Cheese (Peynir) is the staple breakfast dish, the inseparable friend of sucuk in toast snack and the best friend of Turkish mums baking borek and other pastries. You might be surprised to hear that Turkish cuisine boasts around 200 types of cheese. Although you would usually find 20 types of cheese in 5 main categories (Kasar, Tulum, Mihalic, Lor and feta) in supermarket chains, you will find much more variety as you travel in Turkey. Below we have a list of popular Turkish cheese types.
Literally meaning “white cheese”, this is the most popular cheese in Turkey, especially consumed for breakfast. Known as “feta” in English speaking world, it is made by saturating in brine after draining it. It can be extremely creamy, half-creamy or without any cream at all. Beyaz Peynir can be made from cow, sheep or goat milk and can be more or less salty. The Ezine (near Çanakkale) version is particularly famous.
Where to use: You can use it in cold salads (in summer it is often eaten with watermelon) or have it warm in pastries such as Borek and pogaca. If you rest your “beyaz peynir” in cold water for a few hours, it will be desalinated, so you can use it in sweet recipes.
Similar to “Cheddar”, he Kasar is made from cow, sheep or goat’s milk and comes in two versions: fresh (“taze”) or mature (“eski”).
This is the second most consumed cheese in Turkey after Beyaz peynir. It is usually served at breakfast but it also accommodates toast sandwiches, pizzas and börek.
The “mature” Kasar is also called “old kasar” because it is usually refined in refrigerated cellar of six months to 2 years wrapped in canvas bags. It is a hard cheese, yellow in colour, with a taste appreciated by gourmets. It goes very well with red wine. The version from the Thrace region is renowned for its quality.
Cecil / Tel Peyniri
Literally meaning “wire chees”, Tel Peyniri is made in central Anatolia and some parts of the Black sea region. This soft cheese is made with skim milk and is hand rolled to take a wiry/filamentary shape which it takes its name from. It is recommended for those who watch their weight because of the low fat and high protein it has but has high levels of salt.
You can use it in omelettes and pastries.
The “circassian” cheese is a thin crust, light yellow smoky tasting cheese which is low in salt and fat. The smoky flavour comes from exposure to pine wood fire smoke. This process also increases its shelf life.
This fresh cheese takes its name from its shape and texture (Dil means tongue). Made from cow’s milk, it has a fibrous texture and a very sweet but slightly salty taste. It is usually consumed at breakfast. It can also be used in the preparation of künefe particularly in its non-salty versions. If the cheese is braided, it is called Orgu peyniri. Orgu means braid in Turkish.
Often called “Kars gravyeri” because of the popularity of the Kars version, this cheese is made from a high-fat cow’s milk. The taste is similar to the French gruyere and texture of the Swiss Emmental. Its manufacture requires more time as it would take about ten months for this cheese to be consumable. It is bright yellow in colour and surrounded by a darker crust with wide and regular holes.
As known as “Haloumi” in English speaking world, this cheese is of Cypriot origin. It is semi-hard and unripened in brine. It is made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk (and sometimes cow’s milk with rennet). Famous for its folded shape where the cheese dough is folded in half during its making. It can be kept in cool for up to one year. Some would grill it very lightly in a pan with water, some would add some hot water to have it sweeten and soften up before serving.
Famous in the Arabic speaking world, this is a type of cream cheese, slightly salty and very sweet. Usually used in cooking desserts and sauces.
Lor comes in lumps of soft goat cheese and it is created from whey of kasar and Mihalic cheeses. The whey is boiled and the obtained heavy material is then cut into small pieces.
You can spread it on bread and serve it with nuts or tomato paste and various condiments. You can also use it in Boreks
Hard, yellowy cream-colored, round with holes, granulated with a crust this sheep’s milk cheese is a specialty of Balikesir region in the Western Anatolia. This type of cheese can be stored for long.
Tulum peyniri is made with sheep’s or goat’s milk and it takes its name from the goat/sheep skin bag it is saturated in. The saturation time is at minimum three months. The cheese is white or cream in colour and it has a bold and salty flavour. The most famous Tulum peyniri comes from the Erzincan region in the Eastern Anatolia.
It’s pretty much Dil peyniri but in braided form. Orgu means braid in Turkish. The cheese has a fibrous appearance and a very sweet and slightly salty flavour. Consumed at breakfast, it often is used as a replacement of mozarella in salads or pizza.
Van Otlu peyniri
Otlu peynir is made in the Van region in Eastern Anatolia and it is prepared with sheep’s milk (sometimes mixed with milk cow or goat) and local herbs. Fresh garlic is added at the time of fermentation which gives Otlu peynir its unique flavour.