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  • Writer's pictureAround the World in Vegan Eats

WE TRIED ALL THIS VEGAN STREET FOOD IN ISTANBUL, TÜRKIYE!

Updated: Dec 14, 2023



One thing was clear to us while we were in Istanbul: the Turkish people sure do love their street food! Wherever you look there are stalls cooking and selling everything from breads and pastries to mussels and kebabs. There's food around every corner: which means lots of delicious temptation every time you're walking down the street. And the good news for us vegetarians and vegans? So much of this street food is naturally vegan! So while we were in the legendary city of Istanbul, of course we had to spend an evening having our own mini street food tour of one of the city's most famous streets! Read on, then join us in the video at the end of the page, to see how our street food tour of Istanbul went down: what we found, what we loved, and what we paid!


Where did we find vegan street food in Istanbul?

Now, let's get one thing straight. It really doesn't matter where you go in Istanbul, you will absolutely find some street food. And where we headed is almost certainly not the best place to get street food: we just headed there because it is probably one of the most famous places to get street food!


We headed to Istiklal Avenue, Istanbul's most famous shopping street, where the hustle and bustle of locals and tourists ensured loads of choice when it came to street food stalls. However, as you'll see from the prices we paid, this is definitely not the most cost effective place to buy street food - though it does ensure a legendary backdrop!


What street food did we enjoy?

Dish 1: Simit

We started by buying a simit each. This naturally vegan, round bread is served warm, and encrusted with sesame seeds. Sometimes you'll see it served with butter, cream cheese, or Nutella - but it is often just served on its own too. The good news? These are always super cheap - and as we found out, super filling too!


We paid 10₺ per simit (approx. £0.28, €0.32 or $0.35). This was a great thing to start our street food journey with, since it was flavoursome but not overwhelmingly so. The bread was firm and dense, with those sesame seeds adding an extra touch of flavour. On its own it was a little plain, and if you're having it without a filling like we did, make sure you have a drink on hand because it was quite dry too! Overall, not our favourite of the street foods, but an absolute classic here that you'll see EVERYWHERE, so we were really happy to have tried it!


Dish 2: Misir

Here's one I was really looking forward to - and it did not disappoint! Misir is a favourite here in Istanbul, you'll regularly see locals enjoying some fresh misir while walking through the city streets. But what is it? Simply comprising of corn cobs boiled and then roasted at a small street cart, this is another naturally vegan street food option. Unlike in other countries, these cobs are not spread with butter: instead the vendor will offer a sprinkle of salt over your corn for extra flavour.


We paid 30₺ per misir (approx. £0.84, €0.96 or $1.05) - though the cheapest we saw misir during our time in Türkiye was 20₺ per misir, so it's worth keeping an eye out for a bargain! This was absolutely my favourite of everything we ate here: the corn was sweet and juicy, and the sprinkling of salt made for a delicious sweet and salty combination! I loved this so much, it was so tasty! Though it's certainly not the neatest thing to eat, and not super convenient to eat while you're walking down the street, it's so worth it for all this flavour - and it's relatively healthy too!


Dish 3: Kestane

Next up, we grabbed a bag of kestane, or roasted chestnuts. Now, these were pretty expensive: we paid 100₺ for a small bag (approx. £2.80, €3.21 or $3.49). This was absolutely a result of buying them in a very high cost area, with lots of tourism: the cheapest that we saw this size bag of kestane across Türkiye was 40₺. So if you're wanting to try them, but not sure you'll be keen, it's worth waiting until you find a cheaper street stall!


We initially ran into the problem that we didn't know how to de-shell these! After figuring out how to pick the shell off we gave these naturally vegan winter treats a try: and our reactions were quite different! While Mike quite liked the texture of the tough yet soft chestnuts, and their sweet and smoky flavour, I really was not convinced! I definitely think that these are worth trying, but I won't be having them again in a hurry! They are so popular here though that I am clearly very much in the minority - so absolutely give them a try while you're here!


Dish 4: Fresh Juice

Not technically a 'street food' I guess, but after all that eating we were in need of something refreshing, and this is how we ended up buying some freshly squeezed orange juice. Now again, because we bought this on Istiklal Avenue we paid a massive premium for this, with the juice coming in at 110₺ (approx. £3.08, €3.53 or $3.84). This was a hugely inflated price: across Türkiye, the cheapest price we saw fresh juice for was 30₺. What a big difference!


So if you're not constraining your purchases to one street like we did, we recommend shopping around for your freshly squeezed juice. Even just a couple of streets away from Istiklal Avenue the juice was much cheaper. But was it worth it? Well, honestly this juice was absolutely delicious. It was sweet and refreshing, with the tanginess that comes from pure orange juice. We loved this juice, but if I were to go again I would definitely buy it from a cheaper stall! There were so many other juice options too, from pomegranate to pineapple, carrot to banana, and everything in between!


Dish 5: Lokum

To finish off our street food tour, we wanted something sweet... which is where Türkiye's most famous sweet comes in! Lokum, or Turkish Delight as it is more commonly known across the world, is everywhere here... and most of it is naturally vegan too!


If you've read our vegan Turkish Delight in Istanbul blog, you'll know that unlike the Turkish Delight that is exported and produced across the world, the majority of Turkish lokum is actually completely plant-based. This is because it is made from sugar and corn starch, in a lengthy process that takes up to 24 hours to set. By comparison, the mass produced Turkish Delight that we buy across the world is made quickly, with gelatine used to quicken the setting process; this means that it is not suitable for vegetarians and vegans.


So when you're buying lokum in Türkiye, make sure to ask the vendor if it is vegan. They usually know their product very well: not only will they be able to tell you if the cubes are gelatine free, they will also be aware of the ingredients of each of the fancier rolls of Turkish delight. This is amazing because there is so much choice! With flavours ranging from rose, pomegranate, and pistachio to Oreo, cornflakes, and fig, there is sure to be something for you.


The price we paid for the Turkish Delight here was inflated, but we found much higher prices across Istanbul too! Here, we paid 65₺ per 100g of lokum (approx. £1.82, €2.09 or $2.27). The cheapest price we found it at, across Türkiye was 30₺ per 100g. And we were absolutely blown away by how much we liked it! Honestly, Turkish Delight really surprised us, it was chewy, sweet, and delicious. The perfect way to round off our street food tour!



What were our lasting impressions of the vegan street food experience? Would we do it again?

We LOVED eating the street food here in Istanbul. While the prices on Istiklal Avenue were expensive, this was still a relatively cheap and very fun way to fill up while on the go! Honestly, Turkish street food is absolutely delicious and I still can't stop thinking about that misir!


Obviously we were limited here to the street food we found on Istiklal Avenue: other great vegan options you might spot elsewhere are leblebi (roasted chickpeas, sometimes served coated in sugar) and kumpir (jacket potatoes with a range of toppings: just be sure to only ask for the plant-based ones!) as well as a variety of flatbreads, as long as you order them without fillings.


We would totally come back and eat more Turkish street food. If I lived here I would eat some of these things all the time! Be sure to check out those street food stalls while you're in Türkiye!




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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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