This recipe for traditional Turkish delight, also known as raha in Syria or lokum in Turkey, makes chewy little squares of deliciousness that are usually served with Turkish coffee. They're sticky, sweet treats that are highly addictive.
As a kid, I used to have them sandwiched in between tea biscuits. I can't even describe how the gooey texture of Turkish delights mixed with the buttery, flaky biscuits feel. The way they smell and taste is indescribable and just instantly transports me to simpler times. And guess what, even though you'd usually buy them at a local candy or dessert shop, they're actually super simple to make at home, and are delicious with tea or coffee. But, the only downside to making them at home is that once you start eating, you won't be able to stop!!
What I Love About This Recipe
One thing I love about this easy Turkish delight recipe is that it's the basic, plain version of Turkish delight. I've tried so many different versions, but there's nothing like the sticky, chewy, plain homemade Turkish delight. The plain version of Raha is probably the most common and has always been my favorite, but you can always get creative and add pistachios, walnuts, dried fruit, dates, and food coloring, it's really up to you!! My personal favorite add-on would probably be chopped dates.
- White sugar: This dessert is definitely an indulgent treat because it's made of mostly sugar and water.
- Icing sugar: Some people make it with only coarse white sugar, but I find that icing sugar gives it a smoother texture.
- Cornstarch: Super important!! It gives your Turkish delight the chewy, gooey texture that's so addicting. Just make sure it's fully dissolved before you heat it up to avoid lumps. Cornflour mix is not the same thing as cornstarch.
- Lemon Juice: Always use freshly squeezed lemon juice; store-bought ones change the flavor completely.
- Rose water and orange blossom water (optional): If making this Turkish delight the Syrian way, add rose water and orange blossom water. If you know anything about Syrian cuisine, you'll know that there's barely a dessert that exists without this ingredient.
How to Make Turkish Delight
Line the baking tray with parchment paper and dust with cornstarch. Set aside.
In a small bowl or heavy saucepan, mix ¾ cup cold or room temperature water with the cornstarch and white sugar. Make sure the cornstarch and sugar mixture dissolves completely. Bring to a boil, stirring very frequently.
As soon as the cornstarch mixture starts bubbling, lower to medium heat and add the remaining ¼ cup of water, powdered sugar (icing sugar), and lemon juice. Stir frequently on medium heat for around 30 minutes, or until the icing sugar mixture gets smaller in size, and thick enough that it's becoming harder to stir.
The soft candy mixture is ready to be removed from the stove once you dip a small spoon of the mixture in a cup of cold water, and it stiffens (this is called the hard ball stage). If the mixture stays soft it's still in the soft ball stage which means it needs more time.
Add rosewater and orange blossom water (if using), and stir well.
Transfer immediately to the prepared baking tray. Use a lightly oiled rubber spatula or the back of a lightly oiled spoon to smooth the top of the mixture (it should be around 1 inch thick). Spread the mixture to the sides of the pan.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight. Once the mixture has set into its firmer texture, use a lightly oiled sharp knife to cut it into small squares, about the size of 1-inch squares. Dust each cube with cornstarch and serve.
Tips and Tricks
- Add water and then cornstarch instead of the opposite in order to avoid lumps.
- To make sure your Raha is ready to be taken off the stove, dip a small spoon in the Turkish delight mixture then dip it in a cup of cold water. If it stiffens, it's ready. But if it doesn't, keep stirring.
- Be patient when it's on the stove, it will take time to start firming up.
- Use an oiled spoon or rubber spatula to spread the mixture onto your pan or baking tray. Also, oil your knife before you cut it into small cubes.
- While on the stove, stir continuously to avoid ending up with lumpy Raha.
- You could dust each piece with just corn starch, or you could use a mixture of cornstarch and powdered sugar. You could also get creative by adding cinnamon for example.
Substitutions and Variations
- Use flavor extract or fruit extracts, like lemon extract, to flavor the Turkish delights.
- Add food coloring or edible glitter.
- Use chopped pistachios, dates, or dried fruit for different flavors.
What Makes Turkish Delight Chewy?
Traditionally, an authentic Turkish delight recipe uses cornstarch. I've seen recipes that use gelatin, cream of tartar, and xanthan gum, but I personally find cornstarch the easiest to work with. And you'll also have no trouble finding it at any grocery store. After moving to Egypt a couple of years ago I've learned to make-do with what's available here, and I find that sticking to simple ingredients is always the best option.
You'll need a deeper dish or baking tray. Since you'll be lining it with baking paper before pouring in your Turkish delight mixture anyways, the material of the tray itself won't really matter. For this recipe, use a smaller tray. I used a 7" x 11" pyrex dish (it has a 5" x 8" base). It was the perfect size and made around 35 squares.
You will also need:
- Parchment paper
- Spatula or wooden spoon
- Mixing bowls
You should definitely store these in a cool dry place, like the fridge. Store this lokum recipe in an airtight container, preferably in a metal or glass container. Plastic containers have the tendency to make sugar "sweat". Since this recipe is free of the use of gelatin and xanthan gum, the Turkish delight might eventually start to get wet. If this happens, just dust with more cornstarch before serving. Compared to store-bought raha, the homemade version does have a more fragile texture so you'll need to serve it cold instead of letting it sit out at room temperature.
In Turkey, Turkish delights are called lokum.
In the 19th century, a British traveler brought back this famous sweet. He forgot the name it was called in Turkey, so he named it "Turkish delights".
Yes, lokum is what Turkish delights are called in Turkey.
Middle Eastern Desserts
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Homemade Turkish Delight (Raha or Lokum)
- 1 cup icing sugar
- ½ cup regular white sugar
- 1 cup water cold or room temperature
- ¾ cups cornstarch + more for dusting
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- 1 ½ tablespoon rosewater optional, see note 4
- 1 ½ tablespoon orange blossom water optional, see note 4
- Line your baking tray with baking paper and dust with cornstarch. Set aside.
- In a small pot or saucepan, mix 75% of the water with the cornstarch and regular white sugar.
- Bring to a boil, stirring very frequently. As soon as it starts bubbling, lower to medium heat and add the remaining 25% of water, icing sugar, and lemon juice.
- Stir frequently on medium heat for around 30 minutes, or until the mixture gets smaller in size, and thick enough that it's becoming harder to stir. Remove the sugar mixture from the stovetop when it reaches the hard ball stage. The hard ball stage is when a spoon with the sugar mixture is dipped into a cold glass of water and the mixture stiffens.
- Add rosewater and orange blossom water (if using), and stir well. This is also the time to add nuts, dried fruit, or flavor extracts if using.
- Transfer immediately to prepared baking tray.
- Use a lightly oiled rubber spatula or the back of a lightly oiled spoon to smooth the top of the mixture (it should be around 1 inch thick)
- Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
- Once the mixture has set into its firmer texture, use a lightly oiled knife to cut into little cubes.
- Dust each cube with cornstarch and serve.
- If it starts to absorb the cornstarch after setting, make sure you're storing the cubes in metal or glass containers. Dust with more cornstarch before serving.
- Don't leave the mixture on the stove without stirring for too long or your mixture will get lumpy.
- If adding nut, dates, or dried fruit, do so when you add the rosewater and orange blossom water.
- The Syrian version of Turkish delights add orange blossom water and rose water (a traditional Lebanese, Syrian, Jordanian, and Palestinian flavor used in desserts).