9 Delicious Turkish Soups You MUST Taste During Your Turkey Holiday [with recipes]
Soups have held an important place in traditional Turkish cuisine for centuries, and certainly far more so than other world cuisines. In this post, we outline the nine Turkish soups you must taste during your visit to Istanbul.
After we explain the history and importance of soup at the Turkish table, we will take a closer look at nine of our most popular soups. These are all unique to Turkish cuisine, and continue to be integral to our modern-day food culture.
The History of Turkish Soups
The Turkish word for soup, çorba, is derived from the Persian šurbâ, a combination of the two words’ salty’ and ‘love’.
Like soups consumed by Western cultures, Turkish soups also serve as an appetiser. However, the quality and heartiness of the appetiser on the Turkish table is often an indicator of the meal ahead. Historically, we know that Turks developed many different rich varieties of soups, primarily prepared from a base of water or broth. These broths are laden with staple but nutritious ingredients to ensure a wholesome start to the meal.
Dating back to Ottoman times, historical records tell us that people living on lower incomes consumed hearty and nutritious soups almost every evening – and even, often, in the mornings. Across centuries, soups have been (and continue to be) a nutritious yet economical source of nourishment. Soups are open to creativity and variety, and so, have been an essential element of Turkish cuisine for hundreds of years.
The folkloric importance of soup is paramount in Anatolian culture and Turks. So much so that we even say that it has a direct impact on Turkish culture. Many phrases and idioms still commonly used in the social life of modern Turkish society are based on soup, with phrases such as “like soup”, “drinking soup with your hand to your mouth” and “being salt in soup”.
Varieties of Turkish Soups
In addition to being comforting and satisfying the nutritional value of most Turkish soups is quite high since many are prepared and seasoned with broths. It is said that consuming soup before the main meal ‘softens’ the stomach and gets it ready for more substantial foods. Because it is liquid, it is essential to a healthy digestive system. Therefore, it is also commonly consumed at breakfast, especially in the winter before a hard day’s work. Thus, we enjoy soup at all three main meal times.
The richness and variety of soups found in traditional Turkish cuisine are broad. According to the main base ingredient, we can divide them into soups prepared with grains and flour, with dried legumes, with meat and offal, with chicken and other poultry meat, with yoghurt and milk, and vegetable soups.
As in other cuisines, Turkish soups also differ according to the seasons. Not only does summer bring out cold soups, but the availability of different foods that varies during seasonal transitions has also created a seasonal soup culture.
Finally, a variety of cooking techniques makes for a rich repertoire of Turkish soups.
Many Turkish soups are prepared by pouring a melted butter and mint mixture over the soup before serving. Other popular soup ‘dressings’ include egg yolks mixed with milk or yoghurt, egg yolk and lemon juice, or sometimes vinegar and garlic seasonings for stronger flavoured soups. During consumption, the soups are often seasoned by the diner with lemon, tomato sauce, oil, various spices and red pepper and, sometimes, dried (stale) bread.
Certain Turkish soups are prepared especially for events or holidays and served to guests. Wedding soup (düğün çorbası), Toyga soup (Toğga çorbası) and highland soup (yayla çorbası) are examples. It is also a common tradition to bring soup to a patient’s home during visits with a poorly family member or friend.
It is almost impossible to see a menu free of soup in any Turkish restaurant. Some restaurants operate quite successfully only as soup kitchens, whose menu’s may contain more than ten types of soup. Generally, these soup sellers are known to be open right through the night, until morning, catering for both nighttime travellers as well as those looking for a light and healthy after-alcohol meal.
Naming conventions in Turkish cuisine are very straight forward and simple. For example, Turkish soup names originate according to either: the prime ingredient, the name of an incident which enabled the creation of the soup, the town or region the soup comes from, or the first master (usta) of that soup.
The Most Popular Turkish Soups List
Below you’ll find our favourite Turkish soups list. We have included links to our Turkish soups recipes at each section so that you can recreate and enjoy this little taste of traditional Turkey at home. In advance, afiyet olsun, enjoy your meal.
Tarhana Soup (Tarhana Çorbası)
For Turkish people, the earthy taste of tarhana soup is one of the first that comes to mind when we say ‘soup’ in traditional Turkish cuisine. Tarhana is made by adding vegetables, herbs and spices to yogurt before letting the mixture dry out and crushing to a powder. It is highly nutritious and satisfying and contains loads of vitamins and minerals due to its natural and pure ingredients which, themselves, each have a high nutritional value. Summer or early autumn create the best conditions for the fermentation and drying of the dough; this means tarhana can be stored and consumed throughout winter since it has long durability. Preparing for the winter by making tarhana during summer has become an almost traditional culture across much of Anatolia.
Tarhana is produced right around Anatolia, with specific flavours and ingredients differing by region. Although all versions of tarhana are similar in terms of their preparation and components, the taste and dominant flavours of each region’s tarhana varies.
Tarhana soup, which has existed in Turkish cuisine for centuries, is one of the most loved by everyone, despite its varying flavours. As it is both gentle and natural, it is one of the first introduced foods in the nutrition of babies.
If you want to make tarhana with ingredients at home, click for the recipe. If you have ready-made tarhana available to you, making tarhana soup will take you just 10 minutes to prepare with few ingredients. You can click for our easy and delicious tarhana soup recipe.
Red Lentil Soup (Mercimek Çorbası)
Mercimek çorbası, red lentil soup, is one of those flavours you will find on almost every restaurant menu in Turkey. Besides the fact that it is easy to prepare, with few ingredients and low cost, it has a wonderfully comforting flavour and is both satisfying and nutritious. It is no wonder that all love it and its at the top of the list of most popular Turkish soups.
Red lentil soup served with lemon is commonly accepted as a healing dish, to protect against illness and strengthen immunity thanks to the vegetables included in its preparation, such as onions, carrots and potatoes. Red lentils themselves are also high in iron, making this soup especially important in childhood nutrition. When using bone broth in the preparation of this soup, it’s a source of healing for the body and the soul.
Ezogelin Soup (Ezogelin Çorbası)
Ezogelin çorbası is one of the most traditional Turkish soups. Although also made with red lentils and often confused with mercimek çorbası, the two soups differ due to the main ingredients used in their preparation. Ezogelin soup is made simply from lentils, onion, tomatoes, rice, bulgur and mint. It is one of the most common soups made in Turkish homes and is also (like its sister soup, mercimek çorbası) found on the menu of almost every restaurant.
As its name suggests, Ezogelin çorbası takes its name from the story of Ezo gelin (Turkish gelin meaning bride). As the story goes, a girl named Zöhre was born in a village of Gaziantep in 1909. Due to her incredible beauty, she gains the nickname, Ezo (beautiful). As a young woman, Ezo falls in love with and marries a young man. However, her beauty somehow spoils the happiness of the marriage, which leads to its end. Upon returning to live with her father, Ezo’s family pressures her into remarrying. Her new husband and his family live in one of the Turkish villages on the Syrian border, causing Ezo to live in pain every day, longing for her country with a never-ending ache. The region enters wartime, and Ezo tries to ease her pain and longing through cooking and creates a soup from the ingredients she found around her house during this perilous time. The soup she created is that which we now know as Ezogelin çorbası. Ezo lost her life in 1956, but she and her soup recipe were written into folk songs and were the subject of Turkish movies. While consuming Ezogelin çorbası, we continue to celebrate our love for Ezo at our tables during winter.
Just like Ezo, you can recreate this deliciously comforting soup that will warm the inside of your house in cold weather with practical pantry ingredients.
High Plateau Soup (Yayla Çorbası)
Ask any Turk, and they will tell you that Yayla çorbası (Highland Soup) is one of the top five Turkish soups cooked in every home. It is a quintessential taste of traditional Turkish cuisine. It is easy to make, by adding some rice into a soup mixture made from yoghurt. Finally, dried mint is combined with hot oil and mixed through, bringing out the full feast of the soup’s flavours!
Thanks to its lightness it is widely enjoyed during both summer and winter. It is known as a mother’s favourite soup – not only is it nutritious thanks to the yogurt and eggs it contains, children especially love to drink it. Yayla çorbası is commonly prepared for babies and children and one of those soups we all, as Turks, grow up enjoying.
Cold Ayranaşı Soup (Soğuk Ayranaşı Çorbası)
Soğuk ayranaşı çorbası (cold ayranaşı soup) is a mainstay of the Turkish summer table and can be enjoyed chilled or lukewarm. Thanks to bulgur and chickpeas, cold ayranaşı soup makes for a satisfying and light main meal; practical, tasty and nutritious. This soup is also a go-to for those embarking on a weight loss diet as it is low calorie but gives a feeling of satiety for a long time. Additionally, its high fibre content means it has a soothing effect on the nerves.
You can prepare this soup in advance and keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.
You will love this yummy yogurt soup with wheat, click here for the recipe.
Tripe Soup (İşkembe Çorbası)
The preparation of işkembe çorbası (tripe soup) dates back to Ottoman Palaces and folk cuisine and continues in popularity today. It is specially prepared during the Sacrifice Feast (Turkish: Kurban bayramı, Eid al-Adha) when every part of the sacrificed animal is consumed.
Tripe soup contains healing properties as it is easy to digest while it relaxes and works the digestive system. When someone falls ill or wants to strengthen their immune system, we call upon this as one of the first dishes. Furthermore, this tripe soup, which is heavy in garlic and lemon, has many health benefits. It is also commonly believed that tripe soup is good for headaches; thus, its consumption is popular following large amounts of alcoholic beverages. We could say that it is a ritual to drink tripe soup on the morning following a big night out.
There are as many people who dislike tripe soup, as those who love it. One reason for this is its unique smell and heavy taste. Since the tripe itself must be meticulously cleaned, many prefer to make and consume this inside their own homes, rather than in restaurants.
Click the link to prepare a delicious and nutritious tripe soup that you can make with ease at home.
Tomato Soup (Domates Çorbası)
No matter where you come from, it’s impossible to say no to the alluring sights, smells and tastes of a flavoursome tomato soup topped with cheddar cheese and dried pieces of bread.
Tomato soup is perhaps the most delicious form of tomato, the most popularly consumed fruit in the world. Although there are many different cooking techniques and recipes for preparing tomato soup, the magic ingredient lies within the flavour of the tomatoes used. When cooked with the freshest tomatoes of the season, it adds an exquisite flavour to its taste.
Click the link for our Turkish tomato soup recipe that you can easily recreate and enjoy at home.
Chicken and Vermicelli Soup (Şehriyeli Tavuklu Çorbası)
Şehriyeli tavuklu çorbası (Turkish chicken noodle soup) is often called ‘sick soup’, a popular antidote to cases of flu and colds. Chicken broth strengthens the immune system and heals a raft of illnesses during the winter months.
Both a delicious and nutritious meal, chicken noodle soup is cooked in almost every home on cold winter days. It is also common to find it on the daily menus of esnaf lokantaları (artisan restaurants) during wintertime. Chicken soup is one of the most popular Turkish soups especially in winter months.
It’s easily prepared and satisfyingly comforting. Click here for our chicken noodle soup recipe, your natural remedy against illness.
Collard Green Soup (Lahana Çorbası)
Lahana çorbası (black cabbage or collard greens soup) is a famously traditional dish of Turkey’s northern Black Sea region. This soup is cooked frequently in the kitchen of every house dotted along the Black Sea coast. And, thanks to its incredible flavour, its popularity spread to tastebuds and hearts across the country. There is no longer any need to be from the Black Sea to enjoy lahana çorbası.
If you find yourself inside a Black Sea restaurant or one specialising in Black Sea cuisine, this is one of the dishes you must try, traditionally with a side of cornbread. This soup is satisfying and nutritious as a main meal due to its consistency and a wide variety of ingredients. Collards are well known for their high levels of vitamin C and are very effective in strengthening the immune system. For this reason, lahana çorbası is another soup commonly preferred in winter as a protection against illness.
We hope you enjoyed reading our list of most popular Turkish soups.