Çilbir, also known as Turkish Eggs

An easy, satisfying meal, poached eggs with yogurt and an Aleppo pepper sauce is the breakfast you didn't know you needed in your life.

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The smell of garlic swirled around me as I passed it back and forth along the Microplane, grating it directly into the bowl of thick Greek yogurt. Less pungent since I poached it, but still strong-smelling. I picked up the lacy dill and gave it a whiff. I use a lot of fresh herbs when I cook, but I admit, I rarely think to buy dill. I tear off some of the green, feathery leaves and run my knife through it, the citrusy, licorice scent becoming even stronger. I swirl it into the yogurt along with a pinch each of salt and pepper before setting it aside to come to room temperature. This yogurt will be the base for poached eggs drizzled with chile-infused oil, otherwise known as Turkish eggs.

I've yet to meet an egg I didn't like. Scrambled, hard-boiled, soft-boiled, poached in water, poached in olive oil, drowned in sauce or a perfect cheese omelet, I love them all. I can eat them for breakfast, lunch or dinner and be wholly satisfied. Easily my favorite food, I'm always looking for a new-to-me way of making eggs.

Years ago, on an episode of "Nigella: At My Table," I watched host Nigella Lawson make Turkish eggs, stating, as she gathered ingredients, "You can keep your eggs benedict. My first dreamy mouthful of these Turkish eggs, and I was utterly sold."

Turkish eggs are a ridiculously simple dish that was "utterly" foreign to me before watching Lawson make them. I filed the idea away for a future breakfast experiment.

What are Turkish eggs?

Turkish eggs, called çilbir (chill-burr), is a dish dating back to the Ottoman Empire around the 15th century. As it's made today, there are just three main components: eggs, yogurt and chile oil. Specifically, poached eggs sit atop a garlicky dill-speckled yogurt finished with Aleppo pepper-infused melted butter or olive oil.

Recently I had one of my sisters over for breakfast. My sister loves eggs as much as I do. On previous visits, we've had shakshuka (eggs poached in a tomato and bell pepper sauce), molletes (an open-faced sandwich of black beans, melted cheese and a pico de gallo, but I also top them with olive oil basted sunny side up eggs) and our fallback, huevos rancheros.

I wanted to make something different – something neither of us had before. As I mulled over ideas, Turkish eggs popped into my head. A quick pantry inventory confirmed that I had everything I needed for the recipe (minus the fresh dill, so I used dried). We both enthusiastically devoured breakfast. The creamy yolks against the garlicky dill yogurt was a combination I never knew I needed. I paired the eggs with pan-grilled crusty bread to dip into the yolks and dredge through the yogurt, sauteed asparagus spears and harissa chickpeas, placing this dish onto my list of memorable eats. I now make Turkish eggs frequently (with and without the side dishes).

What do you need to make Turkish Eggs?

With the exception of Aleppo pepper, the ingredients for Turkish eggs are fairly common and most likely already in your pantry. 


When eggs are the central component of a recipe, I always advocate using eggs labeled pasture-raised if you can. Labeling can be confusing, but once you know the difference, you can make an informed decision depending on how you plan to use the eggs and, more importantly, what best fits your budget. Here's the difference, as explained by the folks over at Certified Humane:
  • Caged eggs make up the majority of eggs sold in the United States. Caged hens live in a 67-inch squared space. They never see the light of day and are fed a corn and soy diet.
  • Cage-free hens have it slightly better, but farmers still pack them into henhouses. These hens live in about 1 square foot of space and also consume corn and soy.
  • Free-range hens mean their henhouse has a door leading to a fenced-in outside area, but there is no guarantee they get much time or space out there. Their diet usually consists of corn or soy feed.
  • Pasture-raised, especially those stamped "Certified Humane" or "Animal Welfare Approved," have access to quality outdoor space where they can forage most of the day. In the evening, they return to an indoor space with more room than their cage-free sisters. Because pasture-raised hens consume a more varied diet, their yolks are deeply hued and, I believe, are much more flavorful. Also, a study from Penn State suggests that eggs from pasture-raised hens contain a higher concentration of vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids than other eggs on the market.


I've made this with regular yogurt and Greek, and I have to say, Greek wins for texture and mouthfeel here. Preferably, you'll want the yogurt at room temperature (Lawson puts her's in a bowl set over a pot of simmering water to warm it gently; that's two extra dishes to wash, so I pass, instead I prep the yogurt first, so it has time to come up to room temperature naturally). Grated garlic added to the yogurt is a must. You can use it raw or toss it into the pan of water where you'll be poaching the eggs and let it hang out while the water heats up. This light poaching of the garlic will effectively remove the sharpness while letting you enjoy its garlicky goodness. A fresh herb mixed into the yogurt is also welcome. Dill is the most traditional, but I've seen this dish made with mint, parsley and even cilantro, so use whichever you have on hand (you can also use dried herbs if necessary, I won't tell).

Red pepper flake-infused oil

Lemony Aleppo pepper is the chile of choice here. As for the medium, most purists will argue that the medium must be butter, but I prefer olive oil. Sometimes, even a bit of both.

Ready to make what Lawson called dreamy eggs? Let's get cooking!

How do you make Turkish eggs?

These ingredients are all you need to make this delectable dish. Clockwise from upper right: pasture-raised eggs, garlic, Greek yogurt (I love Straus and preferably full fat), Aleppo pepper, fresh dill, salted butter (I prefer European), and olive oil (pictured is Millers Blend from California Olive Ranch which has strong peppery notes; their olive oil in a box made from 100% California olives is my everyday oil – it's fantastic!).

Before starting on the yogurt, get the water started for the poaching. Add water to a shallow pot or skillet and bring to a boil. Optionally, toss the garlic with skins into the water if you want to tame the garlic's sharpness. Remove the garlic from the water once it starts boiling, and turn the heat down to maintain a gentle simmer.

Measure the yogurt into a small bowl. Mince the dill.

Add the dill to the yogurt bowl along with salt and pepper. 

Peel the garlic and use Microplane to grate it over the bowl. 

Combine everything well and set aside to come up to room temperature while you work on the rest of the components.

Heat an 8-inch skillet over medium. I prefer a combination of olive oil with just a hint of butter. You might prefer all butter or all olive oil – use whichever combo you prefer. In my case, I'm adding the olive oil and butter to the warmed skillet. Once the butter has melted, add the Aleppo pepper; continue stirring for about 45 seconds. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Time to poach the eggs. Start with a cold egg. You're going to strain away the watery whites. Poaching the strained egg will result in a prettier, more compact egg without all those wispy tendrils. Place a small sieve over a small bowl or ramekin. Crack open the cold egg into the sieve and allow it to drain for 30 seconds. Transfer the drained egg to another small bowl, teacup or ramekin. Repeat with the second egg.  

Make sure the water is just barely simmering. You don't want a lot of movement here. A few tiny bubbles rising to the surface is fine. Lower the first egg into the water, placing the vessel as close to the water's surface, letting the egg gently slide out. Set a timer for 2½ minutes (I tell Siri to set my timers for me). Wait 30 seconds, then repeat with the second egg. When the timer goes off, if your timer allows, reset it for 30 seconds. Remove the first egg with a slotted spoon and blot it on a paper towel before placing the egg on a smooth plate (don't place the egg onto paper towels – it will stick, and you risk breaking the yolk). When the timer goes off again, repeat with the second egg. If you want the whites or yolks a bit more set, do a 3-minute poach. I like the texture of a 2 ½ minute poach; the yolks are still very runny, and the whites are just set. If you're making some toast to accompany breakfast, pop the bread into the toaster now. Personally, I like to toast my bread in a hot cast iron skillet with a little bit of olive oil brushed on the bread.

Spread the yogurt on your plate.

Carefully transfer the poached eggs to the yogurt plate. Lastly, pour the sauce over the eggs and yogurt. 

A steaming cup of black coffee, toast and some extra cracked pepper on the side to add a bit more bite and we're off. 

I hope you make these the next time you're craving eggs. They're so simple yet explode with flavor!

Until next time, my friends … 
xo, ani

Turkish Eggs

Forget what you've heard about poaching eggs. Vortexes in deep pots of boiling water are unnecessary and usually produce whispy whites. Instead, use a shallow pot or, better yet, a 10-inch skillet and instead of creating a whirlpool to toss the egg into, have the water just barely simmering. Cracking cold eggs into a sieve-covered bowl before carefully placing them into the water will drain away the watery whites, creating a better-shaped poached egg. My favorite pasture-raised eggs are Vital Farms.

Serves 1

For the yogurt:

1 garlic clove, peeled
½ cup Greek yogurt
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill, plus more for garnish
Pinch sea salt
Pinch black pepper

For the sauce:

2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon butter
1 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper

2 cold large pasture-raised eggs

Prep the yogurt: Fill a 10-inch skillet ¾ of the way with water; add the garlic clove and bring the water to a boil, then cover, and turn down the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Meanwhile, add the yogurt to a small bowl and stir in the dill. Remove the garlic from the water but leave the water simmering. Let the garlic cool for a few minutes, then use a microplane to grate directly into the yogurt bowl. Season with salt and pepper to taste; set aside.

Make the sauce: Heat the oil and butter in a small skillet. Once the butter stops bubbling, stir in the Aleppo pepper and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Poach the eggs: Place a small sieve over a small bowl and crack an egg into the sieve to allow the watery egg white to drain away. Carefully transfer the egg to a small bowl, teacup or ramekin. Repeat with the second egg, placing it into its own bowl. Ensure the simmering water is very hot but not bubbling – you don't want any movement. Carefully slip an egg into the water. Set a timer for 2½ minutes (whites just barely set, yolks runny) to 3 minutes (whites set, yolks creamy). 30 seconds later, repeat with the second egg. When the timer goes off, remove the first egg with a slotted spoon, tamping it on a paper towel to absorb some of the water, then place it on a small plate. 30 seconds later, repeat with the second egg.

To serve: Spread the yogurt onto a plate (I like to use a small 6-inch dessert plate). Add the eggs, pouring the sauce over the plate. Garnish with extra dill.

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