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Top-10 Turkish Cheese


Page update - Apr 6, 2023

What are the must-taste cheeses in Turkey? Which cheeses do Turks like and eat most often? Where to go for cheese, what are the prices? How to choose the best? Read the answers on this page.

The prices on this page were updated in April 2023. The prices of cheese in Turkey continue to rise, as indeed for all other food products. The reason is another drop in the Turkish currency. The lira/dollar exchange rate is already storming around 19.2:1. We have once again rechecked the prices for you. The current prices are listed below on this page.

An important point! The Turkish currency has fallen sharply. Accordingly, manufacturers are raising prices, but do so unevenly. Some producers are raising prices at once, some are trying to keep prices low. Therefore, we are now giving very large price "forks" in this review (minimum and maximum price on the market is meant). Don't be surprised. That's the situation right now.

Do Turks like cheese?

They like it, but not as large as the Europeans or Americans. In Turkey, they eat an average of 7.8 kg per person per year. By comparison, in the UK it is 11.4, in the US it is 18.2, and the world leaders are the Danes with 28.1.

Go to any major Turkish supermarket and you are sure to find large shelves with dozens of sorts of cheese. The photo below is taken at the CarrefourSA supermarket in Istanbul, click on the photo to enlarge.

In Turkey, cheese is eaten with any meal, but most often for breakfast. Often eaten separately or on bread. Cheese-filled pastries such as boreks and gözleme are also popular. More recently, salads with cheese cubes have become common, and cheese is placed on kofta (cutlets).

There are more than 200 varieties of cheese in Turkey. You can hardly taste them all. Taste the best ones.

Where and how to buy cheese in Turkey?

If you just want to taste it, you can buy it in any shop or market. It is believed that in Turkey, cheese by weight tastes better than factory-packaged one.

If you want to bring it home, you better buy it in the original packaging, and the cheapest option is a supermarket. The reason is many countries allow animal products to be carried in the original packaging only, and quantities are usually limited. See our page "What you can and can't take out of Turkey" and learn the customs laws of your home country.

In addition, if you buy the factory packaging then you always know the date of manufacture and expiry date.

All prices on this page are in Turkish liras, as supermarkets only accept liras. In shops in the resorts, you can pay in Euros, US dollars, UK pounds. For the current exchange rates see our review "Money in Turkey".




The 10 best Turkish cheeses

Normally we form a ranking of the 10 most famous and delicious cheeses. But in the case of Turkish cheeses, this is impossible to do. Most Europeans and Americans are equally unfamiliar with all Turkish cheeses. How do we rank?

So we are not going to choose the best one, but just tell you about 10 sorts we consider best and recommend tasting each of them. Buy the one you like and take home as a delicious gift from Turkey. For other interesting gifts, see our review "What to bring from Turkey".




Mikhalych (Mihalıç Peyniri)

Mihalych is closest in density to the widespread semi-hard cheeses (Cheddar, Tilsiter, Maasdam, Edam). Some culinary websites compare it to Parmesan, but the comparison is clearly inappropriate, as Parmesan is much harder. Mihalych is elastic, stretches nicely after melting, which is why it is loved on hot toast.

The main indicator of mihalych cheese quality is the presence of "eyes" (also called "holes"). The eyes should be small - 0.5-1 cm (0.2-0.4 inches), and the eyes should be evenly distributed. A perfect example is in the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge. Unfortunately, such a perfect mihalych can hardly be found in supermarkets nowadays.

The mihalych cheese comes from the region of Bursa, 120 kilometers (75 miles) south of Istanbul. Bursa is the famous culinary region of Turkey, where döner and iskander kebabs were invented. Nowadays, mihalych cheese is produced not only in Bursa, but all over Turkey.

The price ranges from 250 to 350 Turkish liras per kilo.




Braided yogryu cheese (Örgü peyniri)

Some people know this sort of cheese as "chechil", and the Turkish braided sort is close to chechil, but softer and nicer. The taste is milky and a little bit salty. Turkish yogryu is well cut and perfectly suitable for sandwiches or simply for eating in slices. The texture is fibrous, but not obviously fibrous. It can be cut into strips if desired.

The cheese comes from the provinces of Şanlıurfa and Diyarbakır in the east. But now it is produced all over the country. Yogryu is made from cow's milk, and logically the price should be low, but yogryu is expensive.

The most common yogryu cheese you will find in stores is Tahsildaroğlu, which has a green and orange coloured label. This cheese is considered one of the best. Also, Muratbey's yogryu is considered very good, but is rare.

The price is 60-90 lira for a pack of 200-250 grams.

In supermarkets, yogryu can be bought by weight. The price is lower at 140-200 liras per kilo. If you just want to eat, it is a good way to save money. But we recommend choosing a package to bring home.




Labne

This product is common not only in Turkey but also in all Middle Eastern countries. It is called "labne" in Turkey, or "laban" or "labane" in other countries. It is a strained yogurt product, and it is even difficult to call it cheese.

Labne is very popular in Turkey. Frequently, Turks make it themselves rather than buy it in shops. But you can get a good assortment of it in shops. The most common brands you will find are "İçim" and "Pınar". In both cases, the quality and taste is high and the packaging is green.

The consistency of labneh is thicker than sour cream, but more liquid than melted cheese. The consistency is closest to that of cream cheese. Labne is very handy for sandwiches and can also be wrapped in thin tortillas or lavash. Labneh is excellent as a sauce for chips or croutons.

Turks use labneh in dozens of ways - eat it in sandwiches, make it into rolls, cheesecakes, tiramisu and even glaze it with chocolate and caramel. Labne is low-calorie when compared with other cheeses - 200 kcal/100g.

The price is 40-60 Turkish lira for a 400g pack, 30-40 for a 200g pack.

Portioned labneh has recently appeared in supermarkets in small packs of 20 grams. One small pack = one sandwich. The price is about 37 liras for 8x20g.




Tulum

This is a crumbly cheese made from sheep's milk, sometimes with a touch of goat's milk. Since sheep's milk is expensive, prepare for high prices. Tulum is a purely Turkish cheese that is almost uncommon in other countries. Do not miss the chance to taste it.

The recipe for traditional tulum is complex. First the milk is coagulated to curd, then the whey is drained under the press, then mixed with the milk and kept at low temperature (about 10 degrees) in a salted inside sheep skin. It's aged for six months. Naturally, modern factory-made tulum is made faster and easier, but the taste suffers.

The consistency of the tulum is firm and crumbly. Its color is white or light creamy. It's hard to describe the taste, but you must taste it. The most delicious tulum comes from the Aegean coast, from the provinces of Izmir, Aydın and Mugla. Look for "İzmir Tulum" on the label.

Tulum is used in sandwiches, eaten mixed with nuts and used to make salads. Tulum is considered one of the best snacks with Turkish raki.

The price ranges from 250 to 400 Turkish liras per kilo.




Fresh Kashar (Taze Kaşar)

Fresh kashar is close in consistency and taste to the semi-hard cheeses like Cheddar, Tilsiter, Maasdam, Edam. Close, but the differences are still significant.

Fresh kashar has a semi-hard and slightly fibrous consistency. The color is usually white, less often light creamy. The flavor is light, fresh and slightly salty, somewhat like mozzarella, but without the strong creamy notes. Most of the fresh kashar is made of cow's milk, but there are also expensive goat's milk varieties.

Fresh kashar is very popular because of its stringiness. It is the cheese used in Turkey for pizza, pide, cheeseburgers, sandwiches. The second reason for its popularity is its neutral flavor, which everyone can enjoy. And the third reason is the low price, because fresh kashar is not aged, but simply dried for only one week. Right now, the share of fresh kashar in the packaged cheese market is 41%.

The price ranges from 200 to 300 Turkish liras per kilo. The best brands are Torku, Tahsildaroğlu, Pınar, İçim, and Muratbey.

Those tourists who like to save money and eat sandwiches during their travels should be pleased. You can buy sliced fresh kashar in almost any supermarket. For sandwiches, it's perfect. And sliced fresh kashar is almost the same price.




Aged kashar (Eski Kaşar)

This is the same kashar cheese, but matured for 6 months to 3 years. The cheese gains a flavor that is not to everyone's taste. The cheese hardens, but remains semi-hard in texture, but does not reach the hardness of Parmesan. The color becomes yellow or deep creamy.

Aged kashar is usually eaten on its own or on bread. It is rarely used in cooking. Firstly, because of its flavor. Secondly, because it is very expensive.

Some Turks who like aged kashar say that you have to buy it only by weight, as the taste is much better than in packs. That's a subjective opinion. You can check it out for yourself. If you want to bring it home, we recommend buying it in its original packaging, so you will not have any problems at any customs.

Murat Koçak, a Turkish cheesemaker from Kars, has found an interesting way to determine the quality of kashar cheese - by burning it. He claims that real kashar shouldn't burn, but fakes do. Is it true or not? It is hard to say. You can try it for yourself.

The price is 300 to 400 Turkish liras per kilo.




White cheese (Beyaz Peyniri)

This cheese is almost identical to feta or bryndza. Traditionally it was made from sheep's milk, but now it is more often made from cow's milk, which is cheaper. White cheese used to be the best-selling cheese in Turkey, but it has now lost its place to the fresh kashar.

White cheese is made without rennet. First, the milk is curdled into curd with the help of a starter. Then the whey is drained, the curd is pressed and placed in an aging tank. White cheese can be matured for up to 6 months, usually for 3 months. There are variations with different fat content, the taste and consistency varying slightly.

Let's be honest, there's nothing special about Turkish white cheese. It doesn't differ in consistency or taste from the usual bryndza or Greek feta. It hardly makes sense to bring it home.

White cheese in Turkey is eaten alone, on sandwiches, and in salads. It can also be added as a topping to baked goods such as buns, burek, on top of pies or pizzas. It is a must-taste in Turkey and impossible to miss.

It costs from 140 to 220 Turkish liras per kilo and depends on the type of milk it's made from. We recommend Doğruluk, İçim, Pınar, Tahsildaroğlu.

Keep in mind that not there will be the cheese plus the brine inside the package. Some producers have a lot of brine inside and you still have to pay for it.




Whey cheese (Lor Peyniri)

The word "lor" means several different products in Turkey. The first one is the milk curd, which is common in many countries. You can taste it and feel the difference in taste.

The second product under the name "lor" is whey curd, also called whey cheese. It is similar to Italian ricotta. The whey left over from other cheese productions is used in its production.

Whey lor is a very healthy, low calorie, tasty product with a calorie content of 100-120 kcal/100g. It is also very cheap in Turkey. Due to its low price, it is very popular on top of bread and in bakery products. In Turkey, they make curd cakes and biscuits, dolma and sarma with curd filling.

How to recognize the difference? Look at the calorie content on the label. If the calorie count is between 100 and 150 kcal/100g, you're looking at whey lor. If it's more than 200, it's dairy cottage cheese.

The price of whey curd is between 80 and 120 Turkish liras per kilo.




Smoked cheese (İsli Peyniri or Füme Peyniri)

These are young, semi-hard cheeses that are shaped into 0.8 to 2 kilo (1.7 to 4.4 pounds) wheels and then smoked over pine firewood. The cheese wheel skin turns a brown color. The flesh becomes creamy yellow in color, with a slightly crumbly texture.

The most common type in shops is "İsli Çerkez" (smoked Circassian). The widespread brands are Ünal, Yöre, Lente.

Smoked cheeses are not very popular in Turkey. First of all, because of the high price. In addition, they don't have a strong smoked taste, the taste is very mediocre.

Our advice: buy a pack of the minimum weight (usually 200 grams) first, taste it and then buy it at home if you like it. Large supermarkets sell smoked cheese by weight, and you can buy even 100 grams.

Also taste İsli Örgü Peynir, which is a smoked braided cheese.

Prices range from 280 to 400 Turkish lira per kilo.




Tongue cheese (Dil Peyniri)

This cheese has nothing to do with tongue. It may look similar in appearance, but only in Turkish terms. Such cheeses are usually called "fibrous" in most countries.

Dil cheese is made in the form of cylinders, which are easily split into fibers. It's popular to be served with beer. Turks are Muslims, but they also drink beer, although relatively little - about 10 liters per person per year (the Britishes drink about 70, the Americans drink about 72). Dil cheese is also popular in Turkey as a beer snack, the same as fibrous cheeses in many countries.

Dil is eaten alone, most often with tomatoes and/or walnuts. Dil is not used in dishes. It retains its fibrous structure even when melted. It is not suitable for pies, pizzas, sandwiches or baked goods. On top of that, the price is relatively high.

If you buy it by weight, it has a shelf life of no more than 3 days. This means that it should preferably be eaten immediately. Dil in its original packaging has a longer shelf life - look at the label.

The price is from 340 to 400 Turkish liras per kilo. Of the brands, we recommend "Tahsildaroğlu" first and foremost.




Useful and important to know

- Original European cheeses can be found on the supermarket shelves in Turkey. But it is not profitable, as the prices are twice as expensive as in Europe;

- Some cheeses are sold in brine. Be aware that the brine can spill during transport home and then ruin the things in your suitcase. It's best to think in advance about protecting the fragile packaging of such cheese. See our page "What to take with you to Turkey" for more details and tips;

- Do not forget about the rules of hygiene, do not eat food with unwashed hands. Turkey is a hot country, and bacteria of any kind can multiply faster there. Read our review "What not to do in Turkey".

Enjoy tasting Turkish cheeses, and read our interesting pages about Turks and Turkey (see the list of the pages below).

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