As a local, I am taking you on an Istanbul Food tour. A perfect guide for the most popular Turkish Street Foods you can taste in Istanbul.
The rich Turkish cuisine offers so many dishes to visitors that it is hard to choose. Besides thousands of restaurants in Istanbul, there are a lot of street vendors in every neighborhood selling all kinds of quick street foods from doner sandwiches to simit; or a fish sandwich by the Bosphorus, or gozleme. As a local living in Istanbul, I wanted to write a guide about the most popular Turkish Street Foods. Even if you visit Turkey briefly, these are the well-known foods to try. You can also make a food walk to regional local dishes with me, feel free to contact if you are interested
I keep the sweet part to another article because I have a lot to share too 🙂 Since I am a chef and share my recipes, I will also include the recipe links of the foods listed if I already have them so you can make them at home.
What are the most popular Turkish street foods? Here are the easy links and the summary list to scroll around the article.
- Kofte (Turkish Meatballs)
- Simit (Sesame Ring Bread)
- Doner / Iskender Kebab
- Tavuk Pilav (Chicken & Rice)
- Balık Ekmek (Fish Sandwich)
- Kumpir (Baked Potato With Filling)
- Çiğ Köfte (Raw Bulgur Kofte Balls)
- Gözleme (Flatbread With Filling)
Often nicknamed by tourists Turkish pizza: The name comes from an originally Arabic name. “Lahm” means meat and “Ajeen” means dough. So it’s made from vegetable and meat mixture and dough.
It has a thin crust and minced meat ( beef mixture ) topped with vegetables and has a special way of eating. You can top it with a handful of parsley, tomato, onion, lettuce, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Then you can roll it into a wrap and enjoy it with a “ayran” drink.
Where To Eat Lahmacun in Istanbul?
If you want to try Lahmacun, the first place I would suggest as a local is The Beyzade Kebab Lahmacun. It is in the Fatih Aksaray area, which you can go to easily by tram stopping at Aksaray station. This is the whole review of the restaurant I filmed as a part of the Turkish street food series: https://youtu.be/ZN84ZK0OXuM The location link is here: https://goo.gl/maps/km5h6vHBY5UjfZH3A
Can I Make Lahmacun at Home?
Yes, you can! It is easier than you think to make lahmacun in the comfort of your home. Check this article to learn how to make step-by-step lahmacun. https://www.turkishfoodtravel.com/2020/12/14/how-to-make-lahmacun/
Some other suggestions for the best lahmacun by locals Forno Balat in the Balat area, Beyzade Kebap Lahmacun in the Aksaray area, Gurme Lahmacun-Pİde in the Üsküdar area, and Gaziantepli Mehmet Usta in Fatih area.
2. Kofta “Köfte” ( Turkish Meatballs )
Kofta or “köfte” are walnut-sized fried meatballs. The first that comes to mind in the Turkish Kofte type is Turkish Meatballs. It consists of Kofte dough mixture; ground meat, onion, some bread crumbles, parsley and spices. Also, we make Turkish Kofte in the oven with some vegetables and potatoes too. Another Kofte type is Turkish Lady Thigh’s “Kadınbudu Köfte“. It has cooked rice, sautéed minced meat, and raw minced meat in the mixture. After the spices, it is shaped and coated with egg and deep-fried. In eastern Türkiye most popular variety is called “İçli Köfte”, full of flavor due to large amounts of butter in the filling. Also, another type of Kofte is İzmir Kofte; It is consisting of köfte (meatballs), peppers, and potatoes in a simple tomato sauce.
Where To Eat Turkish Kofte in Istanbul
One of the best Turkish Kofte in the Sultanahmet area is “Sultanahmet Köftecisi”. It is actually maybe one of the few places you can have real local taste in the very touristic area near Hagia Sophia. But make sure to get to the oldest one, there are two close to each other with the same name. The one in the photo is the oldest one 🙂
On my Trabzon trip vlog, I tasted two different kofte restaurants and both were delicious. You can watch my detailed vlog about Kofte and Doner, the places I tried from this vlog:
Can I Make Turkish Kofte at Home?
3. Simit (Sesame Seed Covered Ring Bread)
“Simit” is a well-known fact that even the most elite street food in Türkiye is probably the most popular Turkish street food of all. It has a ring shape of bread coated with sesame seeds that are commonly accompanied by either tea or “ayran”. And you can eat it for breakfast or in savory combinations with cheese and fresh vegetables. Also “simit” is the easiest to find street food in Türkiye. You can come across a lot of streets or in corner heads.
Go back to the list to top
4. Doner & Iskender Kebab
“Döner Kebab” is also another common and most popular street food in Türkiye. It has 2 types: chicken and meat döner that is slowly roasted on a rotating vertical skewer. It is served like a sandwich with Turkish white bread, salad, or vegetables including; tomato, lettuce, green peppers, pickled cucumbers, and various types of sauces.
Also another type of döner kebab is “İskender Kebab”. It has thinly sliced “döner” on top of lightly grilled “pide” bread. And generously soaked with tomato puree, and served with yogurt. And grilled tomatoes and peppers on the side. Usually, I eat doners when I go to the Beyazıt area in this small vendor-like place called Hacı Osman’ın yeri. It is my father’s recommendation and has always been in line. The owner says, their doner is usually finished at about 4 pm. and they don’t serve after that.
If you want to try the Iskender kebab where it was invented, you can eat the best “İskender Kebap” in Kebapçı İskender in Bursa City. On the other hand in Istanbul, Bursa Kebapçısı around the Beyoğlu area and Kebapçı İskender in the Kadıköy area are famous and recommended (I’ll share my review and recommendations in more detail when I try :).
Me having Iskender doner kebab in Eyüp district on my vlog. Here is the vlog link if you are planning to visit the Eyüp area on your Istanbul visit you can get ideas on where to visit and eat:
5. Chicken & Rice
Another Turkish street food that will comfort you like you are eating at home. You can probably see them on every corner usually near the commercial areas and shops in pushcarts or small eateries.
Because it is the dish enjoyed mostly by workers during the day or by locals for quick healthy lunch. It has basically 3 ingredients: chicken, rice, and chickpeas. You can sprinkle some black pepper on top and drink ayran with it. And enjoy your simple but delicious street food!
I ate Chicken & Rice in the Bayrampaşa area when I was filming for my street food episodes. But you can eat everywhere in Istanbul.
6. Balık Ekmek (Fish Sandwich)
“Balık Ekmek” is better known as the fish sandwiches that are impossible to ignore anytime you are near the Eminönü, Galata Bridge area, or Golden Horn. Generally, fish sandwiches are made from broiled mackerel fillets with green salad and onion. And season with salt and red pepper flakes. You can drink a good company pickle juice or other drinks.
On one of my trips to Karaköy, I also stumbled upon this fish durum. They season the fish with mixed spices and wrap it with lavash bread.
Kumpir, or jacket potatoes, can be found just about anywhere in Turkey, and are undoubtedly one of the country’s most popular street foods. It has a baked potato base with cheese and a variety of ingredients according to the customer’s palatal delight such as; black-green olives, mushrooms, sausage, pickles, and corn.
8. Çiğ Köfte (Raw Meatballs)
Çiğ Köfte or Turkish Style Raw Meatless Bulgur Ball is a popular street food in Türkiye. The name “çiğ köfte” means raw meatballs. In the traditional recipe, it has meat along with cracked bulgur wheat. Meat is cooked with many spices added and kneaded by hand for a long time. Today on the streets, it is commonly made without meat and so it is vegan. A hearty appetizer, the dish can be ordered in a wrap from many street vendors and is a popular side dish in kebab shops too.
Also if you want to try raw meatballs at home, you can do it with my video.
9. Gözleme (Flatbread With Fillings)
Gözleme is a savory, Turkish stuffed flatbread. The dough is usually unleavened and made only with flour, salt, and water. The dough is rolled thin, then filled with various toppings, sealed, and cooked over a griddle.
Fillings for gözleme are numerous and vary by region and personal preference, and include a variety of meats, vegetables, mushrooms, cheeses as well as eggs, seasonal herbs, and spices.
If you want to try gözleme in your home, you can do it with my video. Also, you can watch the gözleme video that we baked with Aunty Şadiye in Kastamonu Taş Köprü. And you can watch the live video show that I baked gozleme with my mom too.
“Kokoreç” is made from baby lamb’s sweetbread, small intestine, and large intestine. After all, the ingredients are cleaned and rinsed. It wraps onto a cast iron skewer and then cooks on the charcoal grill. Once it cooks on a charcoal fire, it is served on bread or on a plate with various spice seasonings. “Kokoreç” is widely popular in Türkiye.