Sometimes you just need to feel a crunch, and sometimes you want a smooth, velvety sensation. Whatever you desire, the Turks have found a way to stuff pastry with a million different things that you’ll find yourself drooling at the memory of each bite.
Börek is a Turkish food that is made out of layered pastry dough with a variety of fillings, such as meat, cheese, spinach, or potatoes. It can be baked or fried, and it has a unique taste and texture. When you visit Istanbul for the first time, one thing you must try is börek.
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Before you head out and order it, it can be good to know about different kinds of Turkish börek:
Su böreği: Sheets of dough are boiled in large pans, then a mixture of feta cheese and parsley or minced meat is layered between the boiled sheets. The layers are also brushed with butter and baked in the oven.
Sigara böreği: Feta cheese, lor cheese, potato or minced beef is wrapped in yufka filo and deep-fried.
Çiğ börek: The dough is folded over the raw minced meat and onion filling and shaped into a semicircle before being deep-fried until golden brown.
Kol böreği: Minced meat, feta cheese, spinach, or potato is prepared in long rolls and rounded around the tray, and baked at a low temperature.
Sarıyer böreği: A smaller but fattier version of the “Kol böreği”, named after Sarıyer neighborhood of Istanbul.
Here are ten of the best börek in Istanbul if you find yourself a fan:
1. Odabaşı Çiğbörekçisi
With its humble appearance, this place serves only one type of pastry: Çiğ börek. Fried before handed over, this calzone-like pastry ensures that the fillings stay inside the pastry until they have the opportunity to throw a karaoke party in your mouth. Swish in a little organic ayran (salty yogurt drink), and you have a carnival on your palate.
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2. Çengelköy Börekçisi
There’s an easy way to deliver bad news. Bring your friends to one of the many Çengelköy Börekçisi branches, order everything on the menu, and delight in the variety.
The börek here with cheese and walnuts is out of this world, but they do have ones such as spinach with yogurt, the ‘cigarette’ a.k.a. the spring rolls, or the smooth ‘water börek’. For that one friend who’s permanently on a diet, you can order the breakfast platter and watch them reach over to the shared pastries. Then order a million cakes and mumble out the bad news.
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3. Yeniköy Börekçisi
Confession time: the ‘water börek’ (Su Böreği) version here is so velvety smooth that it’s become a challenge: can you eat only one: If you know how to, let us know. If you’re going to break your diet, anyway, visit on Sundays for brownies that’ll make you drool long after they go down.
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4. Prava Pita Boşnak Börekçisi
Cute on the outside, elegant on the inside, you’ll want to bring a business partner here. Although, once you’re introduced to the böreks, you’ll find yourself thinking of ways to lock yourself inside your accommodation and throw away the key.
This Bosnian place sells diet-busting böreks that’ll make it hard for you to control yourself, especially the spinach with yogurt topping. The ravioli type pairs perfectly with the organic ayran that you may never want to eat normal ravioli again.
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5. Tarihi Sarıyer Börekçisi
Make sure you bring your katanas because, with the magnificent views, you may also find birds that have no shame in trying to steal your böreks. Perhaps we were paranoid, but if they were, how can you blame them?
These sensational crispy böreks are a pleasure to watch being made. The mince one has pine nuts and raisins coated with dough so thin we were wondering why it wasn’t shivering. If this is the place that keeps history alive, we wouldn’t mind going back to 1895.
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6. Büyükdere Bilice Börekçisi
Whispering the words “I love you” is a very difficult task indeed. Which got me questioning: why was it so easy to confess to the börek stuffed with minced meat and a hint of raisin? This place has a slightly historic vibe and a wonderous view but you best not bring your date if they’re the jealous type.
Slightly more on the greasy side, this is the ultimate comfort food. The potato one has a French Fries type flavor, but the spinach is so fresh that we wouldn’t be surprised if they were growing it in the backyard. The chicken one is fabulous for a milder yet still meaty taste.
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7. Levent Börek
While the majority of their ingredients stay within the walls of their pastry castle, their cheese manages to stretch from one bite to another. Although their prices can be little on the expensive side, that may have something to do with the cheese oozing out of each pore of the börek.
The savory ones are one thing but chasing down the chocolate börek with hot Turkish tea is a treat you’ll never forget.
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8. Gel Gel Börekçisi
We’re not sure how the dried cured beef (pastırma) would’ve gone down in 1969 when they first opened, but it certainly goes down the gullet particularly well now.
If your companion doesn’t really understand what good taste is, this place has a wonderous option of giving you a “mixed plate.” However, if you like yours extra crispy and they like theirs extra soft, you might want to order separately. Because, as a rarity, this place can over or undercook your böreks as per your taste.
Just be warned, you may end up trying to sneak in the mushroom or the potato version on the place… after all, there shouldn’t be a problem at customs, right?
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9. Özen Börek
This is the place to grab yourself breakfast, sit by the pier, and meditate to the sounds of the birds that’ll never have what you have: a bite of heavenly goodness dancing on your tastebuds.
Sandwiched between many competitors, this shop looks exactly as Dumas may have described. Known for good quality: they use the Manyas Lor cheese, which is similar to ricotta with its creamy, soft feel and ultra-buttery taste. Complementing the lusciousness of the cheese, the doughs are rolled out ultra-thin so you can actually feel the sensation of the fillings in your mouth.
The böreks aren’t that greasy. In fact, if you head there at 5 am, when they open and taste the minced meat one, you’ll find that it won’t stay in your stomach for the whole day. However, it’s recommended to go after 11 am because the unique yogurt one will have you salivating for months afterward. The super-high-quality isn’t offset by the price.
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10. Karaköy Güllüoğlu
Slightly on the Cinderella side, this place is actually known for its baklavas: ranging from gluten-free, chocolate, and even diabetic-friendly versions.
Be warned; if your friend orders the crispy böreks from here, you’ll finish everything on their plate. Then they’ll give you a very dirty look – even though the portion was so huge that they would’ve never been able to finish it alone. You were doing it as a favor to them! You promise! Open until 1 am, the cute Ottoman-styled eatery is wonderful for a late-night binge session with a friend who won’t mind if you steal…er… we mean borrow from their plate.
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We hope that this list will help you find the perfect place for your next Turkish börek experience. If not, we’ve got a solution! Join our food tours and taste the most delicious Turkish dishes in Istanbul, including börek.
With six-hour-long tours per day, we make sure to visit 10 different places with only eight people or less on each tour so you can enjoy more personal attention from knowledgeable guides who love their city as much as they love good food. To learn more about how you can join us, click here now.
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