The Sweet Turkish Dessert Made With Chicken Breast

While the nation of Turkey is known for its deliciously seasoned meat dishes, like şiş kebabs, köftes, and döners, this diverse cuisine has so much more to offer. From succulent vegetable dishes to a fantastic street food scene, Turkey is definitely an underrated foodie destination. However, it might just be this country's milk-based desserts that are what's really worth traveling for.

Yes, baklava may just be the king of Middle Eastern desserts, but when it comes to dairy-filled puddings and crumbly cakes, Turkey is an international capital. Popular desserts in the nation are flavored with anything from rosewater to cinnamon to vanilla. But, one of the best desserts may just have an unexpected savory ingredient: chicken breast.

We know, it doesn't sound the most appetizing, but tavuk göğsü, literally called "chicken breast," is actually quite delicious and a favorite among Turks. Creamy and sweet, we bet you won't even notice a meaty flavor in this pudding.

History of tavuk göğsü

You may have been able to guess that turning shredded chicken breast into a pudding is not a new concept. But, did you know it dates back to the Middle Ages? European cuisine during this time often did include poultry in certain desserts' ingredient lists. Tavuk göğsü is very similar to dishes like mahalabiya and early versions of blancmange, both creamy chicken-based puddings. Atlas Obscura notes that France's popular blancmange has since lost the meat component, but tavuk göğsü still showcases chicken as an essential ingredient in the dish.

While this dessert doesn't have roots in Europe, it was considered a royal delicacy in the Ottoman Empire. According to Seasoned Traveller, legend says this dish originated inside the walls of Istanbul's Topkapı Palace when a Sultan asked for a sweet, late-night snack. However, on such short notice, the palace's cooks were only able to scrounge up chicken and a handful of basic ingredients. Quickly, they concocted tavuk göğsü, and it was overwhelmingly approved of by the Sultans. This act of creative cheffing likely saved their lives.

Today, tavuk göğsü is still popular in the country. According to The Spruce Eats, the country has many chain restaurants that dish out plenty of this dessert. The outlet notes these specialty establishments often have quite a fan base, and they see many customers come back to eat each day when their sweet tooth hit.

Ingredients in tavuk göğsü

If you're planning on making tavuk göğsü at home, you'll be pleased to know the shopping list is quite limited. With only a few essential ingredients, you'll be dishing out this protein-packed pudding in no time.

Of course, the main ingredient is chicken breast. It's usually shredded so finely in this dessert that the chicken taste is barely noticeable, if at all, as per The Spruce Eats. The real purpose of including the chicken in this pudding is to create its unique texture. Atlas Obscura notes that a "stringy" and "fibrous" texture is present from the boiled then shredded chicken pieces, which may place this dish into an "oddly satisfying" category of food.

Lots of milk is also used in this dessert, making sure it takes on a creamy consistency and flavor. Cornstarch and rice flour are the two great thickeners that are added in to make this pudding firm, yet jiggly. In fact, it is so dense, that it is usually cut up to eat rather than eaten with a spoon, as per The Spruce Eats.

Sugar and a bit of vanilla extract team up in this recipe to give this pudding it's incredibly sweet flavor, and when paired with the creaminess from the milk, it makes a standout pudding. Cinnamon is also often sprinkled on for a bit of spicy sweetness and to give it visual appeal.

How tavuk göğsü is made and eaten

While the ingredient list is short, the process of making this pudding can be quite long. According to The Spruce Eats' recipe, the first step is to boil the chicken breast, shred it, and soak it with water. However, it's not just soaked with water once. It's actually drained and soaked again about six times. 

Once adequately rinsed, it's left to chill overnight. Then, surprise, it needs to be rinsed and drained a few more times. The Turkish Food Chef notes that part of the reason the chicken is rinsed so many times is that it will eventually lose its meaty scent and become flavorless. It also helps the shredded bits become so fine that they're almost thread-like, as per the site.

Once the chicken is taken care of, the milk is boiled along with the shredded chicken, and they are then blended together. Eventually, all the other ingredients get whisked in and cooked together until it is too thick to stir, as per The Spruce Eats. It's then poured into a rectangular dish and left to refrigerate for several hours.

Once chilled, the pudding can be served and plated to form a cylindrical shape, as per Atlas Obscura. In Turkey, according to The Spruce Eats, this pudding is often enjoyed at teatime, adding a bit of nutritious protein to the typical dessert lineup. Paired with coffee or tea, this makes a great afternoon snack that we hope lasts another several centuries.