This Turkish leek recipe is delicious and easy to make. Leeks are braised with olive oil and then topped with a garlicky yogurt sauce, resulting in a delicious, wholesome meal ready in no time.
What's great about Turkish recipes is that they're made with fresh and wholesome ingredients. There are many vegetarian Turkish recipes out there such as lentil balls (Mercimek köftesi) and zucchini fritters (mucver) using an abundance of vegetables in numerous ways, mostly involving cooking in extra virgin olive oil. This braised leeks recipe is one of my all-time favorite ways to cook leek. It's a simple dish made with just a few ingredients, served with a tasty yogurt sauce.
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Turkish leeks recipe (Zeytinyağlı Pırasa)
Leeks are allium, which means they're from the same family as onions, garlic and shallots. Most know leeks as an ingredient for potato leek soup, but there is a lot more you can do with them. Leeks are mildly sweet with a slight onion flavor and are a good source of Vitamin A and fiber.
Turkish braised leeks, known in Turkish as zeytinyağlı pırasa, is one of the many Turkish dishes belonging to the category of foods Turks call zeytinyağlı yemekler, literally "dishes with olive oil," which are extremely popular in Turkey and tend to be served at home at room temperature. Indeed, I first learned about this recipe when I tried it in the home of one of my very good friends in Istanbul while I was living there years ago.
These dishes are usually made with vegetables braised in olive oil with milk spices and sometimes herbs. Some of them, such as zucchini stew, contain rice as well while the others are usually served with some bread. Zeytinyağlı yemekler can be served as side dishes for many main courses.
- Olive oil: Quality extra virgin olive oil makes this dish extra tasty.
- Onion and garlic: Use white or yellow onion for this recipe. It's best not to overuse the garlic so the other flavors shine.
- Leeks: Like many other leek recipes, we are going to use only the white and light green parts of the leek.
- Tomato paste: You only need a tablespoon of tomato paste for this recipe, just to add a bit of color and flavor.
As for the yogurt sauce, you need plain yogurt, garlic, salt, olive oil and Aleppo pepper, which you can find in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern shops as well as online.
How to make braised leeks
- Slice off and discard the dark green parts of the leek and trim the end as well. Slice the leek lengthwise and wash it thoroughly, especially the white parts since there might be dirt there. Leave it to dry. Thinly slice the leeks and set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat and saute the onion until translucent. Add the leeks followed by the garlic and saute for 10 more minutes.
- Add in the tomato paste, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and then add 1 cup of water. Bring to a low simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
- Add a good glug of olive oil to the braised leeks. Turn the heat off and let it sit for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the topping by mixing the yogurt with garlic and salt. Heat some olive oil in a small pan and add in the Aleppo pepper. Cook for 2 minutes and turn the heat off.
- Transfer to a serving plate and top with the yogurt sauce and spiced olive oil.
There are lots of variations on this recipe that you'll encounter around Turkey. Some add sliced carrots to cook with leeks, which certainly adds a nice pop of color and subtle sweetness to the dish.
Another common addition is ¼ to ⅓ cup white rice, which is added right before adding the water to make this dish heartier. It's best if the rice is medium to short grain.
Serve braised leeks cold or at room temperature with the yogurt sauce as a side dish for main courses such as roasted chicken and vegetables, pan seared salmon or Turkish style baked cod. You can also serve it as a vegetarian main dish with some bread such as pita or Turkish pide bread.
Store the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 4 days. You can either serve this dish cold or warm it up a little in a pan over medium heat.
Frequently asked questions
As I mentioned above, you need to slice the leek in half lengthwise and then wash it thoroughly using cold water. Leek usually has dirt in all its layers so it's crucial to make sure it's fully clean.
For most recipes we only use the white and light green parts since the dark green parts are bitter and tough.
Yes, you can serve it as is.
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Turkish Braised Leeks Recipe (Zeytinyağlı Pırasa)
- 2 large leeks
- ¼ cup olive oil divided
- 1 large onion sliced
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp Aleppo pepper
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 clove garlic finely minced
- Since we only need the white and light green of the leeks, slice and discard the dark green parts. Slice the leek in half lengthwise and wash thoroughly under running cold water to get rid of all the dirt that might be between the layers. Let it dry for a few minutes, then slice them thinly into halfmoons and set aside.
- Heat half of the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute the onion until translucent. Add in the leek and garlic. Cook for 10 minutes until the leek starts to soften.
- Add in the tomato paste, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Add 1 cup of water and bring to a low simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
- Uncover and add the remaining olive oil to the pan and give it a good stir. Turn the heat off and let it sit for 15 minutes.
- In a bowl mix the yogurt with the salt and garlic and set aside. Heat 2 tablespoon olive oil in a pan over medium heat and add in the Aleppo pepper and cook for a minute or two.
- Transfer the braised leeks to a serving platter and top with the garlicky yogurt and spices olive oil. Serve warm or at room temperature.