Turkish food is diversified and well-known around the world. Istanbul is a cultural melting pot, and all of these influences have influenced the cuisine scene. Istanbul is a street food enthusiast’s dream. Street cuisine in Istanbul, from Döner kebab to lahmacun, is an experience not to be missed!
So, forget about the international fast-food chains while you are here. And indulge yourself in authentic Turkish cuisine. The only difficulty is that there are so many delectable options—where do you start? That is where this helpful list of things to eat in Istanbul comes in handy.
Istanbul has served as an essential base for commerce in foods and spices. And nothing makes that more true than stepping inside a food market or restaurant in Istanbul.
The best way to start your day in Istanbul is with a traditional Turkish breakfast. Breakfast in Turkey typically consists of white bread, various cheeses, and jams. Look for honey and clotted cream as a treat (Bal Kaymak). Alongside, you can have olives, tomatoes, and cucumbers. A cup of strong Turkish coffee completes the experience.
Menemen is a tasty Turkish-style omelet. Roasted onions and peppers are thoroughly cooked with tomatoes and combined with eggs, herbs, parsley, pepper, and powdered red pepper. This is a simple, affordable, and simple recipe with an addictive flavor. The majority of Turks order this for breakfast.
Börek (Baked Filled Pastries)
A Turkish cuisine known as Börek contains a variety of contents like cheese, spinach, ground beef, and veggies. It is a puff or shortcrust pastry with a baked filling. This style of street food is typically consumed for breakfast by locals. Börek shops are easy to locate everywhere, but the best time of day to purchase Börek is from morning till noon. It is the cuisine you order if you want to try a quick Turkish breakfast.
Simit, Açma, and Çatal
Simit is a round, sesame-crusted bread, also referred to as a Turkish bagel. Similar to simit, you can also enjoy the pastries çatal and açma. Açma is softer and more croissant-like than Çatal, which is crumbly and dry.
You can find them at bakeries; Turks typically consume them in the morning. You can have simit, çatal, and açma with or without a spread, but if you have the time, we suggest you try them with Turkish cheese, Turkish tea, or clotted cream and honey. Although the dish is light and quick, this breakfast is traditional and delectable.
Döner is a dish made of crushed chunks of meat seasoned with suet, local herbs, and spices, skewered on a spit, and grilled. Leaves, thinly sliced döner, are served on pita-like bread called Pide. The Turks top Pide with butter, tomato sauce, and yogurt to make it even more delectable.
Kumpir (Baked Potato)
If you ask local teens and students, Kumpir is one of their favorite Istanbul street meals. It is an obvious choice because it is reasonably priced, extremely full, and delicious! Large cooked potatoes stuffed with grated yellow cheese and butter.
Toppings such as grated carrot, red cabbage, boiled mushrooms and corn, black and green olives, sausages, pickles, Russian salad, ketchup, and mayonnaise are also available. Kumpir comes standard with cheese and butter, but you may customize it with whatever toppings you choose.
Tantuni, popular street food in Istanbul, consists of julienned beef or lamb stir-fried in a traditional Turkish sac with sunflower oil. After they cook the meat, they wrap it in lavash with chopped onions, skinless tomatoes, and parsley.
This dish is oily and not suitable for anyone who has a sensitive stomach. Before you have a bite from your Tantuni, do not forget to squeeze a few drops of lemon juice into it.
Manti (Turkish Ravioli)
Turkish Manti is typically packed with lamb and topped with chili powder, ground sumac, tomato sauce, garlicky yogurt, and hot butter. They mainly use flour, eggs, water, and salt to make the dumplings.
Lahmacun is a popular Turkish street meal made of Turkish pita dough topped with minced meat, tomatoes, onions, and parsley. It is typically circular, and travelers commonly refer to it as Turkish pizza.
This hot garlicky street dish is often served with lunch or dinner and not suggested as a breakfast snack. The traditional way to eat this dish is with lettuce and parsley on top. Squeeze some lemon over it and wrap it up to savor the taste. This delectable cuisine is widely available and easy to locate in Istanbul.
Tavuk Pilav (Chicken and Rice)
There are numerous popular Turkish foods, but rice is one of the most popular. It is typically cooked in homes and consumed as a staple cuisine. But it is also available on street corners with sellers selling mouth-watering rice bowls with boiled chicken and chickpeas.
Do not mix Turkish buttery-flavored rice with Asian bland steamed rice. Rice is so delicious in Turkey that you can eat it on its own. If you find any street carts or restaurants providing this cheap, filling, and excellent street cuisine, do not hesitate to enjoy it! Do not forget to garnish your rice with black pepper and taste the pickled fiery tiny peppers.
Fresh grilled fish is a must-have during every visit to Istanbul. Grilled fish options in Istanbul include hamsi (anchovy), levrek (sea bass), çupra (bream), istavrit (saurel), palamut (mackerel), and lüfer (bluefish).
The layers of thin dough that make up a borek are filled with various ingredients—such as spinach, ground pork, or seasoned potatoes—and baked until crispy and delectable. Su börei involves boiling the layers of dough to make the börek wet after baking.
As life happens on the street in Istanbul, Turkey, street food is a common sight. However, when it comes to eating, appetizers are a must-have in Turkish culture.
Meze refers to cold appetizers as compared to the main course. The Turks consume these small dishes called Meze before the main dinner. Most Mezes are available at restaurants as appetizers. This appetizer contains various hot and cold foods, usually as an Hors D’oeuvre.
Kestane Kebab (Roasted Chestnuts)
It is the simplest form of street cuisine there is! Kestane Kebab is just grilled chestnuts. You can find this fantastic and wholesome meal in Istanbul at any street vendor or restaurant.
Pide is similar to a Turkish pizza. It is a delicious baked dough in the shape of a boat, filled with spinach, eggs, spicy Turkish sausage, and little cubes of seasoned veal. It frequently comes with the meze plate or as an appetizer before the main course.
Midye Tava (Fried Mussels)
In Turkish, these crispy snacks (Midye Tava) are available all around Istanbul. The mussels have a sour tarator sauce coating made of bread crumbs, walnuts, olive oil, strained yogurt, freshly squeezed lemon juice, chopped garlic, and salt. And then, they are battered and fried in a sizable metal pan with heated oil. You can make a sandwich with your fried mussels and Turkish bread if you want a heavier lunch.
Köfte Ekmek (Meatball Hero)
Street snacks known as Köfte Ekmek come with bread, freshly cut tomatoes, onions, parsley, and grilled green peppers in this dish. Black pepper, cumin, and allspice are the three spices that give these street foods their delicious flavor.
Çiğ köfte (Raw Meatballs)
One of Turkey’s most well-known street delicacies, Çiğ köfte, is sold all around Istanbul. Finely minced fatless lamb, bulgur, onions, garlic, tomato, and hot pepper paste are kneaded with hot spices (isot, pul biber) and cooked with these hot spices. Unfortunately, the original recipe described above got banned for commercial manufacturing due to health concerns.
Nowadays, all of Istanbul’s Çiğ Köfte is made without meat, making it a fantastic vegan dish! This delectable street snack is typically served with a squeeze of lemon and wrapped in leaves. Additionally, you can get it wrapped in lavash bread.
Islak Burger (Wet Burger)
You have never had steamed burgers like these in Istanbul. A tomato and garlic sauce flavors the beef patty and soft white buns, which are then allowed to sweat within a steam box. As the buns steam longer, they become tastier. Wet burgers like these are a favorite after a long night of drinking or partying because they are delicious and relatively simple to eat.
Kokoreç (Grilled Lamb Intestines)
Kokorec is one of the more well-liked street dishes in Istanbul. Offals fans could find this to be their new favorite dish! It is a grilled lamb intestine, which seems delicious.
Even if it may not appeal to everyone, many residents will crave this flavorful and recognizable street cuisine. It is considered a delicacy rather than simple street cuisine and is not inexpensive. The street vendors combine the finely chopped Kokoreç with oregano, salt, red pepper, and occasionally fresh tomato. After that, they spread the combination on a sandwich or bread.
Turkish wraps called dürüms are typically filled with Adana, Urfa, döner, çiğ köfte, chicken shish, or çöp şiş. Flatbreads called Lavash or Yufka are the main ingredients of the wrap. Turkish people like eating wraps of varieties, and Istanbul is home to a wide range of dürüms. The two most well-known are Adana and Urfa.
The typical ingredients for these two street dishes are beef or lamb mince combined with lamb tail fat. It is flavorful and juicy because of the tail fat. Grilled mince, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and parsley constitute the lavash wrap. Adana dürüm is a hotter variety of this Turkish street snack. While savoring your Adana or Urfa dürüm, do not forget to order a cool Ayran drink.
Do not miss Turkish desserts among all the diversity and culinary richness you will discover throughout your trip. Desserts and sweets are commonly taken in Istanbul between meals, in the afternoon, with tea or coffee (of course, Turkish coffee!).
Maraş Dövme Dondurması (Turkish Ice Cream)
One of the Turkish cities, Kahramanmaraş, has been making some of the most delicious ice creams in the world. This ice cream from Turkey is not your typical dessert. Rich, creamy goat milk is its main ingredient, and a small amount of Sahlep (wild orchid roots) prevents it from melting away immediately. Maraş Dövme Dondurması is the ideal way to cool down in summer. Forget about your diet and indulge in this specialty while exploring the streets in Istanbul.
Lotus Root Ice Cream
Without tasting the renowned ice cream made from wild lotus roots, your Istanbul cuisine trip would be complete. Unfortunately, street vendors frequently engage in mischievous behavior when scooping and distributing this squishy ice cream to unwary tourists. You will try to grasp the cone, but the vendor will constantly tug it away.
Turkish Delight (Lokum)
Turkish Delight or Lokum is a candy consisting of flour and sugar. You can purchase them in stores and confectionery shops all across Istanbul. The candy has a soft, spongy texture, and the outside is frequently dusted with sugar or flecked with chopped pistachios. Although there are now hundreds of flavors, including orange, lemon, pomegranate, and hazelnut, rose is still the most popular.
Halka Tatlısı (Ring-Shaped Dessert)
Among Istanbul’s many tasty street food options, Halka Tatlısı is a form of dessert accessible nearly anywhere in the city. After deep-frying them, the dough is coated in syrup and chilled. As a consequence, you get a crunchy and sweet street snack.
Baklava is a dense, sweet pastry treat constructed of layers of filo, filled with chopped nuts (usually pistachios or walnuts), drizzled with honey, and dusted with pistachio powder. Although it is almost pure sugar, it is super tasty. Every pastry shop and restaurant in Istanbul has this delicious dessert.
The künefe is a type of sweet cake. As it must be eaten hot, you cannot find it in pastries. Its ingredients are angel hair, Dil Peynir (a Turkish cheese similar to mozzarella), butter, and sugar syrup. We strongly advise you to try one with hot Turkish tea.
The trileçe is a Balkan cake. It is a soft cake similar to a tiramisu created with three distinct types of milk (cow’s milk, sheep milk, and buffalo milk) and topped with a caramel layer.
Muhallebi is a milk-based dessert made with rice flour and mastic. Its vital ingredients contain thick cream with rose, orange flowers, saffron, or cinnamon flavorings. This delicious summer treat gets commonly topped with pistachios.
The juice vendors in Istanbul are one thing you cannot just ignore. They are everywhere. Locate a vendor where the fruit presses appear to be adequately clean and do not smell too of soured fruit by taking a short stroll around the area.
Pomegranate and orange juice are two common street foods offered on carts throughout the city. The Turks consider it not only a sign of good fortune and luck but also one of the most nutritious and tasty fruits available.
Türk Kahvesi (Turkish Coffee)
And lastly, a stop for Turkish coffee by the waterfront. “Bir Fincan Kahvenin Krk Yl Hatr Vardr,” which translates to “A cup of coffee has forty years of sake,” is a well-known Turkish proverb. Turkish coffee is a top dish to try in Istanbul because it is clear how important it is to the culture.
Turkish coffee has a long history because it was desired under the Ottoman Empire and continues to be today. There are many coffee shops in Istanbul. However, we recommend getting your coffee somewhere real.
Cay (Turkish Tea)
Strong black tea or Cay offered in a little glass cup is everyone’s favorite. In Istanbul, you will always find people selling tea or sipping it by the side of the road, no matter where you walk. When you visit someone in Turkey, you should anticipate receiving hot tea because it is a tradition there.
Boza is a beloved beverage among many Istanbul residents because it has been a traditional beverage ever since Istanbul’s founding. Boza is hence very historically significant and representative of the city. It’s undoubtedly among Istanbul’s best drinks to try.
So, what is Boza? It is a fermented beverage that contains millet, semolina, water, and sugar. This beverage has a flowery, nutty, and sweet flavor. Although available all year round, you will enjoy eating Boza in the winter. Boza’s health advantages and built-in energy boost are one of the primary causes. For instance, Boza is gluten-free and naturally includes B vitamins and lactic acid.
Ayran is a yogurt beverage with a faint salt flavor, maybe resembling a non-sweet lassi. Ayran pairs well with meat meals. Choose any little kebab vendor on the street, wash it down with this drink, and you will feel like a true Turk.
This drink is only available during the cold months! If you are in Istanbul during the winter, do not miss out on this sweet milky drink topped with cinnamon. The original thickeners were orchid roots, although maize starch is more common. Do not worry; it still tastes the same!
These Turkish cuisines are all readily available in Istanbul. Get ready for a culinary adventure that will leave you craving more since you have not truly explored the city until you have tried them all.