The rich Istanbul cuisine nurtured in the Ottoman royal kitchens, combined with a wide range of dairy products and meats has created a culture of rich enjoyment that anyone, no matter who comes from will be satisfied. In this Muslim country, food is always the thing that many people pay attention to the most. So, what to eat in Istanbul (Istanbul what to eat)? Let’s check out our suggested 19+ must eat in Istanbul (must eat food in Istanbul), must try food in Istanbul (food to try in Istanbul), best food to try in Istanbul including best street food in Istanbul, famous Turkish food in Istanbul, traditional food in Istanbul, famous food in Istanbul, best food in Istanbul, best local food in Istanbul and where to find them as follows!
- Istanbul travel tips — 9 things & what to know before going to Istanbul
- Where to go in Istanbul? — 10 must & best places to visit in Istanbul
- How to spend 12 hour layover in Istanbul perfectly?
- Istanbul travel blog — The fullest Istanbul travel guide for a great budget trip for first-timers
- My trip to Istanbul — Explore the bridge city of Asia and Europe
Many people say that, Turkey is a Muslim country, so the dishes in this country are often difficult to eat. Right! But what it’s like if we don’t try some of the famous specialties of this country in its special capital, right? Now, joining Living Nomads to discover the irresistible savory must try food in Istanbul below, even just by looking at it, you will feel “craving” and want to fly to enjoy immediately.
Here are +19 must eat in Istanbul you should try when visiting this city located on two continents.
What to eat in Istanbul: Testi Kebab (Pottery Kebab, Testi kebabi, Clay pot kebab)
Kebab is a general term for meat dishes that are grilled, stewed or cooked in a clay pot / jar directly on fire. Testi kebabi is meat (chicken, beef or lamb) chopped, put in an earthenware pot with tomatoes, bell peppers and spices, stewed over a fire. While serving, the waiter brought the whole clay pot out on a baking tray of salt and alcohol, shouting out to get attention of diners, then knocked around the jar with a stick and danced for a while until the lid fell off. They will pour the food onto the plate for you to eat when the dish is still hot. This dish is a bit like Bordelaise sauce. The taste is very delectable, maybe the easiest to eat among delicacies in Istanbul.
Turkish cuisine features a series of assorted small dishes served together to create a main meal. These delicious little treats are called meze (or mezze). The first course of the meze tends to be cold, followed by hot. For the best meze, choose Meyhanes – a Turkish traditional restaurant specializing in meze cuisine.
Where to try: Visit Tarihi Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi (Address: Hüseyinağa, Kamer Hatun Sahne Sokak, Kamer Hatun Cd. No:27, 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey/Hours: 11AM–2AM) in Beyoğlu on the European side of Istanbul. This restaurant is over 100 years old and the interior has barely changed since its opening.
Must eat in Istanbul: Kebab
Not too strange, Kebab has become a popular dish all over the world. However, coming to Turkey – the birthplace of this dish, you will enjoy the extremely attractive original flavor of this dish. This is a popular dish in the northwestern Turkey named after its creator, Iskender Efendi, who lived in Bursa during the rule of the Ottoman Empire. Kebab is served on bread with butter and tomato sauce.
Have you ever heard of this dish, it is very similar to the name Doner Kebab sandwich, right? Kebab is one of the most prominent dishes of modern Turkish cuisine. Ke is simply meat grilled on firewood, served with chestnuts in a paper bag, very tasty. You can find this dish anywhere on the streets of Istanbul on busy days.
With pieces of lamb that are marinated carefully for half a day, they will be skewered into large blocks and then grilled over charcoal, this helps to keep the meat inside moist and create an irresistible aroma. When sold, the meat will be sliced into large thin pieces, Kebab is usually served with bread and salad.
In addition to Kebab, you can also try Doner Kebab, which is a famous sandwich dish known by many people. The bread is sandwiched with Kebab made from beef, chicken, or lamb, Muslims do not eat pork. In addition, there are many other ingredients such as onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, sauces, etc. for you to choose from.
Where to try:
- Meshur Bursa Kebaapçısı (Address: Şehit Muhtar, Atif Yilmaz Sok. No:8, 34435 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey/Hours: 11:20AM–9:20PM) in Beyoğlu offers the best Kebab in Istanbul.
- Located on the Asian side of the city, Iskender Iskenderoglu (Address: Orhaneli Yolu, D/151, Carrefoursa, 16090 Nilüfer/Bursa, Turkey/Hours: 10AM–10PM) in Kadıköy, serves the only dish, Kebab.
- Donerci Sahin Usta (Address: Mollafenari, Kılıçcılar Sk. No:5, 34120 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey/Bursa, Turkey/Hours: 11AM–5PM; Sunday: Closed) located near Nuruosmaniye gate of Grand Bazaar, Istanbul is one of the best places to enjoy Doner Kebab. It is not easy for visitors to miss, just as it is not to be curious in front of a bread stall the size of a portable wardrobe! Enjoy the aromatic flavor of grilled meat combined with spices that make the Doner Kebab is such great.
What to eat in Istanbul: Kofte (Traditional Turkish Meatballs)
The meatballs here are of course also grilled. But the color and taste is much different from our meatballs. The meatballs are filled with a lot of breadcrumbs to create adhesion, when grilled, they do not fall apart, so it is very floury. Similar to other meat dishes, the smell is always very fragrant because it uses Middle Eastern spices, but the taste is very light, you should add salt to meet your taste.
Another traditional dish of Istanbul cuisine is Manti – a type of dumpling made from dough and filling. Usually, the mixture filling consists of onion, minced lamb or beef, seasoned with salt and pepper. It is usually served with yogurt and marinated in tomato sauce. This dish is popular not only in Turkey but also in Russia, Balkans, Central Asia, and Afghanistan and the countries of the former Soviet Union.
Where to try: When talking about Mantı, it is imperative to mention Casita (Address: Etiler, Nispetiye Cd no65a, 34337 Beşiktaş/İstanbul, Turkey/Hours: Open 24 hours) on the Asian side of the city. This popular restaurant serves traditional and fried Manti.
Often referred to as “Turkish pizza” by tourists, lahmacun is a very simple dish consisting of flour covered with a mixture of chili, onion, and minced meat, then baked in the oven for a few minutes and eaten hot. It is customary to eat it with some parsley and some lime juice, then roll it up and enjoy with a cold glass of ayran.
A close relative of the dürüm, tantuni is a dish of beef, tomatoes, peppers and spices wrapped in thin tortillas. It is usually spicy and less spicy. One of the best places to enjoy authentic tantuni in Istanbul is Emine Ana Sofrası, Billurcu Sokak in Taksim district.
Must eat in Istanbul: Kokoreç
Kokorec is a high-fat meat dish that may not be for everyone, but if you can, give it a try. This sizzling dish served at roadside restaurants is made from roasted lamb intestine wrapped around the chopped heart, liver and served with sautéed onions in bread. This is often eaten as a late-night snack and is best paired with a beer or two, although it can be eaten at any time of the day.
Where to try: The best Kokorec can be found at a small stall called Kokoreççi Erdinç Usta (Address: Mollafenari, Kılıçcılar Sk. No:33 D:No:33, 34120 Fatih/İstanbul, Turkey/Hours: 9AM–6PM; Sunday: Closed), located just outside the Grand Bazaar. He made this so good, it often sold out by midday. You can also find it across street food stalls in Istanbul.
Traditional food in Istanbul: Bal Kaymak
A favorite way for locals to end a sumptuous Turkish breakfast is to have some Bal Kaymak, which translates to “cream and honey”. You can eat this by scooping some curd cream and spread on a baguette-style bread and smearing it with honey.
Where to try: In Istanbul, the freshest and best Bal kaymak can be found at Hasan Fehmi Ozsut (Address: Sahkulu Mahallesi, Istiklal Cd. No: 261, Istanbul 34425 Turkey/Hours: 7AM–12AM), an over 100-year-old establishment serving whipped cream from their own buffalo farms. Go there for the best cream and honey in the city.
Best food in Istanbul: Fish Sandwiches
Along the Bosphorus strait, you will find fishing boats equipped with large grills covered with irresistible fish pieces. Fish will be grilled, seasoned and sandwiched on bread with onions, diners just need to pick up and enjoy. Visitors will also see locals sitting around, talking and enjoying their sandwiches with a cup of salted lemon. Delicious fresh fish sandwiches will be a new experience for everyone when discovering Istanbul cuisine.
Best local food in Istanbul: Mercimek Corbasi (Red Lentil soup)
This dish is a Turkish red lentil soup, usually an appetizer in a Turkish meal. Every restaurant has this dish, like kimchi in any Korean restaurant. It is a popular hearty soup, especially during the winter months. It is also an important part of the daily during the month of Ramadan.
Tea is a popular Turkish drink, and apple tea is a variation on the traditional black tea that most Turks take as the top choice of every tourist. This hot cider-like drink is made by dipping the dried fruit in hot tea with lots of sugar. Visitors should be ready to enjoy a cup of apple tea anywhere, whether at the company, the shop, even the people of Turkey consider refusing an invited cup of apple tea can be considered as impolite.
It would be a mistake to explore Istanbul cuisine without tasting waffles. Waffles are the favorite food of all visitors when coming to the Ortakoy coast, Istanbul. The fresh hot waffles are picked from the grill and added with a large number of spices and other additives as requested by the guest such as condensed milk, various types of marmalade, pistachios and strawberries… The whole wafflele is then rolled up and you just enjoy the typical delicious Turkish delicacy.
Famous food in Istanbul: Midye Dolma (Stuffed Mussels)
Midye Domasi is an item made from mussels, an ingredient from the sea that is very popular with the Turks. Dishes made from mussels combined with other ingredients give off a unique flavor that only this land has. Midye Dolma is known as a famous hangover food in Turkey with a unique way of processing: stuffing a mixture of fragrant and spicy rice into mussels and then serving with lemon juice. Diners can find Midye Dolma in many places on the streets of Istanbul, especially served right on a tray on every other street corner in Taksim square at night.
Istanbul what to eat: Tava (Turkish stew)
Tava is the common name for Turkish clay pot stews. I call Tavuk Tava is chicken stew. When you order you usually wait fro 25 minutes to prepare. The tender and juicy chicken, quite delicious because it was not bland, imbued with onion, garlic, aromatic spices (rosemary, thyme). Served with Pilaf rice is an Indian-style risotto, that is, rice cooked in a broth with butter, so it is quite soft and fragrant.
Sigara Boregi – Cigarette Borek (Turkish Cheese Rolls)
Borek is a dish consisting of a filling and a shell made of filo dough (a bit like a thousand layers of dough). The filling is usually cheese, potatoes, meat, etc., rolled in filo and then grilled. This dish is fatty, fleshy, greasy because of a lot of butter and cheese. The remaining taste is also… a bit bland. Called Sigara Borek because the shape is rolled up like a cigar.
Must eat food in Istanbul: Raki
Wherever there is meze, there is raki. Known as Turkey’s national alcoholic drink, raki is flavored with anise, made of twice-distilled grapes. Even if you don’t like the licorice flavor, give it a try. It is also popular in other Balkan countries as an apéritif as well as in Kazakhstan. It also pair with with seafood.
Where to try it: You can sample raki at any Meyhane (traditional Turkish restaurant) or bar, but Eleos Restaurant (Address: Şahkulu, İstiklal Cd. No:231, 34421 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey/Hours: 2:30PM–12AM) in Beyoğlu is particularly popular.
Famous turkish food in Istanbul: Baklava
Baklava is the most famous dessert of the whole Istanbul cuisine in particular and Turkey in general. It was created in the kitchen of Topkapi Palace during the reign of the Ottoman Empire. Thin layers of phyllo (yufka) dough are sprinkled with nuts (walnuts, pistachios or hazelnuts) before being buttered, toasted, and then topped with sweet syrup or honey.
Where to try: Two popular places in Istanbul are Köşkeroğlu (Address: Kemankeş Karamustafa Paşa, Karaköy /İstanbul Suite, Mumhane Cd. No:2/3 D:2B, 34421 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Turkey/Hours: 8AM–10PM) and Karaköy Güllüoğlu (Address: Kemankeş Cad. Katlı Otopark Altı No: 3-4, 34425 Beyoğlu, Turkey/Hours: 7AM–1AM).
Best street food in Istanbul: Simit
A name that cannot not help but mention when it comes to Istanbul street food, that is simit bread (Turkish Sesame Bagel Bread). Simit is actually a snack that appeared in the 16th century by groups of tourists to and from Istanbul, who brought this dish from Izmit city. Today, the Turks use Simit very popularly, which is eaten in the morning with tea or coffee.
As a nutritious, cheap snack in Turkey, Simit is extremely popular and favorite in this country. Also known as rope bread due to their shape, this bread is extremely simple to make with ingredients such as butter, eggs, milk and flour.
The simit bread is shaped like a coiled ring or rope. Cakes are made from flour, milk, butter,… but with a unique recipe that makes them unique in the world. When finished, the bread will be sprinkled with sesame, baked and then enjoyed, with a golden shell that is delicious to eat. Because of the high amount of sesame and protein, the cake brings a feeling of fullness quickly.
Best food to try in Istanbul: Çiğ köfte
Çiğ köfte is one of the best raw meat dishes in the world that Turkey holds with its tongue-tipping spicy taste. Although it is raw meat, it looks very delectable because it is served with many different ingredients such as basil, lemon, cherry tomatoes,… Çiğ köfte is eaten by Turkish people with flat bread, salad, pomegranate oil and spicy sauce.
Cig Kofte possesses a special spicy taste that makes diners unforgettable even once enjoying it, this is also a challenge to the eater’s ability to eat spicy. Made from raw meat mixed with basil, lemon and tomatoes, this dish is usually sold in strips of meat with a length of around 10cm.
Where to try: In Istanbul, you can easily find this dish at the Grand Bazaar or Spice Bazaar. It will be more wonderful to enjoy this dish with Turkish flat bread with pomegranate seed oil, salad and spicy sauce.
Best turkish food Istanbul: Karniyarik
They say that there are more than a hundred dishes in Turkish cuisine that include eggplant. You might think it’s an exaggeration, but once you’re in Turkey, you’ll start to notice it. Eggplant puree, smoked eggplant, eggplant with yogurt and grilled eggplant are just a few popular dishes. The best type of eggplant dish, in my opinion, is karniyarik. This is eggplant stuffed with vegetables (onions, garlic, tomatoes, parsley, black pepper…) and minced meat, and is what many Turks consider the easiest dish to eat. Try the karniyarik version with the eggplant is first fried in hot oil then stuffed and grilled.
Where to try: The best place to find karniyarik is at Hatice Anne (Address: Kuzguncuk, Kuzguncuk Çarşı Cd No:4 D:1, 34674 Üsküdar/İstanbul, Turkey/Hours: 11AM–9:30PM; Saturday: 12–9:30PM; Sunday: 1–9:30PM) in the charming Kuzguncuk neighborhood on the Asian side of Istanbul. “For me, this is a representation of home cooking, and Hatice Anne is a small, family-run establishment that feels like home”. If you only have one meal in Turkey and want to enjoy a real Turkish food, this is it.
Pide also known as Turkish Pizza, is actually a type of flat bread baked in a charcoal oven. The top of the bread is added with various ingredients such as Turkish sausage, smoked beef, chopped lamb, butter and some vegetables.
As a cake that perfectly combines bread and pizza, Pide is a very special dish in Turkish cuisine. The cake is made from flour, eggs then braked until crispy, and the filling includes tomatoes, tuna meat, chicken, cheese and vegetables.
This cake is baked on a traditional wood-fired oven, so when you eat it, you will feel the smell of smoke mixed with the flavor of the cake, creating an irresistible delicious feeling. In particular, the perfect combination of crispy crust with cheese and greasy toppings also makes you super satisfied when eating.
Usually, restaurant chefs or street vendors will perfect this dish by adding an egg on top of the cake when it’s just taken out of the oven to add more flavor. On the other hand, eggs also make the dish more attractive and fatty.
Kumpir (Stuffed Baked Potato)
Selected by the chef from the largest potatoes and then grilled over charcoal, this dish has an eye-catching appearance and delicious taste. The crispy outer shell of the potato after scraping the meat will be used as a plate, the meat is crushed and mixed with butter and coconut milk and various toppings to create a greasy mixture.
This dish is both eye-catching and delicious that will surely make every visitor fall when enjoying it. In particular, to create more appeal, the chefs here also add pickles, sausages, beets and salads to the filling to add flavor and not make diners bored when eating.
Maraş Dondurma (Battered ice cream)
One street food in Istanbul that many tourists come to enjoy is Maraş Dondurma. In fact, this is a very special ice cream dish in Turkey that is nowhere in the world. Unlike Italian ice cream, when eaten, Turkish ice cream has a special natural taste, plasticity and especially requires a lot of chewing.
Maraş Dondurma ice cream is made from the powder of the root of the Orchis mascula plant, so when eaten, it feels very thick, instead of easily melting like other ice creams. When buying ice cream in the streets of Istanbul, you will also enjoy the skillful performance of the vendors. A really enjoyable experience, isn’t it?
Dürüm is one of the culinary inventions of the Turks. You will only meet them on a street corner when you are at the restaurant’s fanciest. This meal is sure to fill you up with a variety of rolled ingredients like chicken, beef, cheese, or a variety of veggies of your choice. For the comfort of enjoying special food, stop by Bambi or Kızılkayalar in Taksim Square at any time of the day!
Turkish sand coffee
If you have the opportunity to visit Turkey, do not miss the opportunity to enjoy coffee brewed on the sand, once honored by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage of humanity.
Turkish coffee has been around for a very long time, more than 800 years. When the bans on alcoholic beverages, coffee became more popular and became a familiar drink for people here. Sand coffee originated in Yemen, then it became popular in the Middle East regions, even introduced to North Africa and Eastern Europe. This method of brewing coffee is said to be the oldest in the world. In 2013, UNESCO recognized Turkish sand coffee as a cultural heritage of humanity.
Sand coffee is called coffee brewed on hot sand, using coffee beans like other types. But instead of adding boiling water, sand coffee adds water in the final stage, then boils on hot sand. The tool for making coffee is a small metal cup to keep the temperature stable, with a wide bottom and a narrow mouth, with a long insulated handle called Cezve/Ibrik. With this design will, the coffee does not spill out, as well as the coffee maker does not burn his hands.
Above are some street foods not to be missed when coming to Istanbul, Turkey. It will be a big regret if you do not experience the above-mentioned tasty dishes. Autumn is one of the most beautiful times of the year to travel to Turkey, so you can pack your bags and go right away to this country with this unique culture and cuisine!
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in, from and to Istanbul you can refer to
- Istanbul Welcome Card
- Hagia Sophia Introduction Tour with Audio Guide
- Istanbul Classics Tour
- Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque Small Group Tour
- Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, & Basilica Cistern Combo Tour in Istanbul
- Istanbul Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Tours (Open-Top)
- Hop-on Hop-off Bosphorus Sightseeing Cruise
- 4G SIM Card (MY Delivery) for Turkey from joytel2u
- Istanbul Museum Pass
- [Sale] Sea Life Aquarium Ticket in Istanbul
- Round Trip Ferry Tickets between Prince’s Islands and Istanbul
- Princes’ Island Full Day Tour from Istanbul
- Istanbul Bosphorus Cruise Tour
- Istanbul: Mevlevi Sema and the Whirling Dervishes Show
- Istanbul: Bosphorus Music and Dinner Cruise w/ Private Table
- Istanbul: Bosphorus Cruise with Audio App
- Istanbul: Blue Mosque & Hagia Sophia Small-Group Tour
- Best of Istanbul in 1 Day
- Istanbul: Topkapi Palace Guided Tour and Skip The Line
- Istanbul: Bosphorus Sunset Cruise on a Luxurious Yacht
- Istanbul: Basilica Cistern Skip-the-Line Guided Tour
Are you looking for more top things to do in Istanbul: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Let’s check it out here. And My trip to Istanbul — Explore the bridge city of Asia and Europe. And Turkey travel guide here.