As an expat in Turkey, I’ve had a fantastic journey diving into the world of Turkish cheese. It’s been a mix of surprises with cheeses I’ve fallen in love with and others that weren’t quite my taste. But the overall experience? Absolutely delightful! Whether you’re a cheese connoisseur or just curious, exploring Turkish cheeses is a must-try adventure!
In my culinary explorations, I’ve come across 28 types of Turkish cheese. You’ve probably heard of stars like Tulum Cheese and Kars Gruyere, but there are hidden gems too, like the unique Konya mold cheese. It’s a diverse cheese board just waiting to be discovered, so let’s start!
1. Edirne Ezine Cheese (Edirne Ezine Peyniri)
- Milk: Cow, goat, and sheep
- Taste: Sour with a slippery mouthfeel
Diving into Edirne Ezine, a full-fat cheese hailing from Edirne and Thrace, it’s the diverse grass diet of the animals which gives this cheese its distinctive flavor, enhanced by a blend of salt and yeast.
2. Konya Moldy Cheese (Konya Küflü Peynir)
- Milk: Skimmed sheep’s, from regions like Karapınar, Ereğli, and Cihanbeyli
- Taste: Strong and aromatic with natural mold
Hailing from regions rich in sheep farming like Karapınar and Ereğli, Konya moldy cheese stands out. Crafted from skimmed sheep’s milk and known for its aflatoxin-free natural mold growth, this cheese offers a diverse and robust aromatic flavor, characteristic of a diversible Tulum variety.
3. Berendi and Divle Tulum Cheese (Berendi ve Divle Tulum Peyniri)
- Milk: Cow for Berendi, sheep for Divle
- Taste: Unique cave-matured flavors
The cheeses of Ereğli and Karaman’s Ayrancı, like Berendi and Divle, are a tale of tradition and modernity. Berendi emerges from modern facilities using pasteurized cow milk, whereas Divle adheres to age-old methods with sheep milk. Both mature in sinkholes, adopting extraordinary flavors from the cave’s rock structure.
4. Kayseri Çömlek Cheese
- Milk: Sheep or cow
- Taste: Enhanced by black cumin
Prepared by straining fresh cheese into pots, this cheese – whether from sheep or cow – takes on its character as it matures in either rock-carved caves or house ground floors. Its unique flavor is unmistakably touched by the addition of black cumin.
5. Kars Gruyere
- Milk: Typically cow’s
- Taste: Strong aroma with a distinct appearance
Kars Gruyere cheese, is not just cheese but a labor of love from Boğatepe Village. Its strong aroma, iconic yellow hue, dark skin, and noticeable holes distinguish it from the crowd.
6. Belly Cream Cheese (Karın Kaymağı Peyniri)
- Milk: Fermented cow’s, with added cream or butter
- Taste: Creamy with a unique, tripe-matured flavor
Hailing from Kars’ Sarıkamış district, Karnakmak cheese owes its decadently creamy taste to the enhancement of cream or butter, all perfectly matured in animal tripe for that one-of-a-kind flavor profile.
7. Varto Goat Cheese (Varto Keçi Peyniri)
- Milk: Goat’s, sun-heated
- Taste: Distinct fermented goat cheese flavor
This distinctive cheese is crafted by basking goat milk in the sun and stirring in yeast to ferment. The mixture is then drained in linen bags, unfolding into a unique goat cheese with its own special tang.
8. Erzurum Civil Peyniri
- Milk: Skim cow or sheep’s
- Taste: Salty and sour with a soft, stringy texture
Erzurum’s unique cheese stands out with a soft consistency and a flavor that dances between salty and sour. Made from skimmed milk of cows or sheep, it pulls apart into strings for a delightfully different eating experience.
9. Diyarbakir Braided Cheese (Diyarbakır Örgülü Peynir)
- Milk: Sheep, cow, or goat
- Taste: Fermented and matured in whey and saltwater
In Southeastern Anatolia, locals produce a braided cheese using milk from sheep, cows, or goats. Post-fermentation, the cheese is woven into strips and seasoned to perfection as it matures in a whey and saltwater solution.
10. Cubed Cheese
- Milk: Fresh cow’s
- Taste: Unique, matured underground flavor
Sivas cheese comes from a traditional technique involving slicing, salting, and storing fresh cow’s milk cheese in earthenware cubes or plastic bins, then allowing it to mature underground to develop its unique taste.
11. Trabzon’s String Cheese (Trabzon’un Telli Peyniri)
- Milk: Cow’s, from the Eastern Black Sea plateaus
- Taste: Low-salt, yellowish, fibrous, stretchy when heated
This cheese, a produce of the Eastern Black Sea’s rich pastures, stands out for its low salt content and kashar-like qualities. It’s yellowish, with a fibrous texture that becomes deliciously stretchy once heated.
12. Sakarya’s Abaza and Circassian Cheese (Sakarya’nın Abaza Peyniri ve Çerkez Peyniri)
- Milk: Usually cow’s, low-fat
- Taste: Slightly salty
From Sakarya’s local palate, we have cheeses like Abaza, which is braided and fibrous, and Circassian Cheese, recognizable by its elastic texture and cream-colored look, both offering a subtle saltiness.
13. Smoked Cheese (İsli Peyniri)
- Milk: Typically cow’s, from the Marmara Region
- Taste: Creamy with a smoky aroma
Crafted with time-honored techniques by Abaza families in the Marmara Region, this cheese is esteemed for its creamy taste and smoky aroma, frequently enjoyed in its melted glory.
14. Van Herb Cheese
- Milk: Sheep’s, with wild herbs
- Taste: Unique herby flavor and aroma
Heralding from Van, this traditional springtime cheese blends sheep’s milk with an assortment of wild herbs, delivering a distinct taste and smell that sets it apart from the typical herbed cheeses.
15. Çanak Cheese
- Milk: Summer-obtained, likely sheep or cow
- Taste: Reflects unique earthy preservation
In Yozgat, they craft a cheese using summer-harvested milk, intriguingly buried in bowls underground and savored in the winter months, boasting a preservation technique that imparts a distinctive earthy touch to its flavor.
16. Malatya Cheese
- Milk: Raw, usually from sheep or cow
- Taste: Distinctive, brine-matured
As a village favorite, this cheese comes to life by fermenting raw milk with rennet and allowing it to age gracefully in brine, thus developing its signature flavor profile.
17. Izmir Tulumu
- Milk: Sheep’s or a blend with cow and goat
- Taste: Harder and saltier than white cheese
Originating from Ödemiş and its surroundings, this cheese utilizes pure sheep’s milk or a harmonious mix incorporating cow and goat milk. It’s known for being harder and saltier compared to traditional white cheese, with a ripening process that lends it a distinctive edge.
18. Bergama Tulumu
- Milk: Sheep’s, exclusive to Izmir
- Taste: Dominant and aromatic
The Izmir tulum cheese is a real gourmet treasure, crafted solely from sheep’s milk. It boasts a bold and aromatic taste that cheese lovers celebrate for its depth and richness.
19. Seferihisar Armola
- Milk: Goat’s, often mixed with yogurt and cheese crumbs
- Taste: Slightly salty and sour
This cheese, with roots in Albanian culture, presents a spreadable delicacy made traditionally from a base of yogurt, goat’s milk, and cheese crumbs, delivering a taste that’s subtly salty and sour.
20. Kopanisti Cheese
- Milk: Likely sheep’s or cow’s, home-made
- Taste: Bitter with a unique smell
Kopanisti, a home-made cheese from Karaburun, owes its bitter taste and distinctive aroma to being kneaded daily for around a month – a true labor of love.
21. Tire Çamur Peyniri
- Milk: Fatty tulum curd and whey
- Taste: Creamy, ideal for spreads or salad sauce
In the Tire and Ödemiş districts of Izmir, locals craft a creamy cheese from the rich curds of fatty tulum and whey, perfect as a delectable spread or as an addition to salads.
22. Antep Cheese
- Milk: Likely cow’s or sheep’s, from Gaziantep
- Taste: Intense milk smell with a sweet taste
Gaziantep’s signature cheese shines bright with its white, glossy exterior and Robust texture. With an intense milky aroma and a notably sweet flavor, it brings a unique experience to the palate.
23. Manyas (Mihaliç) Cheese
- Milk: Typically from cows in Karacabey, Bursa
- Taste: Oily, salty with a thin white rind
Originating from Bursa’s Karacabey district, this cheese presents itself with large pores and a light color. It boasts an oily texture and salty taste, all encased with a delicate white shell.
24. Çiğ Kesik Peyniri (Raw Curd Cheese)
- Milk: Sheep’s, from Samsun
- Taste: Unique, with a hint of thyme
Samsun’s version of sheep’s milk cheese is deeply influenced by the rich variety of grasses the sheep graze on, particularly thyme, which imparts a distinctive flavor to the cheese.
25. Çorum Kargı Tulumu
- Milk: Likely sheep’s or goat’s, from Çorum
- Taste: Unique due to traditional fermentation and maturation
The tulum cheese of Çorum stands out with its unique fermentation and aging methods, meticulously crafted using traditional techniques and special leather overalls to enhance its flavor.
26. Thracian Kaşar
- Milk: Small cattle, from Thrace
- Taste: Rich, with a light lemon hue
Thrace’s legendary cheese is a product of small cattle milk, carefully ripened in icehouses for over six months, ultimately presenting a light lemon color and a richly developed taste.
27. Kulek Cheese
- Milk: Likely from cows in Vakfıkebir, Trabzon
- Taste: Unique, low salt, yellow and white
The cheese from Vakfıkebir in Trabzon is unique in both flavor and maturation process, aged in wooden buckets to achieve its distinct low salt content and dual-toned coloration.
28. Mersin Cloth Tulumu
- Milk: Likely goat’s or sheep’s, from Mersin
- Taste: Low salt, creamy, and soft
Mersin’s tulum cheese is a variant with a twist – matured in cotton cloths for a creamy flavor and soft texture, with just the right hint of saltiness.