Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

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Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour
Turkish Breakfast spread

Turkish cuisine is famous for its diversity and blends of many cultures.  As Istanbul is strategically located on two continents, it is considered a melting pot of western and eastern cultures, which reflects in their culinary skills too.  You can have the western style of foods flavored with Asia’s aromatic spices and herbs which makes to Turkish food unique and worth trying out. So let’s take a vegetarian-friendly Istanbul food tour and discover some vegetarian Turkish food with a list of things to eat in Istanbul and where to eat in Istanbul in this post.  So let’s read guide to vegetarian Turkish food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour. 

BEWARE! This post can make you very hungry. 
Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour
Turkish Tea
Click here to read – ISTANBUL CITY TOUR GUIDE.

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

I will categorize my vegetarian Turkish dining experience into

  • Turkish Breakfast
  • Turkish Food for Lunch-Dinner
  • Turkish Desserts
  • Turkish Drinks – Hot & Cold
  • Turkish InBetween Snack – Munchies & Finger Foods.

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

TURKISH BREAKFAST – “Kahvalti”

Turkish Vegetarian breakfast at Intercontinental Istanbul
Turkish breakfast at Intercontinental Istanbul

As Turkey is blessed with wonderful agriculture due to lovely climate it has many natural ingredients, fruits, vegetables and spices which is served totally on the breakfast palette. You will get plenty of choices to choose from wide selection of different types of feta cheese – Peynir, green & black olives – Zeytin, fresh tomatoes & cucumbers – Domates & Salatalik, fresh vegetables, and luscious fruits.

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

All are served with Turkish bread which is very unique in taste and different from western bread. You can also try special Borek – a flaky pastry sheets filled with cheese and vegetables.  Pickled jalapeno or green chili is great to have with spicy food lovers. 

THINGS TO EAT IN LUNCH & DINNER IN ISTANBUL, TURKEY

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour
Vegetarian Turkish Dinner at Glamour Cafe with splendid view

Most people know the famous meats of Turkey and consider Turkey as meat’s paradise with many traditional types of kebabs & shawarma. But there are main choices for vegetarians as well in main courses for dine-in. 

The first day, I did not find many veggie varieties, but once on the second day, after walking a lot on the streets of Sultanahmet, I found many main course vegetarian dishes.  They are –

VEGETARIAN MOUSAKKA

A very similar to Greek veggie Mousakka dish. Roasted and spicy eggplant with vegetable curry served on a sizzler plate. 

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

VEGETARIAN FIRE PAN

Many varieties of grilled vegetables with semi-thick gravy or curry served hot on fire pan with infused herb rice and vegetable salad makes a complete delicious meal.

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

VEGETARIAN TESTI KEBAB

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

Vegetarian curry with many grilled veggies cooked in a closed clay pot with fire all around. This style of cooking is unique and authentic Turkish style of cooking which locks the aroma of food inside the pot.  The food is served with pot and fire and then some expert cuts the pot with some unique skills and whole food is then poured into your plate.  This curried vegetable is also served with saffron rice or herbed rice and veggie salad.  You can order this meal for two or a meal for one too.

VEGETARIAN CASSEROLE

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

Similar to Vegetarian Mousakka but in this instead of the only eggplant other vegetables are too grilled and served with spicy semi-thick curry. It is then served on a hot sizzling iron skillet. 

You can also order other vegetarian dishes like Mushroom Casserole and Vegetarian Kebab.

GOZLEME

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

Stuffed Turkish bread with spinach or cheese. It is similar to the Indian style of bread – Kulcha or Naan bread. With every main course meal, many restaurants serve complimentary Turkish bread made on iron skillet. You can also see making of bread in front of you by Turkish women and can also try your hand on learning some culinary skills too.

VEGGIE PIDE

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

Boat-shaped vegetarian Turkish style pizza. These pizzas are freshly baked in fire oven instead of an electric oven and therefore its taste is very smoky and authentic type. Veggie Pide is found at most of the restaurants all over Istanbul. I tried this veggie Pide at many restaurants on Istiklal street and nearby Galata Tower.

The vegetarian-friendly restaurant with lots of above-mentioned varieties are

ALEMDAR – next to Basilica Cistern (Sultanahmet) – I strongly recommend Alemdar restaurant for delicious and spicy food with fresh ingredients and warm hospitality. Mr. Ercan(pronounced as Mr. Arjan) welcomed in homely manner and made us feel like home and explained to us all the vegetarian items with great patience. The whole restaurant is authentic Turkish style with lower traditional seating too.  Click here to find Alemdar on Google map.

GLAMOUR CAFÉ – nearby Hodja Pasha Cultural Center or Sirkeci Tram station – For delicious vegetable casserole with a stunning view of Galata Tower with sea and Bosphorus bridge. Click here to find Glamour Café on Google Map.

Best Things To Do In Beautiful Istanbul City Tour – A Complete Istanbul Guide
View from Glamour Lounge & Cafe

THE HANS – You will get many vegetarian varieties here too but the food is not very spicy and you will find this restaurant a little expensive too. Here also you will find lower seating with traditional Turkish décor.  This restaurant is located few steps away from Alemdar restaurant. 

TURKISH DESSERTS

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

Trip to Turkey is incomplete without having a bite of famous Turkish desserts. Many foodies visualize Baklava when they hear Turkey. Discover the richness of Turkish desserts with many unique flavors when you visit Istanbul. There are numerous varieties of Turkish sweets made up of milk, cheese, flaky pastry sheets, sugary syrups, honey, and dry fruits. In Istanbul, dessert is not only eaten at the end of the meal but it can be consumed at any time of the day to satisfy the in-between hunger. So for in-between snacks, Turkish desserts are great way to satisfy your hunger and that too accompanied by Turkish tea or coffee. You can spot many sweet shops or sweet cafes full of people eating sweet delicacies all the time in the whole day.

I tried their famous

BAKLAVA – I tried “Fistikli Balklava” (Pistachio Baklava) with a burst of sweetness packed into crunchy and nutty flavors. The flaky filo pastry, stuffed with pistachio nuts and topped with thickened sugary syrup melts into your mouth within few minutes and you will always crave one more.  One Baklava will never satisfy your taste-buds and you will always ask for more.

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

DONDURMA – Famous Turkish ice-cream which is sticky and gooey sold with many tricks done by ice-cream sellers.  Try this world-famous special Turkish ice-cream which has sticky and solid consistency made by syrups from orchid bulbs. Not only this ice-cream is famous but the way they are sold is also funny as the seller plays many tricks upon you before handing you one cone or scoop of ice-cream.

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

KADAYIF – Similar to Baklava but instead of flaky sheets, shredded Vermicelli strings are used to wrap the pistachio nuts.

turkish sweet

PISTACHIO PUDDING – A thickened milk and pistachio pudding. (Indians can relate it similar to their famous sweet – “Phirni”.

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

Sweets can be purchased or eaten at special sweet shops and there are many choices of sweet shops all over the city.  I tried Hafiz Mustafa running since 1864, with many outlets all over Istanbul.  My favorite Hafiz Mustafa outlet at Istiklal street and Sultanahmet.  – Click here for Google Location.

FAMOUS TURKISH BEVERAGES – WHAT TO DRINK IN TURKEY

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

TURKISH TEA & COFFEEAs you know Turkish Tea and coffee are famous and that too they are served in special Turkish cups are must try in Istanbul. So visiting Istanbul then you must try Turkish tea or coffee with a splendid skyline view.  Having tea or coffee with a perfect view of the city’s skyline is the must thing to do in your Istanbul city tour and must be included in your Istanbul itinerary.

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour
Turkish Coffee
Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour
Turkish Tea

FRUIT JUICES 

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

As you all know Turkey is blessed with many varieties of flora and fauna, you can see many vendors selling fresh fruits in the markets here. There are many juice bars selling freshly squeezed juices made in front of you. You can select your favorite fruit and can have the juice of it. 

The best way to quench your thirst and adding vitamins to your body is to have a glass of freshly squeezed juices in between your walking tours.  Pomegranate also is known as “Anar”(In India too we call Pomegranate as Anar) in Istanbul is very prominently found here and also a favorite fruit and juice here.

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour
“Anar” Juice

Tap water is not very much recommended here, so go for filtered water or bottled water.

IN BETWEEN SNACKS – WHAT SNACKS TO EAT IN BETWEEN (MUNCHIES & FINGER FOOD)

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour
Turkish Simit Seller posing for photo

Istanbul tour can be done best by walking tours.  And approximately I walked 18,000 steps a day, so it is always great to have a glass of juice with some quick bites in between main course meals.

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour
Turkish Simit Selling Vendor

So for quick bites, you will get many options from local street vendors like

  • Vendors selling roasted corns and chestnuts.
  • Simit (Turkish bread) which is similar to Pretzels of the west.

All these vendors sell street food at red-colored lorries which can be found at every corner of the streets of Istanbul. Not only tourists slurp over these delicious munchies but these in-between snacks are favorite among locals too.

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour

The not only food in Istanbul is great to have, but eating in colorful quirky restaurants is also a great way to explore this city while doing Istanbul Food tour.

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour
Colorful Ice-cream bar at Balat/Fener

My suggestions for colorful and quirky restaurant choices as per the neighborhoods are

Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour
Restaurants near HodjaPasha Cultural Center
  • Colorful restaurants with huge mural art in Balat region of Istanbul.
  • Some quirky and rustic décor restaurants at the Karakoy neighborhood adjoining to Galata Tower.
  • Turkish styled authentic restaurants in the Sultanahmet region.
  • Restaurants with a view nearby Sirkeci Tram station.
  • Fine Dining at the restaurants on the top of 5-star hotels for the view of whole Istanbul city.
  • Dine while cruising across Bosphorus cruises.
  • Some funky food or sweets at famous shopping and European style of the street – Istiklal street.
Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour
Mural Art in Cafes of Istanbul

I hope you loved this delicious post – Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour with some suggestions on where to get vegetarian food in Istanbul.

If you are visiting Istanbul then read full guide on 

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What to eat in Istanbul, Turkey - Istanbul Food Guide

So, till then KEEP TRAVELING……………… KEEP EXPLORING…………………………………………………… 

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78 Comments

  1. As a vegetarian traveler I often worry about finding food in a new place. I do plan on going to Turkey soon (fingers crossed) so this is really helpful. I’ll hang on to this guide. The good looks delicious. One of the big reasons why I think I’ll love Turkey

  2. I love Turkish food, I do eat meat, but I also enjoy all the veggie dishes! I really want to visit Instanbul, my hubby is a photographer and he wants to photograph all the colors and textures – me? I just want to EAT!

  3. Veggie Pide is probably the food I would want to try the most on this tour as it does look appealing. I am not much of veggie eater as I do like my pasta and meats but would try some veggie stuff especially when I am on the road. I havent been to Turkey yet but would happily go there and try out the food.

  4. All the delicious-sounding food in this post is making me so hungry. I love exploring a country through its food and your post really showed off Turkey’s wide range of dishes and flavors. The meal prepared in the closed clay pot that is then opened at your table sounds like a very way to cook and the present your food. Another reason for me to go to Turkey!

  5. You had me at Baklava! We haven’t eaten much Turkish food but the Borek looks and sounds delicious! I love the idea of cooking the curry in a clay pot, I’ve had some Indian curry made that way and it was fabulous.

  6. I’m not vegetarian but I can certainly appreciate a good meatless meal. I actually tried Borkek for the first time a few months ago from a Balkan restaurant and loved it. The VEGGIE PIDE also looked quite delicious. If it resembles pizza, I am all in! Yum.

  7. Food right from our dinner table. My wife is Armenian, and a lot of this food is, well, not just Turkish … it is Mediterranean. Fresh juices, baklava, roasted and grilled vegetables, stuffed bread, and more. Mmmmmm. Love it even though I am not a vegetarian.

    1. Yes I too see a resemblance between Turkish food and Balkan foods. They have nice veggie and fruits selection with many unique sweets

  8. Mmm… what a tempting post! I am usually fond of non veg food, fish particularly, but really loved these veg options. The picture of Turkish bread with spinach or cheese is tempting me hunt out the recipe and try at home. Veggie Pide too sounds good. The pic of Baklava is so well taken.

    1. Thanks for relishing this post and yes Baklava is very temping and melts within seconds into your comes after it comes our tables.

  9. So my mouth is now literally watering! I can tell that breads and pastries form a fair chunk of the Istanbul diet. It is easy enough to get Gluten Free options?

  10. The Borek sounds heavenly. Pastry with cheese and veggies sounds right up my alley. I’m not a vegetarian but I find myself eating a lot of vegetarian dishes and I think I would like a lot of the foods on your list like the mushroom casserole and the Turkish style pizza. Fresh fruit juices are amazing as well!

    1. You would love many of the veggie dishes too though you dont eat much vegetarian. Also the desserts and drinks are worth.

  11. I am a fan of Turkish food. Fortunately, there is plenty of opportunity in Berlin.
    It really looks too good what you ate in Turkey. I really wanted to go out to eat again.

  12. Baklava is one of my favorites…and I bet there are just tons of varieties in them. Love the variety of fruits as well. They make an amazing breakfast platter. Borek sounds interesting too – for that mid morning snack. You sure have got me enough to enjoy when I get to Turkey and which I hope will be soon.

  13. I was just telling a friend I want to visit Istanbul and then I came across this post. I would love to try Borek pastry sheets filled pickled jalapeno or green chili. I am not vegetarian so I will be eating a lot of kabobs. BUT Mousakka sounds great, how can you go wrong with spicy eggplant on a sizzling plate?!? The bread stuffed with cheese and spinach and Turkish pizza both look great too. Love all these suggestions

  14. oh this makes want to go back to Istanbul sooooo badly….especially since I’m now vegetarian! Clearly I was missing out as a former meat eater…there are so many amazing veggie dishes! Also, each restaurant is such a feast for the senses from the food to the decor. Can’t wait to try these when we go back!

  15. I was raised vegetarian, but while I eat meat now from time to time, I prefer to look for veggie dishes, especially when travelling. Your list made my mouth water – particularly the moussaka and fire pan dishes, the different breads and kadayif! The ice cream looks amazing too. I was surprised not to see Turkish delight on your list – I thought the traditional version was made with cornstarch and therefore vegetarian/vegan!

  16. Turkish food is one of my favorites. I totally relish the tea, coffee, breads and varieties of cheese and veggie kebabs, that is part of their menu. You have put up a great post and vegetarians will love to travel there. Roasted corns and chestnuts make for delicious snacking.

  17. While I am not a vegetarian, we find we don’t get enough veggies when we travel. So it is great to know where we can load up a bit. We have not yet been to Istanbul but it is definitely on the travel wish list. So great to have some health options for eating. Unfortunately I don’t like olives in any way, so need to steer clear of foods that have them. Picking them out does not get rid of the taste. But grilled veggies and casseroles would be perfect. Turkish bread stuffed with spinach and cheese works for me. But baklava would be the big draw. The fruit and nuts make it healthy right? Good tips about foods we can look for.

  18. Oh.. you have really found some amazing vegetarian food. All the meals with the grilled vegetables look absolutely delicious. I would love to try the moussaka. And the Baklava.. Mmm.. Some day I will be savouring that on Turkish soil along with a Turkish coffee!

  19. I haven’t been to Turkey yet, and I had no idea that it has such a rich and varied vegetarian cuisine. I thought that this cuisine offers most of all meat. I like healthy food, so your recommendations are great. I would love to try mousaka and casserole. Turkish style pizza also looks excellent. And I love baklava 🙂 Thanks for your recommendation and hints my trip to Turkey will be much easier.

  20. Every dish you mentioned here sounds absolutely delicious to me! I am a real foodie and love trying all different varieties of food so this article was right up my alley. I really loved the idea of the stuffed Turkish bread with spinach or cheese and the vegetarian curries. But truthfully…those desserts! Anything with pistachio is a hit with me. And icecream made from orchid bulbs sounds so exotic. I am just drooling… I loved it all (including the Turkish coffee and fresh juices, yum) and look forward to trying these foods while in Istanbul some day! My son’s girlfriend lives there and with any luck, it won’t be too long before I have the opportunity.

  21. Turkish cuisine is really yummy! We’ve never been to Istanbul but we visited Bodrum and the surrounding area many years ago, and we had the best fresh seafood there as well as fresh fruits and other typical Turkish delicacies. Someday we’ll have to visit Turkey again and when we go to Istanbul we’ll make sure to go on a food tour! Thanks for this (yummy) post!

  22. Exciting! My favorite kind of tour!. Lol!.. The food looks amazing… Baclava looks intriguing to me. Who wouldn’t be curious of a dessert that doesn’t look like a dessert?Ha! I wonder what it taste like….

  23. I love your food guides always. As a vegetarian, I had given up on food tours and trying local food long back. You’re an inspiration for me to give it a try again.
    Mousakka looks so so yummy!!! I’m love sizzled foods, I have some fascination about it! Fire pan looks awesome as well. It would be a splendid sight to see the wok on fire, on the dining table!
    Baklava and Kadayif look so yummy! Though I’ve eaten Baklava at other places, it would be quite something to eat it right there in Turkey itself!

  24. Oooo… yum! I love pistachio so apparently Istanbul is the place for me! I’ve never seen so many different varieties of pistachio from the baklava to pudding to Kadayif. And a walking tour does sound perfect to try the different flavors and types of cuisines!

  25. I am not a vegetarian, but I can appreciate a good vegetarian dish. There seems to be quite a variety of vegetarian foods in Turkey. I particularly like their deserts, like the Baklava and the Kadaiff. Never tried the pistachio pudding, that looks delicious too.

  26. It looks absolutely delicious. I remember once trying Turkish coffee and not loving it, but I think I was too young to really appreciate it’s richness. That cup looks like it’d be the perfect way to relax. I also love how the desserts are still so flavorful rather than just relying on sweetness.

  27. Your delicious post has made me so hungry. The Stuffed Turkish bread with spinach and the veggie pide look amazing, as does the moussaka. I need to visit Istanbul for the food.

  28. I’ve always loved the diverse flavors and textures in Turkish food. The dishes are also so colorful that they are simply hard to forget. I love how you outlined how each dish impacted you and changed how you viewed Turkish cuisine. Im a huge fan of baklava so that would be where I start on my culinary tour!

  29. I’ve not been to Istanbul yet but it’s definitely on the list! The food in your post looks absolutely amazing. The Moussaka would be interesting to try to see how it compares to the Greek version. I’ve noted a few places that I can check out when I finally get round to visiting

  30. Hi,

    I love your writing on “Guide To Vegetarian Turkish Food – Complete Istanbul Food Tour”. Your post is very much helpful and informative. Keep up the good work and present us your best.

    Regards

  31. The vegetarian food you tried in Turkey looks fantastic! Your warning that this post will make you hungry definitely came true for me 😀 I’d love to try the Testi Kebab and some gozleme, and the kadayif looks like such an interesting dessert. Yum!

  32. I love Turkish food and especially their teas. We were just talking today about a road trip around Turkey and this post about food makes me want to go even more 🙂

  33. Great post!! I love the list I never knew there were so many great option for vegetarians in Turkey and to be honest they all look really great and super appetizing. VEGETARIAN MOUSAKKA looks the best and I would love to try it out whenever I travel to Turkey. I haven’t been to Turkey yet but the food a lot like Indian cuisine too.

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