Shepherd’s Salad

Shepherd’s Salad |

This salad is said to be the most popular and traditional Turkish salad. As the original names of dishes are as important as their flavor for me, I must start with a brief explanation on  its name. This salad is originally the main dish of shepherds. Shepherd is a person who pastures goats, sheep and cows on mountains. A village has generally only one shepherd and everyone entrusts their small and great cattle to him. He is of course paid for this. In ancient times, shepherds would receive some foods produced or made by the people in that village. These  might be wheat, flour, vegetables, fruits, molasses, dairy products, etc. Although there are still people who pay their shepherds with such foods, paying money is more common today.

A typical Turkish shepherd has a few dogs with him, and these dogs are called shepherd’s dog. This name is also the name of that breed. They are the best friends of him as they help him control the herd. Also, if the shepherd falls to sleep, these dogs become the guard of the herd and the shepherd. These dogs  protect them from wild animals or thieves.

Another important characteristic of a typical Turkish shepherd is that he plays a special instrument called shepherd’s pipe (kaval in Turkish). This instrument is made of a plant like reed. Especially sheep and cows love the sound of kaval. The rhythm of its music is so important as it makes the animals more submissive. The shepherd plays a slow music when the animals are drinking (is it the right verb here?) water from a river and he plays a more rhythmic music while they are grazing.

Shepherds hit the trail early in the morning and he takes subsistence food in a bundle. His bundle contains tomato, cucumber, pepper, onion (the basic ingredients of shepherd’s salad) and a little bread. All of these vegetables are grown in the village yard and the bread is of course made by the women of that village. He chops these vegetables and eat them with bread for lunch, maybe some cheese or olives accompany this salad but nothing more.

Today, this salad doesn’t belong just to shepherds, all people living either in villages or in big cities love it. This salad is generally served with kebab or other meat dishes and grilled or fried fish. Also, shepherd’s salad is served before the main dish in restaurants to keep the customers busy with the salad while they are waiting for their order. We love to dip a piece of bread in this salad. Although we don’t want to finish it before kebab, it’s impossible to stop eating it. We sometimes order a second one to accompany our kebab or meatballs or another tasty meat dish. And there is always extra vinegar and olive oil in bottles on the table for those who want to add more of these in their salad.

Çoban Salata
–    3 big tomatoes
–    1 medium cucumber
–    2 green peppers
–    1 big onion
–    Half bunch of parsley
–    2 tbsp sumac
–    1 lemon
–    1 tbsp vinegar
–    2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
–    Salt to taste
–    Olives to garnish

Chop the tomatoes, cucumber and peppers in equally small cubes. Do not peel the cucumbers and tomatoes. Put the chopped vegetables in a bowl. Dice the onion in the same way, but before adding them in the bowl, rub them with sumac. Chop the parsley and mix all of them.

Now squeeze the lemon, add vinegar, olive oil and salt to the salad. This salad is not served in a bowl, a boat shaped dish is used instead. And you can garnish it with a few olives before serving.

Shepherd’s Salad |

Note: I would like to thank to Tangled Noodle, one of my blogger friends. She honored me so much not only by trying one of my recipes but also by writing on my blog in details in her last post, Food By Friends: Give Recipe. I felt like a famous cook when reading her post. My cheeks got red many times each time I read a nice word there. So many thanks to her for starting her series of ‘Food by Friends’ with my blog. She shares her observations and experiences related to food. Reading her posts is always so enjoyable and informative for me. I learn even some ethnic dishes of Philippines from her, but haven’t tried them yet as they always include an ingredient that I can’t find in Turkey. However, she shows in her blog that we can substitute these ingredients with similar ones, so I have more courage now to try one of her recipes. If you still don’t know her blog, go check it!


  1. touria says

    salam zerrin
    what a delicious salad
    thanks for sharing this recipe
    am going to see the blog you talked about

  2. says

    Hi Zerrin,

    Greeks make a very similar salad, called horiatiko salata (village salad), which gets ruined all around the world with piles of lettuce and poor-quality tomatoes…the tomatoes should be nice and juicy, because the best part is soaking up the juices in the bottom of the bowl with some bread!

    Another dish that is both Turkish and Greek – hard to say who came up with it first, which I like, makes us stubborn Greeks admit we have more in common with Turks than we like to admit 😉

    And yes, “drink” is the right verb :)

  3. says

    This is yet another wonderful example of why your blog is so unique – shepherd’s salad by itself is a lovely dish but it is made even more special now that we understand what its background is. Some of the best food are those that come from very simple beginnings such as this – sustenance for those whose labors are not often recognized or appreciated as they should.

    Thank you so much for mentioning my blog. It was my absolute pleasure to write about you and your site and every word is absolutely true and sincere. I have a full list of your recipes that I want to try and the next one will be a sweet dish! 😎

  4. says

    That a really healthy looking salad. Thanks for sharing that footage of the man playing the pipe. I’ve always been interested in musical instruments from around the world, so that was really cool to see one played.

  5. OysterCulture says

    What a delicious sounding dish, and I love the addition of sumac (you know that’s a favorite of mine) The story behind the dish and the video really bring this post to light. I learned so much more beyond just a new recipe. Have you ever thought of being a teacher? =)

  6. says

    I am having this everyday here in Jerusalem. I have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Yum!

  7. says

    Touria- It’s so simple, too. Go see Tangled Noodle’s great blog, I’m sure you’ll love it.

    Stamatia- I didn’t know Greek has a similar salad, but I do know that we have lots of foods in common. Although lots of people want to ignore this, it’s inevitable to think that it’s a sign of sharing the same past in the same geography.

    Jankovitch- I’m sure you’ll love sumac. It’s a great spice of nature that can substitute lemon. Hope you can find it. We generally use it in salads (coban salad, potato salad,etc).

    Tangled- I do love to learn and talk on the background of dishes. Knowing their origins makes me love them more. And it’s a great pleasure to share them with others.
    Hope you love that ‘sweet dish’ you try. Please feel free to ask any questions if you have.

    Jessie- Thank you!

    Jenn- The shepherd’s pipe looks so simple, but I’ve heard lots of variations from this old instrument. It’s like a symbol of shepherds and flocks.

    Cajun- Hope you can find it!

    Erica- Healthy, delicious and so simple!

    Natasha, Soma- Thank you. This is one of the dishes that has a meaningful and funny name.

    Elra- Although this salad is traditionally eaten at lunch and dinner with a main dish, I do love it at breakfast, too. It’s so refreshing!

    Oyster- Believe or not, whenever I use sumac in my kitchen, I remember your love of it and your post on sumac (
    It has a wonderful flavor and combines very well with onion. It’s always a great pleasure for me to learn the culture and history part of dishes. I must have studied something like ‘food history’at university. I sometimes find myself talking on food and culture while teaching (for example ‘modals’) during the class :)

  8. says

    This is a great mix of fresh, crunchy veggies! The sumac sounds delicious in this. I have to make this next time we’re grilling kebabs.

  9. says

    I love how you start your posts with an explanation, history, or origin of the dish. For me, it really makes me appreciate a recipe even more if I know a little bit about it. This salad sounds really delicious and refreshing!

  10. says

    I agree that this looks a lot like Greek salad, which is one of my all-time favorites. Looks great! I really should get some sumac.

  11. says

    What a colorful and flavorful salad Zerrin!
    So perfect for summery days.

    Love all the Turkish customs well explained by you!
    Now go to twitter with it :)



  12. says

    Recipes mean so much more when we have the story behind the origin of the dish. As for the salad, I now have another use for the sumac that I finally managed to get hold of :)

  13. Erkin says

    It reminds me of RAKI(as long as the ingredients are fresh and from the uncle shepherd’s garden)!!!!

  14. says

    This is why I am a subscriber of your blog. Always healthy good looking salads and my husband loves everything I had cooked for him from your recipes. And now you had me looking for SUMAC!! Thanks for teaching me something new.

    Have a great week!

  15. says

    Yaz geldi mi soframızın olmazsa olmaz salatasıdır. Ne güzel anlatmışsın. Ellerine sağlık.. Güzel yorumun için de teşekkürler. Yorumlarımda sorun vardı site adreslerini göremediğim için ulaşamıyordum. Onun için cevaplamada geç kaldım. Sevgiler. Sağlıklı mutlu iyi yıllar dilerim…

  16. says

    Hi Zerrin,

    I came across your blog as I was researching about Shepperd Salad. I made this salad based on Sunny Anderson’s (Food Network) recipe last week, and now I am working on my post about it. I usually try to find out the story/origin of the food so I can write about it, and through google, I found your blog and the story of this salad. Thank you for sharing the story, and unknowingly to me, I now know and made two of the Turkish/Middle Eastern dishes. The other one is Circassian salad, which I found through Simply Recipes blog, and I love that chicken salad.

    Again, thanks for sharing the story and nice meeting you :)

  17. Clara says

    I am so excited. Fixed this tonight and even my finicky son ate it. I had been trying to find a recipe for this that actually had some flavor. It seems that some Turkish eat this very bland. Had tasted this at a local restaurant and it was so flavorful. Never even heard of sumac–don’t know where to find it yet, but, even without it I was able to arrive at a very close version of the salad I have so been craving ever since that Valentine Dinner. (found that lemon zest and sea salt are concidered a substitute) Do remember the amazing flavor of the spice sprinkled along the edge of the plate being something I would definitely search for–hoping that is sumac! Thanks for sharing! Can’t wait to try some more!


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