I wanted to create a really good vegan kumpir recipe (Turkish baked potato) that doesn’t use any vegan “dairy” products. I couldn’t find a single version that achieves that. I’m not saying there are no good vegan dairy alternatives but it is pretty hard to find them.
So we’ll just focus on the unequaled charms of whole plant-based foods.
Kumpir has a special place in my heart because I remember pretty vividly eating them as a child by the Bosporus in Ortaköy, Istanbul. I was exploring Istanbul with my family. It feels great to work with that beautiful memory and create a new beautiful thing.
How to Build a Great Vegan Kumpir
Kumpir is all about putting what you love on a baked potato in a delicious way. So by all means, just improvise and be guided by your appetite. No need to follow the recipe below exactly. However, there are a few general steps you can follow to ensure your kumpir will be really delicious.
Step 1: Base Sauce
After cutting the baked potato open, scrape some of the insides out and combine it with a flavorful sauce. Usually, you just use butter, perhaps some tomato paste and grated cheese! The cheese will melt on the steaming potato… It’s delicious!
I wouldn’t write a vegan kumpir version if it wasn’t better than that. I worked on a base that is fatty enough to give you a grounding and satisfying base but at the same time enchants you with floral notes.
Of course, exciting umami won’t be missing. My Miso Aubergine Spread would be a great choice. However, we are going to create something different in this recipe.
Step 2: Base Topping
Layers are great! This is where you can hide some goodies to dig for when eating. Also, since they have direct contact with the base sauce, you could add something that matches especially well with it.
In the recipe below, I use dried tomato sauce as the base sauce and add just a little chopped dried fig, black grapes, mint and freshly roasted pumpkin seeds. Together, they create a sort of high-quality ketchup flavor where the tomato flavor is elevated by the sweetness of the dried fruits.
Step 3: Toppings
This is where you go absolutely wild. A general formula could include
- roasted veggies
- grains or legumes, traditionally bulgur
None of those is a must. Leftovers can find a new purpose here. So if you have roasted vegetables, lentils, etc left over you can definitely use them. Pomegranate and corn are popular ingredients for kumpir as well.
Pickles definitely add that tangy excitement you know from so many street foods: tacos, burgers, hotdogs…
I used fermented broccoli because I had some around but feel free to use gherkins or other pickles that are available to you.
Of course, you can easily make some yourself.
Step 4: Topping Sauce
No need to say much about this step. Conventional topping sauces are ketchup and mayo. I liked to top with a simple tahini sauce with balsamic vinegar and soy sauce or pomegranate molasses with soy sauce. Feel free to use whatever you want on your kumpir.
The Right Baking Technique
There are special kumpir ovens making sure the potatoes bake perfectly. I saw in Refika’s video how to imitate those with a normal oven. Here is how you do it: After you have preheated the oven, you place the potatoes on the bottom of the oven and put a baking tray on top.
Metal can heat up food better than air, so heat acting through metal from below and above makes baking much easier. Also, hot air is getting trapped between the bottom and the tray.
Like in the Old Days
Creating rich flavors with fruits, nuts, seeds and vegetables is not new to Turkish cuisine. In times of the Ottoman Empire combinations like this weren’t unusual at all. Unfortunately, dishes featuring them don’t enjoy much attention anymore.
Relatively monotonous meat-centered dishes occupy the stage. This Traditional Turkish Mung Bean Salad is a good example of rich Turkish food (that happens to be delicious on potatoes too).
Like this, having a vegan kumpir is not a sacrifice anymore. Don’t be intimidated by the number of ingredients! I wanted to give you one really good recipe that inspires you but keep in mind that whatever lands on that potato is your choice and depends on your location and pantry.
Vegan Kumpir: The Best Version I Know
- 2 very large potatoes
- 6 dried tomatoes
- 1 clove garlic
- olive oil enough to blend
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 generous pinch each salt, pepper, oregano
- 1 tsp miso and/or tomato paste
- ⅔ dried fig
Bulgur with vegetables (or leftovers)
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- ⅔ cup bulgur, rice or couscous , cooked
- 1 cup vegetables of choice , I used carrots, spring onions, dill and parsley stalks
- ½ tsp dried mint
- 1 tbsp chopped dried fruits , I like figs and dark frutis like grapes or plum
- 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds freshly roasted
- 1 tsp fresh herbs like oregano or mint
- 2 tbsp pickles , I used broccoli fermented with grapefruit
- bulgur with vegetables
- 2 tbsp olives
- ½ cup greens , I used parsley and dill
- 6 tbsp tahini
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- Preheat the oven to 230°C / 450°F. Wrap the potatoes in aluminium foil. Place the potatoes on the bottom of the oven with a baking tray placed on top of the potatoes. Bake the potatoes for 1 hour, or until they are fully cooked.
- Roughly blend all ingredients together.
Bulgur with vegetables (or leftovers)
- Chop and sauté the vegetables.
- Add the bulgur, or alternatively leftover grains or legumes, and the dried mint. You can add further spices of your choice. Walnuts, pomegranate molasses or balsamic vinegar would be a nice match, too.
- Cut the potatoes in half, and scrape out some of the insides.
- Add the base sauce and combine it with the insides.
- Add the rest of the toppings and top with the tahini sauce (I listed the ingredients in order of my preference). Enjoy this!