Almost Turkish Recipes

Beef Stew with Tart Green Plums (Yeşil Erik Tavası)

If you have happened to be around someone from Turkey during the month of May then you probably know how people of Turkey are crazy about their sour green plums. (These tart, crunchy plums dipped in salt are enjoyed as snacks or sometimes as meze with raki/arak/araq throughout the Middle East.) We talk about it--how it's so delicious with salt; pre-order overnight shipments of it; or some determined ones try to schedule trips to Turkey specifically in May. Meanwhile, almost all the Americans I know don't like these green beauties and, even worse, do not understand what the fuss is about, and I am living with one but have no complaints having all the green plums to myself.

This May my thoughtful in-laws who frequent a Middle Eastern market in Arizona came across the plums below and, remembering my obsession, shipped them to me. I was very excited, of course, but whether from Arizonan heat or the trip, they were not crunchy enough to be salt worthy. I decided to cook with them. In the Western parts of Turkey, green plums are used for making compote only when they soften or turn yellow. However, in the Eastern provinces they are frequently used in meat stews for their tartness. Plums stewed with fresh garlic give an incredible flavor to beef. This delicious stew recipe is from Urfa and it made the American here appreciate green plums.  

serves 4-6 people
2 lb stew beef
1 1/2 or 2 lb tart green plums, seeded
1 tbsp red pepper paste (like this) or just use tomato paste
1 tbsp tomato paste
7-9 cloves of fresh garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
5 medium tomatoes, grated or crushed in a food processor OR 1 can of diced tomatoes
salt, ground black pepper, and red pepper flakes

-In a bowl mix stew beef, pepper paste, tomato paste, salt, black pepper, and pepper flakes with your hand. Make sure the beef is well coated with pastes and spices.
-Add seeded plums, garlic cloves, and tomatoes.
-Place the mixture in a wide and deep oven-safe casserole or in a cast iron dish.
-Add boiling water to barely cover the meat ~1 cup.
-Cook in a preheated oven at 370F for two hours.
-Serve with rice and/or bread (you'll need both to soak up the divine juice).

You can find green plums at Middle Eastern markets or online Turkish grocery stores.


  1. Anonymous8:28 AM

    THANK YOU! I'm American, but developed an obsession with can erik while living in southeast Turkey for two years -- my May this year was saddened by the lack of little carts selling them on every corner. I had this stew at a friend's home in Urfa, and again at Çiya Sofrası in Istanbul - I hope I can find the plums to make it at home in America.

  2. Hi Burcu! when did you come back online? Lovely recipes, lovely pics! If you have followed my blog at all, you will know that I too can't stand can eriks. Soooo sour and then with salt!!! But I just used them with etli sarma and surprisingly, their taste totally changed with the cooking and were delicious! So I may well try your recipe. Thanks.

  3. @Anonymous: Yay, one American to like green plums :)
    @Seasonal Cook: Once the dissertation was over I got back to normal life

  4. Middle East grocery
    @Anonymous: Yay, one American to like green plums :)
    @Seasonal Cook: Once the dissertation was over I got back to normal life

  5. I'm smiling because we used to pick green plums from the trees and eat them when I was a kid, then deal with my mother who said they were bad for us! We still ate them, and I can imagine they're wonderful in this dish. Craving something with amazing flavor just like this.

  6. Your articles are Solon than wow!

  7. I'm a Brit that likes Green plums with salt, but it has taken a lot of practice.

  8. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  9. This looks delicious. I've never seen green plums, but worst case scenario, I wonder if rhubarb would work? Or sour cherries?

  10. @Laura: Interesting idea. Cherries are used in cooking rolled grape leaves for sour effect but i've never thought of using them i this recipe. I think they still have some sweetness to them so they would not work. But tartness of rhubard would do the trick.

  11. Wow!! Looks yummy, will surely try this!!

    What An Indian Recipe

  12. I saw these in my local Turkish shop in north London - I thought they were green tomatoes. The shop owner said no, but didn't know what they were called in English, but told me they were delicious with salt and very good for the teeth, mouth and metabolism. Now I know what to do with them, I am going back tomorrow to buy some!

  13. where would i find them in NYC? i love them!!

  14. great dish! in Lebanon people love them and we used to eat them dipped in salt; I guess it is a universal snack in the near east; i heard that some people also put them in their pot when making stuffed leaves or dolmas. I also found them sold in Dallas at the middle eastern grocer.

  15. Since it is May here in Istanbul, I finally tried this recipe and it was wonderful. The green plums (erik) adds a nice brightness to the flavor of the stew - I developed a taste for them raw but now I am hooked on cooked erik as well. Thanks for this lovely recipe!