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  • Writer's pictureAround the World in Vegan Eats

TOP PLACES TO EAT VEGAN IN ISTANBUL, TÜRKIYE


Please note that due to the current economic situation in Türkiye, prices are very variable and may change rapidly. The prices quotes are those we paid in October 2023 - please check current menus for the most up to date prices.


Hello from the incredible city of Istanbul, Türkiye! Istanbul was the first city we visited in this glorious country, and was the perfect introduction. Not only is there SO MUCH to do and see in Istanbul (take it from us, there is never time to see it all!) there was a tonne of incredible things for us to eat too! We weren't expecting there to be as many vegan options as there were in Istanbul: this is both a good thing and a bad thing because it meant that we couldn't try everything we wanted to! So honestly, if you want a taste of Turkish life with loads of plant-based choices, Istanbul is 100% an amazing place to visit.


Eating Vegan in Istanbul

“If one had but a single glance to give the world, one should gaze on Istanbul" - Alphonse de Lamartine

When you visit Istanbul, the first thing to note is that the city spans two continents and this means you need to choose which side you're going to stay on. There is no wrong choice here, both the European and Asian sides of the city offer loads of incredible sights, accommodation and food options. We stayed on the European side, purely because some of the main sights we wanted to visit were nearby; though you can easily travel between both sides of Istanbul we didn't have tonnes of time. So all of our recommendations are on the European side of Istanbul; if we visit Istanbul again we will definitely be heading to check out the food and sights on the Asian side of the city! Read on, then watch the video at the end of this blog, to see what we ate and where!


1st: Veganarsist

Multiple locations across Istanbul

If you've been keeping up with our travels around Türkiye, you might recognise Veganarsist from our Vegan Döner Kebab blog! This place impressed us immediately and went on to become the most legendary taste of our trip to Istanbul. The restaurant itself is friendly and comfortable (we visited the Balat location) and honestly, the whole process - viewing the QR code menu, ordering with the lovely staff, and then eating the food itself - was efficient and enjoyable.


Mike ordered the Gimli Beyti Doner Kebab, which cost 324₺ (approx. £8.81, €10.23 or $11.16). And wow, this kebab was INCREDIBLE, pure deliciousness. The plant-based kebab was contained in small, spiral wraps, and coated in delicious sauces. The tomato sauce was really tasty, and the garlic cashew yogurt was indulgent and really moreish. Not only was the texture of the kebab spot on, the bread was soft and doughy so they complemented each other really well. Honestly, we couldn't get enough of these little kebab wraps! A special mention to the bulgur wheat pilaf that was served on the side of this dish too: it had such a depth of flavour with loads of spices and was filling without being stodgy - oh my goodness, I could rave about this dish forever! It was exactly what you want for your first doner from Türkiye!


I chose the Isildur 'Meat' Doner on Rice, which was cheaper at 216₺ (approx. £5.87, €6.82 or $7.44). Though it didn't blow us away like the kebab wraps, this dish was absolutely incredible too. The imitation döner meat was really flavoursome and tender, with the same rich and tasty tomato sauce. This is definitely the lighter option, but it was no less yummy: the rice was impossibly tasty, and the pickled veg served alongside added an extra kick to the meal. 


Though Veganarsist was the most expensive food we ate in Istanbul, that higher price brought an incredible quality to the food. Genuinely, it was worth every penny, we loved it so much! Though we visited only one of their locations (the Balat restaurant) there are multiple venues across the city, so you can be sure that there will be one near you!




2nd: Vegan Istanbul

Firuzağa, Türkgücü Cd. No:51, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkiye


If you want some hearty, home cooked food with tonnes of local options and some international favourites too, Vegan Istanbul is your place to go! We were really impressed with this family run place: we felt immediately at home choosing from the counter of fresh, homemade plant-based goodies. Now, this is a buffet-style place: choose three or four options and the friendly staff will plate them up, heat them, and serve to your table. It's really cheap too! A three option plate cost 95₺ (approx. £2.58, €3.00 or $3.27), while four choices cost 110₺ (approx. £2.99, €3.47 or $3.79). And honestly, these portions were hearty!


I chose the spinach pie, pasta, bulgur salad, and an eggplant dish pepper with soy. I really enjoyed the selection of dishes which complemented each other well, and oh my goodness the portion was massive too! The spinach pie was a little less crispy than I had imagined, it was more chewy, but it had a really comforting flavour, packed with tasty wilted spinach. I loved the pasta: the rich tomato sauce made me feel warmed and happy. The bulgur salad was fresh and served cold, I loved the mix of grains with the veg and the slight tanginess which made it very regressing. The eggplant and pepper with soy felt like a really hearty, warming, and traditional dish that I would be very keen to have again. The slight sweetness of the aubergine contrasted well with the savoury soy mince and the tasty sauce. I felt so satisfied and happy after eating this big plate full of home cooked vegan Turkish food!


Mike, on the other hand, went for the soy patty, a heap of spinach, and like me, the bulgur salad and pasta. Just like my selections, Mike thought his complemented each other well too - we'd recommend going for a protein dish with a carb and a couple of vegetables or salads for the best meal. The soy patty was a little bland, but the rest of his plate was really tasty and enjoyable. The first of two highlights on his plate was the pasta in the rich tomato sauce: we just couldn't get enough of this pasta dish, it was super tasty and full of flavour! The second highlight for Mike was the fresh and punchy bulgur salad, with flavour from sundried tomatoes, onions, and other things all packed in. The spinach was standard, bringing up the green factor to make what was in the end a very tasty meal!




3rd: Asian Vegan Kitchen

Cihangir, ASIAN VEGAN KITCHEN, Mebusan Ykş. No: 27 / A, 34433 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkiye


One evening in Istanbul we fancied something a bit different for our dinner, so headed over to Asian Vegan Kitchen for some scrumptios Asian food! Now, the first thing that we'll say is that Asia is a big continent: and somehow, within a relatively small menu, Asian Vegan Kitchen manage to encompass a wide range of pan Asian cuisines - and they do it well too! We enjoyed our trip to this cute little restaurant, and very much recommend a visit!


I picked the tofu Pad Thai (listed as 'rice noodle with tofu), which cost 205₺ (approx. £5.58, €6.47 or $7.06). Though the prices were a little higher here than some places we visited in Istanbul, this pad Thai was definitely worth it! It might have been a little more wet than an authentic pad Thai, but the noodles were cooked really well and the flavours were awesome! The tofu was silken rather than firm tofu which was a bit of a surprise, but it still tasted delicious. I missed the crunch of beansprouts, but the spring onions were very tasty and the good portion of peanuts and chilli flakes for sprinkling, along with a wedge of lime for squeezing, finished this dish off perfectly. 


Mike hcose his favourite Asian dish, the tofu yellow curry, which came in at 200₺ (approx. £5.44, €6.32 or $6.89). And this yellow curry did not disappoint: it was really, really tasty! The rice was cooked well: he ate his curry by chucking the rice in the bowl and soaking it all together, and it was really enjoyable. Though it said that it contained potato on the menu, it was missing the potato which was a little sad - potato would have definitely elevated this curry even higher in our estimations! The tofu was silken, and therefore softer than expected, but it still tasted delicious. Yum!




4th: Vegan Food Cartel

Katip Mustafa Çelebi, Abdullah Sk. No: 16, 34437 Beyoğlu/İstanbul, Türkiye


We visited Vegan Food Cartel fancying some plant-based junk food, and wow they absolutely delivered! Though the food here was quite expensive for what it was, we couldn't believe how many comfort food favourites were on the menu here! When you scan their QR code menu, prepare to be overwhelmed by choice: there is so much indulgent and fun food here to choose from!


Mike went for the Meat Lovers Pizza, which cost 299₺ (approx. £8.13, €9.44 or $10.30). This pizza was a heart attack on a plate - but thankfully as it wasn’t real meat, it was a little less unhealthy! The döner was very well fried and crunchy, and the other imitation meats - the bacon and the pepperoni - were good too. He absolutely had to order this pizza, because of the uniqueness of a meat lovers' pizza made vegan. You get a lot of real meat feast pizzas in the UK, but you almost never see a plant-based version! The vegan cheese on this pizza was average, but the base and tomato sauce were really delicious. Would he have it again? Not necessarily. But was he glad he had the experience? Absolutely! It was a hearty way to fill up and indulget after a long day of walking around the sights of Istanbul!


I picked the crunch plate, which came in at 249₺ (approx. £6.77, €7.86 or $8.58).

This mock chicken strips plate came served with fries that were so delicious - they tasted just like the thin and tasty fries at McDonald’s, so I was very happy! The fried chicken itself was fairly average, with the mock meat almost a bit spongy, but I found it enjoyable to eat with a range of tasty vegan sauces. The coating could have done with maybe some southern style flavouring, or buffalo, or something like that, just to give it a bit more favour. Overall though, if you’re craving a plate of vegan chicken and chips this is definitely the dish for you. 




5th: The Street Food

Everywhere! Across Istanbul!


We absolutely adored the street food in Istanbul, and across Türkiye: if you check out our vegan street food in Istanbul blog, you can found out loads more detail about what we ate, how much it cost, and how it all tasted! The great news? There are street food carts ALL OVER Istanbul, and Türkiye more generally, and so much of it is naturally vegan!


From roasted and salted corn cobs (Misir - my favourite!) to roasted chestnuts, fresh fruits and juices, roasted chickpeas in sugar, and so much bread, there is tonnes to choose from! Definitely the cheapest, most numerous and popular is simit, a kind of bagel style bread encrusted with toasted sesame seeds. While this is sometimes served with non-vegan fillings like nutella or cream cheese, the cheapest way to enjoy them is warm, with no filling, usually for about 10₺ (approx. £0.27, €0.32 or $0.34). There are lots of other things to keep an eye out for too: one of my other favourites, that we didn't find on the day we filmed our video, is kumpir. These jacket potatoes are heaped with toppings of your choice: steer clear of meat and dairy products and you can still get a hearty and well topped potato full of yum!


Genuinely, wherever you go in Türkiye you'll be spoilt for choice with street food for very low prices, so don't let being vegan put you off, as there is loads for you! And don't forget the Turkish Delight too (you can find out more about that on our Turkish delight blog!)




Where is your favourite place to get plant-based food in Istanbul? Are there any new places or old favourites that we've missed? Leave us a comment to let us know (and others who might be visiting too!)



Recommendations

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Where should I stay?

Istanbul is huge, with so many different accommodation options - and lots of popular areas for tourists to stay in too. Wherever you want to be in Istanbul, you'll find a wealth of options for hotels, guesthouses, hostels, B&Bs, and entire apartments and homes to rent. For real cost-effective solutions, check out Agora Guesthouse & Hostel, one of Istanbul's most highly rated hostels which has both private en-suite and dorm rooms, an on-site bar and includes a free buffet breakfast too. For more of a private option, with a Turkish breakfast thrown in too, Second Home Suites is a popular choice, with excellent facilities on offer to all guests.


Tours & Experiences


You wouldn't believe how much there is to see and do in Istanbul! One of the most popular ways to see the city is with a cruise on the Bosphorus river - and this particular Yacht Cruise is very highly rated: its route includes a short stop in the Asian side of Istanbul too.


If you're in Istanbul for a short time and want to see as much as possible, consider a guided tour: this one includes transport between the many famous (but far apart) sites in this historic city.


Alternatively, if that's not for you, check out one of Viator's most favourite and highly rated tours and experiences on the left!


Please note that the tours displayed on the left are automatically selected for their popularity by Viator, not chosen or recommended by us. Please check whether any food or drink based tours are suitable for your dietary requirements, and any animal-based experiences are ethical, before booking!

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