29 Of The Best Istanbul Foods & Drinks To Try (With Video)

29 Best Foods To Try In Istanbul

Many travelers head to Istanbul for its rich food culture. But with so many mouth-watering dishes to enjoy and only a limited amount of time, it can be hard to know which Istanbul foods you can’t leave without trying. But don’t you worry! This post shares all the most delicious things to eat – and drink – in Istanbul.

Istanbul is Turkey’s largest and most diverse city. And that beautiful diversity also plays out with the city’s food scene. This post highlights many popular foods local to Istanbul and the best dishes brought to this vibrant city from all over Turkey! Some of the incredible foods to try in Istanbul might be familiar, but we’re sure some will be completely unexpected. Just stay open-minded and be willing to try new things!

Are you ready to discover 29 iconic foods and drinks to try during your visit to Istanbul? This list includes Istanbul’s legendary street foods, strange desserts, and even local beverages! This post will have you set to experience the most delicious and unique foods from one of our favorite cities in the world!

Estimated reading time: 44 minutes

*Note: this post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks in advance for supporting WOTW!

Hungry To Discover 29 Must Try Istanbul Foods? Let’s Go!

Where to try best Istanbul Foods

29 Best Istanbul Foods To Try During Your Visit

Note: the linked restaurant names in the ‘where to try in Istanbul’ bullets direct you to the address for each destination. Don’t forget to save the addresses of your favorite dishes so you can easily find the best Istanbul foods while you’re in town!

Best Turkish Breakfast Foods To Try In Istanbul

1. Simit (Turkish Bagel)

Istanbul breakfast foods Simit
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

If you are talking about Turkish breakfast foods, you better mention the humble simit. While it may look pretty basic, this is one of those Istanbul foods that you absolutely must try! There is no other Turkish food that makes us feel more nostalgic than simit. It was the go-to for our frequent travel days throughout Turkey.

This popular Istanbul street food is often thought of as a Turkish bagel. It is baked dough topped with sesame seeds and with a hint of molasses. Simit’s level of crunchiness and thickness can vary by region and vendor. But in general, it is crispier and lighter than your typical US bagel.

Many of Istanbul’s commuters head to the ubiquitous street carts for a cheap and filling on-the-go breakfast. At about $0.20 for a plain simit, you will often find yourself tempted to indulge in a little simit break. Add cream cheese (payneer) or Nutella to your simit if you want to treat yourself! (Nutella is more common in touristy areas)

  • Where to try simit in Istanbul: you can find it in areas with heavy foot traffic. Look for the simit carts at bridge crossings, crowded squares, and busy intersections. You will be sure to find it!

WOTW Tip: if you are ready to splurge (just kidding), you can find slightly higher quality simit at the thousands of bakeries around Istanbul. We thought the street simit was fantastic enough, so we never actually tried it from a bakery. But it is an option if you want to upgrade your simit experience.

2. Traditional Turkish Breakfast

Traditional Turkish Breakfast
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 4/5

We were enlightened by the traditional Turkish breakfast since our very first day in Turkey. We enjoyed a delicious homemade traditional breakfast before heading to Fethiye on Turkey’s famous Turquoise Coast. Thankfully these fully-loaded breakfasts are just as beloved in Istanbul as everywhere else in the country!

While experiencing a traditional Turkish breakfast is a must while visiting Istanbul, it isn’t really an everyday thing. In other words, don’t plan for any significant physical exertion after enjoying one of these massive spreads. That includes not visiting one of Istanbul’s hammam baths!

3. Menemen (Turkish Scrambled Eggs)

  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Menemen is another one of our favorite Turkish foods that we first discovered while exploring beautiful Pamukkale. Nobody would call menemen a beautiful dish, but it is undoubtedly one of the best Turkish breakfast foods to try while in Istanbul!

If you like your eggs a bit messy and full of wonderful flavor, then definitely go out of your way to try menemen. It is basically scrambled eggs cooked in a copper pan with tomato sauce, green peppers and spices. The final result is served on your table in its original pan.

  • Where to try menemen in Istanbul: most places that serve traditional Turkish breakfasts will also have menemen on the menu. But head to Lades Menemen in the Taksim Square area of Beyoğlu if you want to visit a specialist.

WOTW Tip #1: make sure your basket of fresh white bread is stocked when you get your menemen. You need a lot of bread to pile on the eggs and soak up the sauces. Don’t be afraid to ask for more if you run out. Bread is on the house!

WOTW Tip #2: menemen doesn’t have to be a breakfast dish. It is also commonly enjoyed for lunch.

We Tried The Best Istanbul Foods On A DIY Food Tour! Check-out The Video To See Some Of Turkey’s Most Iconic Dishes!

We think the DIY Istanbul food tour above is great for those who want to try a bunch of delicious foods without paying for a tour. But take a look at these highly-rated Istanbul food tours if you prefer some more structure:

Iconic Turkish Food To Try In Istanbul

4. Cağ Kebab (Lamb Kebab)

Best Istanbul Dishes To Try Cag Kebab
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

While Cağ kebab is not originally from Istanbul, it is one of the most sumptuous dishes we tried during our 12 days in town. In fact, it was one of the best kebabs we had during our entire 3 months traveling through Turkey! Cağ kebab is originally from the Erzurum region of Turkey. Thankfully Istanbul’s foods bring together the best from all corners of Turkey!

Like most Turkish kebabs, cağ kebab is made with spiced lamb. But this kebab dish is unique because it’s grilled on a horizontal spit over a wood fire. This varies from the traditional döner kebab cooked vertically with an electric rotisserie. Also, the lamb meat is a combination of rib and leg meat. Traditional kebab meat usually combines veal and lamb and uses less-premium cuts.

Cağ kebab is served in chunks along with a very light bread used for grabbing the meat and whatever garnishing you wish to include. We ordered ours with fresh red onion to give it a little kick. The result is a super tender and flavorful dish that should not be missed!

  • Where to try cağ kebab in Istanbul: Şehzade Cağ Kebap is the best spot in town to fall in love with one of the most unforgettable Turkish foods. I regret not ordering seconds when visiting during our Istanbul food tour.

We have something to admit. We thought the food in Gaziantep was even more delicious than in Istanbul! Find out why we believe Gaziantep’s food is the best in Turkey! We also made a video of our DIY food tour in Gaziantep.

5. Lahmacun (Turkish Flatbread)

Istanbul Foods To Try Lahmacun
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Lahmacun is another heavenly food to try in Istanbul. Versions of this pizza-like dish are enjoyed around the Middle East, and it’s more common in Southeastern Turkey. But luckily for everyone, this fan-favorite made its way to Istanbul! Lahmacun is a must-try in Istanbul. It is worth adding more days to your Istanbul itinerary so you can eat it as often as possible.

Lahmacun is made with an ultra-light dough, minced meat (optional), and finely chopped onions, garlic, and peppers. The freshly prepared lahmacun is thrown into a wood oven for about 2 minutes and comes out hot, crunchy, and irresistible. Many places in Istanbul also give you the option to order the lahmacun spicy, which was always the perfect amount of heat for us.

It was love at first bite when we first tasted lahmacun in the magical city of Konya. We made the mistake of thinking it was pide. But now we know that lahmacun is thinner, crispier, and in our opinion, more delicious than the more famous pide. Definitely don’t miss out on this mouthwatering highlight of Turkish cuisine.

WOTW Tip: make sure to spritz lime juice over your lahmacun and add fresh parsley or whatever fresh greens are provided with your order. And then roll it all up like a burrito!

6. Pide (Turkish Pizza)

Pide Turkish Pizza
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 4/5

Even though we love lahmacun a bit more, a well-prepared pide is also high on the list of foods you have to try in Istanbul. As we mentioned above, pide’s dough is slightly thicker and stickier than its super crunchy cousin.

One of the benefits of having a sturdier base is that you get to add more toppings! Pide menus are extensive, and you can mix and match all sorts of ingredients. Also, pide usually has cheese, which lahmacun does not. So if you have a pizza craving but don’t want to feel guilty about not eating Turkish food in Turkey, then head to the closest pide shop.

  • Where to try pide in Istanbul: try Hocapaşa Pidecisi for delicious and super-conveniently located pide in Istanbul’s historic district. Or head to Çağrı Karadeniz Pide Kebap Salonu near Galata if you’re looking for something on the other side of the Golden Horn.

You may also like…

7. Kuru Fasulye (Bean Stew)

Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 4/5

Kuru fasulye is a hearty bean dish that we first tried while visiting the Cotton Castle in Pamukkale, Turkey. This white bean stew is particularly popular in Turkey’s lokantasi restaurants that cook up homestyle cooking to hungry Turks.

The primary ingredients for this popular Turkish food are white beans, tomato sauce, and onion. We also tried kuru fasulye with chunks of beef while visiting Mardin, Turkey, though the vegetarian version is most common in Istanbul. In fact, we preferred the slightly lighter vegetarian version.

Kuru fasulye is an essential dish for homestyle Turkish meals. While it may be too hearty for people visiting Istanbul during the sweltering summer months, there is nothing better on a cold winter’s day than this yummy white-bean stew! It literally tastes like grandma made it.

  • Where to try kuru fasulye in Istanbul: located near the famous Sulemaniye Mosque in Istanbul’s Fatih district, Fatihli Kurufasulyeci Ali Baba is perhaps the best place to try kuru fasulye. Fasuli Lokantasi in the same area also gets high praise for its white-bean stew.

8. Köfte (Turkish Meatballs)

Kofte Turkish Meatball Dish
  • WOTW rating: 4/5

The famous Turkish meatballs finally make the list of unmissable Istanbul foods to try. Köfte is found on menus along Turkey’s main tourist trail, but their quality is not a given. These meatballs are often reheated and served to unsuspecting travelers. BOOOO! So make sure to go out of your way in Istanbul to try the real deal Turkish meatballs.

These spiced meatballs are not your grandma’s recipe. First of all, köfte can be made of ground lamb, beef, or mixed. The seasoning that gives Turkish their unmistakable flavor includes cumin, thyme, black pepper, and sometimes chili pepper. But proud chefs will have their own secret list of ingredients.

We actually didn’t run into too much köfte after wrapping up our visit to Cappadocia and heading to more off-the-beaten-path locations in Turkey. We had a bit of a meatball overload early in our trip. But we were happy to rediscover this incredible dish in Istanbul!

  • Where to try köfte in Istanbul: Meshur Filibe Köftecisi has been perfecting their delicious version of Turkish meatballs since 1893. Make sure to order a white bean salad on the side. The two dishes pair perfectly!

WOTW Tip: the famous köfte joint is literally three steps from the cağ kebab place listed above. You can try both during the same meal. Just don’t order too much at whichever restaurant you choose to visit first!

9. Testi Kebab (Jug Kebab)

Popular Turkish Dishes Testi Kebab
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 3.5/5 (what we tried in Cappadocia)

No, testi kebab isn’t testicle kebap. That’s what Aimara and I wondered when we first saw it on a menu while visiting Cappadocia!

Instead, this famous kebab from the Cappadocia region is a tasty mix of meat (typically lamb) and veggies baked together in a sealed, single-serve clay jar. The vegetables of choice for this Cappadocian delight are shallots, garlic and green peppers. Butter is also added to the inside of the clay jar because butter makes everything better.

The clay jar containing the testi kebab ingredients is baked in a wood-fired oven while the contents cook and simmer in the combined flavors and juices. The end result is a super flavorful and tender dish that is as good in our mouth as it is for your camera!

  • Where to try testi kebab in Istanbul: testi kebab is one of Turkey’s most visually intriguing foods. A group of restaurants located in Istanbul’s popular Sultanahmet neighborhood lure in curious travelers by showing how they delicately crack the clay jars to present the finished testi kebab. Based on reviews, many of these places are surprisingly not tourist traps. Old Ottoman Cafe & Restaurant gets the highest reviews of the bunch.

10. Sehriyeli Pilav (Chickpea Rice)

Popular Istanbul Foods Pilav
Image source: Canva

WOTW rating: N/A

Another one of Istanbul’s more traditional street foods is rice pilav. The hearty rice dish has different variations, but the most typical is with chickpeas or chicken. The real reason behind the pilav’s delicious flavor is that the rice is boiled in a broth and mixed with butter. And the particular rice used is perfect for absorbing the dish’s homestyle flavors.

Because it is relatively unknown among most people visiting Istanbul, pilav restaurants are more commonly found slightly off the main tourist paths. Look out for the glass display showcasing the steaming rice in the front of little restaurants around Istanbul.

  • Where to try pilav in Istanbul: you will run into restaurants serving up hot plates of pilav if you wander through the local shopping streets around the Grand Bazaar. Or head to these popular pilav joints in the Faith or Beyoğlu neighborhoods if you don’t feel like searching around.

Make sure to check our post on 27 epic things to do in Istanbul to discover other unforgettable experiences beyond food!

Best Istanbul Street Foods

11. Islak Burgers (Wet Hamburger)

Istanbul Street Foods Islak Burger
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Mmm, wet burgers. Sounds tempting, right? Well don’t knock it before you try it! Islak burgers are an Istanbul staple for late-night nourishment. And believe us, this is a heavenly blend of comfort and spice that hits all the right spots after a night out on the town.

But what exactly is the famous wet burger? This splendid rendition of the traditional hamburger includes a thin and heavily spiced beef patty doused in a garlicky tomato sauce. But it’s not the beautiful sauce that gives the wet burger its name. No no. The burgers are kept warm in a steamy tray that makes the soft white bun a bit soggy and sticky.

We realize that eating a soggy burger doesn’t exactly sound appetizing. But reserve your judgment. We are sure that you’ll thank us later! Islak burgers are the definition of a guilty pleasure.

  • Where to try wet burgers in Istanbul: the area around Taksim Square is wet-burger central. This popular drunk food can be seen sitting in the window of fast food establishments, luring people in for a delicious pick-me-up. And at about $0.20 each, nothing is stopping you from having a wet burger feast!

12. Kokoreç (Lamb Intestine Sandwich)

Kokorec Ultimate Istanbul Street Food
  • WOTW rating: 2/5

Let’s get straight to the point, kokoreç is a lamb intestine sandwich. Like wet burgers, it is also one of Istanbul’s most beloved street foods to end a night out on the town. That said, you will see (and smell) kokoreç being grilled fresh at all times of the day.

Kokoreç’s main ingredient is grilled lamb intestine wrapped around spiced lamb offal. Sounds appetizing, right? Similar to cağ kebab, the meat is grilled on a horizontal spit before being sliced in fine pieces and served in a loaf of soft white bread.

I feel bad giving a dish adored by the lovely people in Istanbul such a low score. Unfortunately, I just could not really get into it. Kokoreç has a distinct, pungent smell, and I found the taste greasy but not overwhelmingly flavorful. I am also not a super adventurous eater, so I think the lamb intestine did throw me off.

  • Where to try kokoreç in Istanbul: we tried this famous sandwich at Osmanli Kokoreç, one of the highest-rated places in town. It was a fun experience, even if we didn’t love the meal. The locals will be happy to see you there trying one of their favorite foods.

13. Börek (Savory Filled Pastry)

  • WOTW rating: 5/5

Börek is among our absolute favorite Istanbul street foods. It is definitely less exotic than wet burgers and lamb intestine sandwiches, but that’s perfectly okay with us. Sometimes you just need some delicious (and addicting) comfort food.

Our beloved börek is a flaky pastry commonly filled with minced meat, cheese, or spiced potatoes before being baked or fried to perfection. The warm, light pastry combined with delicious spices is a fantastic and affordable way to explore Istanbul’s legendary street food. And a small portion can be easily shared among travelers looking for a quick bite before exploring Istanbul’s beautiful attractions.

Though it is originally from Central Asia, börek and similar pastry dishes can be found from Israel to Croatia and everywhere in between. But no matter where it was invented, it is one of the most divine street foods to enjoy while visiting Turkey.

  • Where to try börek in Istanbul: right down the street from our apartment in Karaköy was the modest little Kumbaracı Börek Salonu. Grab one of the two outside tables and enjoy your favorite börek while observing the rhythm of the neighborhood.

WOTW Tip: make sure to accompany your börek with a hot cup of Turkish tea. There is no other way to have it!

14. Kestane Kebab (Roasted Chestnuts)

Famous Istanbul Street Foods Kestane Kebab
  • WOTW rating: 3.5/5

Kestane kebab are roasted chestnuts enjoyed throughout Turkey during the chilly winter months. The name throws some people off because people assume that kebab implies grilled meat. But we learned that kebab simply means grilled or roasted in Turkish. Turkish lessons with Ways of the World!

Fragrant kestane kebab are roasted over a charcoal fire and served hot in little paper bags. They are the perfect soul warming winter snack. Although the roasted chestnuts have a distinctly sweet smell, the taste is more nutty than sweet. The chestnuts have a soft and silky texture, much different from other roasted nuts you may be familiar with.

We first encountered the unmistakable scent of roasted chestnuts while visiting Turkey’s stunningly beautiful Rize and Trabzon regions. We committed to trying this popular street food before leaving Turkey since then. It’s a great idea to grab a bag of kestane kebab as you wander throughout Istanbul’s incredible neighborhoods.

Make sure to watch our Gaziantep food tour if you want to see more of Turkey’s famous kebabs!

15. Döner Kebab

Doner Kebab Turkish Street Foods
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

We couldn’t write a post about Istanbul’s most iconic street foods and not include döner kebab. Could we? The familiar döner kebab is a general term for seasoned meat grilled on a vertical rotisserie. The rotating meat is sliced thin into either a lavash (dürüm kebab), over rice, or a Turkish-style flatbread (bazlama). Our favorite was the dürüm kebab!

Döner kebab meat is commonly lamb, chicken, or a lamb and veal mix. The chicken version consists of beautifully marinated pieces stacked high on top of each other. The lamb and the mixed döner kebab meat is ground and packed together into a giant meat cone. Yum! In both cases the meat is marinated in spiced yogurt and typically seasoned with dried chilis, garlic, oregano, cumin, salt, and pepper.

This legendary Istanbul street food can be found all over the city. This makes it hard to know where to go. A general rule of thumb for döner kebab is that the best ones will have the longest lines. If the meat doesn’t look fresh and juicy, just move along to the next one!

WOTW Tip #1: ask for the spicy pickled peppers! Not all kebab shops have them, but you definitely want to add these to your döner kebab if they do.

WOTW Tip #2: we don’t like french fries in our döner kebab. It seems like an unnecessary filler. Don’t be afraid to ask them to make it to your liking if any ingredients don’t excite you.

16. Balik Ekmek (Fish Sanwich)

Balik Ekmek Turkish Fish Sandwich
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: N/A

Balik ekmek is one of Istanbul’s most ubiquitous and iconic street foods. Translated to fish sandwich, this popular on-the-go meal can be easily spotted at restaurants along the beautiful Golden Horn in the Eminönü neighborhood of old Istanbul. In fact, you can even find the fish sandwiches being served up directly from boats right next to the Galata Bridge!

By all accounts, balik ekmek is a relatively simple dish. It is traditionally made with smoked mackerel, mayonnaise, onion slices, and tomatoes on a half loaf of soft white bread. Unfortunately, overfishing in the Bosphorus Strait has resulted in much of the fish being imported. Today the fish can be cod or other types of whitefish.

Disclaimer: we did not try Istanbul’s famous Balik Ekmek. We usually don’t eat fish due to the issue of overfishing and other negative impacts of commercial fishing. While we encourage everyone to get educated on the subject, we respect that what you choose to eat is a personal decision.

WOTW Tip: be careful with the bones in your balik ekmek! The small fish bones are not all removed from the filet before serving it. So don’t just go shoving it in your face.

17. Balik Dürüm (Fish Wrap)

Balik Durum Turkish Fish Wrap
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: N/A

The close cousin of balik ekmek (fish sandwich), balik dürüm takes many of the same ingredients rolled in a piece of fresh lavash bread. Locals mentioned that balik dürüm is more flavorful because it is topped with blended spices and secret sauces.

If you are eager to try the iconic balik ekmek, consider trying the dürüm instead! Again, we did not try this dish because we usually don’t eat fish. But based on word of mouth and our own research, balik dürüm seems superior in flavor and texture (no bones!).

  • Where to try balik dürüm in Istanbul: balik durum isn’t as easy to find as the more popular sandwich version. But don’t worry, Balık Dürüm Mehmet Usta in beautiful Karaköy serves up a highly-rated version of this dish!

18. Tantuni (Beef Sandwich)

Istanbul Street Foods Tantuni
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: N/A

Tantuni is yet another popular culinary import to Istanbul. Originally from the coastal city of Mersin in western Turkey, this grilled-beef street food can now be enjoyed all around Istanbul. The sight of small chunks of beef simmering in a metal hot plate is a dead giveaway that you’ve stumbled upon the tantuni cart.

Tantuni is served as a sandwich or wrap and includes finely-sliced stir-fried beef garnished with tomatoes, onions, green peppers, and parsley. Tantuni is a fantastic option if you are craving a rich and spicy flavor bomb to keep you moving during your day.

  • Where to try tantuni in Istanbul: for whatever reason, you are more likely to find it across the bridge from Istanbul’s old city. Suat Usta Mersin Tantuni in the general Taksim Square area is the most recognized place to try this hearty street food.

19. Midye (Stuffed Mussels)

Turkish Stuffed Mussels Dish Midye
  • WOTW rating: N/A

There is no better place to try midye than Istanbul. That is if you like the idea of eating steamed mussels stuffed with spiced rice, pine nuts and seasoned with aromatic herbs. While street carts selling midye can be found along Turkey’s coastal cities, the mussels are usually sourced close to Istanbul’s southern shores in the Sea of Marmara.

  • Where to try midye in Istanbul: like kestane kebab, midye are sold from street carts around Istanbul. You are most likely to find them in busy places around Istanbul’s waterfront or near Taksim Square.

WOTW Tip: you will also find midye if you’re heading to Turkey’s other coastal towns. So rest assured that you will find it elsewhere if you are short on time in Istanbul. We saw midye everywhere while visiting Kaş (our favorite Turkish beach town) and the stunning Rize region.

Famous Turkish Desserts To Try In Istanbul

20. Tavuk Gögsü (Chicken Dessert)

Tavuk Gögsü Turkish Chicken Dessert
  • WOTW rating: 4/5 for Gordon, 1/5 for Aimara.

Ever think that you would try a dessert where one of the main ingredients is shredded chicken? If you answered yes, you must have been Ottoman royalty in a past life, because this Turkish dessert is famous for being a delicacy served to Ottoman sultans in the beautiful Topkapi Palace.

Tavuk gögsü is a milk pudding that includes small amounts of finely shredded chicken breast. The chicken breast is mainly used as a thickening agent, and the chicken flavor only comes through ever so slightly. The slightly dense dessert is topped with a dusting of cinnamon before serving.

The pudding itself is beautiful, light and mild flavored. It goes very nicely with a hot cup of Turkish çai (tea) during your afternoon break from exploring Istanbul. Go ahead and try tavuk gögsü when you’re ready to relax like a sultan.

21. Halka Tatlisi (Turkish Churro)

Famous Turkish Desserts Halka Tatlisi
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 2/5

Known locally as brothel dessert, halka tatlisi is like if donuts, churros and baklava had a baby together. Halka taslisi literally translates to ring dessert due to it’s ring-like shape. The dough is cut into more manageable portions and typically sold as a street food for people craving a sugar-rush in their lives.

This popular Turkish street dessert is fried dough dipped in a sugary syrup. It can be topped with crushed pistachios to add some beautiful bright green color to the dish. Halka tatlisi is crunchy, surprisingly dense, and intensely sweet. There are other fried breads sold as popular street-side sweets throughout Turkey, including tulumba and lokma.

Unfortunately this fried dough creation wasn’t a home run for us. We found it to be awkwardly crunchy and dense and overbearingly sweet. Churros are still the top fried-dough dessert in our books!

  • Where to try halka tatlisi in Istanbul: there was a nice man selling halka tatlisi near the döner restaurant in the Galata and Karaköy area. When in doubt, look for busy intersections to locate any of Istanbul’s popular street foods.

22. Baklava

Istanbul foods to try baklava
  • WOTW rating: 4/5 (we fell love with Baklava. But Istanbul’s version couldn’t compare to the baklava we tried in Gaziantep. The quality of this Turkish dessert is simply on another level in its hometown.)

Whether you love, hate or are indifferent about baklava, you need to try this most iconic Turkish dessert during your visit to Istanbul. In fact, it is written in the fine print of your Turkish visa that you have to eat baklava every chance that you get.

In case you are not familiar, baklava is a scrumptious bite-sized treat made with ultra fine layers of flaky filo dough, sugar syrup and crumbled pistachio nuts. Unlike baklava we’ve tried in the US, the Turkish version of this dessert is very delicate and much less sugary. Baklava is an absolute gem of Ottoman cuisine.

Believe us when we tell you that the baklava in Turkey doesn’t compare to anything else you may have tried in the past. We are complete baklava converts at this point. Do you have a moment to talk about baklava?

  • Where to try baklava in Istanbul: head to Hafiz Mustafa 1864 for the most renowned baklava shop in Istanbul. It’s a great place to experience the chaos of the pastry chefs taking the constant orders from behind the counter. We thought the baklava was excellent, but not out of this world. Again, we were spoiled from our time in Gaziantep.

23. Lokum (Turkish Delight)

Turkish Delight Dessert
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 3/5

The infamous Turkish delight is a typical sweet served along with Turkish coffee. Known locally as lokum, this dessert likely has its origins in Istanbul. Story has it that an Ottoman sultan ordered his royal kitchen to develop a new dessert to calm tensions within his harem. Apparently, the sultan’s mistresses could be soothed by chewy gummies.

There are endless types of Turkish delight, ranging from common ingredients to unique premium varieties. Some typical lokum flavors include carrot, pistachio, and pomegranate. The beautiful square candies are dusted with powdered sugar before being displayed in dessert shops.

Turkish delights are colorful, squishy, and usually very sweet. We enjoyed trying a few pieces, but neither of us is big on candy, so we never went beyond a couple of squares with our coffees. But they do make for a perfect gift for any sweet-tooth family members back home!

  • Where to try Turkish delight in Istanbul: Ali Muhiddin Haci Beker and Hafiz Mustafa are the most famous places in all of Istanbul to sample this famous Turkish dessert. In fact, Haci Beker has been selling candy since the 1700s!

Don’t Wander Around Istanbul Hungry. Save This Post For Later!

Iconic Turkish Foods and Drinks to try in Istanbul

Interested in Receiving More Useful Travel Posts? Sign Up To Receive Our Weekly Email!

Best Turkish Drinks To Try In istanbul

24. Türk Khavesi (Turkish Coffee)

Turkish Coffee Best Drinks In Turkey
  • WOTW rating: 3.5/5

Despite tea being the hot beverage of choice for most Turks, coffee is perhaps the most famous Turkish drink. But while tea is king, coffee is still an essential part of Turkey’s culinary heritage. In our opinion, no java fanatic should think about leaving the country without consuming their fair share of Türk khavesi (Turkish coffee).

The highlight of this famous Turkish drink is the preparation. Brewed in beautiful copper pots, Turkish coffee is poured slowly into tiny porcelain cups and served during social occasions. The ritual of drinking coffee is more sophisticated in Turkey than it is in many Western countries. It is a drink to be shared with good company, rather than something to get you hopped up on caffeine. Apparently we have been doing it wrong!

Turkish coffee can be described as an acquired taste. It is thick, bitter and very richly flavored. The coffee is never filtered, so expect a thick layer of fine grounds resting at the bottom of your cup. Don’t drink the grounds unless you want to bounce off of walls for the remainder of your day!

  • Where to try Turkish coffee in Istanbul: Mandamatbaz is Istanbul’s most renowned purveyor of Turkish coffee.

WOTW Tip: there is a very highly-rated Turkish coffee experience perfect for all you coffee fanatics out there. Note that we did not participate in this experience, so please read the reviews carefully to see if it’s right for you!

25. Çai (Turkish Tea)

Aimara Enjoying Turkish Drink In Istanbul
  • WOTW rating: 5/5

It feels like cheating adding Turkish çai as a drink that you have to try while in Istanbul. It is 100% impossible not to be offered several fragrant cups of hot tea during your stay.

In our opinion, the çai in Turkey is not very strong flavored. It is enjoyed throughout the day, and it’s also an important symbol of the Turkish people’s famous hospitality. Because it is consumed at all times of the day, the amount of water added to dilute the brewed tea seemed pretty high.

We miss Turkish tea ):

  • Where to try Turkish tea in Istanbul: tea will taste very similar in most places, so our advice is to focus on the quality of food or snacks over the tea. That said, you can check out Dem Moda in Istanbul’s Kadiköy neighborhood if you are passionate about unique teas.

26. Ayran (Sour Yogurt Drink)

Drinks To Try In Istanbul Ayran
  • WOTW rating: 5/5


That’s what I was inspired to write when thinking about ayran. I mentioned that Turkish tea was nostalgic for us. Well, the thought of ayran makes us feel EVEN MORE nostalgic about our 3 months traveling around Turkey. It is our ultimate Turkish drink.

There is no better drink to enjoy with Istanbul’s heavily spiced foods than this sour yogurt drink. The yogurt is slightly thicker than traditional milk, and it’s a perfect blend of tart and salty flavors.

Literally every restaurant in Istanbul serves ayran. And every waiter asks if you want ayran with your meal. It is usually placed on your table in a packaged container. However, the real gem is the frothy homemade version of this popular yogurt drink. Do yourself a favor and order Ayran every chance you get!

  • Where to try Ayran in Istanbul: there are no recognized ayran places in Istanbul. That said, you are more likely to find the homemade version in non-street food establishments.

27. Turşu Suyu (Pickle Juice)

Turkish Pickled Vegetable Drinks
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: N/A

Yep, it’s a thing to drink pickle juice in Turkey. Pickle fans rejoice! But this is not just any old pickle juice. Turşu suyu includes pickled beets, cabbage, carrots, onions, cucumbers, peppers, and more! All of this vinegary goodness is presented as a bright pink beverage that will make you do a double-take when you see people drinking it.

As you can probably imagine, turşu suyu is salty and tangy. This famous Turkish drink often goes hand-in-hand with Istanbul’s street foods, as the briny beverage balances many Turkish dishes’ spicy and fatty flavors.

Sadly we never tried this famous Turkish drink while visiting Istanbul. I’m all for pickled vegetables, but by the time we realized what that glowing pink beverage was, it was too late. Oh well, something for next time!

  • Where to try turşu suyu in Istanbul: many restaurants selling fish sandwiches (balik ekmek) around the entrances to the Galata Bridge will serve turşu suyu. But if you want the best, head to a specialist store selling pickled goods. Asri Turşucu and Ozcan Famous Pickle are two of the best.

28. Salep

  • WOTW rating: N/A

Salep is one of the most unique Turkish street drinks to try while visiting Istanbul. The original versions were made using ground orchid root, but this starchy thickener is too costly for most producers. Street versions of salep don’t actually include the orchid root. You’ll have to head to one of Istanbul’s more upscale dessert shops if you want the real stuff.

Like turşu suyu, salep is one of Turkey’s popular street beverages. The most popular versions are sold directly from roaming street carts or from the front of restaurants. But this popular hot beverage only comes out around December when the temperatures in Istanbul start to get a little chilly.

Salep is similar to hot cocoa in the sense that it is a warm and comforting indulgence perfect for a cold winter’s day. The milky, sweet, and cozy treat is topped with cinnamon as a finishing touch. What more do you need?

  • Where to try salep in Istanbul: listen for the vendor calling from behind his street cart around Istanbul’s crowded sidewalks. Or head to Ali Usta in the Moda neighborhood if you want the real stuff with actual orchid root.

WOTW Tip: the street version of salep is also a favorite among locals, so don’t avoid it because it’s not ‘authentic’ enough. True, it won’t be made with crushed orchid root, but nobody really seems to care.

29. Raki (Turkish Liquor)

Raki Turkish Alcoholic Drink
Image source: Canva
  • WOTW rating: 3.5/5

It wouldn’t make sense not to include Turkey’s celebrated alcoholic drink on this list of things to try while in Istanbul. After indulging in Istanbul’s legendary foods, iconic desserts, and famous non-alcoholic drinks, you can now toast your accomplishments with a cool glass of raki!

Raki is a fiery, anise-flavored liquor almost always mixed with water and ice. Sharing a bottle of raki is a favorite way for friends to spend the night chatting away. The pour usually starts off pretty modestly, as the goal isn’t to get hammered immediately.

Şerefe! (cheers)

  • Best place to try raki in Istanbul: we understand you are probably stuffed at this point. But raki is really supposed to be enjoyed with Turkish mezes. You will have to find some more room for food. Ma’Na in Karaköy is recognized for its high-quality raki and mezes.

WOTW Tip: when you add water to a glass of raki, the clear liquids instantly turn cloudy. But only if you do it right! Raki goes first, add water next, and throw in some ice to finish it off. The raki doesn’t cloud the same if you don’t follow this order (so we heard). Don’t disappoint your new Turkish friends!

Final Thoughts On Istanbul’s Best Foods & Drinks

After twelve days spent indulging in Istanbul’s legendary foods, we can confirm that the hype is real. Make sure to sample all of this incredible city’s delicious treats, from its celebrated street foods, all the way to the chicken desserts.

Istanbul’s culinary history is an absolute highlight of any visit to this unforgettable city. We know we will 100% be back for seconds!

Thanks for reading!


Which one of the things on the list are you most excited to try? Do you have any questions about the best Istanbul foods and drinks? Reach out in the comments or DM us on Instagram!

Do Istanbul’s Foods have you convinced to visit Turkey? Read these posts next:

Tired of reading? We have an entire Turkey travel series on YouTube! Don’t forget to subscribe to follow along with the adventures 🙂

Was This Guide To 29 Istanbul Foods & Drinks To Try Helpful? Share it on Pinterest!

*Note: this post contains affiliate links. We receive a small commission when you purchase from these links, at no extra charge to you. Affiliate income helps keep us on the road creating content that we hope is useful to you!

Home » Food » 29 Of The Best Istanbul Foods & Drinks To Try (With Video)

1 thought on “29 Of The Best Istanbul Foods & Drinks To Try (With Video)”

  1. I just finished going through your blog and I have to comment, it was an outright fulfilment. Your writing technique is engaging and descriptive, making me feel like I was right there with you on your experience. The picture you included were also stunning and really added to the overall quest. cheers

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *