‘Tis the season! What food says ‘autumn’ better than the pumpkin? And in Turkey, pumpkin season means one thing: Time to make the Turkish pumpkin dessert, kabak tatlısı…
Obviously, for many of us, pumpkins are also associated with Halloween (aka All Hallows’ Eve) at the end of October.
If you use pumpkin for your Halloween lantern, buy a quality one that isn’t so fibrous.
All of those chunks that you cut out to make your lantern can then be used to make lots of tasty pumpkin dishes; including the famous Turkish pumpkin dessert.
Whilst we have gone back to childhood years and made Halloween lanterns in the past from our pumpkins, these days, we do just buy pumpkin for making tasty treats.
If you’re like us and buying a pumpkin purely for making pumpkin dessert, pumpkin soup or other dishes, do yourself a favour…
If they’re on offer, buy a large slice of pumpkin like you can see in the photo above.
A wedge of pumpkin is much less intimidating than a whole one. It will make your life much easier.
And reduce the chances of any accidents with the knife!
How To Make Turkish Pumpkin Dessert
Well, the good news is that this a really simple pumpkin dessert recipe.
Just a few ingredients. And, once you have done the waiting game and allowed the sugar to work its magic, it’s also really quick.
At this time of year in Turkey, it’s common for restaurants to serve pumpkin dessert – kabak tatlısı.
Some will even serve it on the house at the end of your meal.
The end-of-meal kabak tatlısı gift is our main experience of pumpkin dessert.
Unfortunately, this has meant we never really appreciated the kabak tatlısı experience to its full.
A plate of pumpkin dessert to share is a lovely seasonal gesture.
But, once we’ve done our usual ritual of ordering too much meze from the display fridges – and then followed that up with a substantial main meal.
And already had the discussion that we really ought not to order so much meze next time because we’re so full…
The sight of the waiter coming over with a beaming grin and carrying a plate containing wedges of pumpkin dessert?
Gratefully and politely eating our way through that can take as long as the the first two courses together!
So, here’s our tip to you:
Enjoy Turkish pumpkin dessert as a little treat between meals. Rather than after a large meal.
Alternatively, put it out on the dinner table as post-meal nibbles if you’re entertaining friends.
Doing this will allow you to enjoy kabak tatlısı the full!
The Sugar Magic
As with many Turkish desserts, there’s a sizable amount of sugar involved in making kabak tatlısı.
If you’re like us and you don’t have a much of a sweet tooth, don’t let the amount of sugar put you off.
It’s there for sweetness – but also science.
6 – 8 hours before you are going to be having your Turkish pumpkin dessert, cover your pumpkin pieces in sugar and cover the pan or bowl.
When you return to your pumpkin pieces, they will no longer be covered in sugar. No they will rather be sitting in a syrup.
This is the syrup that you are going to simmer and soften your pumpkin pieces in.
They will already be softening because they have released their juices so the simmering process doesn’t take long.
Your syrup will start to bubble and thicken. Your pumpkin will soften.
And then you can remove it from the heat and allow to cool.
The trick is not to let your pumpkin pieces get too soft. They need to hold their shape.
Once cool, it’s time to serve up your Turkish pumpkin dessert.
Lots of people like to serve it with kaymak (Turkish clotted cream) or natural yoghurt.
For us, our favourite way to eat it is another popular choice: Pumpkin dessert with tahini drizzled over and topped with smashed walnuts.
The tahini goes perfectly with the pumpkin and neutralises some of the sweetness.
The freshly smashed walnuts are a perfect accompaniment to the pumpkin pieces in this recipe.
Velvety smooth pieces of pumpkin contrast with the crunchy texture of the walnuts.
We can’t eat huge amounts of kabak tatlısı but it’s definitely a seasonal treat. And very easy to make.
And, as for the rest of any unused pumpkin, well, there are just endless recipes out there to make more than good use of it!
Turkish Pumpkin Dessert Recipe
Here’s our full recipe for Turkish pumpkin dessert – kabak tatlısı.
Turkish Pumpkin Dessert – Kabak Tatlısı
- Large saucepan
- Sharp knife
- 400 grams pumpkin cubes washed
- 180 grams granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons tahini
- 1 handful walnuts smashed
- First of all, scrape away the seeds and the fibrous parts of your pumpkin wedge. (Don't discard the seeds. You can use them for other dishes as they are packed with nutrients.)
- Now cut the skin away from your pumpkin and cut the pumpkin flesh into large cubes (around 3 cms) or thick slices until you have around 400 grams.
- Add the pumpkin to a pan and smother with the sugar, making sure each piece is covered and then cover the pan with a lid.
- Leave for 6-8 hours (or overnight) until your pumpkin pieces are sitting in a syrup.
- Place your pan on the hob and gently heat on a medium setting.
- As the hot syrup starts to bubble, keep basting your pumpkin pieces with it.
- After around 10 minutes, test your pumpkin to see if it has softened. If not, keep simmering until it is soft but still firmly holding its shape.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool before refrigerating for an hour or so.
- When it's time to serve, arrange your pumpkin dessert pieces onto a serving plate, drizzle with the tahini and top with the roughly smashed walnuts.
- Serve as sweet nibbles to share after a main meal or as a sweet snack between meals.
- As with all of our recipes, the calorie count for our pumpkin dessert recipe is approximate. We have calculated calories based on the weight of sugar used but our recipe didn’t use all of the syrup.
- If you use bigger chunks or slices of pumpkin, you might need to use more of the syrup as the pumpkin pieces will take longer to soften.
- We used brown sugar for our recipe but you can use white if you prefer.
- Common accompaniments to Turkish pumpkin dessert – kabak tatlısı – are tahini, thick natural yoghurt or kaymak (Turkish clotted cream). We like tahini as it cuts through the sweetness.
- We have said our recipe serves 4 people. This is if you are serving as post-meal nibbles. Feel free to have it serve two people as a more substantial dessert.
Turkish Pumpkin Dessert With Tahini – Afternotes
- You can find our Turkish pumpkin dessert recipe in the Desserts section of our Turkish recipes collection.
- Tahini (tahini) is a common ingredient in Turkish cuisine. If you’re a fan of tahini, check out our hummus recipe and also add it to your yoghurt and aubergine mix for baba ganoush.
- Tahini is also a valuable addition to the Turkish breakfast table, often mixed with pekmez or local honey. It makes a perfect gooey dip for your fresh simit.
Tuesday 2nd of November 2021
I Love this dessert and sadly couldn't find it when in Fethiye last week, however Koze Kahve do a slightly different version on it by putting putting a biscuit base in a jar, then a layer of some sort of cream (it might have been kaymak but didn't look that thick), topped with the pumpkin, then tahini and walnuts. It was delicious and looked so pretty in the takeaway jar too (which I managed to get through Dalaman airport!)
One question re the sugar syrup - is there usually a lot left over?
Turkey's For Life
Wednesday 3rd of November 2021
Hi Caroline, yes that pumpkin dessert - it's sometimes called a pumpkin cup (balkabaklı kup) - you had in Köşe Kahve is quite popular now in the coffee shops around Fethiye. The cream is usually made with vanilla sugar and cream mix. Re our pumpkin dessert, we're more than happy to remove the pumpkin pieces once they've softened and leave the left behind syrup - our sweet tooth doesn't stretch too far and the thought of all that sugar... :) So, yeah, we have a lot left over and our pumpkin is more than sweet enough. :) Thanks a lot for the rating!