Turkish Delight (Lokum)

Turkish delight is a little dessert that you can find in different shapes and forms. It was first seen in Istanbul, then it became familiar in Ottoman Empire, and later, it has become one of the most famous desserts in Turkey, and finally, it has become famous all around the world without losing its Turkish identity.

Even though the way of making Turkish delight has changed through the years, the deliciousness remained the same. It was popular back then in the Ottoman Empire, and it is now popular in Turkey, having the feature of not only being a dessert but having a cultural value. Turkish delight had witnessed important events in history, and today it preserves its importance by being a part of special occasions.

What is Turkish Delight?

Turkish delight is a kind of soft confectionery that is made from water, starch, sugar, and some acidic products. It is characterized by its limpness and chewiness; various flavors and nuts can be added to the Turkish delight. It is sometimes serving as a sweet thing to have with coffee or tea, and it is an important part of some special occasions like holidays.

It is typically soft, but there are Turkish delight types with hard consistency, and those have a hard consistency due to the way they are made. Turkish delight usually has powdered sugar or coconut powder on it.

What Does Turkish Delight Taste Like?

The Turkish delight’s texture might remind you of a gummy bear, but the taste is different. There are different Turkish delight flavors and all of them taste different. Taste of Turkish delight changes according to the ingredients. For instance, if there is a nut in the Turkish delight, while eating it, you will feel a sort of crunch. Additionally, to the Turkish delight, the powdered sugar or coconut powder adds more flavor.

Turkish Delight Variations

As I mentioned earlier, there are various kinds of Turkish delight according to their ingredients, flavors, and shapes. There are options for almost all kinds of different tastes, and you cannot know which one you will like without trying. If you have no problem with the texture of the Turkish delight, trying all of them is recommended (but do not try all of them in one day). The following are some of the popular Turkish delight types.

“Bird” Turkish Delight

This type of Turkish delight is named “bird” due to how small it is. It is in a cube shape, and small enough to fit between two of your fingers. It is known that the bird Turkish delight has come to the Ottoman Empire by Persians, and when it first arrived, it was being used for medical conditions. In the Ottoman Empire periods, sugar was not as popular as it is today, so they were using honey and molasses in the making of delight. The fruity ones have different colors such as green, pink, yellow, and purple, and all colors represent a flavor. Pistachios also can be added o this kind of Turkish delight.

Double Roasted Turkish delight

Double roasted Turkish delight gets its name from the way it is done instead of its shape or flavor. Double roasted Turkish delight usually refers to the delights that are made with pistachios, and the reason for having the name “double roasted” is that already roasted pistachios are put in the delight and roasted once again in the delight. In other words, pistachios get roasted twice. It is known that double roasted Turkish delight was not seen until the 1960s, and the first place it was seen is Konya.

Turkish Delight with Nuts

Different kinds of nuts can be added to Turkish delight, and the name of it changes according to which type of nut is used. The most common Turkish delight types with nuts are pistachio, hazelnut, and walnut.

Turkish delight with walnuts is a kind of Turkish delight that is especially famous in the Bursa region. In Bursa, Turkish delight with hazelnuts is widely used in special occasions such as weddings and holidays. Different from bird Turkish delight, Turkish delight with walnuts is shaped like a sushi roll and covered with coconut powder. Besides, there is a special kind of Turkish delight that is made with walnuts. It is called sujuk lokum, and it gets the name sujuk because the making progress is similar to the special Turkish sausage, sujuk. Different from other Turkish delights, sujuk lokum is made by lining up walnuts in a rope and then dipping it into a syrup to let it dry.

Turkish delight with hazelnuts is one of the most popular nutty delights in Turkey. It ıs shaped as a cube or rectangular prism, and you can observe a lot of different sizes. It can be as small as a backgammon dice, or it can be in the length of your palm. They are typically covered with coconut sugar. 

Rose Flavored Turkish Delight

A kind of delight that was frequently consumed in Ottoman palaces was the rose delight. If you like rose-flavored food, there is a high chance that you will love this one. Rose flavored delight could be in different sizes, and it is usually covered with powdered sugar. It has a reddish-pink color, and sometimes pistachios are put in them.

Sultan Turkish Delight

Different from other Turkish delights which are shaped like a roll or cubes, Sultan Turkish delight is shaped like a ball. It contains plenty of milk in it, hence its color is white. It also includes whipped cream in it.

Turkish Delight with Cream

This type of delight consists of normal delight on the outside and cream that is derived from buffalo milk inside. It is also shaped like a roll, and it is made by opening Turkish delight like a dough with a roller and spreading buffalo cream on it. Later, it is rolled like a cylinder and it is cut as however, you would like. Later, it should be covered with coconut powder.

Besides those traditional Turkish delights, nowadays many more different Turkish delights are present. You can find one according to your own taste. The following are some of the Turkish delight flavors that you can find:

  • Chocolate flavored Turkish delight
  • Vanilla flavored Turkish delight
  • Pomegranate flavored Turkish delight
  • Milk flavored Turkish delight
  • Orange flavored Turkish delight
  • Mint flavored Turkish delight
  • Green apple flavored Turkish delight
  • Watermelon flavored Turkish delight

The list goes like this, you can find any fruity flavor that you can think of in Turkish delight. As long as you have the extract of the flavor you want to put in, you can do it even by yourself.

Etymology, Origin, and History of the Turkish Delight

In Turkey, Turkish delight is referred to as “lokum”, and Turkish delight is a name given to lokum by a stranger. This foreign traveler from England comes to Turkey and tries lokum. He loves it and decides to take some to England, but he does not remember the name, and refers to it as “Turkish delight”. The name of Turkish delight comes from this event.

The Turkish word for Turkish delight (lokum), has an Arabic background. Word lokum comes from the root “lkm” and the Arabic word “lukma”. Lukma means something that you can swallow in one bite, or a sip. According to another theory, the word lokum comes from the term “Rahat-ül Hulkum”. Rahat-ül Hulkum refers to something that soothes your throat as it in your throat.

It is known that Turkish delight comes from a confectionary that is from Persian Empire. That confectionary was named as “abhisa” in Persian Empire, yet the Turkish delight that is now being consumed in Turkey is quite different from that, it is only known that it was inspired by abhisa. Turkish delight emerged in a competition about desserts. In the year 1777, Abdulhamid I. was searching for a sweet new taste, but he was tired from all of the hard candies. To find the perfect taste for him, he started a competition, especially about soft confectionary. Hacı Bekir, who was a confectioner from Kastamonu, won this competition. At that time, he was already preparing and selling Turkish delight in his small shop, but it was not famous up until this competition. Since Turkish delight became popular due to Abdulhamid’s request, it was also as known as sultan’s candy back then.

Bayezid I., Turkish Delight, and Letters to Timur

There is a story about Bayezid I., Timur, and the Turkish delight. It is a mystery whether this story is true, but it is a story that has been told a lot. According to this story, after Ankara War, Bayezid I. and Timur were debating frequently via letters. One day, Timur sent a box to Bayezid I., which was full of feces. As a response, it has been said that Bayezid I. sent a box of Turkish delight with a note that says, “everybody offers what they eat”.

Turkish Delight in Turkish Culture

Besides being a delicious dessert, Turkish delight is an indispensable part of some special events. And it is used in daily life as a treat with Turkish coffee or tea, in addition to those special events. To eat Turkish delight you do not need any excuse, if you are craving it going to a store and buying Turkish delight is not something extraordinary.

There is a tradition in Turkey in which the parents of the groom visit the house of the bride, to “asking for the girl” from their parents before marriage. This tradition is going on for many years, and Turkish delight is typically served in this event. Also, in some religious holidays in which different kinds of candies are served as a treat, Turkish delight plays a big role. Back then to the times when granulated sugar was not that popular, Turkish delight was the main confectionary to offer as a treat on holidays. But now, it is served with various kinds of confectionery products.

Moreover, there are some idioms in the Turkish language that includes Turkish delight. One of the most commonly used idioms is, “lokum gibi” (like Turkish delight). This idiom is used to something very nice, tasty, and enjoyable. In open-air markets, seller refers to their products as Turkish delight to attract more purchasers. The fact that Turkish delight has settled this much in the Turkish language, proves how old and popular it is.

In some regions of Turkey, Turkish delight is served to the bride and groom on their first day of marriage to be more energetic in the nighttime.

How is Turkish Delight Made?

Turkish delight can be both made in factories or the house. To make Turkish delight on your own, you will need 1 kg granulated sugar, half-liter water, a little almond butter, 2 gr cream tartar, 1 tablespoon lemon water, and 100 gr starch. To mix them all together, you will need 250 gr more starch and 250 gr powdered sugar. 

First, you need to boil sugar and the water in a pot and constantly mix it until all the sugar disappears. After you have just water, add the lemon juice to the water. You need to take off the foam that arises due to the lemon water. Then you need to mix the 250-gr starch and half a teacup of water in a different place. You need to add this mixture of starch and water slowly, to the pot as you constantly mix it. Then add the cream tartar and mix them all together until it gets a paste-like texture. You will need a high-sided tray to pour the mixture. After putting almond oil all over the tray, you need to put the mixture on the tray and then let it there for it to cool down. After it is all nice and cool, you need to put that extra starch and powdered sugar to a surface and turn the tray upside down. Then it is just left to oil scissors and cut it in portions ad you like.

This is a recipe for plain Turkish delight. If you want to try out different kinds of Turkish delights, you may want to buy different Turkish delight flavors that you can find in stores and put some flavor drops to your mixture. Additionally, you can richen your Turkish delight recipe with different kinds of nuts and pistachios.

How do you distinguish a good Turkish Delight from a bad one?

A good Turkish delight must have elasticity; such that when you press it, it should go down but by time, it should take its former shape again. A well-prepared Turkish delight is not sticky, but it is chewy. Turkish delight must not be opaque, Turkish delight is characterized by its clear look. As you bite down, the inside of it must look shiny.

Where to Buy Turkish Delight: Best Brands

You can find Turkish delight in any city of Turkey, but the quality of all of them is not equal, of course. Some brands have the best Turkish delight, and you may want to prefer those if you want a good Turkish delight experience. The following are the best Turkish delight brands that you can find in different cities of Turkey. This list is from a survey of the biggest newspaper in Turkey.

Hacıbekir-İstanbul

You may remember the name Hacı Bekir from the history of Turkish delight, he was the one who made Turkish delight popular in the Ottoman Empire by winning a contest with Turkish delight. Yes, this one is from the exact same background. The original place of Hacıbekir shop in İstanbul is in the same shop where Hacı Bekir was preparing Turkish delight in the year 1777.

Şekerci Ali Galip-İzmir

This shop, which has been on the market since the beginning of the 20th century, exports Turkish delight to different countries in the world. You can find hundreds of different kinds of Turkish delight and many more candies in this shop (şekerci means confectioner in Turkish).

Cemilzade-İstanbul

This shop is present since the year 1883. Besides Turkish delight, you can find almond butter, peanut butter, various candies as well but this place is especially famous for its Turkish delight. The people who operate this business are from Udi Cemil Bey’s lineage, who was the founder of this place.

Safrantat Lokumcusu-Safranbolu

This shop not only serves in Safranbolu but also has a branch in Istanbul. Even though this shop does not has as many as options others, they still sell some of the best Turkish delights you can try.

Malatya Pazarı-İstanbul

This place is especially famous for its nuts. It goes without saying that you must try out the Turkish delights with nuts in them in this place.

Divan Pastanesi-İstanbul

Like Safrantat, this place also has different branches yet this one is spread all around the country. This place is famous for its fruit-flavored Turkish delights.

İkbal-Afyon

İkbal has lots of different branches all around the country, just like Divan Pastanesi. It is known for its broad options in terms of Turkish delight.

Ali Uzun Şekerlemecisi-Ankara

You can find this shop in Tunalı, which is in one of the central regions of Ankara. It is one of the oldest confectioners of Ankara and is often preferred for Turkish delight.

Yeni Uğur Helvacısı-Adana

This place is basically everywhere in Adana, and it is the most popular place to get Turkish delight. You may also find different kinds of sweets and nuts here.

Tuğba Kuruyemiş-Aydın

This place is famous for its Turkish delight that is special to Aydın. Different from other kinds of Turkish delights, Sabuniye delight has butter in it.

Turkish Delight in Other Cultures and Similar Products

Turkish delight is loved and consumed in many other countries, in addition to other similar products to Turkish delight. But a Turkish delight cannot be marketed under a different name anywhere in the world. In other countries, the traditional way to make Turkish delight is could not be understood well, so they needed to come up with different styles to make it. As you may guess, the differences in the making progress of Turkish delight had changed its taste. If you want to try original Turkish delight, you need to try it out in Turkey.

Besides the traveler in the 18th century, some novels are the reason for the spreading of Turkish delight. One of them is Charles Dicken’s novel named “The Mystery of Edwin Drood”. In this novel, the main character wants to have Turkish delight. The other characters ask about what is a Turkish delight, and the main character mocks and humiliates them for not knowing what is a Turkish delight. Since Charles Dickens is a very famous author, this novel had played a great role in spreading Turkish delight worldwide.

Another novel that mentions Turkish delight is The Chronicles of Narnia book series, which has been translated into 47 languages. This series is a lot more popular than Charles Dickens’ novel, and it can be said that it played an even greater role in the spreading of Turkish delight worldwide. Clive Staples Lewis, who is the author of The Chronicles of Narnia, referred to Turkish delight as the world’s most demanded dessert.

Moreover, Pretextat Lecomte, who is a famous French painter had mentioned Turkish delight in his book. Based on his experience from the time spent in Istanbul, he said that the Turkish delight made in other countries than Turkey is just a dim copy of the original. Giving place to such explanation in his book, contributed to the spreading of Turkish delight as well.

You can find Turkish delight basically all around the world today, such that some restaurants and shops are named as “Turkish delight” abroad. The first exportation of Turkish delight was conducted by Hacı Bekir, who is the winner of the competition that Abdulhamid I. started. Nowadays, you can find Turkish delight under different names all around the world.

In North America, Turkish delight is referred to as “rahat lokum”. As I mentioned in the etymology of Turkish delight, it has been said that the word lokum comes from “Rahat-ül Hulkum”. There is a high chance of the expression rahat lokum is just a variation of Rahat-ül Hulkum. You can find different flavors of rahat lokum in North America.

In Brazil, the Turkish delight is known by many different names. The following are the names that are used for Turkish delight in Brazil:

  • Delicia Turca
  • Goma Siria
  • Bala de Gome Arabe
  • Manjar Turco

In Greece, Turkish delight is quite popular such that it is present since the 19th century. It is known as loukoumi, which is very similar to the Turkish word for Turkish delight. In some cities of Greece, sujuk lokum is also very popular.

Jelly, or gummy bears, are constantly being compared with Turkish delight, and some say that gummy bears are produced by accident while people were trying to copy Turkish delight. Even though the texture is similar and some steps in the making process are identical, gummy bears have animal products in them whereas Turkish delight is completely vegan (except for those who have honey or cream in them). Another jelly confectionary which is named jellybeans is also being compared with Turkish delight. It has been said that jellybeans are just a mixture of Turkish delight and almond candy. Indeed, the soft inner part of jellybeans reminds of the Turkish delight.

Turkish Delight in Popular Culture

As mentioned earlier, Turkish delight’s traces can be observed in different novels and movies. Moreover, after the movie The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, Turkish delight sale rates raised by 20% in England. This is due to the constant mentioning of Turkish delight in this movie. Additionally, lokum (Turkish delight in Turkish), is frequently used in Turkish songs, and some songs in foreign languages. An example that you can be familiar with is present in Madonna’s song Candy Shop. “I’ve got Turkish delight baby and so much more” is a lyric that was in that song.

İsmail Çamönü

Hi! I am Ismail. I am a digital nomad from Turkey. I lived in many cities around Turkey during my life and I am passionate about traveling. At Nomad's Guide to Turkey, I share travel tips for nomads, expats, and tourists who would like to visit Turkey.

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