Turkish cuisine (Turkish: Türk mutfağı) is largely the heritage of Ottoman cuisine, which can be described as a fusion and refinement of Central Asian, Caucasian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and Balkan cuisines. Turkish cuisine has in turn influenced those and other neighbouring cuisines, including those of Western Europe. The Ottomans fused various culinary traditions of their realm with influences from Middle Eastern cuisines, along with traditional Turkic elements from Central Asia (such as yogurt and mantı), creating a vast array of specialities—many with strong regional associations.
Turkish cuisine varies across the country. The cooking of Istanbul, Bursa, Izmir, and rest of the Aegean region inherits many elements of Ottoman court cuisine, with a lighter use of spices, a preference for rice over bulgur, koftes and a wider availability of vegetables stew (türlü), eggplant, stuffed dolmas and fish. The cuisine of the Black Sea Region uses fish extensively, especially the Black Sea anchovy (hamsi), has been influenced by Balkan and Slavic cuisine, and includes maize dishes. The cuisine of the southeast -Urfa, Gaziantep and Adana- is famous for its variety of kebabs, mezes and dough-based desserts such as baklava, kadayıf and künefe.
Especially in the western parts of Turkey, where olive trees grow abundantly, olive oil is the major type of oil used for cooking. The cuisines of the Aegean, Marmara and Mediterranean regions are rich in vegetables, herbs, and fish. Central Anatolia has many famous specialties, such as keşkek (kashkak), mantı (especially from Kayseri) and gözleme.
A specialty's name sometimes includes that of a city or region, either in or outside of Turkey, and may refer to the specific technique or ingredients used in that area. For example, the difference between Urfa kebap and Adana kebap is the thickness of the skewer and the amount of hot pepper that kebab contains. Urfa kebab is less spicy and thicker than Adana kebap.
Turks usually prefer a rich breakfast. A typical Turkish breakfast consists of cheese (beyaz peynir, kaşar etc.), butter, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, jam, honey, and kaymak. Sucuk (spicy Turkish sausage, can be eaten with eggs), pastırma, börek, simit, poğaça and soups are eaten as a morning meal in Turkey. A common Turkish speciality for breakfast is called menemen, which is prepared with tomatoes, green peppers, onion, olive oil and eggs. Invariably, Turkish tea is served at breakfast. The Turkish word for breakfast, kahvaltı, means "before coffee" (kahve, 'coffee'; altı, 'under').
Homemade food is still preferred by Turkish people. Although the newly introduced way of life pushes the new generation to eat out, Turkish people generally prefer to eat at home. A typical meal starts with soup (in the winter), followed by a dish made of vegetables or legumes boiled in a pot (typically with meat or minced meat), often with or before rice or bulgur pilaf additionally a salad or cacık (made from diluted yogurt and minced cucumbers).
Although fast food is gaining popularity and many major foreign fast food chains have opened all over Turkey, Turkish people still rely primarily on the rich and extensive dishes of Turkish cuisine. In addition, some traditional Turkish foods, especially köfte, döner, kokoreç, börek and gözleme, are often served as fast food in Turkey. Eating out has always been common in large commercial cities. Esnaf lokantası (meaning restaurants for shopkeepers and tradesmen) are widespread, serving traditional Turkish home cooking at affordable prices.
In the hot Turkish summer, a meal often consists of fried vegetables such as eggplant (aubergine) and peppers or potatoes served with yogurt and tomato sauce. Menemen and çılbır are typical summer dishes, based on eggs. Sheep's cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelons and melons also make a light summer meal. Those who like helva for dessert prefer summer helva, which is lighter and less sweet than the regular one.