10 Iconic Street Foods in Türkiye
In fall and winter, the street vendors of Türkiye start to sell roasted chestnuts (kestane kebap) that will warm up your hands and satisfy your food cravings. The aroma of the roasting chestnuts will gravitate you toward the carts where they slowly roast over the embers. You’re sure to come across a chestnut seller on every other corner of popular tourist walkways and streets in Türkiye.
The chestnuts are portioned into small, paper bags, depending on how many you want to buy - if you aren’t very hungry but want to try some kestane kebap, even the smallest portions are available. Make sure to try kestane kebap warm, right off the grill and you will not regret it!
Over the years, mısır - Turkish for corn - has become a popular street food, ideal for savoring while roaming the streets. It’s an essential summer staple, coinciding with the region’s harvest season, though it’s served throughout the year.
Mısır is sold on the streets, where it’s available in two versions: köz mısır, roasted corn on the cob, and süt mısır, boiled corn kernels seasoned with salt. A third variation has appeared recently, where corn kernels are served in cups and topped with your choice of condiment - ketchup, mayonnaise, red pepper flakes, and more.
Vendors typically wrap the corn in thick paper or in green corn husks. In the summer, some sellers even venture as far as Türkiye’s beaches offering this delicacy to holidaymakers. Make sure to try some!
There is a Turkish tradition of eating freshly caught grilled fish from the Marmara Sea prepared directly by the sea.
Balık ekmek, which translates into “fish sandwich,” is best enjoyed coastal neighborhoods of Karaköy and Eminönü in İstanbul, where it’s sold directly from boats. When you are around the Galata Bridge, just walk toward the vendors who call out, “Balık ekmek!” The appealing aroma of a fresh loaf of bread with warm, grilled fish is sure to invite you!
Turşu suyu (lit. pickle juice) is the perfect accompaniment to your fish sandwich. A by-product of pickle-making, it has a bold flavor, is sold in plastic glasses, and includes small pieces of pickles. It has two variations: one uses vinegar and the other lemon as a base. It’s sold by vendors who sell only turşu suyu or is available at fish stands and markets near the Karaköy or Eminönü shore.
Both balık ekmek and turşu suyu are sold in restaurants as well but it is best enjoyed bought from a street vendor and eaten outdoors!
Dondurma or Turkish ice cream is the ultimate tourist favorite. It has a dense and chewy consistency, which is achieved by adding two thickening agents, mastic resin and salep (flour made from the tubers of wild orchids), to the basic milk and sugar mixture. It’s a delicious, refreshing dessert 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 served between kağıt helva (wafer halva), a wafer-like confection filled with condensed milk. Wafer halva vendors with or without stalls can be spotted carrying packs of wafer halva everywhere - from İstanbul ferries to the streets of Türkiye’s other major cities.
Tavuklu pilav is Turkish rice pilaf topped with boiled, shredded chicken breast. Try this dynamic duo on the streets of Türkiye and it’s guaranteed that you’ll be enamored forever! It’s fast - so much so that the sellers become lifesavers when it comes to quick meals - hot, and filling. You will easily spot vendors with their glass-covered carts up and down the streets of Türkiye. İstanbul locals swear that the tavuklu pilav at sold at the Unkapanı area is the city’s best!
Some vendors also sell variations of tavuklu pilav with chickpeas or live as a topping. No matter what version you choose, it is perfectly paired with a cold glass of ayran, Türkiye’s favored salted yogurt drink.
Simit, easily Türkiye’s most popular snack, is a molasses-dipped, sesame-crusted bread that comes in a circular shape. Over the years, it’ has become a staple of breakfasts on-the-go. It can be enjoyed with cream cheese or chocolate spread. İstanbul’s plentiful seagulls are always eager to feed on some of your simit - make sure to spare them some!
Simit can be found in beautiful, glass-covered carts all across Türkiye, and also on massive trays balanced atop traveling sellers’ heads.
Börek can be described as a type of baked pastry made using phyllo. Its most common fillings include minced meat, cheese, leafy greens (like spinach) or potatoes. Street börek is usually layered with cheese, whereas homemade börek or the börek sold in bakeries offers a greater variety. Börek is a delicious, filling street food - make sure to try some whenever you find yourself in Türkiye!
A savory pastry, sokak poğaçası, is another delicacy that you’ll come across on the streets of Türkiye. You can find this pastry with or without filling and its various names derive from this distinction: sade (plain), peynirli (filled with cheese), kıymalı (filled with minced meat) or zeytinli (filled with olives or olive paste). Try them all to decide which one is your personal favorite!
Usually preferred as a midnight meal, kokoreç can be described as skewered offal wrapped in sheep or goat intestines served chopped and spiced inside a bread loaf. Though many are hesitant to approach this dish, the sellers make sure all parts are thoroughly cleaned so you have nothing to worry about. Kokoreç is roasted on charcoal (like döner) and traditionally seasoned with spices like oregano, cumin, and chili flakes.
If you feel ready, take the plunge – we promise kokoreç will not disappoint!
More of a snack than a meal, midye dolma are mussels stuffed with aromatic pilaf. The rice is cooked with various spices and served on the half shell. A popular street food of Türkiye, it’s eaten up in one gulp after squeezing a bit of lemon juice over each stuffed mussel. Be warned: as each mussel is eaten in one go, you can easily lose track of how many you have consumed!
Döner Dürüm & Çiğ Köfte Dürüm
In Türkiye, dürüm is basically what we call the style of serving chicken, beef, cheese, or vegetables in a wrap. Although you will find this dish served even at the fanciest of restaurants, we recommend you try the street food version to immerse yourself in genuine Turkish culture.
Known throughout the world, döner is a type of kebab made of meat 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, 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 as a topping on 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 which in time spread across all of Türkiye. Today, it consists mainly of fine bulgur and a variety of spices. Traditionally the mixture included meat. Served with lots of greens, pickles, lemon, and pomegranate sauce, çiğ köfte dürüm is a delicious vegetarian dish. Çiğ köfte dürüm can be eaten by rolling the bulgur köfte (patties) in lettuce leaves or by wrapping them inside lavaş bread, a traditional, thin flatbread – either way is mouthwatering!
Kumpir is the Turkish version of a jacked potato.
It is a baked potato which has been cut in half, seasoned with r and whipped until smooth and creamy. Then a myriad of toppings like , peas, carrots, corn, cheese, and all sorts of condiments can be added - the possibilities are endless! Make sure to pay close attention when you are asked about your preferred toppings!
You can try kumpir anywhere in Türkiye but İstanbul’s Ortaköy neighborhood has become synonymous with this specialty.