The Best Street Food in Istanbul

The Best Street Food in Istanbul

Welcome to our guide on the best street food in Istanbul! Istanbul is not only known for its rich history and stunning architecture but also for its mouthwatering street food. From sizzling kebabs to aromatic spices, the vibrant streets of Istanbul offer a culinary experience like no other. In this article, we will take you on a gastronomic journey through the bustling streets of Istanbul, highlighting the must-try street food dishes that will tantalize your taste buds. Whether you are a food enthusiast or a curious traveler, get ready to embark on a delightful adventure as we explore the flavors and aromas of the best street food in Istanbul.

Street Food Culture in Istanbul

Historical background of street food in Istanbul

Istanbul has a rich history when it comes to street food. Street food culture in the city dates back centuries, influenced by various civilizations that have inhabited Istanbul throughout its existence. The Ottoman Empire, in particular, played a significant role in shaping Istanbul’s street food scene. During this era, street vendors would roam the city, offering delectable treats to locals and visitors alike.

Popular street food dishes in Istanbul

Istanbul is renowned for its diverse and mouthwatering street food dishes. One of the most iconic and beloved street foods in Istanbul is the "simit". Simit is a circular bread covered in sesame seeds, often enjoyed with cheese or served plain. Another popular street food dish is the "doner kebab". Made with succulent and marinated meat, typically lamb or chicken, the doner kebab is cooked on a vertical rotisserie and served in a warm pita bread with a variety of toppings and sauces.

For those seeking a vegetarian option, the "borek" is a must-try street food dish. Borek is a flaky pastry filled with ingredients such as cheese, spinach, or minced meat. It is commonly served as a grab-and-go snack, perfect for exploring the bustling streets of Istanbul. Additionally, the "balik ekmek" (fish sandwich) is a favorite among seafood lovers. Grilled fish, usually mackerel or sea bass, is sandwiched between a crusty bun and topped with fresh vegetables and a squeeze of lemon.

Street food markets and vendors in Istanbul

Istanbul is teeming with vibrant street food markets and vendors, adding to the city’s culinary charm. One popular street food market is the Grand Bazaar, where visitors can find a wide array of street food stalls offering both traditional and modern delicacies. The Egyptian Bazaar, also known as the Spice Bazaar, showcases an abundance of aromatic spices, Turkish delight, and street food vendors serving delectable treats like roasted chestnuts and Turkish ice cream.

When exploring Istanbul, it is impossible to miss the bustling street food scene in Karakoy. This neighborhood is home to numerous street food vendors offering a variety of dishes, from mouthwatering kebabs to delectable pastries. Another must-visit street food destination is Taksim Square, where food carts serve up delicious street food options such as simit, roasted corn, and stuffed mussels.

In conclusion, Istanbul’s street food culture is deeply ingrained in the city’s history and offers a delightful culinary adventure for locals and tourists alike. From the historical background to the popular street food dishes and vibrant markets, Istanbul is a paradise for street food enthusiasts.

Must-Try Street Food in Istanbul

1. Balik Ekmek (Fish Sandwich)

Balik Ekmek, also known as a fish sandwich, is a popular street food in Istanbul. This delicious snack consists of freshly grilled or fried fish, typically mackerel or sea bass, served in a crusty bread roll with various toppings and condiments. The fish is usually seasoned with lemon juice, salt, and pepper, giving it a tangy and savory flavor. You can find numerous Balik Ekmek stalls along the shores of the Bosphorus or near the Galata Bridge, where you can enjoy this mouthwatering street food while taking in the stunning views of the city.

2. Lahmacun (Turkish Pizza)

Lahmacun is a delectable Turkish street food that resembles a thin-crust pizza. It is made by spreading a thin layer of minced lamb or beef mixed with tomatoes, onions, and herbs on a thin dough, which is then baked in a hot oven. The result is a crispy and flavorful flatbread that is often topped with fresh parsley, lemon juice, and a sprinkle of sumac. Lahmacun is commonly rolled up and eaten as a wrap, making it a convenient and tasty street food option for those on the go. You can find Lahmacun in various food stalls and restaurants throughout Istanbul, especially in the vibrant areas of Kadikoy and Beyoglu.

3. Kumpir (Loaded Baked Potato)

Kumpir is a hearty and indulgent street food dish that originated in Istanbul. It is made by baking a large potato until it is soft and fluffy on the inside, then cutting it open and mashing the insides with butter and cheese. The mashed potato is then mixed with a variety of toppings such as olives, pickles, corn, sausages, and different sauces like ketchup and mayonnaise. The result is a satisfying and flavorful loaded baked potato that is perfect for a quick and filling meal on the go. You can find Kumpir stands in popular areas like Ortakoy and Taksim, where you can customize your own Kumpir with your preferred toppings.

These are just a few examples of the must-try street food in Istanbul. Exploring the culinary scene of this vibrant city will surely lead you to many more delicious and unique dishes that will leave your taste buds satisfied. So, next time you find yourself in Istanbul, make sure to indulge in these iconic street foods for an unforgettable gastronomic experience.

Food Streets and Areas in Istanbul


Karakoy is a vibrant neighborhood in Istanbul that is known for its diverse and delicious street food. Located on the European side of the city, this area offers a wide range of culinary delights that will satisfy any food lover’s cravings.

One of the must-try street foods in Karakoy is simit, a popular Turkish snack that resembles a sesame-covered bagel. You can find vendors selling freshly baked simit on almost every corner, and it is the perfect snack to enjoy while exploring the neighborhood.

Another iconic food in Karakoy is balik ekmek, which translates to "fish bread." This mouthwatering sandwich consists of freshly grilled fish, usually mackerel or sea bass, served on a crusty bread roll with a squeeze of lemon and some fresh herbs. It is a staple street food option for seafood enthusiasts.

For those with a sweet tooth, Karakoy offers an array of delectable desserts. One of the favorites is künefe, a warm and gooey cheese pastry soaked in sweet syrup. The combination of the melted cheese and the sweet syrup creates a heavenly taste that you won’t be able to resist.

Istiklal Avenue

Istiklal Avenue is a bustling street located in the heart of Istanbul, offering a vibrant food scene that caters to all tastes and preferences. This lively area is lined with numerous restaurants, cafes, and street food vendors, making it a paradise for food enthusiasts.

When exploring Istiklal Avenue, don’t miss out on trying kokoreç, a popular street food delicacy made from lamb intestines. The intestines are carefully cleaned, seasoned, and grilled to perfection, resulting in a flavorful and unique dish that is often enjoyed with a squeeze of lemon and a side of bread.

Another must-try street food on Istiklal Avenue is dürüm, a Turkish wrap filled with various ingredients such as grilled meat, vegetables, and sauces. The combination of flavors and textures in dürüm creates a satisfying and portable meal that you can enjoy while strolling along the vibrant street.

If you’re craving something sweet, don’t forget to try Turkish ice cream, also known as dondurma. This traditional ice cream is made with a unique thickening agent called salep, which gives it a chewy and stretchy texture. Watching the skilled ice cream vendors perform entertaining tricks while serving you a scoop of dondurma is an experience in itself.


Kadikoy is a lively district situated on the Asian side of Istanbul, and it offers a diverse culinary experience with its numerous food streets and markets. Exploring the food scene in Kadikoy is a must for anyone looking to indulge in authentic and flavorful street food.

One of the popular street foods in Kadikoy is midye dolma, which translates to "stuffed mussels." These bite-sized mussels are filled with a flavorful rice mixture and then steamed to perfection. They are often served with a squeeze of lemon and are a favorite among locals and visitors alike.

If you’re in the mood for a hearty meal, try lahmacun, a thin and crispy flatbread topped with a flavorful mixture of minced meat, onions, tomatoes, and herbs. This savory delight is often rolled up with fresh vegetables and herbs before being devoured.

For a unique dessert experience in Kadikoy, seek out tavuk göğsü. This traditional Turkish milk pudding is made with shredded chicken breast, rice flour, milk, and sugar. The combination of the tender chicken and the creamy pudding creates a delightful and unexpected flavor.

In conclusion, Istanbul is a treasure trove of street food delights, and exploring the food streets and areas such as Karakoy, Istiklal Avenue, and Kadikoy will take you on a culinary adventure like no other. From savory treats like simit and balik ekmek to sweet indulgences like künefe and dondurma, Istanbul’s street food scene has something for everyone to enjoy.

In conclusion, Istanbul offers an incredible array of street food options that are not only delicious but also a reflection of the city’s rich culinary heritage. From the iconic simit and mouth-watering kebabs to the savory börek and delectable baklava, the streets of Istanbul are a food lover’s paradise. Exploring the bustling markets and lively neighborhoods to discover these gastronomic delights is an experience that should not be missed. So, if you find yourself in Istanbul, make sure to indulge in the best street food the city has to offer and immerse yourself in its vibrant food culture.

Share This Post: