Istanbul’s Street Food – What’s Hot And What’s Not!

Picture of street seller in Istanbul selling corn.

by Erlend Geerts

in Practical Information, Restaurants

Eating street food is very much part of the Istanbul way of life. You can’t walk for over a kilometer without coming accross one or more street vendors and a dozen of snack shops or büfes. And with street food we don’t just mean food literally bought and eaten on the street, but also an array of light snacks such as pastry (börek), kebap, döner and meatballs (köfte). Here’s is an overview of what’s hot and what’s not, as well as a list of usual suspects.

Hot Istanbul Street Food

Döner seller on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey.

Döner seller on the streets of Istanbul.

  • Kebap – together with döner, this is probably the first street food that comes to any tourist’s mind when asked to name one. Kebap actually means small pieces of broiled or roasted meat — generally cow, sheep or chicken. Excellent dishes you may want to try out are İskender Kebap, Adana Kebap, Patlıcan Kebap and Şiş Kebap.
  • Döner – this tightly packed meat roasted on a large vertical spit is the basis for fast-food snacks (or even full meals) such as Pilav Üstü Döner, İskedender and Dürüm. Although you can find these half-outside/half-inside eateries almost anywhere, for the biggest concentration head to the beginning of Istiklal Caddesi in Taksim.
  • Börek – a flaky pastry consisting of several thin layers, often with a specific shape and/or filling. You’ll see locals entering these tiny shops for a quick breakfast or lunch. Among my favorites are ıspanaklı börek (with spinach filling), peynirli börek (with cheese filling), kıymalı börek (with minced meat filling) and patatesli börek (with potato filling). If you prefer it rather plain, you can’t go wrong with su böreği.
  • Pide – a slightly leavened, flat pizza like bread. They again come in different styles, with Kaşarlı Pide (melted cheese) and Sucuklu Pide (melted cheese and spicy sausage) among the most popular.
  • Lahmacun – a Turkish-style pizza. A very thin round piece of pide, with ground meat, onions, pepper paste, sometimes tomato, pepper, parsley, and spices. It is often served with a salad and a few pieces of lemon in a side dish. You’ll see locals topping the pizza with the salad, sprinkling is with lemon and making a roll out of it.
  • Mısır – freshly boiled or grilled corn on the cob, often sprinkled with salt or spices. This popular snack is almost exclusively sold during the summer months by the real street sellers with their push-cars.
  • Kestane – due to the lack of corn in winter, the street vendors mentioned above shift to roasted chestnuts in winter time.
  • Balık ekmek – literaly translated ‘fish bread’. And that’s basically what it is — fish, grilled or fried in front of your eyes and stuffed inside a large piece of bread. Fans of this fast-food can have a blast in Eminönü, on the shore next to the Galata Bridge.

Cold Istanbul Street Food

Simit and acma on display in Istanbul, Turkey.

Simit and açma on display in push-car.

  • Simit – a crisp, ring-shaped, savory roll covered with sesame. Sold by street sellers with glass-fronted push-cars. There are two main versions: sokak simit (sold on the streets and very crispy) and pastane simit (sold in shops and softer).
  • Açma – a ring-shaped savory bun — a Turkish-style dougnut if you will. It’s soft but also a bit oily.
  • Poğaça – a flaky, savory pastry. You can go for the plain one (sade) or choose one with a filling: peynirli (cheese), kıymalı (minced meat), or my personal favorite — zeytinli (black olives)
  • Çiğ köfte – originally a dish made of raw ground meat, pounded wheat and red pepper. It’s a delicacy, but now only found at home. Commercially sold çiğ köfte is no longer allowed to contain raw meat, but it’s still something you should try out.

The Usual Suspects

When wandering through Istanbul’s streets, you’ll also notice the following snacks being sold. While they’re all delicious when fresh and prepared well, be cautious when buying them on the (sunny) streets. Ask for local advice as to where to order them best!

Kokoreç on its horizontal skewer in Istanbul, Turkey.

Kokoreç on its horizontal skewer.

  • Midye dolma – stuffed mussels. If you’re a fan, you may want to prefer eating those in a real restaurant.
  • Kokoreç – grilled sheep intestines with an almost industrial amount of spices, roasted on a skewer. A very popular snack after a night out and (too) many drinks. So which skewer has the döner and which one the intestines? Luckily for us, the kokoreç skewer is always positioned horizontally.

Afiyet Olsun! (have a nice meal)

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What's Next

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Linda K Cingilli January 23, 2013 at 9:02 am

My husband and I have made seven trips to Turkey and we have enjoyed all of these specialties listed above. I favor Turkish cuisine above all others save my paternal grandmother’s Polonya recipes. I am enjoying these descriptions you have written about Istanbul, the most glorious city in the world. Orhan, my husband, is from Kayseri. We have been married for 46 years and have traveled all over the western part of Turkey and central Anatolia. Bursa is my second favorite, and Antalya (Goynuk, especially Majestic Kalikia Hotel – we’ve been there three times) is third. I love Turkey and everything about it, but every city has to grow and I miss the greenery coming in from the airport.


Erlend Geerts January 24, 2013 at 7:35 am

Thanks a lot Linda for sharing this.

Kind regards,


sarkarosso September 14, 2013 at 6:10 pm

Hello Erlend,
After your tips about traveling around in Istanbul, I would like to know about the cost of food in Istanbul.
How much do I spend for a light meal in a moderate restaurant in Sultanahmet area?
I know you will say-‘It will depend on what you eat and where you eat!’
So, say a seafood meal with bread/rice(?) — TL ……..
A chicken meal with bread/pita —- TL ………
Or a Vegan meal with staples —- TL …….
Why I ask is because in Istanbul we want to eat Turkish food, and not go with McD or Col Saunders.
Best Regards


Erlend Geerts September 15, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Hi Sarkarosso,

It’s very difficult to give prices. It changes from establishment to establishment, and in the case of fish on the fish itself (lobster is obviously more expensive than a sardine) and the price of the day.

But in general, quality food is easy to find, and at very reasonable prices, often less than a visit to MacD.

Kind regards,


Haider July 2, 2014 at 11:33 pm

Thank you for this :) Makes choosing what food to get easier


Danielle July 7, 2014 at 9:33 am

Thank you for this great post! My husband and I just arrived in Turkey and will be here for the next five weeks. We’re traveling for a year and love exploring the street food in each country (both for the local experience and the budget). We don’t speak Turkish, though we have our handy flashcards, and were wondering if you could advise us on something. I’m allergic to garlic and onions (a blast during our three months in India). Can you recommend the traditional snacks/dishes that won’t contain those ingredients?


Erlend Geerts July 7, 2014 at 4:02 pm

Hi Danielle,

Unfortunately, many Turkish dishes contain onions(and garlic to a lesser extend). From the top of my hat, these are free of those ingredients:
– peynirli börek, su böreği
– simit, açma
– döner (make sure that they don’t add onion (rings) or spicy sauces)
– kaşarlı pide
– mısır
– kestane

These are safe from the street food list.

Kind regards,


Natalia October 13, 2014 at 5:12 pm

Hi Erlend,

Firstly, thank you for this blog – the effort you go to, to help strangers enjoy Istanbul is beyond compare.

Like Danielle, I am also allergic to garlic (and onions to a lesser extent – garlic however will make me seriously ill). Could you please let me know how to say this in Turkish?

Many thanks in advance


Erlend Geerts October 13, 2014 at 6:49 pm

Hi Natalia,

Garlic in Turkish is ‘sarımsak’ (saremsack). So, without garlic becomes ‘sarımsaksız lütfen’.

Kind regards,


Sejad July 18, 2014 at 12:29 pm


I have a question about Doner – as it is written in your text “Although you can find these half-outside/half-inside eateries almost anywhere, for the biggest concentration head to the beginning of Istiklal Caddesi in Taksim”.
Where can I find a good doner (and other street food in general) in Sultanahmet area?

Many thanks,


Erlend Geerts July 18, 2014 at 5:37 pm

Hi Sejad,

I never said the once in Sultanahmet weren’t good. I merely said that the highest concentration is in Taksim :-)

Just trust your eyes and taste buds.

Bon apetit,


Libby July 30, 2014 at 4:20 am

Hi Erlend,

I’m so glad I found your website before our trip to Istanbul this September!! I’m a vegetarian – I know there are lots of vegetarian options, but do you know of any really great places that specialize in it? Also, I’ve heard English is widely spoken in Istanbul, but how would I ask for something vegetarian in Turkish?

Thanks so much! I really appreciate all your insight to everything in Istanbul!



Erlend Geerts July 30, 2014 at 11:28 pm

Hi Libby,

I addressed this question in the comments of the Turkish dishes post.

I hope this answers your question.

Kind regards,


Tatyana September 2, 2014 at 7:20 pm

Hi Erlend,
My son and husband have some allergies on tree nuts, gluten and sesame seeds .Can you recommend the traditional snacks/dishes or sweets that won’t contain those ingredients?
Thank you,


Erlend Geerts September 2, 2014 at 11:42 pm

Hi Tatyana,

I’m afraid I can’t help you with that. Maybe look for websites specialized in helping people with such allergies and drop this question in their forums regarding Turkish food.

Kind regards,


denny October 11, 2014 at 5:35 pm

I was wondering if ATM from a small bank here in the states will work at an ATM in Istanbul? Our card is affiliated with the NYCE network vs the larger Cirrus network.


Erlend Geerts October 13, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Hi Denny

I’m afraid that may pose problems. Ask if they are affiliated with the maestro or visa network. If not, than I won’t take the risk.

Kind regards,


Yasminj October 16, 2014 at 12:09 am


I am muslim and therefore only eat halal food.
I was wondering if all food in Istanbul is halal certified or does it change from establishment to establishment.

Also how do I ask stores if they are halal certified and what do I look for in terms of certification.


(P.S. I really enjoy reading your post. )


Erlend Geerts October 16, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Hi Yasmin,

Istanbul is a world city, hence caters for everybody. However, most restaurants don’t serve pig meat, and the ones that do will certainly indicate this clearly. For certification, you better ask individual establishments.

Kind regards,


Echa Khusnul November 24, 2014 at 6:03 am

Dear Erlend

i really love to read your blog, and save it as my favorites. it will be my guideline to my second trip to istanbul. i love most of the food, except one sour soup ( i forget the name, hehe). in ortakoy i ate kumpir ( big baked potatoe ) and waffle they all good.
aahhh… how i miss to get there again,

and for the information, its easy to use the atm there, and the rate is very good. especially the local bank. you dont need to find the money changer, atm is the best way i think.


Tata February 12, 2015 at 8:31 am

sorry i meant i have no idea what foods to try first here in turkey

This was a corrected version


Erlend Geerts February 12, 2015 at 9:23 pm

Hi Tata,

Why not have a look at these top Turkish dishes?



Fifi March 16, 2015 at 4:30 pm


I want to know where I can eat in Istanbul a delicious kebab with chicken?
I don`t like the taste of lamb/sheep meat.
Can you recommend me some good places that serve dishes based on chicken and veal?
Thank you.
All the best.


Erlend Geerts March 16, 2015 at 6:42 pm

Hi Fifi,

There is no ‘real’ kebap from chicken. They have a dish called ‘Tavuk Şiş Kebap’ which is basically pieces of chicken on a skewer, grilled over charcoal, just like the meat kebaps. It also comes with bulgur rice and peppers. You can find them all over the city.

Kind regards,


Savita yadav March 26, 2015 at 8:20 pm

Can we get vegetarian food there.because we would like to explore and relish only vegetarian meal.


Erlend Geerts March 27, 2015 at 6:04 pm

Hi Savita,

Yes, especially their mezes are often vegetarian, but Turks love meat and fish. Type in vegetarian in the search bar on the site, and some tips and trips in comments I wrote earlier should surface.

Kind regards,


Hilary Meyer April 27, 2015 at 1:38 pm

Thanks for a great blog. I am gluten intolerant and visiting Turkey next month (May 2015) Are there any stores that supply product and which dishes should I stay away from and which should I eat?


Erlend Geerts April 27, 2015 at 6:25 pm

Hi Hilary,

Most big supermarkets have a small section of gluten free products. As for dishes to order in restaurants, you must ask the waiters for how it is prepared to be sure.

Kind regards,


Soshi June 4, 2015 at 6:51 pm

Can’t wait to visit Istanbul again :)


Clifton Jimrevees June 24, 2015 at 2:11 pm

Dear Erlend,

Kumpir, Tavuk Gogsu, Borek, Ayran, Lahmacun, Dondurma, Fresh pomegranate juice, Simit, Balik ekmek, Mezzes, Dolmas, Kababs(kebap), Raki, Sherbet, kunefe, baklava, Menemen, Doner, Pide, Misir……

I hope I did not miss any of the street food !!



Erlend Geerts June 24, 2015 at 4:23 pm

There is no way you can enjoy rakı on the street. Drinking in public (read: on the road, in a park, etc.) is forbidden.


Simina June 25, 2015 at 2:55 pm

We’ll be traveling to Istanbul in approximately two months and we are desperately looking forward to trying most of these foods, except the intestines and the muscles (I love muscles, but if they’re suspects on the streets then I’ll just avoid them). I’ve tried several Turkish dishes in Romania, Bucharest, like the lahmacun, the kebabs and others, but I’m sure they’ll taste even better in Istanbul. We also have some cold foods similar to simits, called covrigi. They seem quite a lot alike :) Not to mention the Turkish coffee which will be the first thing I’ll try! Thank you for a great website, for great tips on Istanbul. It’s very helpful.


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