Salep |

A Great Hot Drink For Cold Days

We’ve been living the last days of Winter in Turkey. Before it leaves us totally, it is a must for me to tell you about one of the most popular hot drink of us: Salep! On cold days of Winter, if I’m outside, the only thing I imagine is to have a cup of salep at home. It warms both your hands(while holding the cup) and your body. I love its aromatic scent spreading inside the home while cooking it. Let me introduce this yummy hot drink more before its recipe.

I was definitely surprised when I first learnt that salep is produced from the bulbs of some species of orchid family. You know that beautiful and fragile flower, have you ever thought that it has also a lot of benefits besides its majestic beauty? This orchid family includes 24 species and about 90 classes of orchids. Since the lands of Anatolia are so fertile, these species and classes grow themselves in different regions of our country. However, salep is produced from some certain species.

The orchids which are suitable for salep production have a unique structure. The root of those orchids consists of two bulbs side by side. They are in shape of an egg. The bigger bulb feeds the flower while the smaller one is the spare bulb which will take the responsibility of feeding the flower the following year.   Although salep can be produced from both bulbs, producers pick up just the spare one not to cause the flower to become extinct. When the spare one is taken, the bigger bulb starts to generate a new small bulb, in this way the flower goes on living.

After the bulbs are picked, they are washed and boiled in water or milk. Then they are dried in open air. To have salep flour, these bulbs are pounded when they are totally dried. Salep includes starch, sugar, and mucilage, which has a sticky characteristic. This last substance helps the drink get thicker while boiling.

There are also packaged salep that you can find in supermarkets, you just mix it with hot milk and your best hot drink is ready. However, these are not genuine, companies add extra starch into it. So if you want to taste original salep, you should make a little search.


It is generally found in herb and spice shops. It must be a bit expensive, that way you can understand that it’s real. If a kilo of salep is cheaper than 250 Turkish Liras (140 dollars), it’s not real. But don’t worry, you don’t need to buy a kilo. 10gr or 20gr is enough for you because you’ll use just 3 tsp salep for 1 liter milk. You may find the time of making salep a bit long, but it’s absolutely worth it.

Besides its yummy taste and magical scent, it has also several benefits to health. The most well known benefit of it is that it has a curative effect on cough, bronchitis and cold, that’s why it’s mostly consumed in winter. In addition, it cures constipation, strengthens heart and mental powers.

After all these, I start to crave for salep, I’ll definitely go to kitchen and prepare salep after writing this post. Do you wonder how?

•    3tsp salep (if you don’t want a heavy scent, use 1tsp or 1 ½ tsp)
•    1tsp starch
•    1tbsp sugar
•    1 liter milk
•    1 tsp vanilla
•    Cinnamon for garnish

Put the milk in a pot and boil it .
Mix salep, starch and sugar in a bowl. Add some warm milk in and emulsify it. The mixture should be like paste.

After the milk boils, lower the heat and add that salep mixture in the boiling milk little by little and mix it continually. Mixing is very important here, you should keep mixing it otherwise it gets lumpy. You can check its taste and if you like, add more sugar in it. It should be sweet.  Boil this mixture on the lowest heat for half an hour, your house will get full of its wonderful scent. And towards the end of this time, add vanilla. Pour it in a cup and sprinkle some cinnamon on it. You can put the rest in a bottle or jug and keep it in refrigerator for some days. When you crave for salep again, you can heat some of it and feel that pleasure again.

Salep |

Updated: I tried to make it without starch and it’s even better! I just increased the amount of salep. I added 1 tbsp salep powder into a liter of milk. Salep itself is enough to have the right consistency. Mix salep powder, milk and sugar. Boil it stirring continually. Add vanilla (optional) when it boils. It’s done! Don’t forget to garnish with cinnamon powder.

Updated on 12.10.2012: I made it with walnuts this time. Yummy! See it here!


  1. says

    I will have to look for salep in the specialty stores once I move closer to detroit. I’ve never heard of this, but it sounds wonderful.

  2. says

    I’ve never heard of it, it sounds delicious. I wish I had some a week back-I had a bad cold. I’m learning about so many new foods from you!

  3. says

    Oooh! What is the flavor like – floral or spicy or something else? It looks deliciously rich and what a wonderful, self-sustaining ingredient. I haven’t heard of it before but will look out for it as I search for grape molasses as well. Thank you for once again introducing us to something new!

  4. says

    This is also another new one for me. I’ll have to see if it’s available in any speciality shops here – I hope so!

  5. says

    I know some orchid flowers r edible but never heard of this drink…sounds delicious with cinnamon and vanilla…

  6. says

    Nila Rosa, Oyster Culture – I hope you can find it. It’s really wonderful.
    Reeni – I hope you’re fine now. I’m glad you love them.

    Lauren, lisaiscooking – Glad you like it. It tastes yummy.

    Tangled Noodle – Well, its flavor is in between floral and spicy. When it mixes with cinnamon and vanilla, I can say its like a sweet spice.

    Daily Spud, Sophie – I hope you can find it there. Perfect for Winter days.

    Vrinda – I never tried edible orchids, but this drink is so popular here.

    Comestiblog – Glad you like my reply here :)

  7. says

    Salep nefisss gorunuyor, burada kar yagiyor sicak sicak icmesine kadar nefis olurdu:)

    ellerine saglik canim.


  8. says

    I love the sound of this recipe. It looks so pretty, too. I really enjoy the layout of your blog!!

  9. says

    I love salep! I used to have it all the time when I was in Turkey in college. Thanks for the memories and the recipe!

  10. says

    how interesting. never heard of a drink that came from orchid before. i would really love to taste this.. thanks for sharing.

  11. trilingual1946 says

    I tried commercial salep powder. It’s available on Amazon as “sahleb” which is the transliteration from Arabic. You can make it a cup at a time: 1 tsp. of sahleb powder mixed with 1 tbsp. of cold milk. Bring a cup of milk to a boil, add a few tbsps. of the hot milk to the sahleb powder mixture, then pour the mixture into the hot milk. Return to the boil, stirring. Add sugar (I used Splenda and it tasted great) and 1 tsp. rosewater. You can do this in the microwave — I used a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup to hold the sahleb. Just be careful to watch the milk so it doesn’t boil over. You may have to start and stop the microwave several times. Stir each time you stop the microwave. The end result is a slightly thickened hot milk with a subtle flavor that makes a great before-bedtime drink! If you like, add a dash of cinnamon, or some finely chopped walnuts or pistachios as a topping, and enjoy! Be aware, though, that the flavor of the commercial product is pretty subtle. You might get the same results just using cornstarch to thicken the hot milk, flavored with rose water, and it’s much less expensive! Using pure sahleb might make a difference in the flavor. But the plant has apparently been hunted to near-extinction in much of the Middle East, which is why the pure sahleb is so expensive now.

  12. Bill C. says

    It should be drunk while eating a warm, ring-shaped, pretzel-like sesame roll. It is delicious, and the most warming food I have ever tasted … it was the only thing that allowed me to survive several weeks of winter in Turkey.

  13. says

    Learn something new every day, I have never tried nor ever heard of Salep, but it sounds like an ingredient I would love to sample.

    Bon appetit!

  14. SharonB. says

    I just returned from Isreal, and while there had an opportunity to try Salep. The vendor gave me a sample taste, as my friends explained that I was from the States and had never had it before. I instantly fell in love with it, and went back for more later that same day.
    Very much looking forward to trying this recipe. Just hope it’s as good as I had over there.

  15. Alenka says

    I am in Istanbul right now and yesterday I first tasted sahlep. Well, it’s soft and creamy and the taste itself is so warm and kind and welcoming – it’s just like all the momm’s love is in it.. I will try to find it today and take some with me. Thank you for the recipe!

  16. Helen says

    I just got back from Istanbul,, and this sahlep is the one thing I had to bring back with me. After sampling it at “Turkbucks”, where they serve it in a very large mug and with a frothy surface, I was sold.
    I found it in the the Turkish market. I bought one package of Instant, because it was more reasonable and simple to make. You can just add some boiling water or half water & half milk. I also bought a small amount of the powdered stronger version that needs to be boiled as directed in the recipe. However, extra starch was not called for, so they may have added that already to it. It is amazing! I found your recipe as I was looking for variations on how to prepare and flavor it. It is good just by itself, but its always fun to try a variety of garnishes, like chocolate or nutmeg. I also bought some Turkish Delight to go with it. That is another recipe to be attained. Thanks for your detailed information about how the sahlep is extracted from the secondary orchid bulb. I knew that it was from ground orchid seeds, but not exactly how they did it.. Blessings to all that enjoy this bit of Heaven. Helen.
    PS. I did wonder about the calorie count. I also hope that someone into plants is figuring out how to grow these orchids enough to both maintain and protect the plants and the ability to harvest this amazing drink from it.

    • says

      Salep has such an outstanding flavor that you become addicted after the first try. The instant ones are absolutely more practical, but not as tasty as the original one. Turkish delights sound perfect with this yummy warming drink. They make a perfect couple!
      As for its calorie, I have no idea. It’s so tasty, so who cares?

  17. says

    Amazing! Zerrin, This drink looks just like our Mexican Drink Atole, me make it using different types of flours.
    I will have to look for the Salep flour to try this drink. I have a post in my blog about our Atole drink, I hope you visit it t check how similar the drinks are.


    • says

      Wow! Even the presentation of your Atole looks so similar to salep’s! Bet it is as yummy!

  18. says

    Thanks so much for this recipe! I just got back from Istanbul where they served Salep everyday in the lobby of our hotel. How could you not fall in love? I found the PURE :) powder at the spice market and am excited to try it out.

    • says

      It’s awesome if you have the pure salep powder! The smell when boiling is absolutely inspiring!

  19. Gayle says

    Could you clarify on the starch for this recipe- corn starch, potato starch?? Do people sometimes add ginger as well?

    I’m really happy I found your website. It encourages me to keep trying new recipes and now that we’re living in Turkey, I am learning more local dishes to use what is readily available (on the sebzeci’s wagon :-)). I will be sure to tell my children about the two orchid bulbs next time we drink this! Thank you.

    • says

      Gayle, I used corn starch, and for ginger, it might add a nice flavor. Why not? Glad to hear you love my recipes. And yes, you can always find cheaper and better fruit or vegetable on sebzeci’s wagon!

  20. Jackie says

    Does anyone know of an online herb store that carries genuine salep? I first became addicted to salep while in Istanbul awhile ago – I purchased some powder while I was there, but have since ran out – and I would LOVE to make some again! Please let me know – Thanks for your recipe :-)

    • says

      Salep is definitely so addictive, isn’t it? I don’t know any online markets selling true salep, but you can find commercial version of it at Amazon. I know Dr Oetker’s instant powder salep drink is not bad.
      Happy new year to you!

  21. somone from albania says

    It’s very delicious… you can find in every bar in Albania during the winter. Someone might do it at home, but since drinking a quick coffee or salep at the bar is customary people dont bother… I recommend it! :)

    • says

      Didn’t know it’s that famous in Albania. Great to find salep at bars! We have that chance here in Turkey too, but not all of them serve genuine salep.

  22. Anne says

    My daughter has a Turkish friend who brought packets of Salep as a gift at Christmas. It is delicious and soothing and I am now searching for it here in the UK. With the packets you only have to add hot milk which is so easy and just like making a hot chocolate drink. Yummy!

  23. Farnaz says

    Thank you so much for this page! I drank salep when I traveled to Prince’s Island last month. It was amazing and I fell in love with it. I live in the UAE, I’m not sure if I can find salep powder here. I hope I will be able to find it and prepare this amazingly tasting drink. The best drink I have ever had.

    • says

      Farnaz, thanks for commenting! Hope you can find it where you live. There are some intant salep powder brands like Dr Oetker in online markets. Maybe you can try them if you can’t find the genuine one. A perfect drink for sure!

  24. Ermin Isakovic says

    I grew up in Bosnia drinking this during the long cold winter days. On my recent visit there (Nov. ’12) I made the effort to go to this old cake shop in the centre of town and had at least one cup a day. Memories of the happy childhood flooded back. One word of caution, tho: if you are Type 1 Diabetic go easy with this and adjust your insulin doze accordingly.

    BTW, Thank you Zerrin!

    • says

      Thanks Ermin for sharing your feelings here! My husband is type 1 diabetic and he drinks it with little sugar if his blood sugar level is low enough. Thanks for reminding to adjust insulin doze, I will tell him that.

      • weewa says

        Um. I just bought some sahlep from Iran but it has no flavor. Does it only release the scent when boiled? :/

        • says

          Hi Weewa, salep releases its scent as it is boiled. It does smell as a powder, but not that much.

  25. Tereze says

    This used to be my favourite drink as a child back in Egypt. I tried many commercial Saleh mixes here in Australia but they were all just cornstarch which tastes nothing like the real thing. I’m so glad I came across your article now I know what to look for. I’ll check a couple of Turkish grocers I know of near where I live in Sydney and hope to find the real powder.

    • says

      I didn’t know salep is popular in Egypt. Hope you can find the real salep in those Turkish groceries.


  1. […] Salep is also the name of an aromatic winter drink, which is a combination of milk, sugar and the powdered orchid bulbs. As Harold McGee claims in his article named Ice Cream That’s a Stretch at The New York Times, this divine ice cream might have been discovered when salep drink was accidentally frozen. […]

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