Halva in Turkey - Sorts & Prices

Page update - Apr 7, 2023

What is halva and how is it made? What are the features of Turkish halva? What types and varieties do Turks prefer? How and where should tourists buy halva? What are the prices in pastry shops and supermarkets? Read the answers on this page.

The prices on this page were updated in April 2023. Unfortunately, the price of halva in Turkey has risen strongly over the past 1.5 years. The Turkish lira (currency) has fallen by half (from 9.5 to 19.2 lira per dollar). At the same time halva has gone up 2.5 times in price.

The reason for this phenomenon is simple. The basis of halva is sesame, which ripens in late summer and autumn. All halva in Turkey is now made from sesame from the new harvest of 2022. Fresh sesame halva is the tastiest, but the prices are also high. All the current prices are below on this page.

What is halva

Halva (Turkish: 'helva') is an oriental sweet which is made from sugar syrup or honey. The syrup is mixed with a base which can be nut paste, flour or semolina. Nuts, dried fruit, flavorings, and colourings are added to the blend.

The consistency is firm and moderately crumbly. It is fibrous when hot but becomes smooth when cold.

Halva was invented in the Arab world. It was first described in the 13th century Arab cookery book Kitab Al-Tabiq. The name comes from the Arabic word 'حلو' ('helv'), which translates as 'sweet'.

What's special about Turkish halva

There is also a third mandatory ingredient in Turkey. It is an extract of the root of the Gypsophila rokejeka plant. This extract is boiled from the roots for 20 hours.

The extract is added in very small quantities, approx. 0.1-0.2%. It has a foaming effect, which means that the halva is more airy. The extract improves taste also.

Two types of halva

There are two main types altogether - flour (or semolina) and sesame (aka tahini). They differ in both recipe and culture of consumption.

Of course, other nuts can also be used for the base. Some are peanut, sunflower, walnut, hazelnut, or almond. However, you can hardly find any of those in Turkey. Turks don't like and don't respect them.

Sorts made of flour and semolina

Flour (Un Helvası) and semolina (İrmik Helvası) halva are common in Turkey. They are usually prepared at home and are rarely sold in shops.

The fact is that this type of halva in Turkish culture is a memorial dish. It is prepared immediately after the death of a person and on the 7th, 40th and 52nd day and on the anniversary of the death. It is also called "Ölü Helvası" ("Halva of the Dead"). It is customary in Turkey for the relatives of the deceased to gather and eat the halva together and remember something good about the deceased.

It is customary to give the halva to all the neighbors and even distribute it to people passing-by. Therefore, if it is served in the street, it means that someone has died in the house.

The preparation is very simple. Flour or semolina is toasted with butter and nuts. Sugar syrup is prepared separately. Then it is mixed and boiled for about 10 minutes.

Sort made of sesame

Grated sesame seeds are mixed with a little water to make tahini - sesame paste. Hence the name Tahini Helvası. The paste is mixed with a thick sugar syrup to make a classic halva.

Sesame halva is found in every shop and supermarket. And many shops stock this sort only. Many manufacturers do not even write the word "Tahini" in the name, as it is obvious the sesame halva.

There are several popular variations:

'Sade' (plain) - no additives.

'Kakaolu' (with cacao, chocolate) - with added cocoa powder. It is usually prepared in a special way. They make two mixtures: the first is without cocoa powder and the second is with a large amount of cocoa powder. Two mixtures then mixed together so that the result has layers in texture. It looks very colorful. See the photo below and click on the photo to enlarge it.

'Fındıklı' (with hazelnuts) - with the addition of whole or ground hazelnuts. The nuts are inside the mixture and can be sprinkled on top.

'Fıstıklı' (with pistachios) - with pistachios inside and can be sprinkled on top.

'Cevizli' (with walnuts) - with walnuts inside, can be sprinkled on top.

'Karamelli' (with caramel) - with caramel inside.

Halva prices in Turkey

Shop prices are about the same everywhere, except in some shops in resort areas, where they try to sell to tourists with exorbitant prices.

An ordinary sesame halva in shops is 100-140 Turkish liras per kilo. In good bakeries, it is 150-200 liras/kg. See our review "Turkish currency" for the current exchange rates.

Sesame with walnuts costs the same - 100-140 lir/kg in shops, 150-200 lir/kg in bakeries.

Sesame with chocolate and/or caramel is the same - 100-140 liras/kg in shops, 150-200 in bakeries.

Sesame with pistachio - 150-200 liras/kg in shops, 200-300 in bakeries.

Famous brands

The most popular and renowned halva producer in Turkey is KOSKA. This confectionery has been in operation since 1907, and they now own a factory with a total area of 22,000 square meters. Koska halva is considered to be of very good quality. And this is logical, otherwise they wouldn't be market leaders. Koska has the largest range of products.

Koska halva prices are the benchmark. That is, anything more expensive than Koska is an expensive halva. Accordingly, all that is of lower price is cheap halva. We published the prices of Koska products in supermarkets CarrefourSA and Migros M above.

There are also Tatlan and Torku brands in the shops, and their halva is also of high quality.

Where and how to buy halva in Turkey

An important point! Halva has a great shelf life - up to 2 years. However, over time it gets worse - an unpleasant bitterness develops in the taste, the nuts harden, the fat mass separates. Halva will still be edible after 2 years, but the taste will be severely worse.

Therefore, first of all, pay attention to the date of production - the fresher, the better. If you take the factory packaging, it is best to buy no more than a month old halva.

There are three options for tourists: in the factory-packages in supermarkets and shops, by weight in shops in the resort areas, and in pastry shops.

Confectionery shops sell halva of their own making. It is always the freshest, tastiest, and most beautiful. We recommend these shops first of all. However, they are also more expensive.

Supermarkets sell original packaged halva which is usually fresher and cheaper than in gift shops near hotels. If decided to buy the pre-packaged halva, the nearest Migros M or CarrefourSA is the place to go.

The stalls in resort areas vary. You may find great fresh halva from the bakery. They may simply open up the original packaging and put it on the counter. It may come from some basement workshop where no one has ever heard of health regulations. It's a lottery. We don't recommend buying anything there.

Pseudo-varieties of halva in Turkey

Tourists look at the labels on the packages in supermarkets, see the variety of words, and think, "Wow! How many varieties the Turks have invented". The truth is, there are not so many varieties. But there are a lot of additions to names. Let's find out what the words stand for.

'Sıcak Helva'. Literally translated as 'hot'. If the halva has just been cooked in a bakery, it can be served to the customer. In this case, it has a fibrous structure. But there are factory packages with this name, in which case the words do not mean anything.

'Fırında Helva'. Literally translated as "from the oven". In the case of the factory pack, it is normal halva that is heated in the oven before being consumed. It has a slightly different taste, but it is generally standard.

'Kürek Helva'. Literally translates to "shoulder blade". It's a hint that it's hand-mixed. It's just an attempt to pad the price when it comes to the factory packaging.

'Şekersiz Helva'. Literally translates to "no sugar". This one uses sorbitol instead of sugar. Be careful as sorbitol has a laxative effect.

'Papatya Helva'. Literally translates to "flowery". Its packaging is in the shape of a flower.

'Bol Helva'. Literally translates to 'a lot'. This variety has an increased nut content.

'Tepsi Halva'. Literally translates to "in the tray". Packaged in a tray.

'Yaz Halva'. Literally translates to "summer halva". This halva has brighter colors. Also it has a slightly different consistency and taste. What goes into it? It's a mystery.

An interesting food habit in Turkey

In Turkey, it is customary to eat halva immediately after fish dishes. This is called "ağzı tatlandırmak için" ("to sweeten the mouth"). That is, they eat fish with halva. This surprises some Europeans, it shocks some.

Turks believe that any fish has a bad aftertaste, and this aftertaste must be removed with something sweet. It is most likely that this habit went to the Turkic peoples after their arrival in Anatolia from Central Asia. Fish was an unfamiliar product to the nomadic Turkic peoples, and they had to remove its taste.

Tips for tourists

- Most pastry shops have tables and pour tea and coffee. You can try any variety on the spot and then buy large quantities;

- Most pastry shops will have the sweets wrapped in a nice gift box. Ask the vendor about this;

- If you decide to buy sweets in a serious sweets shop, they may not take US dollars, Euros or UK pounds and you can only pay in Turkish liras. Read our review "Money exchange in Turkey";

- Taking halva out of Turkey and bringing it into most countries is de-facto unlimited. Just make sure that the volume is within the concept of "for personal consumption". Read more in our in-depth review "What you can take out of Turkey and how much";

- The natural color of the sesame halva variety is gray. However, the color can be lighter or darker, which depends on the sesame variety. Almost any color can be achieved with natural dyes.

- Read our other interesting reviews about sweets in Turkey "Lokum in Turkey" and "Baklava in Turkey". For other gifts, read the review "What to bring from Turkey".

We wish you a successful tasting of Turkish sweets and desserts and read our interesting and useful pages about Turkey for tourists (see the pages list below). © 2020-2024