Tips on how to prepare an expat pantry in Türkiye

If you’re wondering where to get that whole turkey to roast, veggies you miss, foreign sauces, cheeses, and good substitutes, check out these tips to help foreigners stock your fridge with favorite signature ingredients we miss and love.

Feeding the soul for the holidays

With the traditional holiday of Thanksgiving celebrated in the United States and other places around the world around the corner this Thursday, November 24, along with Christmas a month later and New Year’s Eve the following week, next month and beyond can be a busy time to prepare the usual meals for these special days. The first question that many foreigners think of on these dates is where to find a whole turkey or, better yet, a roast turkey for indoor celebrations. Well, not to worry, as you can pre-order a whole turkey at local butcher shops and larger grocery markets like Migros and Carrefour.

Of course, along with a roast turkey comes the custom of serving cranberry sauce, the sourcing of which here in Türkiye is certainly a tall order. Cranberry is called “turna yemişi” in Turkish, although it can be mistranslated by various other berries such as “kızılcık” which is carnelian, and “yaban mersini” which is cranberry. While dried cranberries are regularly available, the fresh cranberries needed for the signature sauce that accompanies the turkey are hard to find. Big box vendor stores like Subway will be your best bet, whereas buying a can of cranberry sauce is next to impossible. Otherwise, Ikea, which you can visit or order online, regularly stocks lingonberry jam, which is a condiment served alongside Swedish meatballs, Norwegian pancakes, and potato pancakes.

Similarly, sweet potatoes and yams can also be confused with each other in translations and are also difficult to access reliably, although large grocery stores, gourmet stores like Macrocenter, and restaurant purveyors like Metro occasionally stock them in the winter months. If you see them, I’d say buy them because there’s no guarantee they’ll still be on sale the next day. There are also several farms that sell a wide variety of vegetables, nuts, sauces, seasonings, and harder-to-get staples like condensed milk, which you can easily order online.

There is a wide range of products that are now available in Türkiye that were not a few decades ago. It used to be hard to find avocados, broccoli, and even brussels sprouts. Now, we can easily find various beloved ingredients like cranberries, fennel, asparagus, bok choy, bean sprouts, and even coriander…sometimes.

The Cheesecake Cream Cheese Conundrum

I would venture to say that one of the biggest discussions in any Türkiye-based expat Facebook group has to do with the question of finding the right cream cheese to make a cheesecake here in Türkiye. While a “krem peynir” is sold in Türkiye, it can range from being more like a thicker salty cheese spread, compared to the softer, airier cream cheese we’re used to using. Philadelphia cream cheese is occasionally available but immensely expensive compared to Turkish substitutes. Now everyone seems to have their preference for cream cheese substitution here in Türkiye and it’s true they vary a lot, I’ve noticed that it’s some version of the job that tends to win the cake. However, I am going to go off the beaten path and suggest the Migros brand “taze krem ​​peynir”, which means fresh cream cheese, as a solid substitution option IMHO. Another fact about the Migros dairy brand is that its butter, which is salty, is divine. Pınar, on the other hand, the brand that brought us sliced ​​Turkish cheddar and more recently gouda cheese options, also has an “ekşi krema” which is the only brand I know of that produces sour cream in Türkiye. For the crust, “Eti Burçak” is an affordable variation on digestive biscuits, which are also now widely available, while Taç is a classic Turkish biscuit that’s more like a Ritz cracker, if you’re craving one.

Where’s the meat

Some meat lovers may be disappointed by the selection of beef on offer here in Türkiye, however the wide availability of lamb makes up for it. The beef here is not as tender as it is in the US, but if you absolutely must have a slice of beef, then the bon filet is the way to go.

chocolates to give thanks

The wide range of foreign comfort food products available in Türkiye, especially in the sweets department, has increased significantly over the past decade. It used to be that many expats pined for cookies like Oreos or chocolate covered digestifs, now these brands, as well as After Eights, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Malteser and Godiva are easy to come by in many grocery stores, but in a pinch, Macrocenter is your best bet for finding them regularly.

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