Quince, ayva as in Turkish, is a seasonal fruit, best enjoyed from October to early January and it is plentiful in Turkey. It is a rare treat to get in England, so you can imagine my excitement seeing them at the Turkish Market in Cheam, in Southeast England. I got my quinces and my heart was set to make the much loved, delicious Turkish quince dessert, Ayva Tatlisi.
Quince comes from the same family as apples and pears, and has a deliciously fragrant, rosy smell. There are also many health benefits of quince; it is packed with fiber, potassium and antioxidants. Quince is delicious when it’s ripe and you can enjoy eating raw, though it can also be quite tough to tackle. The hard, tangy and pale quince becomes soft, fragrant in a beautiful dark rosy pink color when it is cooked; quite a transformation for this humble fruit. Quince dessert, Ayva Tatlisi, is very popular in Turkey enjoyed in winter time, and it is divine, when cooked properly. You may notice some of the quince desserts come up in very deep, almost artificial red color, and I am afraid that case some artificial coloring may have been added to achieve this, to save up on the cooking time.
One of the elements that give this quince dessert its gorgeous color and fragrant taste is the slow, gentle cooking. I cooked mine for about 1 hour and 45 minutes over low heat and the transformation in the color and texture was amazing. Make sure to keep the seeds in the pan when you’re cooking the quinces; they help bringing out that gorgeous deep rosy pink/amber color. I also keep the peeled skin of quince in the pan; they all together bring a fragrant smell, beautiful color and thicken the syrup as the seeds contain pectin, a natural thickener. The cooked peels are lovely, chopped into strained yoghurt with nuts, for breakfast, as well as over toasted bread – another good example of no waste Turkish cuisine.
I hope you enjoy this easy and delicious quince dessert, Ayva Tatlisi; it simply melts in the mouth. You can prepare ahead of time and it keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days. I love the fruity desserts in Turkish cuisine; they are fragrant and packed with flavor, examples included in my cookery book (such as the Pumpkin dessert, Baked apricots with walnuts etc), Ozlem’s Turkish Table, Recipes from My Homeland. Signed copies are available to order at this link, and now 20 % Off – delivered worldwide, including USA. We also have this new Ozlem’s Turkish Table apron, with an embroidery of my home town Antakya’s daphne leaves in the design; it can make a lovely gift to a foodie, you can order at this link. (please kindly note that Quince Dessert is not included in this book).
Preparation time: 15 minutes Cooking time: 1 hour 45 minutes (or a little more, depending on the size of the quince)
2 medium size quinces
370ml/13fl oz water
30ml/2 tbsp. juice of lemon
15g/ 1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
Turkish thick cream, Kaymak, or clotted cream to serve
Crushed pistachio nuts or walnuts to serve
Wash and cut the quinces in half, from top to bottom. Scoop out the core and keep the seeds, save the seeds aside. Peel the skin of the quince halves and set them aside too. Rub the peeled quince halves with the lemon juice; that will help quince not to go dark in color.
Spread the peels of quince as a layer in a heavy pan, wide enough to have 4 quince halves in one layer. Place the quince halves on top, in a way that the hollow side faces upwards. Spread the sugar evenly over the halves and stir in the reserved quince seeds, cloves and the water.
Bring the pan to a boil then reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Simmer gently for about 45 minutes. Check the quinces and flip the halves gently to the other side. The quinces will start turning to a rosy, darkish pink color and the syrup will start to thicken and caramelized. Stir in the ground cinnamon, cover and cook on low heat for l hour, pouring the juice over quince every 20 minutes or so (you may need a little more or less cooking time depending on the size of the quince), turn the heat off. You will now get a richer dark rosy pink color and some caramelisation.
Leave the cooked quinces cool in the pan. The syrup will thicken even more and the color will go darker, thanks to the seeds acting as a natural thickener. Once cool, place the quince halves on a serving plate, with a dollop of clotted cream or even better, Turkish kaymak, the thick cream of the water buffalos over the top. You can sprinkle some crushed pistachio or walnuts over and serve. You can use plant based cream to make this a vegan feast.
This delicious quince dessert keeps well in the fridge for a good 3 days.
I love Ayva Tatlisi. It is hard to find the quiince/ayva here in Alabama and when you do they are small and expensive. One dollar and fifty cents for one small ayva. After looking at this post though I think it would be worth it :-)!
It is such a rare treat to find in England too April, though as you say, if you can get hold of a good one, it is so worth it – thank you for stopping by:)
This is such an interesting dessert, Ozlem:) I’ll be on the lookout for quince at the market. It’s unlike any I’ve had before…would love to try it out. Excited about the Istanbul class, it’s a great menu. XxPeri.
It is an exciting and interesting fruit Peri and the transformation in texture and taste is amazing once the quince is cooked -hope you can try sometime. Thank you for your kind words for my Istanbul class, look forward to it : ) Ozlem xx
. . an absolute favourite of ours! Mind you, in my ignorance I tried to eat one raw and the taste of chewing on wood pulp has never left me.
I know what you mean; though they are delicious if you can get a ripe one, my dad used to peel and prepare the fruit for us – thanks for stopping by!
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Özlem, I really learned a thing or two with this post. Had no idea about keeping the seeds for color and thickening, or the peels either. I’ve always been a bit disappointed in the color of my cooked quince and now I know why. I will definitely give it another try with your recipe. (I always suspected artificial color in the quinces they serve in some of the restaurants.)
Merhaba Jolee, thank you – the seeds are crucial for thickening the syrup and help with the color; also the slow gentle cooking is essential, I am glad if the post helped, enjoy those lovely quinces in Istanbul : ) Selamlar, Ozlem
Yay! I just nagged my grocery store to bring in the quinces and I just bought a half case because its so rare in the States. I also can’t find good clotted cream out here so I made my own using the oven and i cant wait to try it with this desert! Thanks for posting!
So glad you could find quince Cali, hope you enjoy it – thank you for stopping by!:)
Yum! One of my fav Turkish desserts too! When I worked in restaurants on the East Coast, we’d also poach the quince with seeds and spices, and then use for tarts or garnishes. 🙂
Such a great idea Joy, it would be fabulous in tarts – I just ate the last bit with some cheese, delicious 🙂
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I found quinces by chance when I lived in England by asking at orchards where you could pick-your-own apples. Some had a quince trees or two but didn’t put them on sale as they couldn’t sell them. (the fruit were much smaller than Turkish ones though)
I also recently spotted a quince tree on the way to my daughter’s school with fruit on it; I guess many folks don’t know what to do with it. Like you say, they’re smaller in England. I was over the moon to be able to get some at the Turkish market : )
While I’ve never seen quince in supermarkets in England, I see them whenever they’re in season in our markets and farmers’ markets. I’ve seen both English and French quinces for sale this year. As you say, the English ones seem to be smaller.
The English make quince ‘cheese’ (fruit paste, like membrillo) and jams, both of which are delicious. The quince ‘cheese’ is indeed frequently eaten with cheese, which works really well.
Thanks a lot for stopping by Ana, you are right, it is hard to find quince in regular supermarkets in England, I got mine from the Turkish market, it was such a surprise! Indeed it pairs so well with cheese : )
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I remember this dessert from our (short) visit to Istanbul on the way to Beirut; loved it! here, quince is always made into a jam, and we have several quince trees in the mountains. I was actually thinking of making this dessert recently, it is so delicious sweet and easy to prepare!
Hi Joumana, I have seen some delicious fruit compotes and jams at your site, and again, love seeing variations and similarities in our cuisine – how nice you have quince trees nearby, hope you enjoy this dessert!:)
Delicious. I really enjoy the fragrant flavour of quinces. Although they’re a very traditional fruit I don’t think I remember coming across them at all when I was growing up. I agree that on the whole most English varieties are smaller but there’s a garden not too far from here that has some very old quince trees which produce the largest quinces I’ve ever seen. They sometimes sell some for charity.
Thanks Phil, I would love to know that garden with large quinces, so good to know – glad you enjoyed the post.
Great recipe. I read the post last week and found quinces at my local Turkish shop in Ealing the following day! So I cooked them last night and loved this recipe.
Thank you for this and other lovely recipes I have enjoyed, especially the glorious Sebzeli Kofte which became wildly popular among my family and friends.
Merhaba Mohammed, thank you very much for your kind note – delighted to hear you enjoyed the ayva tatlisi! Sebzeli kofte is a favorite in my family too, so glad you are enjoying the recipes here, many thanks for letting me know – afiyet olsun!
Ben Thetis adli Cok ufak bir adada yasiyorum (kanada’nin BC eyaletinde Vancouver ile Victoria) arasinda. 15 sene evvel evi insa ederken ilk yapdigim bir ayva agaci dikmek oldu. Bu agacin bakimi cok kolay adeta yok gibi ve Her sene dolu meyva veriyor. Yurt disinda olupda bu meyva yi ozluyorsaniz hemen bir agac dikmenizi tavsiye ederim.
Merhabalar Goksenin, mesajin icin tesekkur ederim, cok guzel bir fikir ayva agaci dikimi. Su anda bahcem musait degil ancak en kisa zamanda bende arzu ederim, ayvayi ve ozellikle ayva tatlisini cok seviyorum. Selamlar, Ozlem
Hi Ozlem, quick question. Are two spoons of lemon juice (30ml) only for rubbing the fruit to prevent it from turning brown or is it being added at some point in time?
Merhaba, yes, rubbing the quince halves with the lemon juice will help quince not to go dark in color, no other lemon juice added later, hope you enjoy it, such a lovely way to enjoy quince.
I love Ayva Tatlisi my mother used to make it for her family my father my sister my brother and myself we loved it so much we ate with kaymak on pita bread or roll bread it tastes so good ,now that my mother no longer with us she passed a few months ago ,my sister and I we went to super market we saw Ayva my sister said mom used to make this for us and she bought some and I looked on internet I came to your website when I saw the recipe I was so excited I showed it to my sister now we are going to make it together to surprise our father,I just want to thank you for putting the recipe on your website.
Merhaba dear Lucy, thank you so much for your kind note; I do hope you enjoy making Ayva tatlisi and brings happy memories for you, my mother used to make it for us too and making this dessert has always been a special connection for us, my best wishes, afiyet olsun, Ozlem
Tried this for my family’s weekly Sunday Dessert–wonderful!
We have a small old quince tree, but never found a good way to use them…They would sit in a basket, smelling like heaven but going to waste. After testing this recipe, though, I think it’s safe to say our quinces won’t be wasted anymore! Thank you so much!
Do you have anymore ways to use quinces?
So glad to hear it Amiee, this dessert really brings out the best of quince; you can have the leftover of this dessert sliced and put over tarts too. Ottomans used them in savory casseroles too, I haven’t tried making but delicious I hear, as well as stuffed quince with aromatic rice, raisins and such. I hope it inspires, thank you for your note.
I tried this but my quince disintegrated-any ideas why? It is my first time buying and trying quince.
I’ve ended up with a delicious compote instead!
Thank you for having a go – never had this, I wondered perhaps your quince
was too ripe? Firm ones would work best here, do hope it helps and Afiyet
I have been to Turkey 40 times in the past 43 years and will never forget the wonderful fresh cuisine, all of it. Especially, Ayva tatlisi. I tried it for the first time in Istanbul in 1980 in a cafeteria-styled cafe at Taksim. When I enquired if it was served with cream. “Kaymak var mi?” the server replied “KAYMAK VAR!” in a really loud voice. I’ll never forget that. Or the great taste.
My favourite dish was karniyerik, which I tried all over Turkey from Dogubeyazit to Edirne and Trabzon to Antep. I’ll bookmark your website and look for more.
My next door neighbour here in Canada has ayva agaci so next fall I will try your recipe.
Cok Tesekkur ederim.
Merhaba dear Deborah, what a kind note; so delighted that you travelled extensively in Turkey and enjoyed that magical land and its cuisine. Ayva tatlisi is very special, how lucky you have a neighbour with quince tree – enjoy and Afiyet Olsun. Many thanks for your kind words, I hope you enjoy my recipes here, my best wishes, Ozlem
Thank You very much for this recipe. I never before tasted quince (even if I have it in my garden) in this way. We usually use it with apples for an apple cake. I saw this dish in one of turkish TV serie and always wanted to try it, and today I finally had a chance! Delicious…
Many thanks for your kind note – delighted you enjoyed my quince dessert recipe; delicious way to enjoy this lovely fruit. Afiyet olsun, enjoy the Turkish series : ) Ozlem