What to eat in Istanbul

Turkey For Food Lovers

In addition to being a cultural, religious and historical capital of the world, Istanbul, formerly Constantinople, is a food lover's paradise. Get the skinny on what local specialties to try while you're there.

What to eat in Istanbul - Baklava and more!

While exploring the incredible churches, mosques, baths, and monuments of Istanbul, you will be lured by the sights and smells of the food coming out of every restaurant and street cart. Simple, fresh food is the name of the game here, and there are treats to satisfy meat-eaters, vegetarians and sweet lovers alike. Don’t miss a trip to the bustling spice market, where many of these specialties are available. Here is a small sampling of some of the most iconic Turkish dishes to watch for:

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Hundreds of thin layers of delicate phyllo dough are stacked together along with honey and nuts to create one of Turkey's most famous desserts. Prepare to be amazed by the sheer variety of baklava available, which comes in all shapes, sizes and flavors in Istanbul. Walnut and pistachio variations are most common.


These savory phyllo pastries also come in a variety of shapes and with many different fillings. They can look like turnovers, cigars or even lasagna and are typically filled with mild white cheese, vegetables (most often spinach) and/or ground meat. They can be eaten for breakfast or as a snack at any time of day.

Doner kebabDoner kebab

One of the most popular kinds of street food in Istanbul, doner kebab is what is known as shawarma in the rest of the world. Compressed chicken, beef or lamb is pressed onto a large spit, roasted and shaved. Get it in a pita, tortilla-style wrap or on a sandwich.


These spiced Turkish meatballs are another delicious meat dish. Usually made with ground beef or lamb, they are flatter and smaller than the usual meatballs. Kofte are typically grilled and served on a pita.


Better known as Turkish delights, these chewy, sweet confections are another specialty of the region. If you've only had stale Turkish delights that pull out your fillings, give them another go in their native land. You won't be disappointed. They come in a variety of flavors, from pistachio to rosewater and coffee to pomegranate.


These tiny meat-stuffed dumplings are a must try. They are usually boiled or steamed and topped with a sauce made from yogurt, butter and garlic. Manti resemble mini tortellini and make for a filling meal.


A rich milk pudding, be sure to sample muhallebi while in Istanbul. There are entire shops, called Muhallebicisi, devoted to this sweet dessert. Have your pick of flavors like orange blossom water and mastic.

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Tags: culinary tour ethnic food middle eastern

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Comments on "What to eat in Istanbul"

istanbul July 20, 2012 | 4:14 AM

real baklava does not contain honey. it's made with simple syrup. honey makes the dessert hard to handle and too sweeet and sticky. greek knock-offs use honey. the real thing is made with simple syrup. also: döner is not known as shawarma in the rest of the world. you are confusing arabic middle east with the world. döner is the standart name for this dish in europe as well. except in greece, where they do a döner knock-off with rather thick slicing and different garnish. author: make sure you know what you are writing about.

Hongtuoi July 11, 2012 | 4:30 AM

I have not cooked tgunoe myself but my mom does. She gets a cow from the farm and takes the tgunoe and seasons it with salt, sugar and msg. Then she puts it in the oven on high or broil. She cooks the cow meat the same way as she cooks the tgunoe. It is either cooked whole or cut in big chunks to seal in the juice. Once it is cooked it is cut or sliced and then served with a dip usually made from cow bile, cilantro, chives,herbs, soy sauce and peppers.There are many ways Asians bbq, some people marinate their meats oyster sauce, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, korean bbq sauce, or fish sauce. I'm not sure what kind of bbq your had at that restaurant or how it tasted, but it's all matter of preference. Some people put onions, chives, and garlic, and others keep it simple. If you want to add spice you can put peppers or use sriracha sauce. I have even seen some people use curry. For the most part, at restaurants, they will marinate tgunoe in some type of sauce or make their own, but when cooked at home, cow tgunoe is usually just seasoned lightly and baked. The homemade dip made from cow bile, peppers, soy sauce and herbs is also served with tgunoe along with sticky rice and a side of vegetables(mostly steamed or raw). The dip is bitter because of the bile, but most likely they will not serve that at restaurants because it is very hard to get. Instead they will just skip the bile and just put soy sauce, herbs, and peppers. People usually get cow bile when they go to the farm and get a fresh cow, they ask for the bile. Also, some farmers will not sell the cow bile anymore. Hope this helps. If you describe the way it tasted I can probably give you a better idea of how it was made.

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