turkish cuisine is a particularly spicy cuisine enhanced by different spices that make this kitchen a delight for our taste buds. The Turkish cuisine served in restaurants might feature only a few spices; mainly chilli, mint and sumac but the Turks at home use a wider variety of condiments.

Here is a list of different spices that make up the traditional Turkish recipes:



In Turkey, the pepper is king, in fact the local spice shop in a Turkish city would have pepper shovels in large pepper bags. You will find all kinds of peppers ; sweet or hot (“aci or tatli”), red peppers (kirmizi biber) or black pepper (kara biber) as flakes or in powder form. There are also yellow and green peppers, thin, elongated, stuffing and fleshy.



Sumac is a decorative flower ornamented with very astringent leaves. The red berries of the flower are harvested and then dried. Its flavour is slightly vinegary and can replace a dash of lemon in a recipe. In the Middle East, sumac is widely used to add a touch of acidity to dishes, as it is done with lemon juice or vinegar. This spice is particularly good with lamb or onion. It can be sprinkled on the meat before grilling or you may use it to marinate fish. It is also used in salads, especially tomato and onions, sprinkling sumac on onions make your salad look a lot more attractive.



Spices used to make Kofte can be used for many other meat dishes. The main kofte spices are; cumin, coriander and chili. This mixture works wonders with most meat dishes. The other spices that are used in making kofte are; black pepper, fenugreek and cloves.



Turkish mint has an intense fragrance that will delight all lovers of mint, and even those who are not. This makes it the ideal complement for the garlic dishes. Add to these two spices some lemon juice and olive oil and you have a delicious marinade for grilling. If you mix mint with plain yogurt and diced cucumber, you get the famous Turkish meze; cacik ! You can use it as an infusion in Turkish tea, and you can also use it to prepare a delicious cold drink for summer!


Oregano is used in many cuisines of the Mediterranean region, from the French to the Turkish cuisines.  You can use oregano in your favorite soups: green vegetables or minestrone. You can use it on BBQ steaks. Oregano also has beautiful affinities with legumes and cabbage dishes.



Anatolian thyme is a different variety from the thyme sold in supermarkets in Australia. Thyme is an herb often associated with Mediterranean cuisine, but it is also used extensively in many countries of the Middle East. The Anatolian thyme, grown in Turkey, gives flavour to grilled meats or vegetables of any kind. One can also add in legumes stews, beans, chickpeas for example, or in the lentil soup.


Indispensable in the cuisines of India, the Middle East and North Africa, fenugreek is a slightly bitter spice that is often used as a fragrant in vegetable dishes and pickles. When cooked in butter or olive oil, it acquires a slightly sweet side, reminiscent of nuts. Its fragrance goes well with green vegetables like broccoli and cabbage dishes. It is used as a remedy for many things in Anatolia. Some women use the fenugreek seeds to increase the size of their breasts. It is also recommended for people with baldness and hair loss.  Please bear in mind, body odour becomes very strong after taking fenugreek.



In western cuisines, particularly in French cuisine, tarragon is used in sauces such as béarnaise. Its fresh and aniseed-ish flavour works wonders in poultry dishes and is excellent with white fish of any kind. Tarragon gives an extremely fragrant, fruity aroma slightly reminiscent of apple. You may use in your leek soup or simply in a vinaigrette for a green salad.



Mastic is an Aegean condiment obtained from the mastic tree. It comes as a yellowish resin which is in the form of small crystals in the pine scent. It is used mostly to flavour desserts and sweets, but it is known to be used in flavouring meat dishes as well. Mastic brings a delicate and resinous flavour and gives a fresh essence that can remind the mint. Turks use mastic as chewing gum flavour, milk-rice pudding and even in Turkish coffee to give it a unique flavour.



Nigella seeds are small black grains similar in appearance to the black sesame. It is found in the Turkish breads and other traditional pastry. The taste is rather sweet and reminds you of nuts. The condiment goes well with potato dishes, vegetables or with a beet salad. It can also be used in marinades and other vinegary preparations such as preparation of chutneys.


Sage has a strong fragrance, traditionally used in the preparation of poultry. It is also customary to find in recipes for stuffing the chicken or turkey. It can also be used to meet the preparations tomato or a simple pasta dish with olive oil. Turks love their sage infusion drank as tea. The Turkish word used for sage, ada cayi, literally means “the island tea”.


To enhance your recipes with fish, use coriander spices, cumin, black cumin and saffron. Grind them together and spread them on your fish fillets, for example, just before putting in the oven. The citrus notes of coriander allied to the rich scent of saffron delight you for sure!


There is also the other spices in Turkish cuisine:
Dill ( Dereotu ), Anis ( Anason ), Basil ( Feslegen ), Cinnamon (stick / powder), Clove ( Karanfil ) Cumin ( Kimyon ), Ginger ( Zencefil ) Laurier ( Defne ) Nutmeg ( Muskat ), Rosemary ( Biberiye ) Pine nuts (Dolmalık Fistik ) Sesame ( Susam ), Saffron, Vanilla ( Vanilya ) Chives ( Yesil soğan ) Celery salt ( Kereviz tozu ), Curry ( Kori ) Parsley (Maydanoz ) Coriander ( Kişniş ), fennel ( Rezene ) and many more.