Turkish street food
Although İstanbul is Türkiye’s center of gastronomy with lots of local and international restaurants, street food is also very tasty! Throughout İstanbul and the rest of Türkiye, street food culture is a pervasive and common thread of everyday life. From snacks to full meals, it’s easy to grab something delicious on the streets of Türkiye.
Turkish people come from a nomadic background, and this is one of the main reasons why street food culture is extremely rich and popular all across the country.
While different street food is popular in different regions, the most popular (like simit) can be found nearly everywhere in Türkiye. So, if you are in a rush, or just want to enjoy the vibrant street life in the cities across Türkiye, stop and grab a delicious local snack.
Here is a list of some of the most popular street foods in Türkiye.
- Simit: Freshly baked, molasses-dipped, and sesame-crusted dough. It is a staple of breakfasts on the go. Even day-old simit has its use as seagull feed.
- Sokak poğaçası: Palm-sized buns with or without filling. It can also be found in bakeries.
- Süt mısır: Boiled corn, served with salt.
- Köz mısır: Turkish for maize, mısır is corn on the cob that is steamed, then lightly grilled and sprinkled with salt, pepper, and other spices. Often a summer staple coinciding with the region's growing season, mısır is a travel-friendly snack sold by vendors lining the bridge atop the Bosphorus.
- Kumpir: The ultimate baked potato with a great variety of toppings to choose from: kaşar cheese, sausage, corn, Olivier (or Russian) salad, pickled red cabbage, olives, ketchup and/or mayonnaise as a dressing… Ortaköy is the most popular area in the city to eat it.
- Balık-ekmek: A popular fish sandwich that can be enjoyed near Karaköy or Eminönü shore.
- Döner: The basics remain the same: pieces of meat are seasoned with suet, local herbs, and spices, skewered on a spit and grilled vertically. Originally the meat used for döner kebap was lamb. Today, in İstanbul, it is made using a mixture of lamb and beef, only beef, or even only chicken.
- Kestane kebap: Roasted chestnuts are sold on the streets for those who would like to enjoy them by peeling off the shell when still warm during cold days.
- Midye dolma: “Stuffed mussels” is a generic name for plump orange mussels, stuffed with herbed and spiced aromatic rice, and occasionally currants. It is a popular street food snack in İstanbul and İzmir.
- Kokoreç: Spiced and skewered sheep’s intestines, served in either half or quarter of a bread loaf with plenty of grease and salt to go with.
- Tavuklu pilav: Rice with shreds of chicken and/or cooked chickpeas. It’s easy to spot the men selling it in glass-covered carts around town.
- Islak hamburger: The simple burger is packed with garlicky flavor and buttery tomato sauce which provides the succulent texture and the spongy buns.
- Çiğ köfte dürüm: This is a food comprised of bulgur patties wrapped in paper-thin lavaş bread.
- Lahmacun: Lahmacun consists of a thin, crispy 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 skillet and then wrapped in a very thin flatbread.
- Börek: Street börek is usually made with cheese and provides a quick and delicious breakfast when you are on the go.
- Kağıt helva: This sweet consists of a crispy wafer stuffed 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 yoğurt 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.