Add Some Turkish Flare To Your Holiday Menus

Many Turkish Recipes Go Well With Thanksgiving, Christmas and Hanukkah Fare

Thanksgiving, Christmas and other winter holidays aren't traditionally celebrated in Turkey. That's why the menus and dishes many of us are familiar with at this time of year can't be found. The good news is, you can still create fantastic, exotic holiday fare using Turkish recipes.

You'll be happy to know that there are many ancient and classic Turkish dishes that truly compliment Thanksgiving, Christmas and other winter holiday menus.

Exotic Tastes From Familiar Ingredients

The key is the ingredients. One of the beauties of Turkish cuisine is its variety and use of common, well-known ingredients. These ingredients and spices are used in unique combinations cooked with different methods. This makes for dishes that are exotic, but pleasingly familiar and comforting at the same time.

For your holiday menus, this translates into a fresh, foreign twist on the familiar, a break in the monotony of the same old menu year after year. An added benefit is that Turkish cuisine tends to be much lighter than it's European and North American counterparts, so often you'll end up eating just as much, but recovering from your feast in much less time!

Whet Your Taste Buds

How does a different twist on pumpkin pie sound for dessert? How about stuffing for your turkey made with rice, pine nuts, currants and liver instead of bread?

Does fragrant celeriac and carrots sound like a nice vegetable side dish instead of peas? If all this interests your tastes buds this holiday season, keep reading.

Below, I want to give you my ideal holiday menu that incorporates Turkish recipes next to your classic favorites. Don't worry, they'll fit in just perfectly.

In fact, you can actually make your whole holiday menu using Turkish recipes, right down to the pumpkin dessert!

The Ideal "Turkish" Full Course Holiday Menu

I like to serve a long, drawn-out, full course meal on holidays that include everything from a soup and appetizer through to dessert and coffee. Here is my rundown of courses and recipes with links below. You can pick and choose among them or cook up them all for a wonderful holiday meal with a Turkish twist.

  • 01 of 08

    Appetizer: Artichoke Bottoms With Vegetables

    Turkish Artichoke Bottoms With Olive Oil. Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu, 2012

    As an appetizer, I recommend Turkish stuffed artichoke bottoms. They look spectacular on the plate and are more than fancy enough for special occassions. The artichoke flavor is rich and goes well with the rest of the menu.

  • 02 of 08

    Soup: Turkish-style Creamy Celeriac Soup

    Turkish celeriac in olive oil is flavored with lemon and orange juice.

    The Spruce / Elizabeth Taviloglu

    Celeriac soup is a creamy, smooth soup with the delicate aroma of celery. It's easy to prepare and it goes perfectly with roast turkey and other holiday fare. 

  • 03 of 08

    Palate Cleanser: Fresh Pomegranite Seeds

    Pomegranate seeds on slate
    rhinoneal / Getty Images

    Before the main course, I usually serve individual scoops of pomegranite sorbet or have small, shot-glass size glasses of pomegranite seeds as a part of each place setting for guests to enjoy as a palate cleanser between courses.

  • 04 of 08

    Main Course: Roast Turkey With Rice And Chestnut Stuffing

    Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu, 2012

    For the main course, I recommend oven roasted turkey, cooked as you would normally roast it. The difference is the stuffing.

    Rather than bread-based stuffing, Turkish cuisine prides itself with rice-based stuffings for their meat and poultry.

    This recipe for oven-roasted turkey with rice, pine nut and currant stuffing has optional roasted chestnuts to help keep things more familiar. It's truly delicious.

    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    On The Side: Romano Beans In Olive Oil

    Romano, better known as Italian flat green beans, prepared Turkish-style. Photo © Elizabeth Taviloglu, 2012

    You will also be happy to know there's a Turkish alternative to the second most important holiday dish – mashed potatoes. In Turkey, the dish is called “potato puree.”

    It’s a buttery, milky and slightly chunky version of classic mashed potatoes. It goes perfectly with the turkey, stuffing and gravy you’ll make with the turkey juices.

    If you’re tired of the same old steamed peas, carrots and pearl onions, try one of many Turkish vegetable side dishes prepared with olive oil. Celeriac and carrots or Romano beans make a wonderful alternative to old fashioned steamed vegetables.

    What about sweet potatoes, you ask? Sweet potatoes are not native in Turkey and they aren’t used in traditional Turkish cooking.

    You can find them here and there at specialty grocers in the big cities. I usually substitute boiled pumpkin for the sweet potato.

    Just boil it until tender, press out the extra water with strainer, add butter, salt and pepper to taste, and there you have it. You can even add some brown sugar and marshmallows and bake it in the oven, just like sweet potatoes.

  • 06 of 08

    Dessert 1: Candied Pumpkin With Clotted Cream

    turkish pumpkin
    Turkish pumpkins are green or beige on the outside with thick, bright orange flesh and large seeds.

    No holiday menu would be complete without dessert, like pumpkin pie. I love pumpkin pie, but I often find I’m too full after the meal to really enjoy it.

    I can offer you a much lighter Turkish pumpkin dessert without the crust.

    Turkish candied pumpkin dessert packs just as much pumpkin punch as traditional pie without the extra carbs. It’s also very easy to prepare and looks beautiful too.

  • 07 of 08

    Dessert 2: Candied Quince Dessert


    The Spruce / Molly Watson

    Need a second dessert to offer? You can also try Turkish quince dessert. Another lovely, tender fruit dessert.

  • 08 of 08

    Turkish Coffee

    Turkish brewed black tea is traditionally served in tulip-shaped tea glasses.

    Benjamin Wohlbrecht /

    No holiday meal would be complete without coffee or tea. Conclude your meal with a good, strong cup of Turkish coffee or freshly-brewed Turkish tea.

    Garnish each cup or glass with a piece of Turkish delight and a small, decorative glass of flavored liqueur such as creme de menthe or amaretto. Let some Turkish tea and coffee culture enter your home this holiday season. Serve with lokma (fried sweet dough).