Last Updated on July 11, 2023
If there’s one thing that goes beyond the grandeur of Istanbul’s architecture, it’s the city’s culinary heritage. The Istanbul restaurant scene is renowned for its versatility, and here, you’ll experience Turkish food at its finest. These turkey things—flavors, dishes, and culinary experiences—are a testament to the rich cultural history of this vibrant city.
So, if you’re planning your itinerary around the local cuisine (and we strongly suggest you do), here’s our curated list of the best Turkish food you must try in Istanbul:
1. Kebabs: The King of Turkish Cuisine
Kebabs hold a special place in Turkish cuisine. There are dozens of varieties to choose from, but ‘Adana Kebab’—spicy minced meat skewers named after the city of Adana—and ‘Urfa Kebab’—a less spicy version from Urfa—are particularly popular. ‘Iskender Kebab,’ served with tomato sauce, yogurt, and melted butter, is also a must-try.
2. Meze: A Delicious Variety
Meze refers to an assortment of small dishes served as appetizers. These might include ‘Haydari’ (a yogurt dip), ‘Patlıcan Salatası’ (smoky aubergine salad), and ‘Cacık’ (a refreshing mix of yogurt, cucumber, and mint). When visiting Istanbul restaurants, be sure to start your meal with a meze platter—it’s one of those Turkey things you won’t want to miss.
3. Menemen: A Turkish Breakfast Essential
This scrumptious dish made from eggs, tomatoes, green peppers, and spices is often enjoyed with a side of fresh Turkish bread. ‘Menemen’ offers a delightful start to the day and is a staple in most Istanbul restaurants serving breakfast.
4. Lahmacun: The Turkish Pizza
Often dubbed as the Turkish pizza, ‘Lahmacun’ is a thin piece of dough topped with minced meat, vegetables, and a medley of spices. It’s usually rolled or folded before being savored, and it’s a popular fast-food option.
5. Simit: Turkey’s Bagel
‘Simit’ is a circular bread crusted with sesame seeds and is ubiquitous across Istanbul. Enjoyed with tea, cheese, or on its own, it’s the perfect snack for those on the move.
6. Dolma and Sarma: Stuffed Delights
‘Dolma’ and ‘Sarma’ are vegetables or vine leaves filled with a mixture of rice and spices, and sometimes meat. Whether served as a side dish or a main course, these stuffed delights are definitely worth trying.
Now, let’s move on to the sweet Turkey things that Istanbul offers.
7. Baklava: A Sweet Masterpiece
Baklava, made of phyllo pastry filled with chopped nuts and soaked in syrup or honey, is perhaps the most well-known Turkish dessert. Many Istanbul restaurants, especially in the historic Fatih district, serve this sweet, flaky treat.
8. Turkish Delight (Lokum): A Centuries-Old Indulgence
No trip to Turkey would be complete without trying ‘Lokum’ or Turkish Delight. This centuries-old delicacy comes in a variety of flavors and often includes nuts, spices, and fruits.
9. Dondurma: Turkish Ice Cream
‘Dondurma’ is not your ordinary ice cream. It has a unique chewy texture thanks to two ingredients: salep and mastic. The playful serving style by the vendors adds to the charm of this delightful dessert.
10. Turkish Tea and Coffee: More than a Beverage
Last but not least, Turkish tea (‘Çay’) and coffee (‘Türk kahvesi’) are integral to Turkish culture. The coffee is strong and unfiltered, and the tea is typically served in tulip-shaped glasses. Both are more than just beverages—they’re a way of life.
In the middle of the mesmerizing chaos of Istanbul, you’ll find a cornucopia of food that will satisfy any palate. This adventure, exploring the Istanbul restaurants and tasting the best of Turkish cuisine, is undeniably one of the most satisfying turkey things to experience. Remember, in Turkey, food is not just sustenance—it’s a celebration of life!