Istanbul is famous for its regional street foods, such as fish sandwiches (Balık Ekmek), steamed burgers in Taksim, and Boza of Vefa (Vefa Bozası). Not only that, there are famous local desserts and beverages, too.

It wouldn’t be wrong to say that the city has created its own synthesis of street foods. When it comes to diversified dishes, Istanbul’s cuisine stands out with its uniqueness. It perfectly combines the gastronomical elements of European, Anatolian, and Eastern cultures.

The best street food places in Istanbul are mostly centered around tourist places. They’re often can be found in Historical Peninsula, Beyoglu, Galata, Besiktas, and Kadikoy. In this article, we’ve gathered famous street foods to try in Istanbul.

Street Foods You Need to Try in Istanbul

The most famous street foods in Istanbul are steamed burgers in Taksim, balık ekmek in Eminönü, kumpir in Ortaköy, and white beans in Suleymaniye. When you get to Istanbul, you should also definitely try Simit and tea duo, street sandwiches, and cooked rice with chickpeas and chicken on top.

Fish Sandwiches (Balık Ekmek)

a man cooking fish on grillThe most famous street food in Istanbul is the renowned fish sandwiches of Eminönü. Its original name is Balık Ekmek, meaning “Fish and Bread”. This traditional food was first served on boats on the shores of Eminönü, next to the Galata Bridge.

Still in the same exact location, there exists the must-try street food of Istanbul. It is made with Norwegian mackerel fish, onions, lettuce, and white bread. The best way to try it is to eat it in its exact location when it’s still smoky and with the refreshing scent and breeze of the Marmara Sea.

Turkish Bagel and Tea (Simit ve Çay)

Turkish bagel, or Simit in Turkish, is a widely known Istanbul street food. They can be described as sesame skinny dough rings. Rather than just being closely related to a regular bagel, it is more like a combination of bagels and German Pretzels.

Simit is the most nostalgic and traditional Istanbul street food. In the 20th century, there were simit sellers who carry dozens of them on foot, on a large tray over their heads. Nowadays you can still find the most delicious Turkish bagels in the street from hawkers, or breakfast buffets.

The most traditional way is to try it on a ferry trip while crossing the Bosphorus Strait. A Turkish bagel accompanied by black tea on a ferry is such a fun experience.

Pro Tip: Don’t be surprised when you see people taking portions from their bagels and feeding the seagulls. Feeding seagulls with a simit can seem weird but is a charming tradition in Istanbul.

Portable Sandwich Buffets (Seyyar Sandviççiler)

sandwich on a tray that front of the groceryWhile walking along with cobblestone streets of the city, you can come across hawkers with portable food stalls selling a wide range of authentic Istanbul foods. Other than Turkish bagels, Istanbul has another signature street food: Sandwich buffets.

In these portable buffets with wheels, you can find all kinds of ingredients for a tasty sandwich. You can customize your sandwich easily by choosing any breakfast food. Also, mix some things and try out new sandwich recipes since they offer a large selection of ingredients, from various types of cheese to a wide range of delicatessen.

Cooked Rice with Chickpeas and Chicken (Tavuklu Nohut Pilav)

Cooked Rice is called “Pilav” in Turkish and has a remarkable spot in Turkish cuisine. It is eaten as the main Turkish food meal at the dinner table. However, it is also a tasty street food when combined with chickpeas and served with chicken on top. It is called “Tavuklu Nohut Pilav” in Turkish, which is translated as “Chickpea Rice with Chicken”.

As a widely known to-go dish in Istanbul, it is also sold in portable food stalls and served hot. The best way to try it is in the evening, or at midnight after a night out.

Steamed Burger (Islak Hamburger)

steamed burgers on a wooden plate with pickles on the sideThe motherland of the famous steamed burger is Istanbul thriving tourist spot, Taksim Square. In the late 1900s, there were only local burger buffets in Istanbul, before all the chain stores arrived in the city. The discovery of the steamed burger with slightly soften bread was coincidental. However, they were adored by both locals and foreigners at that time and even today.

It is a delicious, mini burger with both buns covered in a special tomato sauce, giving a soft and damp feeling. It may sound weird, but it is one of the best street foods in Istanbul in Istanbul that you have to try before leaving!

Jacket Potatoes (Kumpir)

Baked potatoes, or jacket potatoes, in other words, are must-try Istanbul dishes while visiting. It is often called “Kumpir” by locals, and it’s instantly linked with Istanbul’s Ortaköy region.

Kumpir is a baked potato mixed with cheese and butter, cut in half, and filled with lots of ingredients from olives and delicatessen to salads and appetizers.

When you go to Ortaköy, you will come across Kumpir stalls lined up alongside each other. Some offer different flavors, and you can choose the ingredients by looking over the glass section.

Pro Tip: We suggest you get your Kumpir and take a couple of minutes of walk to the Iskele Sokak, also known as the Ortaköy Square. There you will find seating areas by the sea, and enjoy your meal with stunning views of the Ortaköy Mosque, Bosphorus Strait, and the postcard-like views of the 15 July Martyrs Bridge.

White Beans in Suleymaniye (Kuru Fasulye)

beans served on a plateAnother authentic meal is the delicious white beans along with pilav in Suleymaniye. Suleymaniye is a historical complex that is built by Mimar Sinan, for the famous Ottoman ruler Suleiman the Magnificent.

Pro Tip: After a long tour of the Historical Peninsula, we suggest you visit Suleymaniye Complex, especially the mosque. End your trip with delicious white beans and pilav. The restaurants are situated right next to the mosque, The beans are baked in copper boilers even today and served warm.

It tastes even better when you try it in the winter. After a lovely trip to the Historical Peninsula, the warming sense when you taste the delicious white beans is captivating. Plus, the ravishing views of the magnificent Suleymaniye Mosque make it a unique Istanbul foodie experience that is worth trying.

Street Appetizers to Try in Istanbul

Best Istanbul street foods as the main meals are good and all. However, there are also mid-day appetizers you can try out in Istanbul.

For example, cotton candy and sugar-coated apples are everywhere. But the most famous appetizers are wafer halvah eaten with ice cream in the middle, and corn alongside roasted chestnuts, especially in Sultanahmet.

The city has a district called Kanlıca which is famous for its yogurts, so add it to the list. Also, let’s not forget the to-go pickles and assorted nuts as popular Turkish snacks.

Cotton Candy, Candy Apples, and Wafer Halvah

a hand holding a pink cotton candyAre you craving something sweet? Perfect, it is highly likely to come across a candy stall that is filled with candy apples, wafer halvah with ice creams, and cotton candies. They’re not only snacks you can eat on special occasions or activities. Cotton candies and sugar-coated apples are seen as mid-day snacks you can find anywhere in Istanbul.

Corns and Roasted Chestnuts

Regardless of the season, food stalls with a wide range of corn and roasted chestnuts will be good to go. They are widely common in the Historical Peninsula, especially in Sultanahmet Square and Eminönü.

But the best feeling is to take a bite from a warm, freshly roasted chestnut in the winter, with eye-catching views of the Hagia Sophia and Sultanahmet Mosque in the background.

Famous Yogurt of Kanlica

yogurt sauced with honey and coffeeThe tradition of the Tarihi Kanlıca Yoğurdu (Historical Yogurt of Kanlica) was to eat it on the ferry trip. This famous yogurt is produced from daily fresh milk of the sheep and cattle that have been fed by Beykoz’s special flora. The main highlight of it is that yogurts do not contain any additives and are produced organically.

Today, it is one of the most long-standing businesses in Istanbul. The whole brand is operated by a small family in Istanbul. It is possible to find this local dish in some supermarkets in Istanbul. You can also find them in their official sales spots in Kanlıca.

To-Go Pickles

Anatolian people love producing pickles from all kinds of vegetables and fruits. This tradition also spread to every corner of Istanbul. It is possible to purchase them in a jar, but also you can get different pickles in a cone to go.

There are lots of pickle shops, especially around Fatih, Beyoglu, and Eminönü. Other than that, you can easily come across mobile pickle stalls offering a wide range of flavors.

Sweets From the Streets: Best Street Desserts to Try in Istanbul

sweet bagel with turkish teaWhen we think about the Turkish cuisine, the most famous dessert that comes to mind is baklava, or Turkish delight. However, you can run into mobile food stalls filled with a wide range of tasty treats on Istanbul’s streets.

For example, “Halka Tatlısı” is among the most common street desserts in Istanbul. It is a ring-shaped fried dough dipped into the sherbet. “Lokma Tatlısı” is another version of this popular practice, but it’s a ball-shaped version of it.

The main difference between these shapes stands out in taste. While eating halka tatlısı, the sense of the crusty fried shape of it is more transcended. In lokma tatlısı, on the other hand, the dough is more dominant.

Halvah, or helva in Turkish, is also a prominent dessert in Turkish cuisine and Istanbul is the base of it. The history of helva in Istanbul's food culture as the shining star of the dinner tables traces back to the Ottoman period. There are still establishes exist in Istanbul, whose history dates back hundreds of years ago. While there, you should try out the most famous helvas of Istanbul for a nostalgic taste.

Slake Your Thirst by Trying These Famous Beverages in Istanbul

Istanbul is also rich in terms of the tastiest beverages to try out such as boza in Vefa, locally produced sodas with various flavors, and pickle juices.

Famous Boza of Vefa

a chef adding cinnamon to cups of bozaBoza is a warm winter beverage inherited from the Ottomans. It is widely common in Balkan countries as well as the Middle Asian provinces.

The boza is made with polenta, water, and sugar. The people who sell boza often wear traditional clothes and carry boza in steel barrels. They used to sell it by walking in the streets and yelling “Boza” at night to get the attention of people during the Ramadan season. The tradition still exists in Istanbul.

The boza of the Vefa is Istanbul’s most well-known beverage. While visiting Istanbul in winter, definitely try out the best bozas of the city in the Vefa Bozacısı.

Delicious To-Go Pickle Juices

Another popular to-go beverage in Istanbul is pickle juice. We’ve mentioned that there were lots of adoration for pickles, and there is also high demand for their juice. The pickle stores and mobile pickle sellers spread all over Istanbul provide a wide range of selection of pickle juices. However, if you’re looking for the best ones, you could try out the ones in Kadikoy, Balat, and Beyoglu.

Soft Drink of the Istanbulites: Gazoz

a hand holding a soft drink in bottleFor a little bit of nostalgia, we go back to about 100 years ago. During the last years of the Ottoman period, and the first years of the Republican period in Turkish history, gazoz was a quite popular drink in Istanbul. It can be described as a soft drink with lots, lots of different flavors.

Before coke or its equivalents arrive in Istanbul, gazoz was the main cold drink that Istanbulites were fond of. Most of these drinks were produced locally. So you can come across a lot of different brands with different tastes. There are still establishments that only sell gazoz drinks, and most of them are situated in the Historical Peninsula.

Beyoğlu Gazozu is the most famous one in Istanbul, easily accessible. It has different flavors including the ones with licorice & rosemary mix, classic ginger, sugar-free ginger, ginger ale, citrus fruits, and purple basil & rose mix.

Read More for an Ultimate Istanbul Experience!

The only way to capture the essence of this historical metropolis is to act like a local. Knowing what to do, where to go, and which to choose beforehand comes in handy while visiting Istanbul. For more insights to dive into Istanbul’s colorful world, continue to read our blogs.