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Istanbul Street Food Guide

Istanbul Private Street Food Tour > Best Culinary Walking Tours

No visit to Istanbul is complete without a tour of the local street foods. The Turkish capital boasts a wonderful array of different tastes and delicacies that are sure to delight the taste buds of any visitor. After reading our Istanbul street food guide, you will know exactly which foods and drinks should be on your checklist.

Here’s all you need to know about the local food in Istanbul. And when you’ve discovered what to eat in Istanbul, why not read out our guide on where to find those wonderful dishes too?

Table of Contents

What to Eat in Istanbul?

No matter what time of day (or year) it is, Istanbul street food has plenty to offer. Even if you have special dietary requirements, finding great tasting foods is never a problem. Or if you’re able to eat any type of food, why not try it all? Here are some of the best things to eat in the city.

  • Turkish Breakfast

Turkish breakfasts often consist of bread, cheese, boiled eggs, olives, and salads. Alternatively, you can opt for the Menemen, which is essentially a style of omelette. Bal Kaymak – buffalo cream and honey – is another delicious breakfast classic that you can find on the streets of Istanbul. A number of pastries are available during the morning too while breakfasts are commonly washed down with tea and coffee.

Forno Restaurant (Balat) Offers This Breakfast

Istanbul Food Tour Guide
Turkish Breakfast Place in Istanbul Old City

The House Cafe (Ortakoy) Offers This Breakfast

Turkish Breakfast in Istanbul
Turkish Breakfast Place by The Bosphorus
  • Turkish Mezes

When visiting Istanbul, you’ll want to enjoy as many tastes as possible. A traditional Turkish Meze, which describes a collection of small appetisers, is the perfect way to do it. Whether it’s a combination of 2-3 dishes or a little taste of several more is up to you. Fava, cous cous, Muhammara, olives, and slaws are among the firm favourites. Meanwhile, street food mezes can be cold or hot, giving you plenty of choices during your visit.

Meyhane Restaurants Offers Delicious Mezes

Turkish Mezes in Istanbul
Turkish Mezes – Istanbul Food Tour
  • Kebabs

Turkey is known around the world for its kebabs (otherwise known as kebaps), and they are a hallmark of Turkish street food. Doner kebabs are the best-known variant and can be made from vertically skewed chicken, beef, or lamb. Other popular kebaps in the city include the Iskender kebab, Testi kebab, and Sish kebab. They are filling, delicious, and an iconic food that you cannot ignore during your stay in the Turkish capital.

Istanbul Street Food Doner Kebab

Istanbul Guided Street Food Tour
Doner Kebab in Istanbul
  • Kofte Ekmek (Meetball Sandwich)

Kofte sits alongside kebabs as a mainstay across Turkey, and Istanbul’s street food vendors produce some of the best. Koftes are grilled or pan-fried meatballs and are made with ground lamb, chicken, or beef. The beef variant is the most common minced beef dish in Turkey. Recipes do vary across the country but when visiting the capital tend to mix the meat with breadcrumbs and spices before cooking. They are served with fries along with grilled veg or salad.

Kofte Ekmek Street Food in Istanbul

Kofte Ekmek Food Istanbul
Kofte Ekmek Street Food in Istanbul
  • Kokorec

Kokorec are somewhat similar to horizontal kebaps. They are made from lamb’s intestines that are put on skewers and cooked over a charcoal fire. The carts will often slowly cook the skewers and then cut off your portion before finishing it off over the fire, which provides some incredible sounds and smells. Kokorecs can be prepared with various herbs and spices, although oregano is the most common. It is served inside bread.

Kokorec is A Late Night Food in Istanbul

Street Food Tours in Istanbul
Delicacies of Istanbul Street Food Tour
  • Balik Ekmek (Fish Sandwich)

Balik Ekmek, or a fish sandwich, is a common street food found across the city of Istanbul. They can be made using a variety of fish fillets, although mackerel is the most frequent choice, that have been cooked in oil and are served inside a baguette. They can be prepared in several ways but, for a truly authentic flavour, try the red onion, salad, and mayonnaise version. The golden skin and succulent meat is a delightful combo.

Enjoy Your Fish Sandwich with Bosphorus View

balik ekmek street food istanbul
Balik Ekmek Street Food in Istanbul

Balik Ekmek Boats at Eminonu (Seaside Old City)

what to eat in Istanbul
Fish Sandwich Boats
  • Dolma

The term Dolma is used in many countries, and describes an array of stuffed foods. In fact, the term literally translates to ‘stuffed’. When completing an Istanbul street food tour, you will encounter stuffed tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and zucchinis. They are usually stuffed with ground meat, cheeses, and rice. The options are plentiful, and they can be topped with a healthy dollop of yoghurt or served with a lemon wedge.

Istanbul Street Food Guide
Turkish Dolma
  • Midye Dolma (Mussels)

Mussels are another common delicacy. The most common option is Midye dolma, which is mussels that have been stuffed with aromatic rice, herbs, and pine nuts. While also available in restaurants, the street food vendors bring a unique flavour to the table while there’s nothing quite like eating them while taking in the sights of the city. It is possible to find alternative versions, but Midye dolma is the most popular by far.

Istanbul Private Street Food Tour

Mussels in Istanbul
  • Pickles

Pickles, locally known as Tursu, are eaten with most meals in Turkey. When visiting Istanbul, you can find them at most street food stalls and carts. Don’t settle for pickles from a jar because the city’s freshly prepared pickles offer a completely different eating experience. Pickles can come as a side to your main meal, or prepared with carrots, cucumbers, chilis, and onions for a delicious salad snack. Either way, you have to try a pickle in Istanbul.

Kadikoy Fish Market (Asian Side)

Best Local Foods in Istanbul
Pickle Shop
  • Wet (Islak) Hamburger

Islak Hamburger might not sound too appealing to first-time visitors, but you’ll soon understand why the locals are in love. The buns are coated with a tomato-garlic sauce while the assembled burgers are stored in a glass case where they sweat to create the wetness. They don’t require cheese, salad, or extras but those things aren’t really needed. For a truly authentic experience, try ordering one late at night after a few drinks.

Kizilkayalar is Famous For Islak Hamburger

Islak Hamburger by Kizilkayalar at Taksim Square
  • Simit, Achma (Açma)

Pastries are another favourite on the list of Istanbul street foods. A Simit is a crisp savory roll that is shaped in a ring and topped with sesame seeds. The street stall versions tend to be a lot crisper than those bought in shops. An Achma is another ring-shaped pastry that resembles a donut and has a soft texture. Both are eaten throughout the year while other pastries include Pogaca, which can be plain or filled with meat, cheese, or black olives.

Istanbul Street Food Simit and Turkish Tea

Turkish Simit

Most Popular Take-Away Food Simit

Istanbul Street Food Simit Vendors
Simit Street Food Vendors in Old City
  • Sweet Corn

Misir (sweet corn) vendors are commonplace in Istanbul. The corn is freshly grilled (sometimes boiled) and is often topped with spices, salt, and butter. The push-car sellers tend to sell corn as a seasonal snack, preferring the summer over the winter months. This snack can be enjoyed in any other countries around the world, but the Turkish twist is unique. For a healthy snack that has a great crunchy texture as well as an unforgettable taste, this is an ideal solution.

Sweet Corn is Sold Everywhere in Istanbul

Street Food Misir in Istanbul
Sut Misir (Sweet Corn) in Istanbul
  • Roasted Chestnuts

While roasted chestnuts were once eaten solely in winter, they have now become a snack of choice that can be enjoyed at any time of the year. Roasted chestnut vendors are readily available in all major tourist destinations as well as food markets. They’re cheap, healthy, and are a great way to warm your stomach as the evening draws in. Whether eaten alone or shared with your partner, roasted chestnuts are always a winner.

Chestnut Vendor at Istiklal Avenue (Taksim)

Roasted Chestnuts

What to Drink in Istanbul?

Turkish drinks play an important role in the Istanbul street food tour too. Wash the best local food in Istanbul down with some of these delightful drinks (or simply pick one up for on your travels around the city), and you’ll have even more reason to smile.

  • Turkish Beer

Istanbul’s bars and restaurants do import a lot of global favourites. Nonetheless, it would be a huge shame to visit the capital without tasking the best local beers. Efes is an Istanbul based brewery that launched in 1969 and produces Pilsener, Efes draft, Efes light, Efes Xtra, Efes dark brown, and Efex ice. Bomonti is another light beer that is a little sweeter, a little weaker (4.8%), a little deeper, and a little less carbonated. Lovely.

Istanbul Street Food Guide

Turkish Beer Efes
  • Turkish Raki

Turkish Raki is another alcoholic beverage that is loved by the locals, particularly with mezes or seafood dishes. From the drinks you know, it’s taste is closest to sambucca, although it is still very different. It is also called Lion’s milk and is made from distilled grapes and aniseed. It is the preferred choice of beverage for celebrations in Istanbul and is the perfect way to celebrate your stay in the city.

Private Food Tour in Istanbul

Turkish Raki in Istanbul
Turkish Raki & Mezes at Piraye
  • Turnip Juice

Turnip juice, otherwise known as Salgam, is primarily consumed with the fish sandwich. Salgam doesn’t only include, and also uses the juice of purple pickled carrots along with various spices and salts. While it can be purchased in shops, many Istanbul street food vendors create it fresh in front of your eyes. The iconic taste is one that you won’t forget while the vitamins are sure to leave feeling very well.

  • Pomegranate Juice

Fresh pomegranate juice is another very popular drink throughout the Turkish capital. Aside from being packed with nutrients and healthy goodness, it packs a real punch to leave you feeling alert while also delighting the taste buds with its fruity flavours. As with turnip juice, pomegranate juice is readily available as a store-bought version. Nonetheless, fresh is best, which is why a street food vendor is the best option.

Istanbul Street Food Blog

Fresh Pomegranate Juice
  • Ayran

Ayran is a yoghurt drink that is traditionally served in a mug. It is otherwise known as a Doogh, Tan, or Daweh while it is created by diluting the yoghurt with chilled iced water. A number of variants such as carbonated drinks and the addition of pepper, mint, or lime juice do exist. However, the standard chilled yoghurt drink remains the firm favourite and is especially refreshing on a warm summer’s day.

Istanbul Food Tour

Ayran Drink

Best Turkish Desserts in Istanbul

The Istanbul street food tour should also include treating yourself to some tasty Turkish desserts. There are several amazing sweets that the city’s street food vendors are universally adored for. Let’s take a look at the puddings that you simply must try during your stay.

  • Turkish Baklava

The term Baklava describes a family of dessert pastries. They use layers of filo and are held together with honey or syrup for sweetness. Tulumba is a slight variation that deep fries the batter in syrup and are similar to churros. Kadayif is still sweet and uses the same main ingredients, but is prepared to be a little crispier. Burma is a baklava that is filled with nuts while still using syrup to be sweet. All are readily available on the streets of Istanbul.

Istanbul Private Culinary Tour

Turkish Baklava with pistachio
  • Turkish Delight

Turkish delight is a well-known confectionary that is replicated throughout the world. However, only the authentic Turkish delight will do. The starchy gel and sugar is bound around hazelnuts, walnuts, and pistachios while they can be flavoured with rosewater, orange, or mastic. The incredible taste and texture will leave you smiling while the little icing dust on your fingers is a part of the tasting experience too.

Turkish Delight Goes Well with Tea

Turkish Delight
  • Turkish Puddings

Muhallebi, Firin Sutlac, and Keskul are three very popular Turkish puddings that can be enjoyed in the heart of Istanbul. The first is a milk pudding that uses rice, sugar, rice flour, and milk. The second is a variation of rice pudding that is baked for a unique texture that is chilled for several hours before serving. The latter is a milk pudding that uses almonds and is often topped with pistachios and coconut shavings. Its texture means it is eaten with a spoon.

Yummy Local Foods in Istanbul

Turkish Muhallebi
  • Tavuk Gogsu and Kazandibi

Tavuk Gogsu is a milk dessert that is made with shredded chicken breast, rice flour, and sugar. It is similar to the medieval blancmange, and you will not taste the chicken at all. Many vendors use a little cinnamon to give a distinct taste. Kazandibi is another milk pudding but is caramelised. It traditionally used by burning the bottom of a tavuk gogsu, but is now often made as its own dessert without the chicken breast.

Turkish Desserts

Turkish Kazandibi
  • Turkish Icecream

Everyone loves icecream, and Turkey’s capital city is no different. Maras Dondurma is a mastic icecream made from cream, sugar, whipped cream, mastic, and salep. It has a stretchy property that isn’t usually seen elsewhere. Turkish Dondurma is another slight variation. They can be served in cones, inside pancakes, or on the side of other desserts. After one taste, you’ll be screaming for Turkish icecream forever.

Turkish Sticky Icecream

Istanbul Private Street Food Tour

You can arrange your own Private Food Tour to enjoy the best Turkish Food. Istanbul Private Street Food Tour is considered as a walking tour that covers the most interesting part of Istanbul. You will be able to see major tourist sights while walking and enjoying your local food.

Enjoy the Local Food and Drinks in Istanbul

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