Visited by millions of local and foreign tourists, Istanbul attracts attention not only with its historical monuments but also with its must-taste flavors. For this reason, in addition to cultural tours, tours for the street flavors of Istanbul have become popular in recent years. Take a look at this article for the best street flavors you can’t find anywhere else in the world.
12 street foods in Istanbul you have to eat
- Balık Ekmek
- Islak Hamburger
- Midye Dolma
- Tavuklu Pilav
- Halka Tatlısı
- Turşu Suyu
- Közde / Haşlanmış Mısır
- Explanation: Fish Bread
- Where to eat: On the fishermen’s boat in Eminönü
Although Fish Bread can be found in many parts of Istanbul, the traditional address is Eminönü. At the historical Eminönü Fish Bread, you can eat your fish cooked on a boat on the edge of the Golden Horn, against the Galata Tower. Fish bread is one of the favorite delicacies of not only locals but also tourists. The flavor that attracts people with its fragrant smell as soon as you pass by, gives a very different pleasure when eaten on the street. Eminönü is the place where you can eat the most delicious fish and bread against the sea view. Don’t forget to order the pickle juice, the only accompaniment to the fish bread.
- Explanation: Steamed hamburger
- Where to eat: Kizilayalar in Taksim
Steamed hamburger is one of the Istanbul delicacies whose fame has crossed borders. Wet hamburger, which conquers hearts with its wonderful sauce, is one of the flavors that will be included in the fast food category. For those who can’t imagine a wet hamburger, it is a hamburger bun with a slightly smaller patty than a normal hamburger. The burger bun and patty are dipped in a delicious tomato sauce and kept in a steamer box to keep them moist. The steamed burger is not as heavy as a regular burger and it is recommended to order at least two burgers to fill up. A steamed burger is an exceptional dish that should be one of the first things you eat when you visit Taksim. A fast food restaurant called Kızılkayalar is located close to Taksim Square and serves the best wet burger in the city.
- Explanation: Stuffed Mussels
- Where to eat: Midyeci Ahmet
Stuffed mussels are one of the flavors that we can frequently encounter on the streets of Istanbul. Istanbulites usually consume stuffed mussels on foot from mobile stalls. Mussel dolma is a mixture of rice, herbs, onion, and oil cooked in boiling water and served in pre-cleaned mussel shells. This popular street food is often served with a squeeze of lemon at the seaside in Istanbul. It is also known as the fast food of the nightlife of the young population. Mouth-watering stuffed mussels with plenty of lemons are sold from morning until evening and even into the night. Beşiktaş, Bostancı Beach, and Kadıköy are some of the places where stuffed mussels are most famous.
- Explanation: Bagels with sesame
- Where to eat: On simit trays on the street
Simit is one of the street delicacies that people all over the world associate with Istanbul and Turkey. You can find it on the beach, on the street, on the busiest avenues, in short, everywhere, and no bakery product can replace it. But be quick, fresh bagels are sold on the streets from early in the morning and sell out by noon. Especially if you want to enjoy Istanbul like a local, don’t forget to buy a bagel and share it with the seagulls before taking the ferry from Kadıköy or Eminönü. You will find bagels everywhere on the street and don’t even think about buying a bagel from the bakery. Turkish people make a clear distinction between ‘street bagel’ and ‘bakery bagel’. Freshly baked simit from the street will always be their first choice!
- Explanation: Rice with Chickpeas
- Where to eat: Tahtakale Pilavcısı, Meşhur Unkapanı Pilavcısı
Another well-known and popular street food among Istanbulites is pilaf cooked with butter and chickpeas. The most preferred drink to accompany pilaf with chicken is ayran with yogurt. Although pilaf with chickpeas is a hearty and delicious dish, Istanbulites prefer to eat it from street vendors or small restaurants because they claim that you will never find the real flavor of pilaf with chickpeas when you cook it at home. For this reason, we recommend that if you see a pilaf cart on the street, don’t miss this opportunity and order pilaf and buttermilk and enjoy this wonderful harmony.
- Explanation: ring dessert
- Where to eat: At dessert shops, bakeries, or from stands on the streets
Halka tatlısı is a dessert in the shape of a circle, hence its name. This dish is comparable to churros, a crispy doughnut in the shape of a ring that is fried in oil and tossed in cold syrup. It is usually served hot, but if you buy it from a street stand it will probably be served cold. We recommend trying this ring dessert when you have a sweet craving but be warned, it can be addictive.
- Explanation: thick, sour drink made by fermenting and souring grains such as barley, wheat, corn
- Where to eat: Vefa Bozacısı – Fatih
Boza is a traditional Turkish drink prepared with millet, corn, or bulgur and consumed especially in winter. The history of boza dates back to 8-9 thousand years ago. In the Ottoman Empire, boza was produced in places called “Bozahane”. Evliya Çelebi mentions in his works that there were more than 300 boza shops in Istanbul in the middle of the 17th century and about 1100 boza makers worked in these shops. In the past, boza was drunk with molasses, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg, but today it is mostly consumed with cinnamon and yellow chickpeas. If you want to try boza in Istanbul, you should drink it at Vefa Bozacısı.
- Explanation: Chestnut
- Where to eat: Taksim, Istiklal Caddesi
For Istanbulites, it is impossible to say goodbye to winter without eating roasted chestnuts. Fortunately, it is possible to find chestnut shops on almost every street and alley in Istanbul, especially in tourist areas. Chestnuts, which both warm you up and satisfy your hunger in freezing weather, are usually found on busy streets such as Taksim and Kadıköy. Eating chestnuts while walking with your loved ones during the cold winter months will give you very special happiness. If you visit Istanbul in spring or summer, you will find warm chestnut stands on Istiklal Street and you will have the chance to try this warming street delicacy.
- Explanation: Pickle juice
- Where to eat: Eminönü Tarihi Turşucusu
As you visit the fishing boats, your eyes will also be drawn to the pickle juice stalls selling colorful red and purple juices in plastic cups. Pickle juice is an indispensable habit of Turkish culture. The benefits of pickle juices are countless. It is sour and this sourness is a feast for the stomach. Nothing can replace the pleasure of drinking a glass of pickle juice when you go to the bazaar. The pickles in the pickle juice are eaten with such pleasure that it attracts even those who do not like pickles. You should not leave Istanbul without giving this habit a chance.
- Explanation: Doner of lamb’s intestines
- Where to eat: Çengelköy Kokoreççisi, Çengelköy
Kokoreç is one of the most different street flavors that you can come across on the streets and makes you hungry with its smell. Kokoreç is one of the flavors you should eat from a place you trust and know to be clean. Kokoreç, which you can eat at any time of the day or night, can please even those who do not like meat with its smell. It is usually served with bread, onion, tomato, and pickled cucumber. There are two kinds of opinions about kokorec, either people love it or they don’t eat it at all. The reason for this is the content of the kokorec. Kokorec is a dish made by combining the large intestine and small intestine of lamb and adding spices to it. Although it doesn’t sound very mouthwatering, it is one of the most popular lamb delicacies from Anatolia.
Közde / Haşlanmış Mısır
- Explanation: street stands
- Where to eat: Roasted / Boiled Corn
Corn, which some people prefer to eat roasted and others prefer to eat boiled, is frequently seen in Istanbul, especially in crowded places. Street vendors especially in tourist areas sell this wonderful corn. In fact, the smell is so good that it permeates you even if you haven’t seen it yet. We can say that taking a bite of your delicious corn will increase the enjoyment of your trip.
- Explanation: Filled potato with butter, cheese, and toppings
- Where to eat: Ortaköy
Potatoes are one of the most delicious forms of potato. How bad can a potato be when you’ve already stuffed it with your favorite foods? To explain in detail, after the potato is baked in a special oven, while it is still steaming, it is split open and butter and cheddar cheese are added on top. The butter and cheese melt together with the potato and create a delicious flavor. After the potato is integrated with the butter and cheese, salami, sausage, corn, kısır, olives, and American salad are added on top. It is covered with pickles, ketchup, mayonnaise, and many other ingredients. Ortaköy is the most famous place in Istanbul for this flavor.
Looking for a luxurious experience in Istanbul?
To enjoy authentic Turkish cuisine, there is no way around the street food stalls. As much as we recommend trying Kokorec, Simit, and co, we would also like to recommend the best restaurants in Istanbul for a luxurious dinner or a Street Food Tour for the ultimate experience.