Sweet Street Treats: Turkish Street Desserts

Having studied in Istanbul, I had the pleasure of trying many Turkish street foods. It gave me invaluable experience with the cheap, quick and delicious delicacies from the streets of Istanbul – although long term health is questionable! We’ve written a lot about street food here before, but the desserts weren’t featured as much. We enjoy a great variety here – stuff like cotton candy is also a popular street food here – but I want to focus on things you can’t easily find elsewhere. So here is a small selection of popular Turkish desserts.

Turkish Street Dessert,

Lokma, tulumba and halka

Why combine these three together? Because at the end of the day, they’re essentially the same – other than their shape. Do you know the churros? Add simple syrup, with a dash of lemon, and you have the tulumba and halka desserts. The tulumba is like a small churro with riffles all around. Halka means “ring” in Turkish and, as the name suggests, is shaped like a ring. The tulumba version is usually sold in a small portioned cup while the halka is given directly to your hand, usually with a piece of paper to keep your hands from all getting sticky.

Lokma is close to these, but they are small balls with a long tradition of being freshly made and given as treats after funerals and other occasions. In recent years, they have grown in popularity with the emergence of stores offering this syrupy treat with chocolate and a wide variety of toppings.

Turkish street dessert, 'halka.'  (Photo Shutterstock)

Turkish street dessert, “halka”. (Photo Shutterstock)


With a star nozzle, you can make this look as authentic as possible! The former may not seem relevant, but practice makes perfect.


For the dough

  • 300 milliliters of water
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon of white vinegar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of oil
  • 3 eggs
  • 150 grams of flour
  • frying oil

For the syrup

  • 300 milliliters of water
  • 400 grams of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

Traditional Turkish dessert, 'Tulumba.'  (Photo Shutterstock)

Traditional Turkish dessert, “Tulumba”. (Photo Shutterstock)


Before you do anything, prepare the syrup by dissolving the sugar in water and bringing it to a boil. Simmer for five minutes and add the lemon juice. Set aside to let cool.

For the dough, mix the water, salt, oil, lemon juice and vinegar in a saucepan and boil. Add the flour continuously and stir continuously for about 3 to 5 minutes. Take it off the heat as well and let it cool until you can touch it, but it’s still hot enough. If you forget it and it cools down completely, that’s not a problem at all. Do not mix the eggs when they are hot because you do not want to cook them prematurely. Mix the eggs with a mixer or spatula until you get a smooth paste.

Prepare a pastry bag with a star tip and transfer the dough to the piping bag. In a fairly deep saucepan, heat the oil and pour small pieces (about 3 centimeters, a little bigger than an inch) of dough into it. Let them fry, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. Take them out of the oil and place them directly in the syrup. Let them soak a little in the sweet syrup then remove them. Enjoy!

Sweet traditional Ottoman dessert, 'Macun.'  (Photo Shutterstock)

Sweet traditional Ottoman dessert, “Macun”. (Photo Shutterstock)


From a colorful tray, the street vendors prepare your personally flavored lollipop by cleverly rolling up the differently flavored “macun”. This macun actually originated in the Ottoman era and had medicinal purposes, called “mesir macunu”. These vendors can be found on many festival grounds and especially during the holy month of Ramadan. If you want to try the more medicinal version, I’ve shared a recipe for it.


A dessert that I was delighted to have encountered in the scorching heat of the Mediterranean. The ancestor of the snow cone, Karsambaç is made from ice or snow from the mountains of Mersin and its surrounding areas. The ice is scraped off with a knife and then sprinkled with a sweet syrup. Depending on the seller, the syrup may have different flavors, but the watermelon syrup I tried was indeed delicious! You can also find it if you go to the neighboring Adana, although its name is “Bici bici” there. Sometimes they are simply referred to collectively as “kar helvası”, which literally means “snow halva”.

Famous traditional Turkish ice cream, 'MaraÅŸ ice cream.'  (Photo Shutterstock)

Famous traditional Turkish ice cream, “MaraÅŸ ice cream”. (Photo Shutterstock)

MaraÅŸ dondurma

Named after the city of KahramanmaraÅŸ, this ice cream is different. Not only the clever way the street vendor teases you with his tips, seen hundreds of times on social media, but also in his taste and texture. It’s quite dense and doesn’t melt as quickly as your traditional ice cream, plus it’s soft and almost stretchy. The reason for this texture is the arabic gum and salep, also giving the ice cream a distinct taste which can best be tasted if you ask for “sade” – the otherwise unflavored version of ice cream.

Turkish wafer halva, 'kağıt helva.'  (Photo Shutterstock)

Turkish wafer halva, “kağıt helva”. (Photo Shutterstock)

Kağıt Halva

“Halva, but like a pancake.” This dessert is a unique dish that contains a sweet layer of halva between thin layers of wafer. If you’re stuck in a traffic jam, you might find a vendor selling it, so you can relieve your stress with a quick snack. However, you can spice up this light dessert with the previous part: ice cream! By putting the thick MaraÅŸ ice cream between two pieces of halva wafer, you can quickly make an ice cream sandwich. Many street vendors offer to make one specific to your taste.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.