Istanbul is a street food lover’s paradise. The street food of Istanbul is diverse and delicious, made with fresh ingredients and served from carts, peddlers, stands on street corners, street vendors, or restaurants across the city. From döner kebab to lahmacun, street food in Istanbul is an experience that can’t be missed!
The only problem is that there are so many delicious options! How do you choose? We created this guide to help you learn the 20 best Turkish street foods in Istanbul and where to find them.
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Is it safe to eat street food in Istanbul?
Eating street food in Istanbul and Turkey is entirely safe and highly recommended (as long as you know what to look out for). In Istanbul, the municipality issues certifications and permits for street food sellers. They are constantly being supervised by the municipality, making it safe to say that you can enjoy Turkish street food delicacies in Istanbul without any worries! You can identify certified street food sellers by their certification numbers displayed on their carts or stands.
Of course, there are some factors that you need to consider before enjoying your favorite street food in Istanbul. For instance, those with sensitive stomachs should stay away from tap-water-washed green vegetables and tap-water ice cubes.
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Street Food Prices in Istanbul
Street food prices in Istanbul and Turkey don’t adhere to a strict structure because they vary depending on what you order, where you order it, a street cart or a restaurant, or a touristy area. However, most of the street foods on this list will cost 1-3US$ average.
On the other hand, mid-range restaurants also serve some of the most popular Turkish street foods at higher prices.
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Famous Street Foods to Try in Istanbul
Below you will find a list of 20 street food items that Istanbul visitors should not miss. We’ve also included pictures and details on what they are made of, and where to find them.
You may not be lucky enough to taste all of them during your stay unless you especially go and try to find them. So, let’s start!
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20. Halka Tatlısı (Ring-Shaped Dessert)
Among Istanbul’s many tasty street food options is “halka tatlisi”, a type of dessert available almost anywhere in the city. This popular, delicious confection is made with a surprisingly basic recipe. The deep-fried dough is then dipped into syrup and cooled off. The result is a crispy and super sweet street dessert.
Istanbul streets are energy-sapping, but this Turkish street food can give you the full boost that’s needed.
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19. Kestane Kebab (Roasted Chestnuts)
A street food can’t get any simpler than this; it is just chestnuts roasted on a grill with their skin on! While there may not be any meat present, a chestnut kebab is nonetheless an outstanding street food in Turkey.
It is healthy street food, which you can find at any time of the day. Especially during fall and winter, the streets of Istanbul are full of certified peddlers selling roasted hot chestnuts. In winter, chestnuts will be fresh and tastier.
Some may find their taste bland, but it is an old-time favorite snack for Turkish people when we used to cook them in our houses on wood-fired ovens. Turkey is home to a large population of chestnut trees, making the chestnut an abundant food in winter.
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18. Koçan Mısır & Közde Mısır (Boiled & Grilled Corn)
Boiled and grilled corn can be found on Istanbul streets all year round, but the taste of a summer or spring cob is incomparable to that in winter. While it is quite filling and one of the cheapest street foods in Istanbul, its taste is not that flavourful. It’s worth trying both grilled and boiled corn since they have different tastes.
Corn is served straight from the boiling pot or the grill, which means you need to be careful not to get burned.
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17. Midye Tava (Fried Mussels)
These crispy snacks are served on sticks, called “midye tava” in Turkish, and sold by street vendors and restaurants throughout Istanbul. They are particularly popular in seaside neighborhoods like Beşiktaş, Ortaköy, Kadıköy and Kumkapı.
The mussels are battered and fried in a huge metal pan filled with the hot oil in the center and served with tangy “tarator” sauce (made with bread crumbs, walnuts, olive oil, strained yogurt, freshly squeezed lemon juice, grated garlic, and salt) for dipping.
If you like to eat a more filling meal, you can have your fried mussels between crusts of Turkish bread as a sandwich.
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16. Köfte Ekmek (Meatball Hero)
Köfte ekmek is a little-known street food originating from Western Turkey and spreading across the country during Ottoman times. This dish consists of grilled meatballs served in bread with fresh sliced tomatoes, onions, parsley, and grilled green peppers.
What makes this street food delicious is the spices used in the meatballs: black pepper, cumin, and allspice.
Köfte ekmek is Turkey’s most popular street food when there is a football game, and you are around a stadium. Do not miss your chance to enjoy this delicious street food prepared by the peddlers around the football stadiums.
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15. Çiğ köfte (Raw Meatballs)
Finely grounded fatless lamb, bulgur, onions, garlic, tomato, and hot pepper paste is treated with extremely hot spices (isot, pul biber) and kneaded until the lamb is cured (cooked) by these hot spices. As a result, it should be consumed fresh and can’t be stored overnight.
Çiğ köfte is sold all around Istanbul and is one of Turkey’s most famous street foods, but fortunately, the original recipe above has been banned for commercial production due to health reasons.
Nowadays, nearly all the Çiğ köfte in Istanbul are prepared without meat, making it a fantastic vegan food! This delicious street food is usually wrapped in lettuce and eaten with a squeeze of lemon. You can also have it wrapped in lavash bread.
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14. Balık Ekmek (Grilled Fish Sandwich)
One of Istanbul’s best street food (which every visitor should try) is Balık ekmek, a grilled fish sandwich. It is grilled mackerel, fresh lettuce, and onions in 6-inch sandwich bread. It is delicious but be careful of the bones, and do not forget to squeeze lemon!
Rather than going to a restaurant, we recommend getting your Balık Ekmek from one of the many boats in Eminönü shore that cook it on their boats. Ordering your fish from a boat may look like they are using fresh, local fish, but the truth is that these boats and most of the restaurants in Istanbul use Norwegian mackerel for fish sandwiches.
Generally, the best time to eat Balık ekmek is between noon and nightfall. Finding these boats is usually impossible after the dark. You can also buy pickle juice or turnip juice sold nearby; locals enjoy these drinks with their fish sandwiches.
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13. Islak Burger (Wet Burger)
These steamed burgers in Istanbul are unlike any you’ve ever had before. Beef patty and soft white buns are flavored with a garlic and tomato sauce and then left to sweat inside a steam box. In this way, the burgers are always kept slightly wet until served to a customer. They are tastier as they steamed longer.
These delicious and quite easy-to-eat wet burgers are popular food after a long night of drinking or partying. You can find many corner shops selling wet burgers around Taksim square.
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12. Simit, Açma and Çatal
Simit is a circular bread encrusted with sesame seeds and also known as a Turkish bagel. Just like simit, çatal and açma are also kinds of pastry you can enjoy. Çatal is more crumbly and dry, açma is softer and more like a croissant.
Generally, they’re eaten in the morning and are available at bakeries. Peddlers certified by the Istanbul Municipality also offer them in crowded areas all day long. If you start your day early in the morning, you can find the freshest simit available.
Simit, çatal, and açma can be eaten with or without any spread but if you have time, we recommend you try them with any Turkish cheese, Turkish tea, or clotted cream & honey. This breakfast is meant to be light and quick but still traditional and flavorful.
11. İçli Köfte (Stuffed Meatballs)
Icli kofte, which translates as stuffed meatballs in English, is a traditional Turkish appetizer or main meal and is sometimes found as street food in Istanbul.
Balls of dough made from a mix of fine bulgur, potato, and spices are used as the outer shell and filled with beef or lamb mince. It is then cooked by boiling or grilling. It can be consumed hot or cold.
It’s often challenging for cooks and home chefs alike to prepare this complex recipe, and therefore it is becoming a delicacy at restaurants in Turkey.
Sabırtaşı Restaurant on Istiklal street serves these Turkish delicacies in their restaurant-front cart. İçli Köfte can be eaten any time of the day and has a unique taste that you won’t find anywhere else.
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10. Kokoreç (Grilled Lamb Intestines)
One of the more popular street foods in Istanbul is kokoreç. If you’re a fan of offals, then this may be your next favorite food! In its simplest form, it’s grilled sheep intestines – yum?
Absolutely yes; while it is not for everyone, many locals will crave this tasty & iconic street food. It is not cheap street food and is viewed as a delicacy rather than regular street food.
Kokoreç is finely chopped and mixed with oregano, salt, red pepper, and sometimes fresh tomato. The mixture is then served in bread as a sandwich.
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9. Börek (Baked Filled Pastries)
Börek is a Turkish dish made of numerous fillings like cheese, spinach, ground meat, and vegetables. It is a baked-filled pastry with either puff or shortcrust dough.
Istanbul is home to many different types of börek; some are specialties of Karaköy and Sarıyer neighborhoods. Locals usually eat this type of street food for breakfast.
It’s not hard to find börek shops anywhere, but the best time of day to get börek is from morning until noon. If you want to try a quick Turkish breakfast, this is your food to go.
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8. Tavuk Pilav (Chicken and Rice)
There are many favorite Turkish dishes, but one of the most beloved is rice. Even though it’s usually cooked in homes and eaten as a staple food, you can also find it on street corners with vendors selling mouth-watering bowls of rice with boiled chicken and chickpeas.
Do not confuse Turkish buttery-flavored rice with an Asian style of bland steamed rice. In Turkey, rice is so good that it can be enjoyed by itself.
If you see any street carts or restaurants selling this cheap, filling, and wonderfully delicious street food, do not think twice and try it!
Do not forget to sprinkle some black pepper on your rice and taste the pickled hot mini peppers.
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7. Dürüm (Wraps)
A dürüm is a Turkish wrap that is usually filled with Adana kebab, Urfa kebab, döner kebab, çiğ köfte, chicken shish or çöp şiş. The wrap is made from lavash or yufka flatbreads.
Turks love all kinds of wraps, and there are many different dürüms you can find in Istanbul. The 2 most popular ones are Adana dürüm and Urfa dürüm. These two street foods are generally made with beef or lamb mince mixed with lamb tail fat. The tail fat makes it juicy and flavourful. Mince is skewered and cooked on a charcoal grill. It is served as a lavash wrap with tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and parsley.
While they have the same recipe, Adana dürüm is a spicier variation of this Turkish street food.
Do not forget to order a refreshing ayran drink (salty yogurt drink) along with your Adana or Urfa dürüm.
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6. Kumpir (Baked Potato)
If you ask the local teenagers and students, kumpir will be one of their most favorite street foods in Istanbul. This is no surprise answer as it is reasonably priced, incredibly filling, and fantastically yummy!
These are huge baked potatoes filled with grated yellow cheese and butter. There are also optional toppings such as grated carrot, red cabbage, boiled mushroom and corn, black and green olives, sausages, pickles, Russian salad, ketchup, and mayonnaise.
Cheese and butter come as standard with your kumpir, but you will dress it up with the toppings as you please.
5. Döner Kebab
There are thousands of döner shops in Istanbul. Döner kebab is a common and the most popular street food in Turkey. It’s made of lamb, beef, or chicken that is slowly roasted on a rotating vertical skewer. Wrapped with pita and sprinkled with salad or vegetables, including tomato, lettuce, cabbage, onion with sumac, fresh or pickled cucumber, or chili, and various types of sauces.
It has become more than just your average fast food in Turkey and is no longer a quick meal. The meaty dish can now also serve as either a satisfying lunch or a fancy dinner for those who are looking to have something filling yet healthy on their plate at all times of the day.
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4. Maraş Dövme Dondurması (Turkish Ice Cream)
Kahramanmaraş is one of the Turkish cities, which has been producing some of the most mouth-watering ice creams in the world. This Turkish ice cream is not your average sweet treat. It’s made with rich, creamy goat milk and a dash of sahlep (wild orchid roots) that keeps it from melting right away.
Maraş Dövme Dondurması is the perfect way to cool down during Istanbul’s summer or fall seasons. Forget about your diet for a moment, and indulge in this local treat as you wander the streets of Istanbul.
At some ice cream shops, you can even eat your dondurma with a knife and fork. Do not forget to order a Turkish coffee or Turkish tea to complete your dondurma experience.
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3. Midye Dolma (Stuffed Mussels)
Istanbul is surrounded by the Black Sea and the Marmara Sea, and that’s one of the reasons why stuffed mussels are abundant and are popular all over town. From restaurants to street carts, every vendor sells their own version of this dish – from mild to spicy! A few have even gone so far as starting up a restaurant just focused on selling one type of food: Stuffed mussels!
Mussels are stuffed with rice, cinnamon, onion, black pepper, allspice, sautéed pine nuts, and steamed cooked.
This traditional street food is sold at all hours, and the best way to eat it is with lemon juice freshly squeezed over them so that the mussel and rice are not dry and the taste of the spices will be enhanced.
Turks, in general, prefer to have stuffed mussels with or after alcohol consumption. And many of the area bars also offer this delicious snack as a treat if you order your alcoholic beverages from them.
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Lahmacun is popular street food in Turkey that consists of Turkish pita dough topped with minced meat, tomatoes, onions, and parsley. It usually has a round shape, and it is common for tourists to call it Turkish pizza.
If you have the opportunity to taste a lahmacun that is cooked over wood, do not pass it up. This spicy and garlicky street food is usually eaten alongside lunch or dinner and is not recommended as a morning snack.
The typical way to enjoy your lahmacun is to put some lettuce and parsley on top. Squeeze some lemon and roll the whole lahmacun into a wrap and enjoy the flavors. This delicious food is widely available in Istanbul and easy to find.
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Tantuni is popular street food in Turkey that consists of julienned beef or lamb stir-fried on a traditional Turkish sac (a thin metal pan used for cooking food at high temperatures) with sunflower oil. After the meat is cooked, it’s wrapped in lavash with chopped onions, skinless tomatoes, and parsley.
Tantuni is first cooked in the Mediterranean town of Mersin and became popular across the country around the 1980s. It was street food for poor people in the early days – beef lungs were the meat commonly used. One thing to be grateful for is that beef lungs are no longer eaten in Turkey.
Today, cheaper versions of this street food are made with chicken. It is equally delicious.
Keep in mind that this food is oily and not recommended for stomachs sensitive to such. Before you take a bite from your tantuni, don’t forget to squeeze a few drops of lemon juice into it.
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The best Turkish street foods in Istanbul are all waiting for you to enjoy them. From kebabs and lahmacuns to kumpir and simit, there is no shortage of delicious food on the streets of this bustling city. We hope you will have the most delicious time in Istanbul!
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