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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.

We are so excited to be in our next country, Türkiye! Over the next few months we'll be releasing blogs and videos from many different parts of this incredible country - but where to start other than Istanbul? This famous city is so vibrant, full of life, culture, and of course, incredible food! It is the place where Europe meets Asia and wow, what a place to be!

As we start our Turkish vegan food journey in possibly Türkiye's most famous city, of course we had to start with perhaps the Turkish dish that is most popular and well known worldwide. With a few vegan versions to choose from in this epic city, we hit the pavements of Istanbul to try an authentic Döner Kebab - made completely vegan!

But wait, what exactly is Döner Kebab?

Mike trying to spot a vegan döner!

You might know döner kebab as that rotating stick of meat in your local takeaway, most commonly served in a big pita laden with sauces and salad. Well, a little more distinct from greasy takeaway food, döner comes in lots of different forms here in Türkiye!

The word 'döner' derives from 'donmek', which means to rotate, so döner kebab quite literally means a kebab that has been rotating. In Türkiye this usually consists of a mixture of lamb and beef, and often comes served in a durum, which is a type of flatbread. So on menus you might see a 'döner durum',

which is most similar to the kind we have across the world - but if you're in Türkiye for a while you'll be able to try countless types of döner! Keep an eye on our blogs for all the different styles of döner that we have tried across Türkiye!

Where did we try vegan döner kebab in Istanbul?

The great news for vegans visiting Istanbul is that there are quite a few different vegan cafes and restaurants serving plant-based döner kebab. The place we headed was Veganarsist, in the fun, hipster and cultural Balat district. We loved sitting on our table outside watching locals, tourists, and lots of cats go about their day to day lives while we enjoyed our döner!

They offer a more upmarket version of totally vegan Turkish food, with indoor and outdoor seating, wifi and a QR code menu, and super friendly staff. They also serve a wide range of vegan döner; it took us a little while to choose which ones we fancied!

So come on - tell us all about the döner kebab! How did it taste?

We actually ordered two different types of döner - and spoiler alert: neither of these at all resembled greasy takeaway food!

Mike chose the Gimli Beyti Döner Kebab, which consisted of cute little rolled wraps of flatbread with vegan döner 'meat', and a combination of tomato sauce and homemade garlic cashew yogurt. The presentation here was beautiful, with a bulgur pilaf, tomatoes, and peppers served on the side. Honestly, this dish was absolutely incredible, pure deliciousness! First of all, the tomato sauce on the wraps was very tasty, as was the garlic cashew yogurt. The flavours complemented each other so well! The texture of the plant-based döner was spot on, slightly chewy, alongside the lovely, doughy bread. A surprising highlight for both of us was the bulgur pilaf that was served on the side: it had so much flavour, warm and slighlty spicy. The Gimli Beyti Döner Kebab was a real winner for us: exactly what you want for your first döner in Türkiye!

Meanwhile, I chose the Isildur Meat Döner on Rice. This consisted of the same plant-based döner meat, served in the rich and tasty tomato sauce. Having the döner meat on its own really highlighted the quality of the texture and flavour, it was so tasty! We were really impressed! While I preferred the indulgence of the Gimli Beyti Doner Kebab, Mike absolutely loved this dish. It was definitely the lighter option, and financially, a fair bit cheaper too. The rice on first glance seemed plain but was actually very tasty, and the pickled veg served alongside added an extra kick to the meal. We were absolutely blown away by our first döner experience in Türkiye, here at The Veganarsist!

How much did the plant-based döner kebabs cost - and were they worth it?

Now, I told you that The Veganarsist was a lot more upmarket than a lot of the plant-based restaurants and cafes that we ate at in Türkiye. It is also located in Istanbul, the most expensive city in Türkiye, meaning that the prices are much higher than comparable dishes across the country. The Gimli Beyti Döner Kebab cost 324₺ (approx. £9.27, €10.64 or $11.37), whilst the Isildur Meat Döner on Rice was 216₺ (approx. £6.18, €7.09 or $7.58).

While we did find this quite expensive, honestly, for the quality of the dishes, the products, and the flavours, we were pretty happy with the price we paid. If you are travelling across Türkiye like we did, plan to budget a bit more for your food and drink in Istanbul. With the kebabs we ate, and the extensive plant-based menu and excellent service, we really recommend a trip to Veganarsist when you're in Istanbul, you won't regret it!

Have you tried vegan döner kebab in Türkiye? Or elsewhere in the world! Where did you go and what did you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.


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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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