16 Most Popular Foods to Eat in Istanbul

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Istanbul is the only place where you can discover and enjoy the goodness of Turkish cuisine. The history of Istanbul when it comes to its cuisine is quite vast and prominent. Turkish cuisine has a diverse variety of foods which is influenced from all over the world. The dishes and food of Istanbul have the capability of touching your heart and soul. Local vendors make such awesome dishes that you wouldn’t want to spend in high-end restaurants. If you want to exercise your taste buds, trust us, we’ve got the best dishes for you to try. 

16 Most Popular Foods to Eat in Istanbul

1. Menmen


A very popular breakfast dish that is served in Istanbul, one can even see that these Menmens are less popular in Restaurants and more on the streets. It is a quick breakfast item cooked in scrambled eggs and sauteed in vegetables. Roasted onions and peppers are boiled thoroughly with tomatoes, and finally mixed with eggs, herbs, parsley, grounded red pepper, paprika and other spices. Since it is cooked in either sunflower or olive oil, it becomes a super healthy dish to be consumed in the morning.

2. Manti


Dumplings filled with the very Turkish ravioli along with stuffed lamb or meat is a very hot dish, served with yoghurt sauce and garlic that once eaten, helps to fix your taste buds. These dumplings are made by Anatlain style dough which is made of water, salt, flour, and eggs are sometimes added in order to increase the flavour. First, the fillings are added with minced meat, along with grounded beef, lamb onion, salt and pepper and are wrapped in a form of dumplings. Then, these are cooked in tomato sauce and then served along with salmon and spinaches and is served with yoghurt sauce.

 3. Lahmacun


This Turkish dish has got various names but in Istanbul, it is known as Turkish pizza. It is a dish made of regular pizza dough, that is round, thin, flat and crispy and is often topped with minced meat, minced vegetables in form of a salad, sices, herbs, along with lemon juice on bread, that can be wrapped, folded in half, or pulled apart to eat. It is wrapped around vegetables including pickles, tomatoes, peppers, onions, lettuce and roasted vegetables. It is a local street food item and is often consumed by eating it in the form of a taco.

4. Balik Ekmek

Balik Ekmek

A common street food item that is loved by the people of Istanbul, also known as Fish Bread, is also something that the foodies would want to try. It is an iconic tourist snack that is basically a sandwich or a filet of fried or grilled fish. It is essentially a fish sandwich along with vegetables that ate stuffed into a hearty piece of bread. The veggies that bring the essence to the dish are onions, pickles, lettuce and other salads. This dish also defines the culture of Istanbul.

5. İskender Kebap

İskender Kebap

Known as doner meat, this dish will not leave to surprise you, especially when you’re in the northwestern part of Turkey. Iskender kebap is made of meat or lamb in the form of long strips or beaten thinly cut pieces which are seasoned with local herbs and spices. It consists of various kinds of veggies that bring a healthy taste to this dish. It is then topped with hot tomato sauce which is served along with rice or pita bread. Extra butter and yoghurt make the dish even more delightful. Eaten during the time of festivities, this dish will just be the right one to help your taste buds.

6. Kofte


Turkish meatballs is a standard yet delicious dish that is often crispy and very commonly found along the streets of Istanbul. Meatballs are found everywhere around the world, but the Turkish version of meatballs is quite different. They’re balls or patties made of lightly cooked beef or sometimes the combination of both, and is served with grilled peppers, vegetarian ones made of chickpeas, vegetables and spicy sauces. It is usually accompanied by bread or rice. You will find it at every street deli or food joint. A perfect combination of exciting ingredients, is enough to satisfy your hunger.

7. Meze


Turkish cuisine has various appetizers, however, Meze is one of the best. Though they are sometimes served hot, one could also call them cold appetizers for they are generally served cold, which is accompanied by various meals. It is made of Yoghurt with herbs, hummus, rice, stuffed vine leaves, red pepper paste, walnuts, onions along with eggplant, white cheese and other ingredients as per the taste of the consumer. It is also considered to be a leisure meal for it is eaten slowly.

8. Kuzu Tandir

Kuzu Tandir

A beloved lamb dish that you’ll find on the streets of Istanbul and also the one that belongs to their special category. The traditional way of cooking this dish is by hanging the whole lamb suspended over the coal until it turns hot. It is made of lambs cut in the form of drumsticks or thigh portions fried in hot olive oil sauteed in different kinds of vegetables. The dish is seasoned with bay leaves, rosemary sprigs, bay leaves and black pepper. It is a tender meat dish that is served with pulav (rice nuts, diced, liver and currants)

9. Durum


A quick and easy recipe that is found in all the food stores and especially delightful and filling street food. It is basically a Turkish wrap where the main ingredient is Doner kebabs. Also known as a Turkish version of a burrito, durum is a slow-cooked chicken or lamb or minced meat wrapped in a thin flat Turkish bread called yufkas. When the meat is cooked over charcoal, then it is put on the bread along with red onions, parlsey, cheese, and sumac. They’re served hot along with pickled chillies that add a spicy flavour and essence to the dish.

10. Corba


Turkish red lentil soup is a popular soup, especially during the winter months. It is a popular dish during the time of Ramadan. Lentils and vegetables like onions, dried mint, paprika, pepper make it a simple soup where the choice of the main ingredients can be either lentils or tomatoes. Vegetables and lentils are cooked and strained and then the herbs and spices are added and then allowed to be simmered to get the best blend of flavours. In order to garnish, it is sprinkled with some hot pepper flakes, plain croutons, and a squeeze of lemon on top of that.

11. Pide


A Turkish pizza, the consumption of which will almost instantly bring a smile to your lips. A warm dough out of which thinly sliced bread is made on which the Turkish toppings can be added like minced meat, eggs, suckuck (Turkish sausage) and small mat cubes. After the dough is made in an oval shape where the dressing on the flatbread is done, it is then fried in an oven until it turns hot and crispy. It is then garnished with Italian toppings like olives, cheese and butter. One can even say that this dish is a form of deep-dish pizza that one can have as a hearty meal.

12. Baklava


A very popular street dessert dish that is loved by all the people of Turkey. In Istanbul, unquestionably delicious, it is made of incredibly thin layers of dough filled with nuts. The thickness of the phyllo dough is very crucial, and the nuts like walnuts, hazelnuts, or pistachios can be added. It is then dressed with butter and soaked in sugar syrup. Layers of flaky pastry are filled with the goodness of nuts and butter topped with sugar and other ingredients. No matter in what way you eat it in Istanbul, it will always taste scrumptious.   

13. Kunefe 


A traditional Arab cheese pastry. It is a dessert made with thin noodles like pastry or semolina dough that is soaked in sweet, sugar-based syrup typically layered with cheese. This Turkish dessert has an amber colour and is dressed with grounded pistachios on top. The cheese melts inside your mouth and when you take a bite, different tastes define attack your senses. It is topped with nuts and clotted cream. It is usually served hot and soaked in syrup.

14. Simit


Another popular street food of Istanbul is somewhat similar to a bagel or a pretzel. It is a circular-shaped, chewy bread that is often eaten as a snack. Wander during the early hours of the mornings and you’ll see the bakeries, coffee shops with an aroma filled with that freshly baked simit. It is typically encrusted with sesame seeds, bread dough made of yeast, sugar, salt along with molasses which can be eaten plain or with jam, cream cheese, and nowadays with the Nutella spread. 

15. Turkish coffee

Turkish coffee

What is better than having a cup of coffee that is not only strong but also something that will cool your mind? Turkish coffee is not very easily available on the streets, but if you find one, then make sure you try it. It is prepared by using very finely ground coffee beans in a specific pot called cezve and has a gritty texture. Roasted and ground beans are blended in water to get a perfect combination of a drink that is simply the best – silky smooth with a nutty and chocolaty flavour. 

16. Gullac


A traditional Turkish dessert, especially eaten during the period of Ramadan. It is also considered to be one of the top ten desserts of Turkey. In Istanbul, you’ll find petite cake shops selling this dessert at a very low cost. It is made of milk made with dough that helps to make it a unique textured treat. Other ingredients of this dessert are rosewater and pomegranate. It is prepared on the sheets where the dough is spread and if it turns dry, it is soaked again in milk. Finally, it is topped with walnuts or sometimes, cinnamon powder. 

Read also18 Most Popular Foods to Eat in Maldives


Balik Ekmek / Corba / Durum / İskender Kebap / Köfte / Kunefe / Kuzu Tandir / Lahmacun / Manti / Menmen / Meze / Pide / simit / Turkish coffee

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