Exploring Northern Cyprus: Local Cuisine, Restaurants, and Traditional Recipes

Exploring Northern Cyprus: Local Cuisine, Restaurants, and Traditional Recipes

Exploring Northern Cyprus: Local Cuisine, Restaurants, and Traditional Recipes

Introduction to Northern Cypriot Cuisine

Northern Cypriot cuisine is a fascinating fusion of influences from the Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Turkish culinary traditions. Located in the eastern Mediterranean, the region is blessed with an abundance of fresh, locally sourced ingredients such as olive oil, lamb, fish and seafood, vegetables, and aromatic herbs.

Traditional Dishes of Northern Cyprus

When exploring Northern Cyprus, you must try the traditional dishes that have been passed down through generations. Here are some notable examples:

Makarna - Northern Cypriot Pasta

Makarna, or Northern Cypriot pasta, is a staple in the local cuisine. It is usually prepared with homemade noodles, which are cooked in a rich tomato-based sauce with meat or vegetables. The flavors are enhanced by the addition of traditional herbs and spices.

Meze - Small Plates of Delight

A meze is a selection of small plates served as an appetizer or a meal in itself. It typically includes a variety of dishes such as stuffed vine leaves (dolma), hummus, tzatziki, grilled halloumi cheese, olives, and homemade bread. Meze is perfect for sharing and sampling a range of flavors.

Kleftiko - Traditional Slow-Cooked Lamb

Kleftiko is a beloved traditional dish in Cyprus. It consists of tender lamb slow-cooked for hours in a clay oven, resulting in succulent, melt-in-your-mouth meat. The lamb is typically marinated with herbs, garlic, and lemon before cooking, creating a delightful aroma and flavor.

Tavuk Şiş - Grilled Chicken Skewers

Tavuk Şiş, or grilled chicken skewers, are a popular street food item in Northern Cyprus. The marinated chicken pieces are skewered and grilled over charcoal, resulting in juicy and flavorful meat. They are often served with pita bread, pickles, and a side of refreshing yogurt sauce.

Lokma - Sweet Delights

No meal in Northern Cyprus is complete without indulging in some delicious sweet treats. Lokma, small deep-fried dough balls soaked in syrup and often sprinkled with cinnamon, are a must-try. They are incredibly addictive and will leave you craving more.

Top Restaurants in Northern Cyprus

Northern Cyprus boasts a diverse culinary scene, with numerous restaurants offering a variety of local and international cuisines. Here are some highly recommended establishments:

Kybele Restaurant

Kybele Restaurant, located in the heart of Kyrenia, offers a charming atmosphere and a menu showcasing traditional Cypriot dishes. The restaurant prides itself on its use of fresh, local ingredients to create authentic flavors.

Charcos Restaurant

Charcos Restaurant, situated in Famagusta, is known for its modern twist on traditional Cypriot cuisine. The menu features a range of innovative dishes that combine local ingredients with international cooking techniques.

Karakol Restaurant

Karakol Restaurant is situated in the village of Bellapais, offering breathtaking views of the mountains and the Mediterranean Sea. The menu focuses on traditional Cypriot cuisine, with an emphasis on grilled meats and meze platters.

Al Shaheen Restaurant

If you're looking to try Middle Eastern flavors, Al Shaheen Restaurant in Nicosia is a fantastic choice. This elegant establishment serves Lebanese and Syrian dishes, including delicious grilled kebabs, falafel, and mezze.

Traditional Recipes from Northern Cyprus

If you want to recreate the flavors of Northern Cyprus at home, here are a couple of traditional recipes:



  • 500g ground lamb
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 8-10 large sheets of caul fat (optional but traditional)


  1. In a bowl, combine the ground lamb, chopped onion, minced garlic, dried mint, ground cumin, salt, and pepper.
  2. Using your hands, mix the ingredients until well combined.
  3. If using caul fat, soak it in water to soften.
  4. Take a handful of the lamb mixture and shape it into a sausage-like roll.
  5. If using caul fat, wrap each roll with a sheet of the softened caul fat.
  6. Place the sheftalies on a preheated grill or barbecue and cook until golden brown and cooked through.
  7. Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon juice and enjoy!



  • 1 can (400g) chickpeas, drained
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Paprika and extra olive oil for garnish


  1. In a food processor, blend the drained chickpeas, minced garlic, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil, salt, and pepper until smooth and creamy.
  2. If needed, add a little water to achieve the desired consistency.
  3. Transfer the hummus to a serving bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with paprika.
  4. Serve with warm pita bread, fresh vegetables, or as a dip for your favorite meze.

Map of Northern Cyprus