12 incredible street foods you must try in Istanbul
Istanbul street food blew me away! It’s really bizarre how the food tastes different on two different continents despite being in the same city. Don’t cheat yourself by sticking only to restaurants; street food is a great way to try many different dishes without breaking the budget.
Simit is a crunchy round bread snack similar to a bagel covered in sesame seeds. Everywhere you go in Istanbul it’s very likely you will see carts and stalls selling simit at very reasonable prices.
Dolmas are more like a style of food rather than a specific dish, consisting of a wrapper around some variety of rice, meat, and spices. The dolmas that people are most familiar with are stuffed grape leaves, but dolmas come in all varieties, including stuffed eggplant, mussels, tomatoes, onions, zucchini, and garlic. Occasionally, stuffed leaves like grape leaves are called sarmas.
My favorite dolmas (and of all the food to try in Istanbul), the fresh stuffed mussel with rice and a squeeze of the incredible Turkish lemons (tastes like no other lemon I’ve ever had). I could eat 20 of these if you let me.
It’s really impossible to walk down the street and talk to any shop owner, hotel owner, or tour operator without being offered a cup of cay (pronounced like chai). Apple tea is served to tourists, with black tea preferred by the locals. Make sure to hold the tea by the rim on top, as to not burn your hands!
Did you know? Countries that call “tea” by some variation of “chai” were introduced to the plant by land methods (from the origin country of China), and those that call it “tea” imported it via the sea.
Baklava is an immensely popular snack in Istanbul, and comes in more varieties than the walnut type we are accustomed to in the United States. In Turkey, they can be made with walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, or even pistachios (my personal favorite). In the summer they are often topped with ice cream or kaymak, a clotted cream-like spread.
A grilled oily fish sandwich (the name literally means “fish bread”), often made with mackerel. A classic budget lunchtime staple on the go. You can buy one in Eminönü straight from a boat (pictured above)!
“Wetburgers” are popular late night snacks around the Taksim Square area. Preparation consists of a tomato sauce drenched burger in a soft bun left to steam in glass encased street stalls. Soft, saucy, and delicious!
Turkish pickles, often a variety of vegetables pickled all together. Includes cornichons or cucumbers, carrots, cabbage, garlic, green tomatoes, and local spices. You can even get other vegetables pickled whole, such as hot peppers, corn on the cob, bell peppers, eggplants, beets, and turnips.
A Turkish baked potato, loaded up with butter and your selection of toppings such as corn, cheese, carrots, peas, vegetable salad, tursu, olives, yogurt and sausage slices.
An Anatolian flatbread made in a semi crepe-like process, filled with various fillings. Inside you can order cheese, spinach, yeşillik (“greenery” such as chopped leaves, beetroot leaves, parsley), potato, minced meat (lamb or beef) or karışık (mixed fillings).
Grilled and seasoned mutton intestines. A favorite late-night snack for locals after a few drinks.
Stuffed meatballs filled with meat (lamb or beef), bulgur, onions, spices, and walnuts. Served boiled or fried.
If you want to try a Turkish food tour yourself, I highly recommend this Istanbul tour that takes place over two continents. My guide was amazing and the food was unforgettable. I still get cravings at least once a week for midye dolmas or the wetburger.
Check it out here ›
I’m barely scratching the surface when it comes to street food to try in Istanbul. This city is the crossroads of the world, and each culture that makes a home here contributes to local cuisine in a unique way.
There are hundreds, if not thousands of types of food to try in Istanbul. Did I miss one of your favorites? Let me know in the comments.