Best local Food in Istanbul: Delicious delights

 In Food, Istanbul, places to eat, Travel, Turkey

When exploring Istanbul’s food, you are in for a treat! Istanbul is a paradise for food lovers offering a variety of flavours influenced by its history. Turkish cuisine is known for its delicious and unique dishes, many of which can be found right on the streets of this busy city. There are many famous places to visit in Istanbul where travellers can try the best local food in Istanbul. One of the most famous foods in Istanbul is kebab, which comes in various forms like sheesh kebab and donor kebab. Another must-try is Turkish mezes, small dishes like hummus, stuffed grape leaves and eggplant salad, perfect for sharing. Seafood is also plenty full due to Istanbul’s location on the Bosporus. Try freshly caught fish sandwiches along the waterfront or dine at a fish restaurant for a more upscale experience. For desserts, indulge in baklava or Turkish delight. To truly experience Istanbul’s food, explore local markets like Grand Bazar or the Spice Bazaar where you can sample exotic spices, cheese, olives and more. So whether you are craving street food or a fine dining experience, get ready for a flavourful journey through the best local food in Istanbul with our Turkey Tour Packages!

Top 20 Best local food in Istanbul

  1. Lahmacun (Turkish pizza)
  2. Doner kebab (Rotating Kebab)
  3. Kumpir (Baked potato)
  4. Cag kebab 
  5. Tantuni
  6. Durum (Wraps)
  7. Borek (Savoury pie)
  8. Tavuklu Nohutlu Pilav (Rice&chicken)
  9. Kokorec (Grilled lamb intestine)
  10. Islak Burger (Wet Burger)
  11. Icli Kofte (stuffed meatballs)
  12. Menemen (Turkish scrambled eggs)
  13. Simit, Çatal, Acma (Bagel, croissant)
  14. Balik Ekmek (Grilled fish sandwich)
  15. Midye Tava (Fried Mussels)
  16. Kestane Kebab (Roasted chestnuts)
  17. Halka Tatlısı (Ring shaped dessert)
  18. Baklava
  19. Kocan Misir (Boiled corn)
  20. Cig kofte (Raw meatballs)

1. Lahmacun (Turkish pizza) 

lahmacun-turkish-pizza

Lahmacun is a 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. It is among the best local food in Istanbul and the best traditional food in Istanbul. 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 roll the whole lahmacun into a wrap and enjoy the flavours. This delicious food is widely available in Istanbul and easy to find. Check out some of the best things to do in Istanbul.

2. Doner kebab (Rotating Kebab)

doner-kebab-rotating-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, chilli, and various sauces. It has become more than just your average fast food in Turkey and is no longer a quick meal. It is one of the best local food in Istanbul. 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.

3. Kumpir (Baked potato)

kumpir-baked-potato

If you ask the local teenagers and students, kumpir will be one of their favourite 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. It is one of the best local food in Istanbul.

4. Cag kebab

cag-kebab

Cag kebab is a horizontally stacked lamb kebab, unlike the vertically roasted doner kebab. Cag kebab is cooked on a rotating spit, and then the meat is shaved off the pit and served to customers. Often, this kebab is stacked on a smaller skewer when it is served. It is typically served with a piece of flatbread and dips. Notably, it tastes delicious when you have it with some sauce. The Cag kebab is zestier than a regular kebab because its meat is typically marinated in flavoursome Turkish spices.

5. Tantuni 

tantuni

Another popular spicy street food in Istanbul is Tantuni, which is prepared with julienned lamb or beef. The lamb or beef is stir-fried in sunflower oil on a thin metal pan (a Turkish sac) utilized for cooking at a high temperature. It is one of the best local food in Istanbul. Traditionally, Tantuni was cooked with tender beef or steak, but today there is a cheaper version of it made with chicken. After cooking the meat nicely, they wrap it in a lavash with chopped veggies like skinless tomatoes, onions, and parsley. Suggesting some top Photography spots in Istanbul while you enjoy the street food.

6. Dürüm (Wraps)

durum-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. It is among the best local food in Istanbul. Do not forget to order a refreshing ayran drink which is a salty yoghurt drink along with your Adana or Urfa dürüm.

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7. Borek (Savoury pie)

borek-savoury-pie

There are different types of börek available across Istanbul, some are the specialities of the Sarıyer and Karaköy neighbourhoods. One can easily spot börek shops anywhere. The ideal time of the day to get it is from morning to noon. Typically, the Turkish folks eat Börek as breakfast. It is a baked puff pastry or shortcrust dough that embraces several fillings, including cheese, ground meat, spinach, and other veggies. This can be your go-to option for a quick Turkish breakfast. It is among the best local food in Istanbul. 

8. Tavuklu Nohutlu Pilav (Rice&chicken)

tavuklu-nohutlu-pilav-ricechicken

Although rice is a staple food of the locals and is cooked in every home, you will also find street vendors selling scrumptious bowls of Tavuk Nohutlu Pilav, which is rice with boiled chicken and chickpeas. Tavuk Nohutlu Pilav is Turkish buttery-flavoured rice that is different from Asian-style plain steamed rice. You can spot this dish on every street corner, specifically around commercial areas & shops. Many street carts or best street food restaurants in Istanbul sell this delicious, cheap, satisfying street food. 

9. Kokorec (Grilled lamb intestine)

kokorec-grilled-lamb-intestine

This dish has grilled sheep intestines outside, and the middle white part in Kokoreç is sheep fat. It is finely chopped and mixed with spices like pepper, oregano, salt, and sometimes fresh tomato. Then, it is served with bread as a sandwich. Though not everyone can eat this dish, throngs of local folks love to eat this classic street food.

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10. Islak Burger (Wet Burger)

islak-burger-wet-burger

These steamed burgers in Istanbul are unlike any you’ve ever had before. Beef patty and soft white buns are flavoured with 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. It is the best street food areas in Istanbul.

11. Icli Kofte (stuffed meatballs)

icli-kofte-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. It is among the best local 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 is the best traditional food in Istanbul.

12. Menemen (Turkish scrambled eggs)

menemen-turkish-scrambled-eggs

Breakfast dish in the city of Istanbul is Menemen. It is comparable to soupy scrambled eggs. The traditional Menemen recipe involves eggs, tomatoes, green bell peppers, and olive oil. It also has a seasoning of ground black pepper and may comprise chopped onion. Typically, the dish is served with a large freshly-prepared Turkish bread. So, it can be a filling breakfast or a light lunch.

13. Simit, Çatal, Acma (Bagel, croissant)

simit-catal-acma-bagel-croissant

Simit is a circular bread encrusted with sesame seeds and is 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. It is among the best local food in Istanbul.

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14. Balik Ekmek (Grilled fish sandwich)

balik-ekmek-grilled-fish-sandwich

One of Istanbul’s best street foods 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. Some of the top hotels and resorts in Istanbul are around this street. 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 best street food restaurants in Istanbul use Norwegian mackerel for fish sandwiches.

15. Midye Tava (Fried Mussels)

midye-tava-fried-mussels

Midye Tava is a crispy snack in Turkey that is served on sticks. Many street vendors and restaurants across Istanbul sell this dish. This is specifically famous in seaside regions, such as Beşiktaş, Kadıköy, Kumkapı, and Ortaköy. This is the best street food area in Istanbul. In this, mussels are fried in a large metal pan filled with hot oil. It is served with a tangy tarator sauce dip prepared with walnuts, olive oil, bread crumbs, strained yoghurt, fresh lemon juice, grated garlic, and salt. You can enjoy these Midye Tava on the stick or in a sandwich for a better satisfying meal.

16. Kestane Kebab (Roasted chestnuts)

kestane-kebab-roasted-chestnuts

Kestane Kebab is probably the simplest form of street food on this list. It is simply the chestnuts roasted on a grill without scraping their skin. The chestnut kebab is an excellent street food in Istanbul and is also healthy. Few people may find its taste bland, but it is a classic snack that is one of the favourites of Turkish people who used to cook them in wood-fired ovens earlier. These are available at any time of the day. Specifically, during the winter & fall season, chestnuts will be fresh & tasty.

17. Halka Tatlısı (Ring shaped dessert)

halka-tatlisi-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.

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18. Baklava

baklava

Baklava is another sweet delicacy among the street foods of Istanbul. It can be easily found at any bakery, neighbourhood store, or supermarket. To prepare Baklava, a filo pastry is nicely stuffed with dried fruits & nuts. Sugar Syrup or honey holds the pastry and its stuffing together, making it quite a sticky dish. This dish is available in different versions like pistachio baklava, walnut baklava, royal rolls, & more. You must try at least one and can buy a single serving or per kilo.

19. Kocan Misir (Boiled corn)

kocan-misir-boiled-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 could be more flavourful. It’s worth trying both grilled and boiled corn since they have different tastes.

20. Cig kofte (Raw meatballs) 

cig-kofte-raw-meatballs

Finely grounded fatless lamb, bulgur, onions, garlic, tomato, and hot pepper paste are treated with extremely hot spices 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.

What is unique about Istanbul's local cuisine?

The city has been a crossroads of cultures for centuries, blending elements from Turkish, Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, Balkan, and Central Asian cuisines. Istanbul’s cuisine offers a wide variety of flavours, spices, and cooking techniques, reflecting the city’s multicultural heritage.

What are some must-try street foods in Istanbul?

Must try best local food in Istanbul is Simit, Balik ekmek, Kumpir and Kokorec. 

Where can I find the best traditional meals in Istanbul?

The best traditional meals in Istanbul are Lahmacun, Lokantas, Manti and Kofte.

What is the most famous local dish in Istanbul?

The most famous dish in Istanbul is Kebab. 

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