Stepping up your next trip to Turkey with 12 iconic street foods
Turkey is home to some of the world's best street food, so instead of splurging on restaurants every day you're there, take the opportunity to indulge in a variety of these fabulous local delicacies that are affordable, filling, and absolutely packed with flavor. Here are our can't-miss street food favorites for your next Turkish trip.
When visiting Turkey, one of the best ways to immerse yourself in the local culture and cuisine is by frequenting the variety of Turkish street food vendors across its bustling cities. To help you prepare for your visit, discover the 12 most iconic street foods in Turkey—from Istanbul to Ankara—to try while exploring the spectacular country. This way, you'll know exactly what to seek out to stimulate your taste buds and quash your cravings in advance.
1. Kestane Kebap
In the colder months, the streets are lined with Turkish street vendors selling roasted chestnuts known as kestane kebap, the perfect holiday snack for warming up your hands and belly. The aroma of the chestnuts roasting over the flaming hot embers is known to lure pedestrians toward the carts from afar.
The chestnuts are portioned into small paper bags for easy consumption. If you aren't very hungry but still want to try a small amount, even the smallest portions of kestane kebap are available—so don't be afraid to ask! Enjoy kestane kebap immediately while it's still warm for the best eating experience.
Mısır is Turkish for corn, and over the years, it's become a popular street food, perfect for savoring on the go. It's an essential summer staple—coinciding with the region's harvest season—though it's served all year long.
You can find mısır at corner stands, where it's available in two traditional versions: köz mısır, corn roasted on the cob, and süt mısır, boiled corn kernels seasoned with salt. A third variation has also appeared recently, where corn kernels are served in cups and topped with your choice of condiments, including ketchup, mayonnaise, red pepper flakes, and more. Vendors typically wrap the corn in thick paper or green corn husks.
3. Balık Ekmek
It's Turkish tradition to eat freshly caught fish from the Marmara Sea, prepared and grilled right next to the water. Balık ekmek, or "fish sandwich," is the best way to enjoy this specialty. The highest quality balık ekmek is found in the coastal neighborhoods of Karaköy and Eminönü in İstanbul, where it's sold directly from a boat.
When you're near the Galata Bridge, simply walk toward the vendors who call out "balık ekmek!" If you don't hear them, the pleasing aroma of a fresh loaf of bread with warm, grilled fish is sure to allure you.
4. Turşu Suyu
Turşu suyu, which translates to "pickle juice," is the perfect accompaniment to your balık ekmek. A byproduct of pickle-making, turşu suyu has a bold flavor, is sold in plastic cups, and includes small pieces of pickles. It has two variations: one that uses vinegar and another that uses lemon juice as its base. For an authentic Turkish experience, get this briny juice straight from a street vendor and enjoy it while you sit by the water.
Dondurma, or Turkish ice cream, is the ultimate tourist favorite. It has a dense and chewy consistency, which is achieved by adding two unique thickening agents, mastic resin and salep (a flour made from the tubers of wild orchids), to the basic milk and sugar mixture. It's a refreshing dessert that's best enjoyed on hot summer days to cool down and satisfy your sweet tooth.
A fun and delicious way to try Turkish ice cream is sandwiched between kağıt helva (wafer halva), a wafer-like confection filled with condensed milk. Kağıt helva vendors with or without stalls can be spotted carrying packs of wafer halva, from İstanbul's ferries to the streets of Turkey's other major cities.
6. Tavuklu Pilav
Tavuklu pilav is Turkish rice pilaf topped with boiled, shredded chicken breast, served at several street carts throughout Turkey's major cities. It's fast, hot, and filling food—ideal when you're on the go. İstanbul locals swear that the tavuklu pilav sold in the Unkapanı area is the city's best.
Simit is a molasses-dipped, sesame-crusted bread that comes in a circular shape, similar to a bagel. It's one of Turkey's most popular snacks and a breakfast staple. Simit can be enjoyed with cream cheese or chocolate spread. But beware: İstanbul's plentiful seagulls are always eager for a bite.
Börek is a baked pastry made using phyllo that's most commonly filled with minced meat, cheese, and leafy greens such as spinach, or potatoes. Street börek is usually layered with cheese, whereas homemade börek or the kind sold in bakeries offers a greater variety.
9. Döner Dürüm & Çiğ Köfte Dürüm
Simply put, dürüm is chicken, beef, cheese, or vegetables served in a wrap. Although you can find this dish at fancy restaurants, try the street food version instead to immerse yourself in genuine Turkish culture.
Known throughout the world, döner is a meat kebab cooked on a vertical rotisserie. A special mix of meat and spices are stacked in the shape of an inverted cone, which is later turned slowly on the rotisserie, and placed next to a vertical cooking unit. The outer layer of the meat is cut off in thin slices as it roasts. Döner can be served atop Turkish pilaf, but the most traditional way to enjoy it is inside a bread loaf or rolled into a dürüm with the additions of your choice.
Another popular variation of a dürüm is çiğ köfte dürüm. Çiğ köfte is a regional specialty of the southeastern cities of Adıyaman and Şanlıurfa, and it spread across all of Turkey over time. Served with lots of greens, pickles, lemon, and pomegranate sauce, çiğ köfte dürüm is a satisfying vegetarian dish.
If you're out after hours in Turkey, kokoreç makes a great late-night bite. It's skewered offal wrapped in sheep or goat intestines and served chopped and spiced inside a loaf of bread. Though some are hesitant to approach this dish, vendors take extra care in preparing the offal, making sure all the parts are thoroughly cleaned. Kokoreç is roasted on charcoal and seasoned with traditional spices, such as oregano, cumin, and chili flakes. If you feel adventurous, give kokoreç a try.
11. Midye Dolma
Midye dolma is mussels stuffed with aromatic pilaf, enjoyed more often as a snack than as a full meal. The rice is cooked with a blend of spices and served on the half shell. This popular Turkish street food is eaten in one bite after squeezing a bit of lemon juice over each stuffed mussel. Keep in mind that each mussel is gulped down in one go, so you can easily lose track of how many you've devoured!
Kumpir is Turkey's version of a loaded baked potato. It begins with a perfectly baked potato cut in half, seasoned, and whipped until smooth and creamy, and then loaded up with a myriad of toppings, such as peas, carrots, corn, cheese, and all kinds of condiments. You can find kumpir just about anywhere in Turkey, but İstanbul's Ortaköy neighborhood has become synonymous with this specialty.
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