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Turkish Street Food: 15 Delicious Dishes That You Need to Try in Istanbul

Istanbul is one of my favorite cities in the world. I love its hilly streets, majestic mosques, and unparalleled river views. It’s a city with a long and fascinating history and a unique geography. Divided by the Bosphorus Strait, it’s the only city I can think of that straddles two continents – Europe and Asia.

Istanbul offers something fun for everyone but if you travel to eat like we do, then one thing that’ll keep you coming back is the food. In my opinion, Turkish food is one of the greatest cuisines in the world. Aside from its rich stews and tasty mezzes, it boasts a diverse array of street food, many of the most delicious being widely available throughout Istanbul.

From fish wraps to stuffed mussels to roasted lamb intestines and Turkish ice cream, here are fifteen popular street food dishes that you need to try on your next trip to Istanbul.


If you’re visiting Istanbul and want to learn more about Turkish cuisine, then you may want to join a food tour or take a cooking class.


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Colombian mango biche from a street food vendor in Cartagena


1. Kestane (Roasted Chestnuts)

Starting off this list is one of the simplest but most addictive street food dishes you’ll find in Istanbul – roasted chestnuts. It’s a healthy and delicious snack that you can find near popular tourist attractions like Hagia Sophia and Dolmabahce Palace. You’ll find a few street vendors along Istiklal Caddesi as well.

Whenever I get a whiff of freshly roasted chestnuts, it’s hard for me not to stop and buy a bag. I assumed they’d only be available during the colder months in Istanbul but I recently enjoyed a bag in July. I love them because they’re fun to eat and always remind me of Christmas.

Kestane in Istanbul

2. Mısır (Corn)

Street vendors peddling chestnuts usually sell corn as well. I’ve never tried them in Istanbul but you can get them either grilled or boiled. Try pairing an ear with a bag of chestnuts for a healthy meatless street food treat.

Based on what I’ve read, corn is available throughout the year in Istanbul but they’re best in the spring or summer.

Grilled and boiled corn in Istanbul

3. Simit

Simit is easily one of the most popular street food dishes in Istanbul. Commonly eaten for breakfast or as a snack, there seems to be a street vendor selling simit on every street corner in the city.

Often referred to as a Turkish bagel, simit is a ring-shaped Turkish bread encrusted with sesame, poppy, or sunflower seeds. It’s a crunchy and chewy snack that can be eaten on its own or enjoyed for breakfast with Turkish cheese, fruit preserves, and Turkish tea.

If you’re visiting Istanbul on a budget, then simit is a great go-to snack. It’s a cheap street food dish that’s filling and delicious.

Simit in Istanbul

4. Börek

Borek is another popular street food that you’ll find everywhere in Istanbul. It refers to a family of baked or fried pastries made with a thin flaky dough (like yufka or phyllo) stuffed with different ingredients like cheese, potatoes, meat, and vegetables.

Borek is popular not just in Istanbul, but throughout Turkiye and in many countries across the Balkans and Caucasus like Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Albania, and Armenia. In Turkiye, you’ll find many different varieties like spiral borek, potato borek, and arm borek.

Pictured below is water borek, a type of borek made with boiled sheets of dough layered with cheese and other fillings.

Borek in Istanbul

On our last trip to Istanbul, we’d sometimes run down to the nearest bakery early in the morning and bring back a takeaway bag of borek. It’s a quick Turkish breakfast that’s cheap and delicious.

Vendor cutting borek in Istanbul

5. Midye Dolma

We fell in love with midye dolmas on our first trip to Istanbul many years ago. A cheap street food snack, it’s something we look forward to on every return trip to the city.

Midye dolma is a popular street food dish made with a mussel stuffed with herbed rice, currants, pine nuts, and spices. Spritzed with lemon juice, it makes for a tasty little snack that you can enjoy per piece or by the dozen.

Midye dolmas are commonly sold by street vendors and at kokorec (#6) stalls throughout the city. Sometimes, you’ll find them at seafood and fish restaurants as well.

Midye dolmas in Istanbul

6. Kokoreç

Like street carts offering chestnuts and corn, kokorec and midye dolmas are typically sold from the same stalls or restaurants in Istanbul. I don’t know how that came to be but that was convenient for us because these are two of the most interesting street food dishes you’ll find in Istanbul.

Kokorec refers to a Turkish dish made with grilled lamb intestines wrapped around seasoned offal meat like kidney, heart, sweetbreads, and lung. The meat is roasted on a rotisserie before being chopped up into small pieces and served as is or sandwiched between two pieces of bread.

Gamey and mineral-y in flavor, kokorec isn’t the healthiest dish on this list but it’s supremely tasty and something adventurous eaters may want to try on their next trip to Istanbul.

Kokorec in Istanbul

At first glance, kokorec looks like porchetta or a horizontal version of doner kebab.

The grilled lamb intestines have a strong flavor so it’s best to enjoy kokorec with bread. Most places will serve it in quarter, half, or full bread portions. It’s one of the tastiest dishes we’ve had in Turkiye thus far so a little goes a long way.

Kokorec grilling in Istanbul

7. Dürüm

These tasty Turkish wraps are among the most famous street foods in Istanbul. Meaning “meat” in Turkish, it’s made with lavash or yufka bread filled with different types of meat like doner kebab, chicken, fish, urfa kebab, and adana kebab.

Pictured below was my tasty durum from Durumzade, a small shop made famous by the late great Anthony Bourdain. It was made with adana kebab (minced beef mixed with lamb tail fat), tomato, onions, peppers, fresh or pickled cucumber, and a generous dusting of sumac. Delicious!

Beef durum in Istanbul

Here’s a version of durum made with kuzu sis, or lamb shish kebabs.

Chicken durum in Istanbul

Called balik durum, this one was made with a fillet of grilled mackerel. Balik durum is one of the most delicious street food dishes you can enjoy in Istanbul. Personally, it’s one of my favorites.

Fish durum in Istanbul

This vertical rotisserie is one of the most common sights you’ll find in Istanbul. A commonly used ingredient in Turkish wraps, the doner kebab is one of the most influential dishes in Turkish cuisine. It’s credited for inspiring similar dishes like Greek gyros, Arabic shawarmas, and Mexican tacos al pastor.

Doner kebab in Istanbul

8. Pide

Pide is a canoe-shaped type of Turkish flatbread, similar in appearance to Georgian adjarian khachapuri. It’s baked in a stone or brick oven and can be topped with different ingredients like meat, cheese, egg, and vegetables.

Sometimes referred to as “Turkish pizza”, pide is commonly served as a starter or snack at Turkish restaurants but we’ve seen it sold as street food as well.

Pide in Istanbul

9. Lahmacun

We like pide, but we love lahmacun. It’s another pizza-like dish that’s often referred to as Turkish pizza.

Lahmacun looks like a round thin-crust pizza made without cheese. It consists of Turkish pita dough topped with a variety of different ingredients like minced meat, vegetables, tomatoes, onions, pickles, herbs, and spices.

Another key difference between lahmacun and pizza is in how it’s consumed. Unlike pizza that’s sliced into wedges, lahmacun is rolled up like a burrito and then eaten.

Lahmacun in Istanbul

All rolled up and ready to eat! When done well, the flatbread is crispy around the edges while staying soft and chewy towards the middle.

You can find places that offer lahmacun as street food in Istanbul but in our experience, the best examples are served at restaurants specializing in this tasty Turkish treat.

Lahmacun in Istanbul

10. Balik Ekmek

Balik ekmek is a Turkish grilled fish sandwich. It’s basically the same thing as balik durum (fish wrap), but instead of being wrapped in flatbread, the ingredients are served in a sandwich bun. Just give it a spritz of lemon juice and you’re good to go!

I love fish sandwiches but personally, I prefer balik durum to balik ekmek. It has a better fish-to-bread ratio. Balik ekmek is nice but it tastes a little too bready for me.

We’ve never tried it but I read that locals like to enjoy balik ekmek with a glass of turnip or pickle juice.

Fish sandwich in Istanbul

11. Islak Burger

I’m much more into street food than fine dining because I don’t care how my food looks. As long as it’s delicious, then I’m a happy man. If you’re like me and don’t mind ugly but delicious food, then the islak burger is calling your name.

Meaning “wet burger”, islak burger is an iconic late-night street food dish in Istanbul. It gets its name from being dunked in a garlicky tomato sauce before being left to steam in a hamam-style glass box.

Islak burgers aren’t beautiful, but they’re oddly delicious, especially after a few beers. It’s a favorite snack among late-night partyers in Istanbul.

Islak burger in Istanbul

12. Tavuk Pilav

This next dish may not seem all that appetizing but looks can be deceiving. Tavuk pilav literally means “chicken rice” and refers to a popular street food in Istanbul consisting of boiled chicken served with chickpeas and rice. Similar to Hainanese chicken, what makes the rice in tavuk pilav special is that it’s cooked in chicken broth.

Cheap, tasty, and filling, tavuk pilav is another great street food dish to look for if you’re visiting Istanbul on a budget.

Tavuk pilav in Istanbul

E4024, CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED, via Wikimedia Commons / Cropped, processed in Photoshop and Lightroom

13. Halka Tatlısı

If you have a taste for the sweeter things in life, then you’re probably going to enjoy this super sweet street dessert called halka tatlisi. Resembling Spanish churros, it’s made with fried dough dipped in a sticky sweet, lemon-infused syrup.

Halka tatlisi in Istanbul

14. Sambali

Sambali is another sticky sweet dessert that you might want to try in Turkiye. It’s more common in Izmir but you may find it in Istanbul as well. It’s basically a type of Turkish semolina cake made with milk (or yogurt), sugar, molasses, almonds, and lemon juice.

Sambali in Istanbul

15. Dondurma

Have you seen social media videos of those vest-wearing ice cream vendors in Istanbul? They pretend to hand over ice cream cones to customers, only to pull back the ice cream and trick them into grabbing empty cones. What they’re selling is dondurma, one of my favorite types of ice cream.

Like simit and doner kebab, dondurma is one of the most popular street foods you’ll find in Istanbul. It’s a stickier type of Turkish ice cream made with salep (orchid tubers) and mastic (plant resin), two ingredients that make the ice cream chewier and more resistant to melting. It’s this stickier nature that allows dondurma vendors to have fun with their customers.

Like regular ice cream or gelato, dondurma comes in many different flavors. If you want just the ice cream and not the show, then go to a regular shop, one that doesn’t have vendors wearing vests and fes hats.

Dondurma in Istanbul


One street food dish that we’ve seen often enough but haven’t tried yet is kumpir. It refers to a baked potato that’s been topped with cheese, butter, and other ingredients like corn, grated carrots, cabbage, olives, mushrooms, Russian salad, and more. It’s another inexpensive street food in Istanbul that’s filling but easy on the wallet.

I wanted to cap this list at twenty but other street foods and drinks you might want to try include cig kofte and salep. Cig kofte refers to a unique dish that used to be made with finely ground raw meat cured with spices. Due to health precautions, it’s now made mostly with bulgur but it’s still an interesting dish nonetheless.

If you visit Istanbul in winter, then you need to try salep. It’s a hot beverage made from the same orchid tubers that give dondurma its sticky consistency. A bit floral in flavor, it has a unique taste that’s unlike anything we’ve tried before.

Like Bangkok and Penang, Istanbul is one of our favorite street food cities in the world. Twenty is a good number to start with but it barely scratches the surface. There are many more interesting dishes to discover, which is part of what makes a trip to Istanbul so exciting. We can’t wait to go back ourselves and try more!


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