Kumpir: The Baked Potato Snack That Turkey Adopted

What's your favorite way to dress up a reliable baked potato? Shredded cheddar cheese, chives, bacon bits, and sour cream may currently be on your shopping list if you're thinking about making some steamy loaded baked potatoes or twice baked potatoes sometime soon. However, if filling up on numerous toppings isn't your thing, you may just enjoy mixing a melty pat of butter into the soft starchy center or experimenting with baking sweet potatoes.

Being seriously adaptable, abundant, and coming at a low cost, it's no surprise that nations from Japan to Brazil have long been digging into their own variations on a classic baked potato. Of all the different kinds, Turkey's kumpir may be one of the best baked potato versions around. You can find locals and tourists alike lining up for kumpir in many of Turkey's major cities. This customizable street food is considered a must-have treat when visiting Turkey due to the unique ingredients stuffed inside.

History of kumpir

Turkish culture has long been deeply influenced by surrounding regions, and the Balkans are the specific source of cultural exchange that lead to the kumpir becoming a popular dish in Turkey. It's believed kumpir came over from the former nation of Yugoslavia. In this Balkan region, a similar potato dish was known as "khumpir." However, the Turks made this potato dish their own by changing the baking process and filling it with Turkish ingredients.

The first kumpir restaurants started opening in the early 1990s, and kumpir became extremely popular among locals and tourists alike. Ortaköy, a famous neighborhood in Istanbul known for its food scene, has a high concentration of these tasty kumpir restaurants. Today, there are many options for grabbing the Turkish potato dish. It's undeniable that kumpir has easily become one of the most iconic street foods in Turkey, and its uniquely Turkish ingredients are to thank.

Ingredients in kumpir

It seems that any baked potato, regardless of the chosen ingredients, would feel incomplete without plenty of melty butter and cheese — and the Turkish version delivers on that front. Before all the toppings get piled into the kumpir, lots of butter and shredded Kaşar cheese (a yellow cheese made from sheep milk) get mixed into the potato, creating a creamy layer of starch and fat for the ingredients to rest on.

After this, chopped sausages, corn kernels, pickles, black and green olives, roasted red peppers, mushrooms, pickled red cabbage, and other classic Turkish ingredients get piled into the potato. A heavy drizzle of mayonnaise and ketchup is also common to top it all off.

Usually, if you're ordering at a restaurant or at a street food stall, you get to choose exactly what you want dressing up your potatoes. However, if you're not planning on a trip to Turkey anytime soon, you may want to experiment with making your own kumpir at home.

How kumpir is made and eaten

While a trip to Turkey will allow you to wait in line for a fresh kumpir, you can also make this tasty street food at home. Making baked potatoes can be a bit of a time-consuming task, but the fantastic flavors in this dish will assure you the process is definitely worth it.

The first step in making homemade kumpir is to cook the potatoes. You can either bake them in the oven or use a combination of boiling the potatoes for 20 minutes and finishing them in the oven. They should be completely soft inside, and their skin should be easy to slice into. When you cut into the potato, the center can be gently stirred to make the potato creamy. The two sides can also be gently pulled apart from each other, making the potato easy to load up with toppings. Then, adding in whatever fillings suit you is the final step before digging into the kumpir.

However, if you're more of a fan of food being made for you, a trip to Turkey may be a necessity. According to Istanbul.com, the city's neighborhood Ortaköy has lots of famous kumpir places, including Tarihi Ortaköy Kumpircisi, Bebek Waffle & Kumpir, and Allpato Kumpir, which all have reputations for dishing out quality kumpir.