ISTANBUL: The Turks love their ice cream and it is truly unique. But they also have a few special favorite flavors that you may not have expected
For Turks, the summer season is all about having ice cream and in fact, many won’t even partake in the cool treat in the winter months. But summer is a whole different story as suddenly there are ice cream vendors at every turn with most selling Turkey’s traditional ice cream.
So, here are the most popular ice cream flavors in Turkey.
A survey of 10 different ice cream parlors in different destinations in the Aegean each brought me the same answer to the question: What is the Turks’ most favorite flavor of ice cream? And that is: bal badem. Translated into English as “honey almond,” this flavor, which consists of a creamy base sweetened with honey and chopped up almond brittle is hands-down the Turks’ secret favorite, when they can get it.
Translated as “clotted cream,” kaymak is actually the Turkish equivalent to the basic vanilla flavor, but in this case sans the vanilla. And surprisingly you will find that it is actually very rare to come across vanilla-flavored ice cream in Turkey. Nonetheless, Kaymak is basically the original flavor of ice cream here in Turkey and you will certainly find it anywhere and it tastes rich, sweet and creamy.
Not to be confused with the prior, damla sakızı, which is a stronger mastic-flavored gum, is one of the top flavors for Turks and is also a pure white and creamy concoction that looks just like the milder-tasting kaymak flavor.
Chocolate-lovers beware as while the çikolata, chocolate-flavored ice cream in Turkey is rich, it doesn’t come with any chocolate chips. Turkish çikolata ice cream simply comes plain, creamy and in a deep rich chocolate color. If you’re lucky, you might come across a chocolate chip variation, especially at larger ice cream stands.
It was a toss-up between chocolate and caramel to be honest, because karamel, which is a golden creamy and not-too-sweet variation on the classic flavor is also a favorite here in Turkey.
On a lighter note, Turks actually love fresh fruit flavors and according to the vendors I surveyed, their favorite happens to be melon, which in Turkish is kavun.
When you come across green-colored ice cream, I can near guarantee that it will be the pistachio flavor antep fıstığı and not in any way related to the green mint-flavored ice creams others may inadvertently mistake this for. However, if you do, you will be doing like the Turks, who adore this flavor of nutty, sweet and smooth pistachio nut.
Black cherry, which in Turkish is vişne, has been a long-standing favorite and will be one of the core flavors available at any ice cream stand.
Similarly, limon, which is understandably the word for “lemon” in Turkish, is a delightfully refreshing and slightly tangy flavor that is nearly always on offer and is a favorite fruity flavor in the summer for many Turks.
While strawberry ice cream, which is çilek in Turkish, is certainly popular, many ice cream stands will offer a number of different berry-flavored options such as raspberry (ahududu), mulberry (karadut) and blackberry (böğürtlen).
Turks love their fruity flavors!
While the aforementioned 10 flavors came out on top of a survey I did of local traditional Turkish ice cream vendors, many also offer a wide range of additional fruity flavors that have long been favorites. These include peach (şeftali), apricot (kayısı), orange (portakal), banana (muz) and even fig and walnut (ıncirli cevizli).
Special Turkish ice cream formula
While Turkish ice cream may seem simple, it is anything but, which I learned from Tekin Usta Keçi Sütü, with branches dotting the Aegean. It was they who shared with me the unique formula for most Turkish ice cream and which is a must-have in maraş ice cream and any goat’s milk (keçi sütü) ice cream, which make up the vast majority of ice cream stands in the country. The special formula for traditional Turkish ice cream is this: fresh goat’s milk boiled with mastic and ground orchid root, which is sahlep.
Turkish ice cream is famously known for being able to be cut with a butcher’s knife. It is also more elastic and less prone to melting comparatively, which is due to the extensive stirring and stretching as it is prepared. This is especially true in the case of maraş ice cream, which many will know is prone to a show of pulling and prodding of cones of ice cream in a magical display of showmanship.
Great Turkish ice cream films
“Turkish Ice-Cream” is a 2019 film based on a true story of two Turkish ice cream vendors stuck in Australia during the Gallipoli Campaign and how they sold ice cream from a trolley on the streets of a nation where propaganda was being waged against the Turks.
“Dondurmam Gaymak” (“I Scream, Ice Cream”) is more about the art of film than about the ice cream and it was actually Turkey’s Oscar contender in 2007 the year after it came out. But, directed by Yüksel Aksu, who hails from the region, the film tells the story of the life of an ice cream vendor in southern Turkey’s Muğla, especially when challenged by his bike being stolen.