Exploring Turkish Cheese
Melted, grated, sliced or diced, cheese is well-loved the world over by people of all ages. Turkey isn’t a country known for its cheese, but believe us, there’s an incredible variety available. Turkish cuisine is home to many unique tastes, including the varieties of cheese. Cheese plays a leading role in the most flavors of Turkish culinary culture and breakfast table. There are 193 different cheeses in Turkey, with high protein and vitamin values. The best part of Turkish cheeses is also its detriment. Traditionally, the dairy product is produced differently in each region. Producers made do with what nature gave them: terrain, climate, animals, and so on. These procedures eventually turned into tradition. So that today, you can find the same type of cheese in every region and each one tasting different from the last. While variety is great, it also means that we’ve only tasted a fraction of what is out there. We’ll just have to keep on tasting. Below we’ve charted the most popular Turkish cheeses.
Beyaz Peynir (White cheese)
Many people that come to Turkey compare beyaz (white) cheese to Greek feta – but don’t ever say that! Yes, it’s white, and some varieties taste similar, but many others are different. It’s generally a high-fat cheese made from sheep, cow or goats milk and has no rind. Some varieties are mild and smooth, so perfect for spreading on fresh local bread in the morning. Others are matured for longer, have a real bite and ideal for crumbling over salads or serving at a raki table alongside fruit and mezze. Let us know your preference, and we will gladly give you a few pointers on the variety to best match your needs.
Is commonly referred to as “yellow cheese” and is perhaps the most popular cheese in Turkey. Fresh taze kasar could be likened to a firm, less creamy mozzarella. It’s mild, so great served at breakfast, and excellent in a grilled sandwich or used as a topping for pide (local pizza). Mature eski kasar is the opposite and typically strong and flavoursome. It’s aged and darker, so ideal paired with the right local wine.
Comes from the Aegean and Black Sea regions of Turkey. Its name translates as ‘onesie’ or ‘coverall’ as it’s traditionally cured in kidskin or cloth sacks. Tulum is a tasty cheese made from goat’s milk, where the curds are left to mature for up to six months. There are many types of Tulum, some good served at breakfast or sliced in sandwiches, others like cevizli (walnut) tulum look fabulous on a cheese board or served with toasted bread or crackers on the side.
Divle Obruk Peynir
Is widely regarded as one of the best Turkish gourmet cheeses and likened to Roquefort. It has a unique taste and aroma and is made from a blend of sheep and goats milk that’s matured in skins in the caves of the Divle region of Anatolia. The cheese has a rind and is pale yellow or white when cut open. It is a sharp cheese and a delicacy in Turkey most often enjoyed with village bread and preserves, or in better restaurants with raki, fruit and olives.
Kargi Tulum Peynir
Is another gourmet Turkish cheese made from sheep, goats or cows milk and matured in skins. It’s a semi-firm, flavoursome white cheese with a creamy, crumbly texture. A few regional varieties are available, and it is good with bread, raki or crumbled on top of salads.
Van Otlu Cheese
Falls into a class of its own and is one of Turkey’s most popular gourmet cheeses made from sheep’s milk. It’s a cheese made in the springtime when local herbs are abundant. Up to 25 different varieties of herbs are added to the cheese, giving it a highly unique taste, aroma and flavour. This is a great cheese to feature on a cheese board or serve with breakfast or on a raki table.
Tel, Civil and Cecil Peynir
Originates from Erzurum, Kars and Mus in northeast Turkey. These cheeses are mild and stringy, so great to play with at breakfast or wrap around a crudité. All three kinds of cheese are made in a similar way, and the difference is the salt and fat content. These string cheeses tend to be a kids favourite, so they are a good option for those with families on board.
Is dry, crumbly and rarely eaten on its own. It has a subtle flavour and is made from the leftovers that are strained out of milk curds, rather than the curds themselves. Lor is a wonderful ingredient, especially combined with fresh herbs and used as a filling traditional Turkish borek and other savoury pastry dishes.