What to Eat When in Istanbul?

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Istanbul is the largest city of Turkey and the world’s fifth-largest city, receiving many tourists’ attention. The old Constantinople and modern-day turkey host a fusion of ancient and modern history, cultures, and civilizations. 

It is also known to be the trade hub of Turkey and is often nicked as the City Of World’s Desire. And Istanbul is truly living up to the nickname given to it.

Besides all the tourist attractions and historical places, many of the biggest reasons many travel to Istanbul is its diverse cuisine. The fusion of cultures and civilizations can be seen in Turkish and, more specifically, Istanbul’s cuisine.

Whenever you’re in Istanbul, it would be unfair to ignore the aromas of Istanbul’s street food, traditional meals, and desserts. You can get the signature food items from international brands and food chains in any part of the world. But, it will be worth eating local and traditional food not to miss out on the experience and truly explore the country.

TIP! Currently, citizens of dozens of countries still need a visa to enter Turkey. The easiest way to obtain one is by applying online for an e-Visa. The electronic visa Turkey comes in two types, a single and multiple-entry permit.

Follow a quick and intuitive online application process and get your approved Turkey e-Visa delivered to your email inbox. Remember to submit your application at least 3 business days ahead of the planned trip to get the required document delivered on time.

Once you have your e-Visa to Turkey ready, make sure to check our extensive guide on what to eat when in Istanbul! We’ve listed different foods to try when wandering around the streets of the historic center or enjoying a lavishing meal in five-star hotels of Istanbul. Consider checking in at a hotel in Istanbul airport if you don’t want to miss your flight on the way back!

Street Food 

Many people have hygiene concerns when eating around the streets, but the best thing about Istanbul is the cleanliness and hygiene protocols followed by street food kitchens. Eating food being served directly from the stove is worth experiencing.

Although, you might face difficulty finding pure vegan food in Turkey’s food streets since the imperial cuisine of Istanbul is heavily based on meat and dairy products. 

But there are many baked snacks and wraps with a touch of Olive oil to satisfy your craving. Here are some street food menu items you must try in Istanbul.

  1. Kokorec

Kokorec is a kebab made of offal, like sweetbreads, hearts, lungs, or kidneys. It is a food loved mainly by the locals, and it is one of the most worth-trying dishes. 

The meat is slowly grilled, and when ready, it is shaved off and chopped up. Seasoning of red chili flakes and green herbs makes it worth looking at. It is mainly served with pita bread.

  1. Balik Ekmek 

The taste of this Turkish fish sandwich is next to incredible. A big piece of white bread is filled with fried fish and vegetables for garnishing. 

The fish used mainly in Turkish Street food is Mackerel. If you want to try this delicious fish sandwich, you can find some vendors around Gatala Bridge or ask a restaurant if they have balik ekmek on the menu.

  1. Baklava

I am sure the name is not new to you because you must have tried baklava already. But when I say eating baklava in Istanbul, it is pointed toward a whole different experience.

It is like a sweet pastry stuffed with nuts and dried fruits. Sugar syrup or honey is used to hold the pastry together, and you can get many different kinds of baklava. It can be easily found in any bakery or supermarket around the town. Get a true experience and taste a real Turkish baklava, washed down with Turkish coffee, which is one of the most famous Turkish drinks.

  1. Doner Kebab

It is an Istanbul version of meat wraps. It is a world-famous street food of Istanbul and is made by cooking the meat until crisp and juicy. The meat is shaved, chopped, and served with a kind of pita bread. 

Fresh vegetables like tomatoes, lettuce, freshly cut onions, are added along with the sliced meat.

Doner Kebab can be made by using either beef or chicken. You will experience different prices of doner kebabs at different vendors. But you should not miss this food when in Istanbul. 

Traditional Food

When it comes to traditional meals of Istanbul, it is no less than street food. You will find assortments of different kinds when the traditional cuisine of Istanbul is under question. 

Here are some items from Istanbul’s meals you must try.

  1. Corba

Corba is a traditional Turkish soup that is made from lentils and tomatoes. If you experience visit anyone’s house in Istanbul, you would be surely served with delicious corba. 

It might take some time to develop a taste, but once you start having it, the warm and cozy feeling will take you away.

  1. Iskender Kebab

It is a delight for all meat lovers visiting Istanbul. Iskender Kebab is male lamb meet cooked in tomato sauce. The lamb is cut into long strips and then cooked. 

The dish is served with rice or pita bread & yogurt. Doner meat is cooked in flavored tomato sauces, and butter is melted over the top of the meat.

  1. Cig Kofte

Cig kofte is the Turkish version of meatballs. Fat-free minced meat is fused with onion, pepper, tomato paste, flavors, spices, and herbs. 

The consistency is formed to knead balls, and then the balls are cooked. It is a delight for your taste buds, so you must try cig kofte when visiting Istanbul.

  1. Dolma

Dolma or Midye Dolma is an excellent snack and traditional food in Istanbul. It means stuffed mussels. Pine nuts, spiced rice, currants are stuffed in the mussels and served with lemon juice. 

Adding a few drops of lemon juice enhances the taste of this exotic dish. If you want to eat Dolma in turkey, just follow the aroma of this spicy delicacy.

  1. Lahmacun

Have you ever heard about a cheese-less pizza?

Lahmacun is a Turkish pizza topped with minced meat, fresh vegetables (chopped), lemon, and can be eaten as a wrap. It is a flat and crispy delicacy with the taste of Mediterranean spices and minced lamb to delight your taste buds.

The Lahmacun can be served wrapped, folded, or pulled apart like pizza. 


We’ve already talked about baklava as a satisfaction to your sweet tooth. However, there are many other desserts worth trying in Istanbul.

  • Kunefe

It is the most famous dessert to try in Istanbul. Bread crumbs, pistachio nuts, and cheese are fused to make this sinfully delicious sweet dish. 

You won’t be able to resist eating more than one serving of this sweet delicacy.

  • Lokum 

Lokum is a nougaty dessert famous across Turkey. It is a jelly-like cube and flavored with rosewater, lemon, and powdered sugar. 

You can ask for different flavors of Lokum; pomegranate and pistachio flavors are a must! 

Final thoughts

You sure won’t be hungry when in Istanbul! So many traditional, street food, and dessert dishes are waiting to be discovered.

Don’t forget to get a sip of the traditional coffee and tea to complete the tasting experience! The food only tops off the breath-taking views and ancient sites to discover.

So, waste no more time and go book your trip to Istanbul!

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