A Foodie Guide to Istanbul: Gastronomy + Where to Eat in Istanbul

Istanbul is one of the gastronomic capitals of the world. If you’ve ever been to Istanbul, then you’ll know that delicious places to eat and drink are endless here. And you should definitely experience the Turkish gastronomy and the perfect foodie scene and culture of the city. Here we explore the ultimate guide to a foodie’s way around and where to eat in Istanbul!

Turkish Culinary Highlights

Breakfast

Turks often want a hearty breakfast. A traditional Turkish breakfast includes cheese (beyaz peynir, kaşar, and so on), butter, olive, eggs, muhammara, tomatoes, cucumbers, jam, honey, kaymak, sucuk (spicy Turkish meat comparable to sausages), pastirma, börek, simit, poaça, fried dough (known as pişi), and soups.

Menemen is a breakfast specialty made with tomatoes, green peppers, onion, olive oil, and eggs. Breakfast may also contain kuymak (also known as muhlama, mhlama, and yalaş, depending on the province). Breakfast is almost often provided with Turkish tea. Breakfast in Turkish is kahvalt, which means “before coffee.”

Homemade foods

Although the newly introduced style of life encourages the younger generation to dine out, Turkish people prefer to eat at home. Turkish citizens still favor home-cooked meals.

A typical meal begins with soup (notably in the winter), is accompanied by a dish made of vegetables (olive oil or ground meat), meat or legumes boiled in a pot (typically with meat or minced meat), and is frequently served with/before Turkish pilav, pasta, or bulgur pilav, accompanied by a salad or cack (diluted cold yogurt dish with garlic, salt, and cucumber slices).

Many people choose to have a cold dish of vegetables fried in olive oil (zeytinyal yemekler) instead of soup in the summer, before or after the main dish, which can also be a fish plate, chicken, or meat.

Restaurants

Despite the fact that fast food is becoming famous and that many prominent international fast-food companies have developed throughout Turkey, Turkish people continue to rely mainly on the rich and varied dishes of Turkish cuisine.

Furthermore, traditional Turkish delicacies such as köfte, döner, kokoreç, kumpir, midye tava, börek, and gözleme are frequently provided as fast food in Turkey. In big economic centers, eating out has long been common. Esnaf lokantas (restaurants for merchants and tradespeople) are typical, providing traditional Turkish home cuisine at reasonable costs.

Summertime cuisine

Menemen and çlbr are traditional summer meals made with eggs. In the hot Turkish summer, fried vegetables such as eggplant (aubergine), peppers, or potatoes are frequently eaten with yogurt or tomato sauce.

A light summer supper can also include sheep cheese, cucumbers, tomatoes, watermelons, and melons. Summer helva, which is lightweight and less sweet than ordinary helva, is preferred by those who enjoy helva for dessert.

Some most-taste culinary highlights

Seafood

Because of Istanbul’s accessibility to the sea, taze balk (fresh fish) is particularly famous among locals. The day’s fresh fish is often barbecued and served with rice, chips, and salad. As meze, shellfish and calamari are offered. Hamsi pilav is a fantastic Black Sea dish (fresh anchovies and rice).

Dolma

Dolma is a Turkish phrase that means “packed up” and is used to describe any stuffed meal, such as walnuts, peppers, meat, tomatoes, or aubergine. The most popular variation includes, while eaten cold, the vine leaves will be loaded with rice, onion, almonds, and spices.

Meatball (Kofte) and Kebabs

Turkish kebab, or kebap, is Turkey’s most renowned culinary export. Doner kebap consists of wafer-thin slices of roasted meat (typically lamb) sliced on a skewer; the şis kebap consists of cubed lamb or chicken roasted on a skewer. Kofte is minced beef cooked into meatballs, flattened on a skewer, and grilled.

Meze

The variety of meze is vast, and you can quickly eat enough for a packed lunch. Chicken liver kebabs, calamari, grilled cheese, or something more experimental like koç yumurtas (fried sheep’s testicles) are all hot alternatives. Cold choices include haydari (yogurt with mint and garlic) and midye pilakisi (mussels sautéed in olive oil) (cold chicken in walnut and bread sauce).

Coban Salatasi

This simple, healthful, colorful, and delicious salad mixes tomato, cucumber, chopped pepper, lettuce, coriander, celery, lemon juice, and olive oil. Turkish tomatoes are considered to be among the best in the world.

Pastries

Sweet pastries are sold in specialty shops and by street sellers, and they are served as dessert in tourist restaurants. The most well-known is baklava (a flaky pastry coated in syrup), although several varieties include honey, syrups, marzipan, almonds, and pistachios. All are amazing to eat and calorie nightmare.

Coffee and tea

Nescafé is the brand name for all instant coffee. Both çay (tea) and kahve (coffee), Turkey’s lifeblood, are consumed black, powerful, and sweet in tiny quantities. Tea is available all day and on all occasions. You can want it to be weaker (acik) and without sugar. Coffee is consumed less frequently than tea since it is more costly and usually served with a glass of water.

Where to Eat in Istanbul?

Restaurants

If you’re looking for a great meal while you’re in town, there’s something for everyone in Istanbul.

This year more than 50 restaurants in Istanbul awarded with Michelin stars. Majority of the best restaurants below are listed on the 2023 Michelin-starred restaurants in Istanbul. From Turkish cuisine to international favorites, check out of our best restaurants in Istanbul and favorites in this international city!

Best restaurants in Istanbul

Breakfast & Brunch

With the infamous Turkish breakfast becoming known internationally for its large spread of eggs, breads, mezzes, jams, honey, and traditional Turkish tea, it is certainly one of the things you must try while in the city!

There’s definitely something for everyone when it comes to Istanbul’s breakfast and brunch scene. Here are some of the best places to enjoy a hearty breakfast and brunch in Istanbul before starting your day in this vibrant city.

Best Best Places for Breakfast and Brunch in Istanbul

Rooftop restaurants and bars

There are some fantastic rooftops bars that are in Istanbul, and they offer stunning views of the city, this is also perfect for a romantic night or an evening with friends.

From enjoying the incredible views of the Bosphorus Strait to watching the sun set over the Golden Horn, these places offer an experience you won’t find anywhere else. Here are some of our favorite and best rooftop restaurants and bars in Istanbul!

Best Rooftop restaurants and bars in Istanbul

Street Food

İstanbul fish sandwich, also known as Balık Ekmek which is the best street food in İstanbul, Eminönü, on background blurry ship and Turkish flag.

Istanbul has several kinds of street food, and even you can find and taste different famous dishes along its own districts. We recommend you don’t leave Istanbul without tasting these famous street food in the city. Great option for budget Istanbul.

Street Food in Istanbul

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