How to Make Turkish Delight

September  2, 2014

It's always more fun to DIY. Every week, we'll spare you a trip to the grocery store and show you how to make small batches of great foods at home.

Today: Turkish delight doesn't have to be chalky and neon-colored. Sophia Real from Real Simple Food makes candy that tastes like it came straight from Istanbul.

Shop the Story

Until my first trip to Turkey six years ago, I thought that Turkish delight only came in a lurid shade of pink with a flavor reminiscent of hotel soap bars (I blame Cadbury’s Turkish delight-filled chocolate bars for that misunderstanding). Once in Istanbul, I quickly learned that Turkish delight comes in a myriad of colors, shapes, and (delicious) flavors. 

In Istanbul we tried many different types of Turkish delight: bright pink cubes of pomegranate studded with pistachios and rolled in crushed rose petals; white, chocolate-filled rolls that reminded me of soft Italian turrón; and tiny rainbow-colored cubes that were flavored with orange or rose blossom water or mastic and dusted with a mix of powdered sugar and cornstarch. 

The flavors of these little morsels were delicate and well-balanced, and their consistency was a far cry from the tough, gelatinous versions of Turkish delight I had tried before. My homemade candies were softer with quite a bit of give, yet retained some chewiness. And they were sweet, but not overwhelmingly so. 

While you can easily find Turkish delight outside of Turkey, it's not always easy to find real Turkish delight (instead of the brightly colored, gelatine-set cubes full of artificial flavors and colors that are often sold under the same name). Luckily, you can make the real deal at home. I will be honest: Making Turkish Delight is a labor of love; it requires one’s undivided attention at the stove to stir the mixture for the better part of an hour. 

Yet the recipe itself is simple enough (provided you correctly follow the various steps) and requires only a handful of ingredients, most of which you will likely already have in your pantry. Besides, one batch will yields enough Turkish delight to feed a small army and keeps well, making up for the somewhat lengthy preparation.

Pistachio and Orange Blossom Turkish Delight

Makes 40 to 50 small pieces of Turkish delight

400 grams sugar
500 milliliters water, divided
100 grams cornstarch, divided
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon orange blossom water
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
25 grams pistachios
50 grams icing sugar

In a medium saucepan, combine 150 milliliters of the water with the sugar and heat until the mixture reaches 240° F (115° C). 

Next, mix 75 grams of the cornstarch with the baking powder in a separate large saucepan, then whisk in the remaining 350 milliliters of water. Briefly bring the cornstarch mixture to a boil -- just long enough so that the mixture thickens to the consistency of mashed potatoes. 

Take the cornstarch mixture off the heat and pour in the sugar syrup a little bit at a time, mixing to incorporate. (I find that using a handheld whisk makes this a lot easier and helps to ensure there are no lumps in the mixture.)

Return the mixture to the heat and briefly bring it to a boil before turning the temperature to low. 

Let the mixture simmer for about 45 minutes, whisking frequently all the while. By the end of the 45 minutes, the mixture should have thickened considerably and turned light amber in color. Stir in the orange blossom water, cinnamon, and pistachios. 

Mix the remaining 25 grams of cornstarch with the powdered sugar, then line a sheet pan with parchment paper and dust it with about 1/3 of this enrobing mixture. Pour the hot mixture onto the prepared sheet pan and gently shake the pan to evenly distribute it.

Leave the Turkish delight to dry overnight. Use a sharp knife (oiled with a neutral-tasting oil like sunflower oil to prevent the candy from sticking) to cut the Turkish delight into small 1/2-inch cubes, and leave to dry for another day. Dust with the remaining enrobing mixture before storing the Turkish delight in an airtight box. It will keep for at least 2 weeks.

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Sophia Real

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Opera Cafe Lounge
    Opera Cafe Lounge
  • Genflag
  • Cecile Le
    Cecile Le
  • Janey
  • Stephanie Newbrook
    Stephanie Newbrook
Hi, my name is Sophia and I have a passion (ok, maybe it is veering towards an obsession) for food and all things food-related: I read cookbooks for entertainment and sightseeing for me invariably includes walking up and down foreign supermarket aisles. I love to cook and bake but definitely play around more with sweet ingredients. Current obsessions include all things fennel (I hope there is no cure), substituting butter in recipes with browned butter, baking with olive oil, toasted rice ice cream, seeing whether there is anything that could be ruined by adding a few flakes of sea salt and, most recently, trying to bridge the gap between German, English and Italian Christmas baking – would it be wrong to make a minced meat filled Crostata?


Opera C. August 23, 2017
If you are looking to try Turkish desserts in NY. Go no further than Opera Cafe Lounge at 2255 Emmons Avenue, Brooklyn, NY. You will surley find a great variety of Turkish desserts at this place.
Genflag September 10, 2015
use gelatin instead of corn starch and you get this awesomely chewy and gooey version that's perfectly clear if you cook everything right.
Cecile L. September 9, 2015
This brought me right back to Istanbul! I'm going to try this with hazelnuts, thanks for the inspiration
Janey March 5, 2015
Do they have it in sugar free ?
Stephanie N. November 1, 2014
Why are the recipe ingredients listed in terms of liters and grams? For us American cooks, this is not a "real simple" approach.
Walter K. September 9, 2015

"At this time, only three countries—Burma, Liberia, and the US—have not adopted the International System of Units (SI, or metric system) as their official system of weights and measures."
Claudine September 10, 2015
Geez, easy enough to Google a measurement converter!!
Joseph E. September 14, 2016
Well, just because the metric system IS THE INTERNATIONAL system! Unitedstaters
have to adapt, not the rest of the world! ;)
Catherine September 8, 2014
Wondering if using a microwave might simplify the process. It does with custard. Instead of constant whisking, you whisk at 3 minute intervals.
Sophia R. September 9, 2014
I have not tried this but cannot see why it would not work. I would probably set the microwave on a fairly low power setting given the very high sugar content (otherwise I would be worried the mixture could burn quite quickly). Please report back if you give this technique a try!
Maia September 8, 2014
Any recommendations for combinations without nuts (pistachios or other) for those with nut allergies. Or is the pistachio what makes it Turkish Delight?
Sophia R. September 9, 2014
The nuts are entirely optional (although I do love the contrast in terms of texture they add). What makes it Turkish Delight is the preparation and consistency of the finished sweets. So you could leave out the nuts entirely. You could also substitute the orange blossom water with rose water and use cardamom instead of cinnamon. You could also use a few drops of lemon essence if you wanted a lemon flavoured Turkish Delight.
Beauty F. September 7, 2014
You should try roses flavoured ''loukoumi'' from Syros island (Greece)... sooooo delicious!
Sophia R. September 9, 2014
Thanks. I suspect the Greek loukoumi is very similar to the Turkish version (and no doubt equally delicious!).
shawnie September 7, 2014
Sophia - Hi! I've been looking for a Turkish Delight recipe for a long time now, with no luck- and now you! Thank you for this recipe :)
Allison T. September 4, 2014
I have wanted to make Turkish Delight for a while now. Your recipe seems very straight forward though I will have to figure out the american measurements.
Sophia R. September 9, 2014
If you follow all the steps correctly then it is a long but not too complicated process. Having a good movie on in the background helps to not get too bored while you stir the mixture (as long as you don't get too distracted and continue stirring the mix!).
London_Eats September 4, 2014
I'm curious about the baking powder - does this foam up? I've seen recipes with cream of tartar, but never baking powder.
carswell September 3, 2014
I'm going to give this a shot closer to Christmas. I know two people who absolutely love Turkish Delight and I've always wanted to have a go at it.
Allyn September 2, 2014
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was one of my favorite books as a child, but I could never understand why Edmund could have anything to eat in the world from the White Witch and chose Turkish Delight. My only exposure was to the heavily rose flavored, chocolate covered version, and while I didn't hate it, it definitely wasn't something I'd ask for.
Now, this version, or some of the others you described, I could maybe start to understand.
Merrill S. September 3, 2014
I had exactly the same experience as a child -- looking forward to trying this version!
Greenstuff September 2, 2014
I've made Turkish delight once, when my daughter and I were the only ones home for Thanksgiving. We had the Macys parade on in the background, while we whisked and whisked and whisked. It seemed like forever--but you make it seem like a breeze. It turned out great, though and is, in its own way, a pretty sweet memory.