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  • Writer's pictureKevin Whitehead

Top 10 Turkish Spices You're Missing Out On

Top 10 Turkish Spices You're Missing Out On

Turkey is a culturally rich transcontinental country with a history as rich and beautiful as the spices they once traded across the known world. Historically speaking, Istanbul (formerly Constantinople) was a major hub of commerce in the world of spice trades. It was originally created in 1660 by the Ottomans. Istanbul’s Egyptian Bazaar still exists today, offering exotic spices and so much more.

Today, Turkey is still famous for its delicious cuisine. Here are ten amazing Turkish spices you are definitely missing out on and you should consider trying in your everyday recipes!


Sumac is a beautiful, vibrant, bright red berry popular in the Middle East. It’s often ground into a coarse powder to be used for culinary purposes. The flavor of sumac is similar to lemon but less sour. Try adding it to veggies, poultry, in a rub, or even sprinkled over a dish to finish it.

What’s really interesting about culinary sumac, aside from being one of Turkish cuisine's must-have spices, is that it is related to poison sumac. However, culinary sumac has red berries while poison sumac has white berries.

Black Caraway Seed

One of the most incredible things about Turkish spices is how bold the colors can be. Black caraway seeds are no different. They are often used to flavor curries, but are great for vegetables and poultry too—both in terms of taste and aesthetics. Try them in home made bread to add a lovely flavor and a unique look.

Black caraway seeds are grown from a flowering plant that is native to Bulgaria, Romania, Cyprus, Iran, Iraq, and Turkey.

Black Cumin

Black cumin comes from black caraway seeds; to be precise, black cumin is the ground version of these seeds. Because cumin is ground up, it can be much more versatile in its uses. Try substituting pepper in recipes or in a dressing for salads. You can still use cumin in bread, but instead of small black dots in the bread, black cumin will color the entire loaf.

Ground Mahlep

Mahlep, also known as Mahleb, is made from the internal kernel of a sour cherry stone from the St. Lucy cherry that grows in parts of Africa, Asia, and Europe. It tastes like cherry and bitter almond, much like amaretto. It is a beautiful flavor that works perfectly in sweet treats, bread, and desserts.

Dolmalid Fistik

Although it’s (probably) an unfamiliar name, Dolmalid Fistik is simply a fancy term for pine nuts. Pine nuts are great toasted to top salads, or combined with olive oil, parmesan cheese, basil, and other ingredients for a classic pesto, hummus, and pastas. It truly is a versatile ingredient with fascinating flavors!

Grated Coconut

Grated coconut can be used anywhere you would use shredded coconut, and then some. The best thing about grated coconut is the pieces are smaller for a better mouth-feel. Try a coconut curry sauce, or Sultan Sarmasi (which is a Turkish rolled pudding dessert).


Mint is one of the most-used spices in Turkish cuisine and is used in both sweet and savory foods. It is mostly added to beef, and lamb but is also used in soups. Mint is an easy herb to find because it is hardy and invasive. Most of the time, you’ll use it dried.

Curry Powder

Curry powder is a pre-made spice mixture that consists of some of the best Turkish spices like pepper, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, cumin, turmeric. The ingredients in the blend and the amount of each spice depends on the maker. While it is easier to buy pre-made, you can really personalize and adjust the spices to your liking when you make it yourself.

Not sure what the best way to use it is? You can add curry powder to flavor sauces, meats, and vegetables but don’t let the name limit how you use it. Try a curry lamb burger, or a richly spiced potato salad or even a turkey curry chili.


Turmeric is a bright yellow colored spice with a bitter, earthy flavor that works well in teas, vegetables, soups, meat, and more. Historically, turmeric has been used for medicinal purposes. Its history stretches back as far as 4,500 years, and there have been studies done on its effects. This popular spice is commonly used in healthy smoothies. Interesting enough, it can also be used as a vibrant clothing dye.


You’re probably not surprised to see saffron on this list. Not only is it popular, but it’s consistently been ranked as the most expensive spice in the world!

Saffron is known around the culinary world and is one of the best Turkish spices. It is easy to spot because of its bright red-orange color. It comes from a crocus sativus, or Saffron crocus. The taste of saffron is slightly bitter despite the sweet smell. One of the most popular uses of saffron is for coloring and flavoring rice. However, it’s also amazing with pasta dishes, eggs, poultry, and more. Use it to color and flavor milk for tea or for custard as well.

Because the flowering crocus bares so little harvest of three stigmas per flower, saffron is pricey and prone to being faked. One way to tell if your saffron is the real deal is to check what it’s selling for. If the price is too good to be true, it is. Saffron is extremely difficult to grow and harvest successfully, so anyone who obtains it in a legitimate way will be sure to price it properly.

Whether you are looking to make your favorite Turkish dishes, or to try new things, these Turkish spices are just the thing to invigorate your cooking. Some of these must have spices are difficult to find if you don’t live near the Spice bazaar. Luckily, you can find the best Turkish Spices from our online Turkish supermarket.

Here as Basil Grocery, we sell all manner of Turkish goods aside from spices. We offer weekly deals at our website where you can buy perishable and non-perishable items from our Turkish market online. We deliver non-perishable items country-wide and perishable items to select local states. Check out our website for more information and to see our amazing selection of spices and so much more. We even carry cooking supplies like pots and pans for a truly authentic Turkish meal.

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