Top 10 Things to Eat in Istanbul

So you have a layover in Istanbul, or maybe you’re visiting Turkey for the first time and have no idea where to start… never fear! Our Turkish insiders at Traveling Spoon have some sage advice on where to go, and more importantly, what to eat! We proudly present, the Top 10 Things to Eat in Istanbul:

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Top 10 Things To Eat in Istanbul

1. Menemen

Menemen is a delicious Turkish take on scrambled eggs. A breakfast staple, cooks combine sautéed onions and green peppers with tomatoes, a sharp cheddar cheese, and of course, eggs, mixed with ground red pepper. The dish is named after the Menemen district of İzmir on the country’s western coast, where tomatoes have been grown since the 1920s.

Try searching Bebek Kahve (Bebek), Mehtap Cafe (Emirgan), and Kale Çay Bahçesi (Rumelihisarı) to order some of the best menemen in Istanbul!

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2. Karniyarik

Karnıyarık, which literally translates to “split belly” in Turkish, is baked eggplant stuffed with minced beef, sautéed onions, garlic, tomatoes, parsley and Turkish spices. Easy to make and absolutely delicious, it can also be served as a vegetarian version called Imam Bayildi (which translates to, “the Imam fainted”).

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3. Mezeler

In Turkish cuisine, the mini appetizer dishes that accompany pre-meal wine and drinks are called Mezeler. These mezeler are  brought out on huge platters to each table and diners can choose which selections they want, served both hot and cold. One of our favorites? Broad beans in olive oil (Zeytinyağlı Bakla).

In Istanbul, some of the best mezeler can be found in the Beyoğlu District, at the Cumhuriyet Meyhanesi and Münferit restaurants.

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4. Iskender Kebab

Iskender Kebab is thinly sliced beef or lamb served in tomato sauce, accompanied by Turkish pide bread, yogurt, and grilled vegetables on the side. One of the best hole-in-the-wall places in Istanbul is the Bursa Kebapçısı, also in Beyoğlu.

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5. Adana Kebab

Adana Kebab is a traditional Turkish meal that takes its name after Adana, a city in southeastern Turkey. It’s made from lamb meat that is combined with spicy green peppers and ground red pepper molded onto a skewer and grilled over live charcoals.

The Adana Sofrası Ciğer ve Kebap Salonu in Beşiktaş and the Adana Yüzevler in the Etiler District are both great places to try for this dish!

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6. Manti

Manti is Turkey’s version of mini ravioli. The dish is comprised of hundreds of tiny pieces of pasta stuffed with ground beef and onions, then topped with yogurt, red pepper, olive oil and garlic sauce. Incredibly delicious, this is by far one of the most labor-intensive dishes to make in Turkey! Some locals love to try it with fresh mint on top.

Casita Mantı, a chain, makes delicious ravioli in Nişantaşı (Şişli) and Bodrum Mantı in Arnavutköy is also fantastic.

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7. Baklava

Baklava is a pastry made from layers of incredibly thin phyllo dough sheets that are filled with nuts and spices and then drenched in syrup, and often topped with pistachios. One of the first foods that comes to mind when people think of Turkish cuisine, the baklava in Istanbul doesn’t disappoint. Try it everywhere, and try it often, as each restaurant and street vendor has a different take on this mouthwatering traditional dessert.

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8. Lahmacun

Lahmacun is a flat and crispy pizza-like bread topped with minced beef, onions, tomatoes and sprinkled with fresh-squeezed lemon juice. A common appetizer, it is cheap and delicious–available on every street corner for a snack while exploring the city!

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9. Pide

Kiymali and Kaşarlı Pide are hand-tossed Turkish pizzas or flatbreads topped with cheese and ground beef and traditionally made in brick-fired ovens. Baked in traditional “boat-like” shapes, pides are absolutely delicious, brushed with olive-oil and served with bubbling hot cheese.

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10. Dolma

Another one of those dishes that first comes to mind in Turkey, Dolma are traditionally mince meat-stuffed grape vine leaves. But some cooks can make dolma from eggplants, squash, or bell peppers too, often adding pine nuts, rice pilaf and other spice into the mix!

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A big thank you to to our Turkish host Berhan for sharing her local insights on the best food to try in Istanbul. With her tips, you are well on your way to discovering how to explore Istanbul’s food scene like a local.

Interested in tasting some of these local delicacies made by home cooks instead of restaurants on your next visit to Turkey?

Try dining with Berhan and learn her mother’s family dolma recipe

Book with Ipek and Nuray and taste some of their mouthwatering homemade baklava

Love and Happy Traveling,

The Traveling Spoon Team

Top 10 Things to Eat in Istanbul