Greek and Turkish cuisine: A common legacy

Without a doubt, Greece and Turkey have an indissolubly long connected history, and apart from their differences, we can observe many similarities. The emigration and the population exchange between these countries had a crucial influence in the cultural heritage.

The convention of Lausanne: the background of the exchange

Specifically, on 30 of January 1923 the governments of Greece and Turkey signed the “Convention Concerning the Exchange of Greek and Turkish Populations”, at Lausanne, Switzerland. More than 1,000.000 Greeks Orthodoxies from Asia Minor, Eastern Thrace, the Pontic Alps and the Caucasus, and 355,000–400,000 Muslims from Greece have been forced to leave all their possessions, becoming refugees from their homelands. The refugees that came to Greece brought with them a lot of characteristics of Eastern world such as the music, the dances, the cuisine, and the customs.


If you look up, a little bit back in the history, Turkish and Greek cuisine share many more traits than just similar names; in fact, the two cuisines are remarkably close. Elements of both cuisines are a mixture of Western and Eastern food. After the exchange of populations and the repatriation, the Greek Orthodoxies brought the “politiki” cuisine. The term refers to recipes originally from Istanbul but brought to Greece by refugees, mainly after the Asia Minor disaster. It is a rich cuisine, full of delicious recipes, strong aromas and lots of spices.

CacıkDolma / Ntolmadakia yalantzi

Whether it’s dolma in Turkish or dolmades in Greek, both cuisines share a fascinating journey into the senses with a variety of scrumptious food. The dish sarma or yaprak sarması (also known as yalancı dolma) in Turkish cuisine is called Ntolmadakia yalantzi in Greek, but they are almost the same.

Dolmadakia are a treat made from spring onions, dill, parsley and mint mixed with rice and wrapped in vine leaves. Dolmades can also be made with minced meat with the egg-lemon sauce poured on top. The sour, velvety egg-lemon sauce enhances their taste.

Turkish people also use the word “Dolma” for filled courgette and calamari, eggplants and peppers, while Greeks only when the vines leaves are filled with rice or meat.

In greek cuisine there are two types of Dolmades; a) dolmades with meat and rice and b) dolmades with rice. Dolmades with rice are called “yalanci”, a turkish word that means fake, that’s because they don’t have any meat. According to turkish people the real dolmas is the one with the meat. However, even though it is called the same in Greece, Greek people usually eat dolmades only with rice.

Imam baildi

Another similar dish between Greece and Turkey is “Imam baildi”. The food imam baildi is really well-known in Greece and lots of people believe that it is a greek recipe. However, from the name you can understand that they come from Turkey.

The name Imam bayildi in Turkish, means “the Turkish imam fainted” because according to a myth the Turkish imam fainted when he tasted for the first time this food. Of course, there are plenty of other myths, such as the imam fainted because he heard the cost of the ingredients or the amount of oil used to cook the dish.

The food imam baildi is made of eggplants stuffed with onion, garlic and grated tomatoes. It is usually served with rice in the plate.


A tasty meze made from legumes and equally loved in both countries. Same name, same taste and the aroma of onion and olive oil emerging in abundance.

Cacık/ Tzatziki

In the list of appetizers, tzatziki (in greek) has of course a prominent place. The ingredients are the same but sometimes they look different. The Turks eat it with a spoon like a refreshing soup, while the Greeks like to enjoy it with bread. Both recipes include yogurt, garlic and dill.

Deserts in Greek and turkish cuisine

Greek and Turkish cuisine, baklava

When it comes to Greek sweet dishes, most comes from the Turkish cuisine. When we speak of syrupy sweets, the first thing that comes to our mind is baklava. It’s a rich sweet pastry made of layers of dough with nuts and honey syrup, and a touch of cinnamon. This is purely an Ottoman Turkish sweet which has also been passed onto the Greeks as well.

Ravani – Lemon Sponge Cake

In order to make ravani the Turks use more semolina, while the Greek ravani has flour as well, or some recipes include only flour. Some also put yogurt or even mastic (Ravani Verias). But in both versions, the dessert needs a lot of eggs and no butter or oil, to become like a sponge and absorb the syrup.


Ekmek means bread in Turkish and it is a perfect sweet made from syrupy bun-like bread, ideally served with buffalo cream. In Greece its variation is made with kadaifi – ekmek kadaifi, with pastry cream and whipped cream.

Of course, the similarities between Greek and Turkish cuisine are uncountable with a plethora of dishes. Nevertheless, each country has adapted the recipes to suit more with their tastes.

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Post Author: Vasileia Giamali

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