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Sweet Chestnuts of Bursa

Walnuts and chestnuts are very popular in Bursa and its region. Already in the travelogue of the Moroccan adventurer Ibn Battuta, there are many mentions of “kasyi,” as is the name for all nutty fruits growing from the slopes of Uludağ to the serene lake of İznik. The precious dessert made out of it is kestane şekeri, the candied chestnuts sold on every corner in this town.

It is not difficult to find it. Every sweet shop has this favourite dessert from Bursa, which is indeed a taste associated with this town. Chestnut candy is a dessert that is a mixture of chestnuts and sugar sherbet. It is made from chestnuts grown in Uludağ within the borders of Bursa province. Chestnut candy is made by peeling boiled chestnuts, tying them in cheesecloth, and dipping them into boiling sherbet. There are also types of chestnut candy coated with flavours such as chocolate.

It is thought that chestnut candy, known as Marron glacé, translated from French into many world languages, was first produced in its current form in the 16th century. Where it was first made is disputed between Lyon and Cuneo. The first known written recipe dates back to the late 17th century. It belongs to Louis XIV's palace kitchen.

Chestnut candy started to be produced in the famous Şekerciler Bazaar in Bursa in the early 1900s. It is known that the delegations from Ankara to Bursa then took candied chestnuts to Atatürk on their return. The production centre of chestnut candy has been Bursa for many years. For this reason, Bursa Chestnut Candy has a reputation with geographical borders. The fruit rate in Bursa Chestnut Candy should be at least 63-71%, and the fruit rate in syrupy chestnut candy should be at least 60%.

As you can imagine, candied chestnuts were not sweet enough for the Turkish palate, so they made it even more sweet, dipped into the sweet syrup or sherbet. It is yummy, but for those less inclined to Middle Eastern sweets, it may feel a bit too much. Chestnut candy is made exclusively from chestnuts grown in Uludağ, the mighty mountain towering above Bursa, and is a splendid way to use this nut. Chestnuts are generally so skillfully used in the kitchen, from soups and breads to cakes and sweets!

The famous Turkish traveller Evliya Çelebi says in his Travelogue: "A variety of juicy grapes, apricots, juicy cherries, and chestnuts, which cannot be found anywhere else and cost forty dirhams each, are among the most famous products. If you split the chestnut and cook it on a skewer with its kebab and then mix it with kebab fat, the meal becomes lighter.”

The outer shells of the chestnuts are cut with a knife and discarded, and the thin inner shell is softened in hot water and peeled. Separated from their shells, these chestnuts are wrapped in thin cloth in groups of 4 or 5, and the cloth is knotted and placed in the pot. In another pot, a mixture of sugar and water (1 kilo of sugar to half a kilo of water) is boiled over medium heat to obtain the sherbet. The prepared sherbet is poured over the chestnuts and boiled over low heat for about two hours. The consistency of the sherbet is constantly checked during boiling. At the end of boiling, the chestnut candy is left to cool for a day.

Apart from this megapopular chestnut, fans of sweets do not need to worry. There are plenty of other sweets in Bursa: Süt helvası or milk halva, which has survived from Ottoman cuisine to the present day, is one of the famous flavours of Bursa, favourite for its lightness; Kemalpaşa Tatlısı is very popular among sherbet desserts and takes its name from the Kemalpaşa district in the region; Düğün helvası or wedding halvah, generally served at weddings and ceremonies, is also known as 'Bursa halvah' and 'milk halvah'. It is an indispensable dessert, especially for iftar tables, when Muslims break daily fast during the holy month of Ramadan.

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