street foods in istanbul

15 Must Try Street Foods in Istanbul

1 Kebab & Dürüm (Döner Kebab and other types of kebab)

street foods in istanbul

One of the first things that come to mind when talking about street foods in Istanbul is kebab. Even though kebab is a variety of food and there are dozens of countries with hundreds of different types of kebabs, the first thing that comes to mind is usually the vertically sliced Turkish döner kebab. This specific type of kebab is simply called “döner” in Turkey, if you refer to it as “kebab” without specifying, people will be confused and ask what type of kebab you want since döner is one out of hundreds of different types of kebab. However, all are worth trying.

Kebabs, most famously döner kebab, but also Adana kebab, Urfa kebab, Cağ kebab, şiş kebab etc usually come in two options: sandwich or wrap. You can have a döner kebab sandwich, adana kebab wrap, chicken döner sandwich, list goes on.

Kebabs are typically beef or chicken, however, lamb options such as Cağ kebab and also certain organs are also available such as liver or intestines. Kebabs made from beef can also sometimes have a taste of lamb since they might be cooked in lamb fat.

#2 Fish Sandwich (Balık Ekmek)

street foods in istanbul

Fish sandwich, a.k.a “Balık Ekmek” is one of the most iconic street foods in Istanbul as it has been prepared and served to the busy residents of Istanbul by locals for hundreds of years around the old town of Istanbul and nowadays all over Istanbul. Traditionally, it would be made from fresh fish caught in the Golden Horn by the fishermen on the Galata bridge, but nowadays it’s mostly frozen mackerel, however, that doesn’t mean it’s bad, it can still be exceptionally tasty depending on how it is prepared. Typically the fish sandwich or fish wrap would have cleaned mackerel, lettuce, raw onion and salt, and sometimes pomegranate sauce.

Read our article on: Best Seafood Restaurants in Istanbul

#3 Simit, Açma & Poğaça (Street Pastry)

street foods in istanbul

Simit, açma, and poğaça, these are all forms of breakfast pastry sold in bakeries and also on the street, are very saturating, and are usually sold with small pieces of cream cheese, jam, chocolate spreads, etc. Simit is the Turkish bagel, it is round, has a hard crust, and soft dough, it is crispy with a tint of grape molasses and is considered by many locals to be the most superior breakfast pastry. Even though it does not have

any fillings, it is quite tasty all by itself, but goes even better with some cheese, olives or jam.

Açma and poğaça on the other hand can be with fillings ranging from cheese, minced beef, potatoes and olives to chocolate and other sweet fillings, açma is a lot more fluffy and soft, poğaça typically tends to be a lot denser and harder.

Turkish Breakfast: An Absolute Feast for your Eyes and Stomach

#4 Lahmacun

street foods in istanbul

Oh, the great Lahmacun.. first thing I ate after returning to Turkey after studying 2 years abroad. Paper-thin crispy dough with ground beef and spices on top served with fresh lemon and parsley. You squeeze the lemon, tuck the fresh parsley in and roll it like a wrap. It is fresh, it is hot, it is crispy, it doesn’t make you too full, it’s not too oily; it is the ultimate snack and an excellent street food.

Lahmacun is usually advertised as the “Turkish pizza” even though it is nothing like pizza, (if there is anything like pizza in Turkish cuisine it would be Pide). For starters, it doesn’t even have cheese, but it can be served with cheese toppings in some places if requested.

#5 Mussels (aka “Midye”)

street foods in istanbul

One of the most iconic street foods in Istanbul is mussel. Mussels as street food are typically only available in seaside towns in Turkey and Istanbul is of course on the list. Mussels come in two forms in Istanbul (and in Turkey in general): stuffed with rice, and deep-fried with batter.

Stuffed Mussels – “Midye Dolma”

Stuffed mussels are stuffed and cooked with rice, steamed or boiled, and typically have pinenut and sometimes currant for flavor and a mix of herbs and spices. It is served with fresh lemon to squeeze on top.

Deep-Fried Mussels – “Midye Tava”

“Midye Tava“, on the other hand, is covered in batter and deep fried on a skewer, which is a lot oilier and warm. It is usually served in white sandwich bread and white sauce.

Read our article on: Best Seafood Restaurants in Istanbul

#6 Steamed Burger (or Wet Burger)

Islak Hamburger, literally and usually translated as “wet burger”, is a local Istanbulian delicacy. Believe it or not, you don’t get to eat this everywhere in Turkey, it’s mostly in Istanbul and central parts of other big cities. However as a local Istanbulian invention and delicacy, “Islak Hamburger“ is all over the city and is quite something. Steamed Burger, as I’d like to call it for obvious reasons (seriously, ”wet burger” just sounds wrong), is indeed cooked with steam in a glass steam box, between two hamburger buns, a beef patty with a red garlic tomato sauce. It is small but heavenly, it is soggy, it is juicy, meaty, soft, it is wonderful. Does not disappoint.

#7 Kokoreç

street foods in istanbul

Ok now, this isn’t something that everyone would eat but it is hands-down my favorite on the list of street foods in Istanbul! Kokoreç is a grilled lamb intestine sandwich that is served in white sandwich bread with chili and spices. It can be ordered as a dish or wrap but it is typically consumed as a sandwich. Lamb fat is wrapped with meters of lamb intestine and slowly roasted by coal fire while rotating horizontally. Later cut in circles, stir-fried with tomatoes and green peppers, and mixed with spices and herbs. It is very fatty and spicy and is downright mouthwatering. Not everybody is into intestines, animal fat or even lamb, but if that’s your thing, Kokoreç is a must-try as it could be the best thing you’ve eaten in a long while.

#8 Kumpir (Baked Potato with Filling)

Another local delicacy of Istanbul, Kumpir! Sometimes referred to as the “potato sandwich” by tourists for understandable reasons, Kumpir is yet another Istanbulian delicacy that originated from the Ortaköy neighborhood in the 90s. The concept of baking a large potato and filling it with fresh ingredients has existed in other countries before, and this is the Turkish interpretation of this concept. A very large potato is baked, cut open like a sandwich and its interior mushed with butter and melted cheese. Later this is filled with fresh veggies, cold cuts and sauces of your choosing, and is served fresh. Very saturating and highly customizable, a must-try for potato lovers.

Read our article on: Delicacies of Istanbul (Specialty Dishes of Istanbul)

#9 Corn & Chestnuts

street foods in istanbul

Good old street corn and chestnuts can be found pretty much everywhere in Istanbul, boiled corn served with salt on a straw paper wrap, grilled corn and chestnuts on charcoal fire are sometimes all you need to suppress your hunger, and since they are simple foods without any oil, spices or sauce, can be the safest option for those with a fragile stomach.

#10 Rice & Chicken

Street vendor carts with rice and roasted chicken can be found in many places and can be a very saturating and nutritious meal. Typically the rice would also have boiled chickpeas either in it, or served on top of it. Chicken is optional and is usually made from thigh meat, not breast. Served on single-use plates and cutlery, rice and chicken don’t come with a rich choice of sauces or spices, but most of these vendors will offer you ketchup, and if you’re lucky, spicy ketchup to spice your rice up.

#11 Çiğ Köfte (Raw Meatball)

street foods in istanbul

Çiğ köfte, literally: “raw meatballs”, is without a doubt the most confusing street food on this list because it usually doesn’t even have meat! Çiğ köfte is called “raw meatball” because traditionally it is cooked by slowly mixing minced meat with strong hot spices that slowly cooks the meat, however, most places that serve Çiğ köfte these days don’t even put meat in it, so it is 100% vegetarian, and even usually vegan since it doesn’t have any dairy in it. Most places make Çiğ köfte from bulgur and spices and it is typically served with lettuce and pomegranate sauce in a wrap.

#12 İçli Köfte (Stuffed Bulgur)

İçli köfte is a delicious appetizer typically served with or before a main dish in a kebab restaurant, but can also be found as a street snack. It is a hand-made bulgur meatball with ground beef stuffing inside, that has been stir-fried with onions, pinenut and spices.

#13 Gözleme

Gözleme, which comes from the Turkish word “göz” which means “eye”, is called the way it is because of the eye-like grill spots that appear on top of it as it is prepared. A simple yet delicious pastry made of thin, layered dough with cheese, meat or vegetable fillings.

#14 Börek

Börek, a very large sub-category of pastry in Turkish cuisine has dozens, if not hundreds of varieties. Börek can be multi-layered, single-layered, can be crispy, can be soft, can be flat, can be round, can be baked, fried, steamed, can have meat, can have cheese, can have both, can have veggies, can have all, usually salty, rarely sweet, always delicious, always saturating, always made with dough.

#15 Maras Icecream

The only sweet on our list, Turkish Icecream, known as “Maraş Icecream” in Turkey, is without a doubt one of the most iconic food exports of Turkey to the world cuisine. Although the first thing that comes to mind when talking Turkish ice cream is the game between the seller and the customer where the buyer tries to snatch the ice

cream from the vendor, that is not the main reason why Maraş Icecream is so unique. Maraş Icecream is special because of its solid, sturdy structure that doesn’t fall apart, and its almost meaty, ch