Turkish Food – Fethiye Pickles; My Recipe

Pickles are just a fact of life in Turkey. You eat pickles with your food. That’s it. It’s very rare you won’t see pickles (turşu) of some variety on the table when you’re served a meal. And this suits us just fine!

If you buy your pickles, try to go to a place that does homemade turşu, like Petek’s in Istanbul or a deli. You can buy turşu in jars from the supermarkets just like you can in Britain but these are not real pickles. The pickling companies manage to do something to the vinegar to stop it tasting like vinegar and the jars are tiny, like jam jars. These are absolutely no use whatsoever to the seasoned Turkish pickle eater – and the many foreigners who come here and end up addicted to pickle eating. If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know we’re serious pickle lovers so we’re in our element here. No gözleme, kebab or fish butty is complete without a plate of pickles.

Turkish food tursu pickles

Mixed, homemade turşu bought from a deli

Making your own pickles in Turkey is easy for two reasons…

  1. The first one is that vegetables is so cheap here. They’re available in huge quantities so you can buy extra to make your pickles with, and you can take your pick of what you want to pickle. As there are only two of us, pickle-making means we don’t have to throw uneaten veg away. (Maybe that’s one of the reasons why it’s so popular in Turkey?)
  2. The second reason is that because pickle making is just what’s done here, you buy tubs and glass jars (like the one in the photo) from the market or high street shops for next to nothing. Ours was 1 lira. It holds about 1.5 litres and it’s the smallest one you can get. They get pretty huge – at least 5 litres.

Since moving to Turkey, we’ve learned that just about any vegetable can be pickled. I always used to love my grandad’s pickled onions as a kid. No leaving them to stand or anything. He used to slice a couple of onions up into half moons, put them into a dessert dish, sprinkle a bit of pepper on top and half a teaspoon of sugar and then cover them in malt vinegar and leave them overnight with a saucer on top. Absolutely lovely with Lancashire cheese on a sandwich!

When I make pickles now, it always reminds me of my grandad’s so I sprinkle black pepper and half a teaspoon of sugar into mine…just because. Turşu tends to be more salty but still fantastically delicious.

A Recipe for Turkish Pickles (Turşu)

The photo is of the pickles I made last night. We are heavily influenced by the pickles you see on the gözleme stalls on Tuesday’s Fethiye market and the Sunday market in Çalış so we pickle similar vegetables.

Turkish recipes pickles

Ready to go in the fridge

You need:

  • 3 meaty carrots, peeled and sliced at an angle for more surface area (and therefore more pickled loveliness!)
  • 3 large (for Turkish standards) cucumbers quartered and then sliced in half down the middle.
  • 3 small onions (or one big one) peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks.
  • 5 green chillies, pricked and boiled for a few minutes in about a tea glass of water (quarter of a mug). Don’t throw the water away.

To Prepare Your Turşu:

  • Layer your ingredients into your tub or jar however you want to. It’s not too important.
  • Sprinkle half a teaspoon of sugar in, a good pinch of black pepper and a little chilli powder (optional).
  • Add the water from the pan (this will have taken on a little of the chilli hotness) and then top your tub up with vinegar.
  • Screw the lid on, give them a good shake and stick them in the fridge (you might not need the fridge but it gets so hot here that even the pickles are better off in the fridge!) for two weeks.

Once your turşu is ready, you can eat them all up. It usually take us about two days to polish them off. And we’ve got to admit, we never leave them for two weeks – well, they’re just looking at you every time you open the fridge. About one and a half weeks and they’re good to go, if a little crunchy!

*The standard vinegar in Turkey is grape vinegar and it isn’t too overpowering so I find it’s fine for pickling if the glass of water is added. No need to buy extra pickling vinegar. I’ve asked at some of the places that serve pickles too and they use the grape vinegar. If you’re not sure how suitable the vinegar is in your country for pickling, get pickling vinegar.

*You might have also noticed there is parsley in the pickle tub in the photo. We’ve had parsley and celery leaves in our pickles on the gözleme stalls recently and it really holds its flavour. We had some parsley in the fridge that needed eating so I added it to the vinegar before I put the lid on, just to experiment.

If you enjoyed this recipe, click on this link for our pickled red cabbage recipe

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  1. I can do this, a nice and easy recipe to initiate first time pickle makers. Thanks! Here amba powder is often added (fenegreek).

  2. You remind me that I need to get going and make some pickles.
    I adore pickles. Doesn’t that sound so funny, to adore something like that but it is so true.
    Years ago I had a job at a chocolate shop and right next door was a deli. I could eat whatever chocolate I wanted but I always went next door to get a pickle for my break. I hid it behind the counter and ate pieces of it at a time. I also loved their sauerkraut as well. Now that I think of it I much prefer savory things over sweet.

  3. I’m glad you told us what amba powder is Sarah! Never heard of it called that before. I might try that next time. We’re buying a new pickle tub today. Oh, how exciting.

    Celeste, I’m with you on that one. Chocolate just doesn’t it for me. Give me pickles any day!

  4. Nina Göktepe says

    No salt?

    • Hi Nina

      We mentioned in the post that turşu tends to be more salty. 🙂 In the UK, pickled vegetables are stronger with more of a vinegar flavour than a salty flavour so we made them in that way for this recipe.

      We’ll be updating this recipe soon as it was done a long time ago. 🙂

  5. Miriam Lovelace says

    Great recipe, I have never tried Turkish pickles. Where can I get the grape vinegar?

  6. Hi Miriam, Thanks for your comment. In Turkey, grape vinegar (üzüm sirkesi) is the standard vinegar and is sold everywhere in markets and supermarkets. If you can’t get that, slightly watered down malt vinegar of regular pickling vinegar will be fine.

  7. I really wonder if Turkish pickles as I know them are fermented vegetables (like the *real* sauerkraut or Korean kimchi). Or is tursu just vegetables in plain vinegar? Fermented vegetables are very healthy, but I have my doubts concerning a/the vinegar variety…

    • You can buy special pickling vinegar in Turkey for making turşu but lots of people also just use grape vinegar. Turkish pickles are different to the ones we eat in the UK because so much salt is used. We tend to head towards black pepper and sugar in the UK. Just normal vegetables are used for the pickles here, though – at least the ones we eat, anyway.

    • Adding vinegar is unlikely to stop the fermentation process (it does speed it up by lowering the acidity), so it does probably does ferment. However the easiest way to find out if this ferments is to try it: if it forms bubbles within those two weeks, you’re doing more than preserving, you’re also fermenting.

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