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.
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”
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.
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
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 –
A very similar to Greek veggie Mousakka dish. Roasted and spicy eggplant with vegetable curry served on a sizzler plate.
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.
VEGETARIAN TESTI KEBAB
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
KADAYIF – Similar to Baklava but instead of flaky sheets, shredded Vermicelli strings are used to wrap the pistachio nuts.
PISTACHIO PUDDING – A thickened milk and pistachio pudding. (Indians can relate it similar to their famous sweet – “Phirni”.
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
TURKISH TEA & COFFEE – As 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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
My suggestions for colorful and quirky restaurant choices as per the neighborhoods are
- 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.
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.
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