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Kabak Tatlisi Recipe- A Delicious Turkish Pumpkin Dessert

Kabak Tatlisi Recipe- A Delicious Turkish Pumpkin Dessert

Do you like pumpkin and/or fruit-based desserts? If you’re into trying new, exotic desserts that are very easy to make, you’ll probably like our kabak tatlisi recipe. In this post, we’ll teach you everything you need to know about this Turkish dessert, including its origins, variations, preparation tips, and much more. But first things first…

What Is Kabak Tatlisi?

kabak tatlisi recipe
by E4024 CC by SA 4.0

Kabak Tatlisi is a popular Turkish sweet made from pumpkin and sugar syrup that’s usually garnished with walnuts, sweet kaymak, and tahini. Sometimes, milk can also be added to the recipe. This dessert is primarily consumed during winters due to the seasonality of pumpkins. As with many other Turkish sweets, kabak tatlisi can also be found in neighboring Armenia, as well as some Middle-Eastern countries like Syria, Lebanon, and Israel, and even in some Balkan countries like Macedonia, Albania, and Bosnia and Herzegovina.

And since I mentioned the Balkans, they do have some amazing sweets over there. If that makes you curious, you can also check out our list of the best Balkan desserts


kabak tatlisi recipe

There isn’t a lot of information about the exact origins of kabak tatlisi but it’s likely that the recipe is native to Asia Minor. As for the name, kabak tatlisi translates to ‘pumpkin dessert’. Its origins are likely tied to the early Ottoman era even though there are mentions of a similar pumpkin-based dessert dating back to the late Byzantine era. The kabak tatlisi recipe spread throughout the Middle East and Eastern Europe alongside the Ottoman conquests and that’s why today, you can also find this dessert in many other countries that were formerly a part of the Ottoman Empire.

Today, kabak tatlisi is an important part of Turkish cuisine. It’s popular across the country but it’s most popular in Istanbul, Marmara, and the Sakarya region. Locals favor having this dessert at home as a part of a traditional Turkish family meal as opposed to eating it outside even though kabak tatlisi widely available in most restaurants.

Use Of Pumpkins In Turkish Cuisine

kabak tatlisi recipe
by Biser Todorov CC by SA 3.0

Pumpkins and squash are widely available in many regions around Turkey and are some of the most important ingredients of local cuisine. Pumpkins are used in both, sweet and savory recipes. Even during Ottoman times, one of the most popular dishes eaten by Ottoman noble people included pumpkin stuffed with minced meat, pistachios, and onions.

This dish clearly didn’t survive the test of time but a lot of pumpkin-based desserts did and this is just one of them. Turkey’s unique climate conditions allow different variations of these crops to thrive in different parts of the country. And the different varieties of pumpkin lead to…

Different Kabak Tatlisi Variations

avya tatlisi

The main differences between local variations of kabak tatlisi derive from the type of pumpkin that thrives in a particular region. That’s why you can find different shapes and sizes of kabak tatlisi around Turkey but the most popular variation is probably ayva tatlisi. As you might be guessing from the name, avya tatlisi translates to ‘quince dessert’. In addition to this, the other main difference is that avya tatlisi is usually served with pistachios while kabak tatlisi is served with walnuts.

Tips For Making Kabak Tatlisi

The most important thing for a tasty kabak tatlisi is a mature pumpkin (more about this below).

The next thing you need is a pan that’s big enough (a large Dutch oven should do). When arranging the pumpkin pieces, make sure that every piece touches the bottom of the pan in a single layer so that the syrup can be distributed evenly among all pieces of pumpkin.

If you have the time, you can sprinkle some sugar and/or cinnamon on the pumpkin and set it aside overnight before making it. Of course, this isn’t necessary and you can make kabak tatlisi without this step but it really makes a difference.

Don’t bake the nuts together with the pumpkin. Instead, serve them after the pumpkin is baked. If you add the nuts to the oven, they can burn, become bitter, and spoil the entire dessert.

If you want to, you can try keeping the (prepared) kabak tatlisi in the oven at 375 F (180˚C) for 15 minutes before serving. This gives the kabak tatlisi recipe a robust texture as the water evaporates.

When preparing the pumpkin, always use gloves; pumpkin flesh has an acidity that sometimes, can cause skin irritation.  

Enjoying this post? Also check out mahalabia recipe.

How To Choose A Pumpkin For Kabak Tatlisi?

The quality of your Kabak tatlisi depends on the quality of the pumpkin you use. That’s why choosing the right pumpkin for your kabak tatlisi recipe is key. Regular Jack-O-lantern pumpkins won’t work for this dessert. These pumpkins have very little flesh and are too bland and try.

As a rule of thumb, you need a pumpkin that’s dense enough to hold its shape through cooking. Some varieties you can use include “sugar pumpkins”, “pie pumpkins”, “Cinderella pumpkins”, “butternuts”, or even Hubbard squash. All of these are extra sweet with a fine texture and tenderness, making them perfect for this kind of dessert.

How To Peel The Pumpkin?

kabak tatlisi recipe

Properly peeling the pumpkin is perhaps the hardest part of the kabak tatlisi recipe. Moreover, oddly shaped squashes can be even trickier to peel. The best way to peel the pumpkin to prepare it for kabak tatlisi is to grab a sharp chef’s knife and halve the fruit lengthwise. After this, scoop out the seeds, place the fruit upside-down on a cutting board. If necessary, cut the pumpkin into half again and repeat until you have the required amount of segments. Finally, run a vegetable peeler along its length.

If you’re wondering what type of pumpkins are easier to peel, we suggest you stick to butternut squash. It’s relatively smooth and far easier for peeling.

When To Eat Kabak Tatlisi?

Traditionally, the pumpkin harvest in Turkey happens in the fall and this dessert is more popular during the autumn and winter months. Kabak tatlisi is especially popular for Şeker Bayramı (known as Eid al-Fitr in other Muslim countries), a day that marks the end of Ramadan.

Turkish people also have this belief that eating kabak tatlisi will bring them a prosperous new year. That’s why this dessert is often present on most families’ New Year’s dinner table.

But just because these are the most popular traditions related to this dessert doesn’t mean that these are the only times people eat kabak tatlisi. The truth is, there’s no bad time for kabak tatlisi. You can have it as a dessert, or as an afternoon snack alongside a cup of tea or coffee.

A Few Things You May Need

Yield: 4 Portions

Kabak Tatlisi Recipe

kabak tatlisi recipe

If you’re into trying new, exotic desserts that are very easy to make, you’ll probably like our traditional kabak tatlisi recipe (a Turkish pumpkin dessert)

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Additional Time 9 hours
Total Time 10 hours


  • · 1 Kg Pumpkin (2.5 lbs)
  • · 2 Cinnamon Sticks
  • · 2 and ½ Cups Sugar
  • · A Sprinkle of Salt
  • · 50 grams Crushed Walnuts
  • · 1 Tablespoon Lime Juice
  • · 30-40 grams of Kaymak/Tahini (optional)


1. Cut the top off your pumpkin and remove the stem at the bottom.

2. Cut the pumpkin from the top to the bottom, leaving 2 inches-wide slivers in the middle.

3. Remove the seeds and cut the outside skin of every piece of pumpkin.

4. Depending on the length, cut every sliver into a few pieces. Every piece should be 3-4 inches long.

5. Add the pumpkin pieces to a large, shallow skillet/pan.

6. Pour sherbet evenly on the top and sprinkle a pinch of salt for taste. Let the sherbet soak in the pumpkin overnight (8 hours should be enough). The next day, the pumpkin pieces should be soaked in sherbet and there’s no need to use any water.

7. Add the skillet/pan on medium-high heat, bring it to a boil, and reduce the heat to low.  

8. The pumpkin should simmer until it becomes soft and translucent. At this point, the sherbet should be reduced to a thick, syrup-like consistency. This takes roughly 1-2 hours but keep checking the pan frequently to make sure it doesn’t burn.

9. Once the pumpkin gets a candy-like texture, remove it from heat and let it cool down.

10. Carefully remove the pumpkin pieces from the pan and place them on a serving platter.

11. Remove the cinnamon pieces, add some syrup and lemon juice, and let the pumpkin pieces cool down in the fridge for 1 hour.

12. Drizzle some walnuts on top of the pumpkin pieces (and optionally add some kaymak or tahini on every piece).

Nutrition Information:

Serving Size:

100 grams

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 234Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 10mgCarbohydrates: 60gNet Carbohydrates: 62gFiber: 0.7gSugar: 32gProtein: 1g

Did you ever try this Turkish dessert? How did you like our kabak tatlisi recipe? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments and if you liked the recipe, don’t forget to leave us a rating.

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