Aşure Tatlısı: An Alevi Symbol of Unity and Equality

Aşure Tatlısı (Ashure Pudding) is an Anatolian sweet dish with a consistency not too dissimilar from porridge. Traditionally, this dish is a combination of nuts, dried fruits, various cereal grains, legumes, sugar, salt, water and other similar ingredients all cooked and blended together to form one colour and one taste. Similar to the culture around Louisiana Gumbo in the American South, there is no set recipe for this dish and its ingredients can vary from region to region and kitchen to kitchen. Despite the slight disparities in ingredients, this dish and the culture of its consumption is a symbol of the fundamental beliefs adhered to by one particular religious minority in Anatolia known as the Alevis.

Alevis (as they are collectively known today) are an ancient religious and cultural group living
predominantly in Anatolia whose roots can be traced back to the Central Asian Steppes before the Turkic migration into the Middle East and Anatolia around the 11th century C.E. Whilst many Alevis see themselves as belonging to a sect of Shii Islam which adheres strongly to the teachings of the 12th century religious mystic Haji Bektash Veli (Hacı Bektaş Veli) which has strong ties to Sufism, some of their beliefs and religious practices share similarities with Tengrism, an ancient ethnic Turkic religion originating in Mongolia, whilst simultaneously some religious practices can be seen to mirror certain aspects of other religions which Turkic tribes came into contact with during their westward migration.

Alevis played a prominent role in the cultural make up of Anatolia throughout the reign of the Ottoman Empire and today, they make up between 15-20% of the population of the Turkish Republic. Defining exactly ‘What is Alevism?’ has been for many years, and remains today, a topic of scholarly and sociopolitical debate, but two underlying beliefs which are known to be widely shared amongst all Alevis are that of unity and equality. A fundamental belief of Alevism is that all living things are connected by a greater power which makes everything and everyone equal. This can be seen through their religious practices and also through the way certain foods are prepared and eaten, such as Aşure Tatlısı.

After the 15-day fast of Muharrem Matem, the Aşure is cooked and handed out amongst the community. The preparation and consumption of this dish is done as a collective activity. All involved contribute by bringing ingredients and help with the preparation and if possible, the dish is prepared in an Alevi place of worship called ‘Cemevi’. As the dish is slowly cooked, all the ingredients within become one, making this dish made up of multiple ingredients one colour which visually symbolises the ideas of unity and equality. Once cooked, it is shared amongst all that have attended with no discrimination against race or creed. It is said if two people who have attended have been quarrelling amongst each other, they must put aside their differences and share the meal together. Many believe this dish to be a representation of the traditional lives within the Sufi Lodges of Anatolia where everyone contributes to all aspects of everyday life to the best of their abilities and attempt to live their lives in equality with one another.

Whilst religious symbolism can be found in many different foods around the world, Aşure Tatlısı’s aesthetics, taste and the ceremony of its consumption makes it stand out as an edible symbol of a life of unity and equality which the Alevi’s of Anatolia and its diaspora have strived to live in for many centuries.


  • McWilliams Mark, Celebration, Proceedings of the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery 2011, Prospect Books, 2012.
  • Please follow this link to find a recipe to this dish and learn more about its history

I would like to thank the members of the London Alevi Cultural Foundation in Turnpike Lane, London, who provided me with the information in order to write this short article on the culture behind Aşure Tatlısı.

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