When it comes to cooking in Turkish cuisine, there are a few components that come to mind that form the basic foundation of almost every dish. In fact, many Turkish mothers describe cooking as sautéing onions and tomato paste. This is the fundamental base, because meals are diversified with the addition of different vegetables to this mixture. Now, let's take a closer look at these vegetables and explore their significance for Turkish cuisine.


Onion is a crucial and foundational ingredient in Turkish cuisine. It's often considered the starting point for many dishes due to its distinctive flavor and versatility. Onions are used in various forms, such as raw, sautéed, or caramelized, to add depth and complexity to the taste of dishes.

In Turkish cooking, onions are frequently sautéed at the beginning of the cooking process to create a flavorful base for the dish. This sautéing process releases the natural sugars in the onion, leading to a sweet and savory taste that enhances the overall flavor profile of the dish.

Onions are used in a wide range of Turkish dishes, from soups and stews to kebabs and rice pilafs. They not only provide flavor but also help to create a balanced and well-rounded taste in the final dish. Additionally, onions are often combined with other key ingredients like garlic, tomatoes, and peppers to create a harmonious blend of flavors that is characteristic of Turkish cuisine.

Overall, onions play a foundational role in Turkish cuisine by providing a rich base of flavor that sets the tone for many traditional dishes.


Tomatoes are another essential food-base element in Turkish cuisine. They contribute a tangy, slightly sweet, and vibrant flavor to dishes, and they're used in various forms to enhance the taste and color of meals.

Fresh tomatoes: fresh tomatoes are widely used in Turkish cuisine, particularly in salads, mezes (appetizers), and sauces. They are often diced or sliced and added to salads for a juicy and refreshing component.

Tomato paste: tomato paste holds a special place in Turkish cooking and is considered the cornerstone of many dishes. It's made by cooking down ripe tomatoes until they become concentrated and thick. Tomato paste adds a deep, rich, and slightly caramelized flavor to foods. It's often used at the beginning of cooking to create a flavorful base for various dishes.

In Turkish cuisine, the combination of sautéed onions and tomato paste is considered the foundation for many recipes. This mixture, known as "sos," forms the aromatic base for stews, soups, pilafs, and more. It's a technique that imparts a fundamental layer of taste to the cuisine.

Tomato paste is also used to create sauces and gravies for dishes like "karnıyarık" (stuffed eggplants). It's an essential ingredient in "domates sos," which is a versatile tomato sauce used for pasta, rice, and various meat dishes.

In summary, tomatoes and tomato paste are integral components of Turkish cuisine. Fresh tomatoes provide a bright, lively flavor, while tomato paste adds depth and richness to dishes, serving as a vital base element that underpins many traditional Turkish recipes.


Peppers are yet another essential food base element in Turkish cuisine. They bring a unique combination of flavor and heat to dishes, and they are used in various forms to enhance the taste and appearance of many traditional Turkish recipes.

Peppers, both sweet and hot varieties, are integral to Turkish cuisine. Sweet peppers, like bell peppers, are used to add color, sweetness, and a mild pepper flavor to dishes. Hot peppers, such as chili peppers or red pepper flakes, provide a spicy kick that adds depth and complexity to the overall flavor profile of a dish. Peppers are used in various ways in Turkish cooking:

Salads and mezes: peppers are commonly used in salads, like "shepherd's salad" (çoban salatası), which includes diced tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and green peppers. They're also used in mezes, or small appetizers, to add flavor and color.

Flavor base: just like onions and tomatoes, peppers are used to create a flavorful base for many dishes. Sautéed onions, tomato paste, and peppers form the aromatic foundation for various stews, sauces, and casseroles.

Pepper paste: pepper paste, or "biber salçası," is a concentrated mixture made from ground red peppers. It's a versatile ingredient used to add depth, color, and a subtle heat to dishes. Pepper paste is often added to the sautéed onion and tomato paste mixture at the beginning of cooking to create a rich and flavorful base. It's a key ingredient in many Turkish dishes, including stews, soups, and grilled meats.

The combination of sautéed onion, tomato paste, and pepper paste is known as the "soğan, salça, biber karışımı," and it forms the essential flavor base for a wide range of Turkish dishes.

In summary, peppers and pepper paste are integral components of Turkish cuisine, contributing both flavor and heat to dishes. They are used to create the fundamental base of many recipes, enriching the taste and character of the cuisine.

Just between us, let it stay a secret, but after reading this article, you've learned the biggest secret of Turkish cuisine. Keep this knowledge in a corner of your mind; we'll be using these insights frequently when I share recipes in the future. You're now just a few ingredients away from one of the world's richest and most flavorful cuisines. After all, once you sauté onion and tomato paste, the rest will come naturally!