Although Istanbul is Türkiyes’ center of gastronomy with many local and international restaurants, street food is also very tasty! Throughout Istanbul and the rest of Türkiye, street food culture is an omnipresent and everyday thread of everyday life. From snacks to full meals, it’s easy to find something tasty to eat on the streets of Türkiye.
The Turks come from nomadic backgrounds and this is one of the main reasons why street food culture is extremely rich and popular across the country.
While different street foods are popular in different regions, the most popular ones (like Simit) can be found almost everywhere in Türkiye. So if you are in a rush or just want to enjoy the buzzing city street life above Türkiye, stop and grab a delicious local snack.
Here is a list of the most popular street foods in Türkiye.
Simit: Freshly baked dough with molasses and sesame crust. It’s a staple for breakfast on the go. Even one-day simit is used as seagull food.
Sokak poğaçası: Palm-sized rolls with or without filling. It can also be found in bakeries.
Süt mısır: Boiled corn, served with salt.
Köz mısır: Turkish for corn, mısır is corn on the cob that is steamed, then lightly grilled and sprinkled with salt, pepper and other spices. Mısır is often a summer staple that coincides with the region’s growing season. It’s a travel-friendly snack sold by vendors who line the bridge over the Bosphorus.
Kumpir: The ultimate baked potato with a wide range of toppings: kasar cheese, sausage, corn, olivier salad (or Russian salad), pickled red cabbage, olives, ketchup and / or mayonnaise as a dressing … Ortaköy is the most popular area in town to eat it.
Balık-ekmek: A popular fish sandwich to enjoy near the coast of Karaköy or Eminönü.
Doner kebab: The basics remain the same: pieces of meat are seasoned with suet, local herbs and spices, skewered and grilled vertically. Originally the meat used for doner kebab was lamb. Today in Istanbul a mixture of lamb and beef, just beef or even just chicken is used.
Kestane Kebap: Roasted chestnuts are sold on the street for those who want to enjoy them by peeling the peel off when it is still warm on cold days.
Midye Dolma: “Stuffed mussels” is a generic name for plump orange mussels, filled with herb and spiced rice and occasionally currants. It is a popular street food snack in Istanbul and Izmir.
Kokoreç: Spiced and skewered sheep intestine, served in half or a quarter of a loaf of bread with plenty of fat and salt.
Tavuklu Pilav: rice with shredded chicken and / or cooked chickpeas. It’s easy to spot the men who sell it in glass-covered carts around town.
Islak Hamburger: The simple burger is filled with garlic-flavored and butter-tomato sauce, which provides the juicy texture and spongy buns.
Çiğ köfte dürüm: This is a food that consists of bulgur patties wrapped in wafer-thin lava bread.
Lahmacun: Lahmacun consists of a thin, crunchy dough spread with spicy minced lamb and is often eaten with parsley and lemon.
Tantuni: This beef and tomato mixture is cooked on a large sizzling metal pan and then wrapped in a very thin flatbread.
Börek: Street Börek is usually made from cheese and offers a quick and tasty breakfast when you are out and about.
Kağıt helva: This sweet consists of a crispy waffle filled with a sweet condensed milk filling.
10 UNMISSABLE STREET FOODS
The culture of street food is like a gold mine in Türkiye. In each city, you can encounter street flavors that are unique to the region and that can appeal to everyone’s palate. Here are 10 of Türkiye’s most popular street food choices that promise mouthwatering tastes to satisfy your cravings.
This richly crunchy, circular bread covered with sesame seeds is a well-known hero amongst the preferred flavors of Türkiye. A freshly baked simit can really make you dizzy with its amazing taste. It is a known fact that the locals have a hard time resisting the smell of this street delight. It can be eaten on its own or with cheese and a cup of tea. Many enjoy it with a glass of ayran, a very popular salted yogurt drink, in the afternoons. It’s also popular as it is budget- and vegan-friendly. In İstanbul, many people share this delicious snack with seagulls as they cross the Bosphorus on the ferry.
Balık Ekmek (Fresh Fish Sandwiches)
This might sound controversial to some; however, it is a fact that balık-ekmek is one of the most popular street foods in Türkiye. The appealing smell of a fresh loaf with warm, grilled fish, fresh greens, and onions invites passersby. It’s very affordable, nutritional, and tasty, and its taste lingers in your mouth.
Kestane Kebap (Roasted Chestnuts)
A delicious street delight that heralds the beginning of winter. Kestane kebap has no other taste like it. It is strong enough to make you turn and head straight for the chestnuts being slowly roasted over charcoal. When winter comes, it’s possible to find a chestnut seller on every corner in almost every city in Türkiye.
Tantuni (Meat Wrap)
Tantuni is originally from Mersin but it is possible to come across this super tasty snack just about everywhere in Türkiye. Tantuni is made from a unique combination of chopped meat with parsley, tomatoes, green peppers, and onions, wrapped into a warm flatbread or sandwiched between half a loaf fresh white bread. This is the perfect way to fill up your belly fast! Many like to accompany it with şalgam, a spicy turnip drink, and a side order of pickles.
Midye Dolma (Stuffed Mussels)
Another irresistible street food! You can often find midye dolma, which are more of a snack than a meal, in coastal areas. Midye dolma is made with a special kind of rice, chopped onions, currants, salt, spices, and lemon. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself at the side of a counter in the street, squeezing a lot of lemon on the mussel in your hand. Once you start, you might not be able to stop! The flavors are addictive. Many locals have been known to eat as many as 100 in one go!
Kumpir (Baked Potatoes)
Are you one of those people who love all kinds of potatoes? If so, you shouldn’t miss kumpir sold on the streets of Türkiye. Without a doubt, these delicious snacks are a major contribution to the many way of eating potatoes. Following the addition of butter, you are faced with a mountain of choices for further toppings. There’s no limit to how many you can pile on top! Toppings range from sausages to pickles, sweetcorn to olives. It’s guaranteed you’ll come back time and time again to try a different combination of flavors.
Tavuklu Pilav (Chicken with Rice)
If you are in a hurry and looking for a grab-and-go, a plate of tavuklu pilav can be a great option. It is simply made by putting boiled chicken pieces on top of plain rice, a companion of classical Turkish cuisine. Boiled chickpeas are also added to this unique duo. A great accompaniment is a glass of ayran and a plate of pickles.
Çiğ Köfte – Bulgur Patties
Kneading bulgur with onions, garlic, and various spices forms a beautiful delicacy: çiğ köfte, or bulgur patties! It’s an unforgettable treat on the streets of Türkiye. It can be eaten alone or wrapped in thin lavaş bread with fresh greens. Aficionados often add lots of lemon and pomegranate syrup and accompany it with ayran. Çiğ köfte can be found almost everywhere in Türkiye. Traditionally this dish was used to be prepared with raw meat, but this is rarely the case any longer. However, if you are concerned, don’t hesitate to ask!
Buzlu Badem (Fresh Almonds on Ice)
One of the best and most refreshing street snacks, especially in the overwhelming heat. Fresh almonds are boiled or blanched in hot water, then peeled and served on ice. Vendors usually stop and offer their wares to customers at tables in bars and restaurants. This fresh snack is a street food you will encounter in many streets while you are walking in the evening.
Turşu Suyu (Pickle Juice)
Turşu (pickles), which started to gain importance in Ottoman cuisine in the 15th century, are a street food that is intricately linked with tradition. Turşu suyu is delicious with its bold flavor and sold in glasses with small pieces of chopped pickles. This unique taste will get you addicted fast! It has a salty and sour taste, and can be found easily at mobile stalls, in bazaars, and markets.