Turkish cuisine is one of the most diverse and exciting in Europe. As a city at the intersection of east and west, Istanbul has an abundance of delicious options to choose from. But when it comes to desserts, there’s one dish that stands out: Sütlaç (rice pudding).
Colored like a cow, this milky dessert with brown-black spots is a real Cinderella treat. The main difference between an ordinary rice pudding and the sütlaç is that the latter is lovingly placed into the oven for the Maillard reaction to happen. In other words, those black spots are not a mistake; they are the caramelized flavor that hypnotizes anyone who tries it!
So if you’re looking for a bit of sweetness after your meal or just want something new to try next time you’re in Istanbul, here are eight places serving some excellent rice pudding:
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1. Nizam Pide
Ducking into a place that’s famous for its pide, you may not have imagined the dessert menu to be a star on its own. With a million different types of sütlaç and nothing else, our favorite is the atom one: stuffed with Turkish delights, dried figs, dried apricots, raisins, nuts, and honey. The local’s favorite seems to be the plain version, but the seasonal fruits have colors that’ll drive you crazy.
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2. Murat Muhallebicisi
Specializing in muhallebi (milky puddings), Murat Muhallebicisi has been serving one of the best sütlaç in Istanbul since 1968.
With its posh, Ottoman style, this is also the place to bring your parents for breakfast on Mother’s/Father’s Day. Create a little magic with their endless Turkish tea breakfast plate, or if your mum is a cheese fiend, she may find the grilled halloumi cheesed salad to be the perfect starter.
You have light güllaç for mum, the syrupy, sweet yet savory künefe with the sour handmade lemonade for dad and for the chocolate fiend: the eclairs with mastic flavored Turkish coffee. Is there any better way to celebrate?
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3. Bolulu Hasan Usta
Famous for their dairy desserts, this place has that elegant, date-night vibes. If you’re confessing your feelings, it may be an idea to pair the chewy, yet silky ice cream with the profiterole dunked in chocolate ganache in the heart-shaped bowl to get a leg up on your competition. Or you may wish to grab a box of chocolate to surprise a significant other.
However, the real surprise is the cheesecake with the minty lemonade on a summer’s day and a warming, cinnamon drizzled sütlaç with a cinnamon dowsed sahlep (a milky drink made from tubers of the orchid).
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4. Saray Muhallebicisi
Okay, so it looks like a traditional bakery from the 1930s – when it was established – but we’re pretty sure that backstage, they’ve managed to hire some of Santa’s elves to craft these cakes. How do you get that much chocolate on a cake? Or the aşure with enough dried fruit, spices, and nuts that we could’ve cast some kind of autumnal Wiccan spell? Maybe we were the victims of a spell. After all, we were just going to try the diet menu before we ended up with a chocolate crown pudding, güllaç, buffalo-milk cream on the quince dessert, a lemon cheesecake, and baklava. You might find yourself with the same fate!
If you visit Saray Muhallebicisi, do not forget about the delicious sütlaç just as we did talking about other desserts. Close your eyes to all the other colorful desserts and order sütlaç (rice pudding), one of the best in Istanbul.
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5. Hafız Mustafa 1864
The granddaddy of dessert restaurants in Istanbul; there isn’t a Turkish dessert that they don’t have. The colorful display of puddings and the images on the menu may have you drooling.
The rice pudding seems to go down strangely well with the luscious ice cream, but their sweeter desserts like kadayıf, cakes need a latte, a bitter Ottoman coffee, or even a fresh orange juice to help balance out the flavor. If you eat too much, just grab a tea to help you digest, whether mint, pomegranate, apple, green, or linden.
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6. Göreme Muhallebicisi
The Dickensian style pulled us in, but the variety of options on the dessert menu really pulled out our stomachs. Though you may go for the treats, the honey& cream option for breakfast is legendary. If you have a kid, you can order honeyed milk alongside any one of the many muhallebis or rice puddings if you want to stick to the classical dairy treats. If you’re lactose intolerant, you have a million options like the quince or pumpkin dessert. If you have a nefarious sweet tooth, the Kemalpaşa will do you right.
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Taste of Two Continents Tour
-Secret local restaurants & one-of-a-kind boutique markets
-Visit locals favourite Kadikoy market
-Taste the world famous Turkish ice-cream & baklava
-It is not just food, it's Turkish culture with an expert's insider view
7. Tarihi Sarıyer Muhallebicisi Ve Börek
If you didn’t know this place was founded in 1928, you’d still be able to guess it has some history from walking in. It may be an idea to visit whilst super hungry, so you can munch on their crispy böreks before you have a chance to order one of the best rice puddings in Istanbul.
If you like to double up your desserts, they do offer ice cream with chicken breast pudding, kazandibi (a chewy dairy dessert), muhallebi, helva, and keşkül. In other words: this place is rife with choice. They don’t have the fancy lattes, but they would ruin the taste anyway. Your best bet is a bitter Turkish tea or an even bitterer Nescafe alongside these sweet-enough puddings.
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8. Zeynel Muhallebicisi
What was supposed to be a quick bite to eat in a nice-ish-looking café will turn into a whole new experience. The early morning breakfasts with unlimited tea gave this place a snazzy, rural vibe. If you’re going with a bodybuilder companion, you might yourself staring at their chicken and rice plates, or they might be staring at your burger. Followed by desserts like orange fig pudding, pink milk, the ice-creams, chicken breast puddings, and the star of the show: the rice pudding. You may find yourself in a creamy, indulgent dream.
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