Istanbul is without a doubt one of the greatest food cities in the world. With an overwhelming array of options, it’s easy to get confused about what is really worth trying. Nobody wants to waste time and stomach space on worthless grub. Well, rest easy – everything in Istanbul is worth trying!
Some foods do go a step above others, though. It’s not easy to limit my list of favorites to only 10, but listing 100 would take too much time from actually eating, so here now, somewhat abbreviated,
10 Delicious Things to Eat in Istanbul
I would be lying if I said künefe was the best dessert to try in Istanbul. It’s actually the best dessert in the entire world. A crispy grated filo dough crust hides a mild, creamy and somewhat chewy cheese. The entire thing is dipped in fragrant syrup, finished off with crushed pistachios and often served with clotted cream.
Let’s be honest, even bad baklava is still pretty great. You can’t go wrong with crispy filo dough, sweet honey syrup and roasted nuts. Turkish baklava is a step above the rest, easily among the best on the planet.
The most important thing is to get fresh baklava, made with first class ingredients. Variations are endless, but my favorite is the simple traditional pistachio baklava. Istanbul’s best baklava is made at Seyidoğlu on Sıraselviler Caddesi.
Chocolate baklava is also worth a try!
#8 Halka tatlısı
These somewhat humble treats may seem like just another churro clone on the outside, but in reality they are so much more. The donut sticks are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Dipped in sticky syrup and rolled in coconut flakes or crushed pistachios, the flavors of the city are condensed into a tasty street treat.
#7 Turkish Delight / Lokum
There are as many variations of lokum as there are people making it. My favorite flavor is pomegranate pistachio, or anything else with nuts, preferably rolled in crushed nuts as well!
Fresh squeezed juice is the perfect accompaniment for Istanbul’s street treats
#6 Turkish Coffee
The turks drink insane amounts of tea, but coffee is also more and more popular in the country. Turkish coffee is drunk incredibly sweet and dark, preferably with a bite of baklava or lokum.
Street food stalls on Istanbul’s Istiklal Caddesi
#5 Dürüm & Döner Kebab
The dürüm is a round wheat flatbread, not unlike a tortilla, filled with all sorts of tasty things. For example, döner kebab, a tasty dish of beef, lamb or chicken. My personal favorite is the shish tavuk döner or chicken döner.
Lahmacun is a very thin pizza-like flatbread, smothered in a delicious lamb tomato sauce. Full of herbs and accompanied by a squeeze of lemon juice, this traditional street food is surprisingly refreshing.
#3 Peynirli pide
Pide is basically a turkish pizza, with a somewhat chewy crust and simple fillings. My favorite is the cheese filled pide, because cheese makes me happier than anything else on this planet.
Simit is like a Turkish version of a bagel. Crispy on the outside and covered in toasted sesame seeds, wonderfully soft and chewy on the inside. There are little red simit carts on nearly every street corner, and the tasty things only cost one lira!
Börek is the #1 reason I’ll be obese in the very near future. Crispy thin puff pastry filled with either beef, potatoes or cheese. Some bakeries also toss some spinach into the mix. Naturally my favorite is the one with cheese, which also happens to be my favorite of all of Istanbul’s street food. Definitely a must-eat item!