Istanbul is heaven for street food lovers. With delicious aromas filling the lanes of the city, you’ll have a hard time choosing which Istanbul street food to try. The food here is simply irresistible! But, don’t worry as you came to the right place. This post gives all the detailed information on some of the most beloved and famous Turkish street food you need to eat in the country’s most bustling city.
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Istanbul street food & snacks to nibble on while enjoying the sights
This is by far my favorite Turkish street food to snack along wandering the streets of Istanbul. The scent of freshly baked, sesame-crusted bagel-like circular bread is alluring to even the most elite Istanbulites.
In this bustling city, Simit is an essential breakfast on-the-go for many. Some of the street vendors sell them plain, with cheese spread, or chocolate butter. Locals love to accompany it with salted yogurt drink ayran or Turkish tea.
Baked since the 1500s, Simit is a staple of Istanbul street food that you can’t miss trying. The dough of Simit and the preparation process is very similar to the American bagel. However, instead of boiling, the shaped dough here is dipped into fruit molasses mixed with water before baking to give that crusty taste and look. It also helps sesame seeds to stick on top.
Borek is a cheese pie that is mostly sold in bakeries or prepared at home. However, few street vendors sell them. Thin layers of dough are packed with cheese but don’t expect it to be stretchy and gooey pie.
Borek is another famous Turkish food among those who are in a hurry and want to eat breakfast on the go.
Su Boregi is another version of Borek, but more difficult to make. Traditionally, bakers soak thin dough sheets in a mixture of water, milk, eggs, and olive oil before baking to make it juicy and tender. The filling is a combination of cheese and parsley. You can find Su Boregi in any borek shop all across Istanbul.
- Etiler Hünkar and Kafadaroğlu in Beşiktaş
Pronounced as chee kofta, this is another my favorite Turkish street food and a perfect alternative to kebabs. Traditionally, Cig Kofte is a raw meat dish that originated in the Kurdish community but became a favorite across the country. Today, most of the restaurants and shops in Turkey make a vegetarian version of Cig Kofte with a base of very fine bulgur mixed with onions, tomato and pepper paste, and spices. Some also add pomegranate molasses to the mixture.
The favorite way to eat Cig Kofte is to wrap it in lettuce leaves and squeeze lemon juice on top. Street vendors, however, wrap them in lavash along with slices of tomatoes, lettuce, and onions. It’s light, filling, and simply delicious Istanbul street food to nibble on.
Your experience of Turkish street food is not complete until you try Midye Dolma. This snack is another plain but finger-licking staple of my favorite Turkish food. It calls for mussels offered on the half shell mixed with spicy rice and topped with a squeeze of lemon. Found only after dark at every other street of Taksim, Midye Dolma perfectly pairs with a beer.
Kestane in Turkish, roasted chestnut is another staple of Turkish street food and a favorite for many locals and foreigners. Like Simit vendors, roasted chestnut sellers are everywhere, filling the streets of Istanbul with the delicious aroma. They are trendy street snacks during the cold and winter days, as it helps you warm up and boost your energy.
Turkish Ice Cream
Turkish Ice Cream or dondurma is my absolute favorite snack among Turkish street foods. It is completely different from what you have tried elsewhere – it’s chewy, dense, and resistant to melting!
The ice cream is made from two thickening ingredients – Arab gum or the mastic resin, and a flour made from the root of a young purple orchid called salep. These two components are added to the basic sugar and milk mixture.
Turkish street food that is ideal for a quick bite or lunch
Balik Ekmek or the fish sandwich is the simplest yet very delicious quick bite among Turkish street foods. Found in Eminonu and Karakoy areas, Balik Ekkmek is probably the second most famous Turkish food in Istanbul. It calls for grilled fish filet, onions, lettuce, and a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Eminönü square
- Bosphorous shore
- Derya Balik Ekmek in Fatih
Often called the Turkish pizza because of its appearance, this nickname doesn’t do justice to what this dish represents. This doughy and crunchy meal is yet another simple staple of the Istanbul street food list. It’s a local favorite lunch snack.
The thin dough coated with a mixture of minced meat, onion, and red pepper mixture bakes in the oven for a few minutes. It’s served hot with slices of onion, tomato, parsley, and lettuce on a separate plate. To eat Lahmacun, you spread fresh veggies on the dough and squeeze lemon on top. Then you roll it into a wrap and pair it with cold ayran.
Istanbul street food stalls are home to one of the most controversial meals – kokoreç. This spiced and skewered sheep’s intestine sets many people off because of the main ingredient. Served on a half bread loaf, the grilled meat is topped with oregano, chili, and cumin. Trust me, you won’t even taste anything unusual.
Tantuni is a meat wrap that comes from Southern Turkey. Originally, it was created as a poor man’s meal, but it surely got popular amongst other Turkish street foods. Consisting of beef slices, peppers, tomatoes, and a good amount of spices, the mixture is rolled in the thinnest wheat lavash. It comes either a very spicy or non-spicy version, but according to locals, authentic Tantuni should leave your lips a bit burning hot.
Translated as chicken plov, you might imagine that Tavuk Pilav is not a street food meal. However, in Istanbul, the meal is a favorite Turkish food for many, especially during lunchtime.
Street vendors sell it in glass-covered carts across the town. It’s hot, filling, and fast, the perfect combination to qualify as street food, right?
- Locals love it in front of İstanbul Manifaturacılar Çarşısı in Unkapanı
If you like baked potatoes, then you’ll love Kumpir. The whole baked potato is cut in the middle to create a space for various toppings and a filling made from cheese, pureed potatoes, and butter. The best place to try Turkish baked potatoes is the Ortaköy area with rows of Kumpir sellers.
What makes this one distinguished from other baked potatoes is the variety of toppings offered on display. Choose from kaşar cheese, sausage, corn, peas, mayonnaise salad, pickles, and carrots, to name just a few. The combinations and possibilities are endless and depend on your taste.
Turkish flatbread, Gozleme, filled with veggies, different types of cheeses, meat, eggs, or mushrooms is a filling lunch meal. Once filled with those ingredients, the sandwich is then baked on a disk-shaped frying pan.
Originally, Gözleme was a breakfast meal or a light snack in the afternoon, but today, it’s a popular Istanbul street food.
Alternatively, join a food tour for a more memorable experience
Prepare for the trip
To ease your travel planning, check out all the posts about Turkey travel. Additionally, here are some of the websites and services I use when preparing for my next adventure anywhere in the world.
– Book affordable flights on Kiwi.com, a platform that shows the best routes and flight deals to your destination. There’s a money-back guarantee if you miss the flight!
– Check iVisa to see if you need a tourist visa to visit Turkey, how to apply online if applicable, or where’s the nearest embassy or consulate
– Buy the most flexible and budget-friendly travel insurance, SafetyWing, to cover all sorts of health problems on the road
– Book in advance some of the best city walks, cultural experiences, and day tours to maximize your stay and experience here
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