10 American Foods I Miss the Most While Living Abroad


Living in Turkey has so many perks - food being one of the greatest. There are many delicious savory and sweet options and I have yet to meet someone who does not enjoy some aspect of Turkish food culture. However, there are some foods that I deeply miss while living as an expat for both sentimental and practical reasons.

  • It should be noted that I was born in New Mexico and grew up in the Southwest region of America (Texas & Colorado). Mexican inspired flavors and ingredients are a big part of my diet when living in the states.

  • Additionally, I have a mild obsession with Trader Joe’s. Therefore the list of foods I miss are reflective of this craze. If you know me, then you know that I am a walking billboard for the store.

10 American Foods I Miss the Most While Living Abroad

1. Liquid Vanilla Extract

Before I had moved to Turkey, I was warned about the scarcity of liquid vanilla extract. While vanilla is available in grocery stores, it comes in dried powder form. When I moved to Istanbul, I brought my own liquid vanilla and used it sparingly.

2. Good Earth Sweet & Spicy Tea

I love a cup of this warm spicy tea in the winter or paired with a dessert. With the variety of spices available in Turkey, I am sure I could make my own. However, I miss the convenience of this tasty tea especially when it’s cold outside.

3. Pork

I am living in a Muslim country so I certainly miss many pork products: sausage, pork jerky, prosciutto, pork tenderloin, pancetta, bacon, etc. If you look hard enough, you can find pork products but it usually involves a hunt and a pretty penny.

4. Trader Joe’s Cowboy Caviar

This little jar of savory goodness includes tomatoes, beans, corn, lime, peppers etc. It is a chunky salsa and it’s so good that I could eat it with a spoon straight from the jar.

5. Tamales and Enchiladas

Tamales and enchiladas are go-to food staples in my family. The combination of red/green chile, pork, fried tortillas, masa, beans and Mexican farm cheese taste like home. My mother has perfected her recipe for red-chile, stacked enchiladas (with a fried egg) and I miss them constantly.

6. Produce: Cilantro, Lime, Avocado, Sweet Potatoes, Blueberries

These products are integral to my American diet. Like other food items on the list, you can find them in Turkey, but it involves a chase. I am planning to plant cilantro seeds and grow them in our garden. We might try to grow a lime tree too!

7. Canned Pumpkin

When Fall comes around, I miss canned pumpkin for all kinds of reasons. Cooking and pureeing pumpkin is an option in Turkey but I miss the ease of popping open this pre-cooked goodness. I use canned pumpkin for baking breads, pies and muffins. It is also delicious in sauces, soups or smoothies.

8. Canned Cranberry Sauce

This is purely sentimental but I love cranberry sauce on my table for Thanksgiving and Christmas. I don’t really think about this item except during holidays but it does not feel right without it.

9. Trader Joe’s Scallion Pancakes

These delicious Korean scallion pancakes are a go-to dinner for me in the states. Pop them into the skillet from the freezer, fry an egg on top and it’s sheer perfection.

10. Ginger/Molasses Cookies

I love ginger snaps, molasses cookies and my mom’s holiday German spice cookies called Pfeffernüsse. There is nothing that can compare to the warm smell of these baking in the oven. Trader Joe’s has delicious triple ginger snap cookies that have come to the rescue many times. I have yet to see dark brown molasses sold in Turkey but maybe I need to do more searching.

My daily diet shifts significantly when I move to Turkey and for the most part, I adjust to the beautiful produce and delicious food available in-country. Turkey has incredible agricultural diversity with many fruits and vegetables not present in America. However, every-so-often, I long for these flavors of home and deeply wish that shipping wasn't so dang expensive.

What foods do you crave that you do not have immediate access to at the moment? Do you try to make the food yourself or adapt to a completely new diet?


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©2020 by Jocette Lee.

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