Lokma is a dessert made of leavened and deep fried dough balls, soaked in syrup or honey, sometimes coated with cinnamon or other ingredients. The dish was described as early as the 13th century by al-Baghdadi as luqmat al-qādi (لُقْمَةُ ٱلْقَاضِيِ), "judge's morsels".[2][3][4]

Alternative namesZalabiyeh, loukoumas, loukoumades, luqma, crispella[1]
TypeFried dough
Place of originMesopotamia
Main ingredientsyeast-leavened dough, oil; sugar syrup or honey


The Arabic word luqma (لُقْمَةٌ) (plural luqmāt), means morsel, mouthful, or bite.[5][6] The dish was known as luqmat al-qādi (لُقْمَةُ ٱلْقَاضِيِ) or "judge's morsels" in 13th century Arabic cookery books,[2] and the word luqma or loqma by itself has come to refer to it.[5] The Turkish name for the dish, lokma, is derived from the Arabic,[6] as is the Greek name loukoumádes (λουκουμάδες).[2]


Greek loukoumádes served at a pub in Melbourne, Australia

The recipe for Luqmat al-Qadi, yeast-leavened dough boiled in oil and doused in honey or sugar syrup with rosewater, dates back to at least the early medieval period and the 13th-century Abbasid Caliphate, where it is mentioned in several of the existent cookery books of the time. It is also mentioned in the One Thousand and One Nights, in the story The Porter and the Three Ladies of Baghdad.[2][4] The explorer and scholar Ibn Battuta in the 14th century encountered the dish he knew as Luqaymat al-Qadi at a dinner in Multan, during his travels in medieval India, where his hosts called it al-Hashimi.[4]

It was cooked by palace cooks in the Ottoman Empire for centuries and influenced by other countries cuisines of the former countries of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkans, Middle East, and the Caucasus.


Turkish lokma Izmir, Turkey

The thick and smooth yeast batter rises and has a very soft and foamy consistency. The batter is usually dropped into hot oil and fried to a golden brown color, but some are doughnut-shaped. Lokma are served with honey and, occasionally, cinnamon.[7]

Traditionally, the batter was leavened with yeast but modern variations sometimes use baking powder.[8]

Regional varieties

Arab countries

Today, in Iraq it is called lokma or luqaymat and they differ both in size and taste across the country. While in Arab countries of the Persian Gulf, luqaymat, sometimes spiced with cardamom or saffron, are little changed from the 13th-century recipes.[4] In parts of the Middle East they may also be called awameh (عوامة) meaning "swimmer", or zalabya (زلابيا), with numerous spelling variations, though the latter term may also refer to a similar dish made in a long spiral or straight baton shape.[9][10][11] They are traditionally included in times of religious observances; for example in the Levant by Muslims at Ramadan, Jews at Hanukkah, and Christians at Epiphany alike.[9][11][8]


Lokma sold at a pastry shop in Cyprus

The pastry is called loukoumádes (λουκουμάδες) and lokmádes (λοκμάδες) in Cypriot Greek. They are commonly served spiced with cinnamon in a honey syrup and can be sprinkled lightly with powdered sugar.


The dish called loukoumádes (λουκουμάδες) is a mainstay of Greek cooking, in particular in the south of Greece, and is a popular street food served with any combination of honey, cinnamon, walnuts and chocolate sauce. Its original name in ancient Greek literature is "honey tokens", and, according to Callimachus, they were given as small gifts (charisioi) to the victors of the Olympic games.[12]

In Byzantine times the pastry was likely called spongoi or sfongoi from the ancient Greek word for sponge, σπόγγος [spóŋɡos] or σφόγγος [sfóŋɡos] in Ionian dialect, which is also the origin of the Arabic إسفنج (isfanj).

This term was also used by the Romaniotes (Greek Jews) as the name for loukoumades.[13], who call them zvingoi (σβίγγοι), and make them as Hanukkah treats.[14][13]

Pontic Greeks who migrated from the Black Sea as a result of the Lausanne Conference call them tsirichta (τσιριχτά).[15]Tsirichta are served at Pontian weddings.[16][17]


Lokma sold a street food near the Galata Bridge in Istanbul

There are different types of lokma in Turkey. Dessert lokma are made with flour, sugar, yeast and salt, fried in oil and later bathed in syrup or honey. In some regions of Turkey lokma are eaten with cheese, similar to breakfast bagels.[18][19] İzmir lokması are doughnut shaped with a hole in the middle. The spherical one is called the Palace Lokma (Turkish: Saray lokması). In the Güdül-Ayaş regions of Ankara, there is a type of lokma known as bırtlak.[20]

Traditionally, forty days after someone passes away, close relatives and friends of the deceased cook large quantities of lokma for neighbours and passersby. People form queues to get a plate and recite a prayer for the soul of the deceased after eating the lokma.

See also


  1. Marks, Gil (17 November 2010). The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. ISBN 9780544186316.
  2. Davidson, Alan (21 August 2014). The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. pp. 424–425. ISBN 9780191040726 via Google Books.
  3. Charles Perry, A Baghdad Cookery Book, 2006. ISBN 1-903018-42-0.
  4. Salloum, Habeeb (25 June 2013). Sweet Delights from a Thousand and One Nights: The Story of Traditional Arab Sweets. I.B.Tauris. pp. 49–52. ISBN 9780857733412 via Google Books.
  5. Kélékian, Diran (1911). Dictionnaire Turc-Français (in French). Mihran.
  6. "lokma". Nişanyan Sözlük (in Turkish). Retrieved 2020-01-01.
  7. "Greek honey balls (loukoumades)". 8 July 2010.
  8. Kalla, Joudie (17 September 2019). Palestine on a Plate: Memories from My Mother's Kitchen. White Lion Publishing. ISBN 978-0-7112-4528-0 via Google Books.
  9. Krondl, Michael (1 June 2014). The Donut: History, Recipes, and Lore from Boston to Berlin. Chicago Review Press. ISBN 978-1-61374-670-7 via Google Books.
  10. Perry, Charles (2015). Goldstein, Darra (ed.). The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets. Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-931339-6 via Google Books.
  11. Haroutunian, Arto der (19 March 2014). Sweets & Desserts from the Middle East. Grub Street Publishers. ISBN 978-1-909808-58-4 via Google Books.
  12. Glaros, Vicki C. (1995). "A Sweet Treat For Greek Easter". The Washington Post.
  13. Marks, Gil (17 November 2010). Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. HMH. ISBN 9780544186316 via Google Books.
  14. "Χάνουκα". Ioannina Jewish Legacy Project (in Greek). Canadian Embassy in Greece, The Jewish Museum of Greece, The City of Ioannina and the Jewish Community of Ioannina. Archived from the original on 22 September 2015. Retrieved 30 June 2015.
  15. "Tsirichta" (in Greek). Pontos News. October 19, 2012.
  16. "Tsirichta, the Donuts of Pontus". Trapezounta.
  17. "Tsirichta, the Pontian Loukoumades". Lelevose. March 23, 2020.
  18. Ayfer Tunç "Bir maniniz yoksa annemler size gelecek: 70'li Yıllarda Hayatımız" sf. 284, Yapı Kredi Yayınları (2001).
  19. "Lokma tatlısı tarifi: İşte lokma yapılışı ve malzemeleri…". www.sozcu.com.tr. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
  20. "Türkiyede Halk Ağzından Söz Derleme Dergisi" cilt. 1 sf. 201, Maarif Matbaası (1939).

Further reading

  • A.D. Alderson and Fahir İz, The Concise Oxford Turkish Dictionary, 1959. ISBN 0-19-864109-5
  • Γ. Μπαμπινιώτης (Babiniotis), Λεξικό της Νέας Ελληνικής Γλώσσας, Athens, 1998
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