Turkish Food: 15 Traditional Dishes to Try in Turkey

Nicola Curtis writer bio photo

Turkey is famous for so many things, including history, beaches, nature, and its traditions, but I’ll let you in on a secret—the food in Turkey is like nowhere else on earth. If you’re a foodie, you’ve just found your match: every region is famous for something, and the top dishes are well-loved for a very good reason. Traditional dishes to try in Turkey are plentiful.

I lived in Turkey for several years, and I still visit frequently now. My husband is Turkish and if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have opened my culinary mind and tried as many delicious types of Turkish food as I have. This is hands down one of the best places to try something new, and even if you’re a picky eater, you’re sure to be tempted to give new dishes a go simply because of how amazing they look and smell.

SEE ALSO: 25 Best Places to Visit in Turkey

15 Best Foods to Try in Turkey

There’s so much famous food in Turkey, that you might struggle to know where to start—that’s where this list comes in. The first time I visited, I didn’t understand a lot when it came to the food, and as ashamed as I am to admit this now, I stuck with the regular international fare. Don’t make the same mistake; there’s far too much deliciousness to get stuck in a culinary rut.

In this list, you’ll find 15 of the tastiest and most famous foods to try during your visit to Turkey. It doesn’t matter where you’re visiting in Turkey, or what region, as you’ll find these foods everywhere, and they’re all pretty reasonable in terms of cost too. You might recognize some of them, but even if you don’t, be brave and sample them anyway: I promise you won’t be disappointed.

SEE ALSO: Digital Nomad Guide to Living in Turkey

1. Döner Kebab
(Most Famous Food to Try in Turkey Overall)

A plate of a mix of meat and vegetables in a pita.

When you think of Turkish food, you probably think of the döner kebab first. Now, I should point out that this is nothing like the dry or greasy kebab you get on a night out after the club back home; this is a juicy, delicious, and downright mouth-watering treat. You don’t have to smother this in ketchup and mayonnaise to make it taste good – it does all that on its own.

Döner kebab is typically either beef (most commonly) or chicken, and it’s cooked on a large rotisserie. The server slices pieces from the vertical “skewer” and layers them in your wrap, bread, or pitta, along with salad and often fries. You can tell them if you don’t want any specific ingredients added, and particularly with chicken, a yogurt sauce may be added.

As far as Turkish street food goes, this is the most famous of them all, and you’ll find vendors selling it everywhere. However, the best döner I’ve ever tried was from Karadeniz Döner Asım Usta in Beşiktaş, Istanbul. The meat is always juicy, and the queue should tell you how good it is—get there early because once it’s gone, they close for the day.

SEE ALSO: 15 Best Things To Do in Antalya, Turkey

Karadeniz Döner Asım Usta Information

Address: Sinanpaşa, Mumcu Bakkal Sokağı No:6, 34353 Beşiktaş/İstanbul
Phone: +90 212 261 7693
Operating Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10.30 am – 5.30 pm, closed on Sundays
Average Cost of the Dish: 150TL/$5

2. Turkish Breakfast (Including Menemen)

Traditional Turkish dish. Fried vegetables with scrambled eggs in a cast iron frying pan on a wooden table.

I’m going to cheat a little here and add a whole meal rather than a specific food: if I listed everything in a Turkish breakfast, I’d be here all day. Breakfast is the most famous meal of the day in Turkey, and it’s known locally as ‘kahvaltı’. You may have seen pictures of a table filled with small plates containing various foods, such as cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, cold meats, eggs, jam, honey, and much more – well, that’s a Turkish breakfast.

A typical breakfast in Turkey goes on for hours, and you simply spend time talking, sipping çay (tea), and nibbling on everything on the table. My favorite thing about a Turkish breakfast is menemen – a hot breakfast dish consisting of peppers, sometimes onions, tomatoes, tomato paste, and eggs. It’s mixed together, and you eat it with bread—amazing.

For the most epic Turkish breakfast, head to Van Kahvaltı Evi in Beyoğlu, close to Taksim, Istanbul. If you’re visiting at the weekend, get there early as it’s extremely popular with locals. However, I always think that’s the best mark of quality, and this place hasn’t disappointed me once (and I’ve been many times).

Van Kahvaltı Evi Information

Address: Kılıçali Paşa, Defterdar Ykş. 52/A, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
Phone: +90 212 293 6437
Operating Hours: Monday – Sunday, 8 am – 5 pm
Average Cost of the Dish: 400TL/$14

3. Lahmacun

Grind meat on a layer of pita and tomato with green leaves on the top—a side dish of vegetables, lime, and mayonnaise.

Another famous dish of Turkey is lahmacun, often referred to as Turkish pizza, although I don’t think it’s anything like pizza at all. Lahmacun is a thin and crispy flatbread that’s topped with minced lamb, tomatoes, and spices and then cooked in a wood-fired oven. It’s then eaten rolled up with onions, greens, and tomatoes inside, smothered in lemon juice.

Gaziantep is famous for lahmacun, and this is where you’ll find the spiciest of them all. The server will ask you if you want it acılı (spicy) or acısiz (not spicy), so choose according to your preferences. I always go for the non-spicy option because in Turkey, when they say spicy, they really do mean spicy!

You’ll find lahmacun very easily across the entire country, and the best I had was at Düveroğlu Kebap Salonu in Ankara, famed amongst locals as the best in the area. In some places, the lahmacun can be a little soggy, but here was the crispiest and tastiest; I highly recommend stopping in to try it for yourself if you’re in the area.

Düveroğlu Kebap Salonu Information

Address: Mutlukent Mahallesi, 2432. Cadde & 1924 Sk. 117-119-121, 06810 Ümitköy/Çankaya/Ankara
Phone: +90 031 223 51111
Operating Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11 am – 10 pm
Average Cost of the Dish: 90TL/$3
Website: https://duveroglu.com.tr

4. Pide

Turkish pides with vegetables on wooden cutting board.

One of the most popular foods in Turkey is without a doubt pide. Just like lahmacun, you’ll find this absolutely everywhere, and it comes in different types. Pide is a flatbread, but this is a little thicker than lahmacun and shaped like a boat, with an open filling in the middle.

The most common filings include mince meat (kıyma), cheese, cheese and spinach, meat, and peppers (kuşbaşılı), and sometimes you’ll find it with a fried egg on top. This is an affordable food in Turkey and is often served with salad on the side. It’s traditionally from the Black Sea coast, particularly Trabzon; if you happen to be in the area, it’s the best place to try it.

I had the best kıymalı pide from Terminal Pide Trabzon, and I stumbled upon it by accident, simply because there seemed to be a queue forming outside, so I figured it would be good. I wasn’t wrong. However, no matter what city or region you’re in, pide is a food that’s very easy to find.

Terminal Pide Trabzon Information

Address: Sanayi, Terminal Sk. No:4, 61100 Ortahisar/Trabzon
Phone: +90 462 325 0436
Operating Hours: Monday – Saturday, 8 am – 7 pm, Sunday 8 am – 6 pm
Average Cost of the Dish: 200TL/$7

5. Gözleme

on a wooden table, there is a pancake Gözleme with cheese and herbs. A cherry tomato, tea, and a fork and bread knife

Another of my favorite foods, and one that traditionally goes with breakfast. Gözleme is another type of flatbread, but this one is slightly different as it’s made from either homemade bread or yufka, which is filo pastry. It’s stuffed with a variety of different fillings, including potato, cheese, and spinach, or minced meat and onion.

Gözleme is typically cooked on a sac griddle, which is a large, domed pan over a high heat. Watching gözleme being made in the traditional way in a village is quite hypnotic, and you’ll likely want to give it a go yourself after witnessing it. It’s a traditional local food in Turkey, and it can also be eaten as a street food.

My favorite filling is potato, but you can also find sweet versions, such as Nutella on its own or with banana, or tahini. Gözleme is a typical food in Turkey to enjoy with a hot glass of çay (tea), and I loved the one I had in Ankara at Sevgi Anne Gözleme. This is a food famous from the central Anatolian region and trying it from where it originated will give you the tastiest results.

Sevgi Anne Gözleme Information

Address: Üniversiteler, Şht. Jnd. Astğmn. Mustafa Tayyarcan Cd. No:129, 06800 Çankaya/Ankara
Phone: +90 312 227 0201
Operating Hours: Monday – Sunday, 9 am – 7 pm
Average Cost of the Dish: 100TL/$3.50

6. Mantı

Traditional Turkish food. Dough stuffed with meat and onions serving with garlic yogurt topping.

If you’ve ever been to Cappadocia or done any research into it, you’ll probably know that mantı is a famous food from this beautiful region, but overall, it’s a must-eat in Turkey regardless of where you are. It’s difficult to put into words what this dish actually is, but the closest description is a type of ravioli or dumpling that’s filled with meat or cheese, and then either boiled or fried (çıtır mantı). It’s usually served with yogurt and garlic.

This is a popular dish all over the country, but if you’re in Cappadocia or the central part of the country, you’ll find the tastiest mantı. I tried it for the first time at CANCAN Cafe & Restaurant in Cappadocia, and it’s a great spot to go if you’re traveling with children; the prices are really reasonable, and it’s a laid-back spot to enjoy your meal. The mantı was really flavorful, and you can choose between the fried or boiled/steamed versions.

You’ll probably hear mantı referred to as Turkish ravioli, especially on international menus, so if you do see that, they’re one and the same.

CANCAN Cafe & Restaurant Information

Address: Avcılar Mahallesi, No.27, 50180 Göreme/Nevşehir Merkez/Nevşehir
Phone: +90 038 427 12440
Operating Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11 am – 11 pm
Average Cost of the Dish: 250TL/$8.50

7. Güveç

A mix vegetables on casserole and a wood spoon on the top.

If you want to try truly authentic Turkish food, you have to give güveç a try; in fact, once you’ve had it, you’ll be hooked, and you’ll want it over and over again – trust me. You can eat this delicious meal any time of the year, but I think it works really well in the winter months when you’re after something warm and hearty to fill you up.

Güveç is one of the most traditional dishes in Turkey, and it’s a stew-style meal that’s made with slow-boiled meat, usually beef. The meat is left to cook for several hours, so it falls apart and melts in your mouth. Peppers, onions, tomatoes, and garlic are added, along with pepper salça, which is a type of tomato paste, and it’s left to cook until everything melts into one another.

This dish is usually served with rice, but don’t be afraid to grab some fresh crusty bread and use it to mop up that delicious tomato gravy at the end. Güveç is one of my favorite traditional dishes and if you’re in the Istanbul area, head to Nişantaşı Güveç for an unforgettable version of this famous meal.

Nişantaşı Güveç Information

Address: Teşvikiye, Akkavak Sk. No:36, 34365 Şişli/İstanbul
Phone: +90 212 224 2464
Operating Hours: Monday – Saturday, 8 am – 8 pm, closed on Sundays
Average Cost of the Dish: 200TL/$7

8. Cağ Kebabı

A large amount of meat cooked on a steel stick in a wood oven.

The first time I visited Istanbul my husband insisted that we go to a small restaurant in Fatih called Şehzade Cağ Kebap. I had no idea what I was it was, but once we arrived, the place was packed; I figured it must be good. I wasn’t wrong; cağ kebabı is one of the top must-try dishes in Turkey, and if you love lamb, you’ll adore this famous street food.

Rather than cooking the meat on a vertical rotisserie like döner, cağ kebabı is cooked on a horizontal spit with layers of marinated lamb that’s so juicy, you won’t quite believe it. I should explain that I don’t like lamb when I’m in the UK, but this lamb is something very special indeed. It’s served on a large kebab stick, and you eat it with fresh lavaş, onions, and tomatoes.

I enjoyed the meal I had at Şehzade Cağ Kebap so much, and I’m reliably informed that this is the best one, despite the fact that the dish actually hails from Erzurum. I’ve returned several times since, and if you happen to be in the area, I highly recommend you grab a table here.

Şehzade Cağ Kebap Information

Address: Hoca Paşa, Hoca Paşa Sk. No:6 D:4, 34110 Fatih/İstanbul
Phone: +90 212 520 3361
Operating Hours: Monday – Saturday, 10.30 am – 10.30 pm, closed on Sundays
Average Cost of the Dish: 170TL/$7

9. Köfte

A meatballs and green leaf garnished and a fork on the side.

One of the most famous and easily found types of food in Turkey is köfte, which is essentially a type of grilled or barbecued meatball. There are different types of köfte, including Muğla köfte and Izmir köfte to mention just two, and the difference comes down to its shape and the spices used. However, I think Izmir köfte is the tastiest of them all, and if you’re in the city, this is something you have to try. You’ll find regular köfte absolutely everywhere.

Köfte can be served on a plate with potatoes, peppers, tomatoes, and rice as a main meal, or it can be enjoyed as a street food in either a wrap or on bread. Either way, it’s delicious and is a famous dish in Turkey, thanks to its versatility. You’ll also find köfte in a sauce or a stew.

If you’re walking around Istanbul or Izmir in particular, you’ll find street vendors cooking köfte in front of you and the smell is sure to make your mouth water. It’s quite a challenge to walk past without giving in. I had the best köfte at a small spot in Izmir called Köfteci Turgay; the köfte was so juicy, and I enjoyed it so much, that I went back again the very next day.

Köfteci Turgay Information

Address: Alsancak, 1456. Sk. No:92/B, 35280 Konak/İzmir
Phone: +90 232 404 0033
Operating Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11 am – 9 pm
Average Cost of the Dish: 200TL/$7

10. Adana Kebab

A meat shape on long, two grilled green peppers, grilled tomato, and scrambled egg on a white plate.

As the name suggests, Adana kebab is a type of Turkish cuisine that hails from the southern city of Adana. If you like spice, you’re going to enjoy this one, but you can also ask for it to be made slightly less spicy if your tastebuds can’t quite handle the heat. Either way, it’s a very famous and easily found dish, although the best ones are without a doubt found in its namesake city.

Adana kebab is made of minced lamb and spices which are combined together and shaped over a long kebab skewer. It’s then cooked over an open fire to ensure a slight crunch on the outside and plenty of juiciness in the middle. The skewer is removed before dishing up, and it’s typically enjoyed with lavaş, tomatoes, and onions, and served alongside rice or bulgur.

You can also get Adana kebab in a wrap, which is a famous type of street food you can grab on the go. Either way, if you’re in Adana itself, make sure you add this to your must-try list; I can highly recommend Adana Ege Kebap Salonu, as can the many locals who flock there, especially at weekends.

Adana Ege Kebap Salonu Information

Address: Cemalpaşa, Ege Taksi içi, Kapalı Spor Salonu Karşısı, 63014. Sk. No:2, 01120 Seyhan/Adana
Phone: +90 543 457 3628
Operating Hours: Monday – Sunday, 9 am – 11 pm
Average Cost of the Dish: 200TL/$7

11. Dolma

A rolled green vegetable on a wooden bowl.

Dolma is a common food in Turkey and also around the Balkans, dating back to Ottoman times. There are different types of dolma, but the most famous is vine leaves stuffed with rice and spices. You can also find dolma containing minced meat, or fish, however, the seafood version is less common.

The dolma is wrapped up into a cigar-like shape and then boiled in liquid until it is all absorbed and served while still warm. You’ll usually find dolma served with lemon slices, and I like to drench mine for a really zingy taste. The great thing about this dish is that you can eat it hot or cold, so if you have any left, simply put them in the refrigerator and enjoy them later on.

Dolma is found all over the country, and it’s a super traditional dish that most families will make at some point through any given week. I had really delicious dolma in Kadıköy on the Asian side of Istanbul, in a small restaurant called Çiya Sofrası; the flavors burst in my mouth, and that’s where I learned my love for this famous dish.

Çiya Sofrası Information

Address: Caferağa, Güneşli Bahçe Sok, 34710 Kadıköy/İstanbul
Phone: +90 216 418 5115
Operating Hours: Monday – Thursday & Sunday, 11.30 am – 10 pm, Friday & Saturday, 11.30 am – 10.30 pm
Average Cost of the Dish: 170TL/$6

12. Iskender Kebab

Traditional Turkish Iskender Kebab with Roasted Vegetables

You’ll probably have come to realize by now that there are countless types of kebab to try, and believe me, I’ve only introduced you to a small handful; there are countless more. However, Iskender kebab is one of the most famous and traditional foods in Turkey. The dish hails from Bursa, but as with most of these dishes, you’ll find it very easily no matter where you are in the country.

Here, sliced döner meat is served on top of chopped pitta bread, and is then covered in yogurt and a hot tomato and butter sauce. You’ll find this dish in restaurants and small takeaways, although you would generally eat it inside, as it can be quite messy! What I like about Iskender is that it’s not dry like some other grilled meat kebabs can be, and the bread perfectly soaks up the yogurt and tomato sauce.

In terms of what to eat in Turkey, this dish is very famous, and even if you’re not Bursa, it’s another option you’ll find everywhere. However, it’s always best in its home place, and I’d highly recommend Uludağ Kebapçısı Cemal & Cemil Usta in the Osmangazi area of Bursa for a truly traditional version.

Uludağ Kebapçısı Cemal & Cemil Usta Information

Address: Ulu Mahalle, Uluyol Caddesi, 16. Şirin Sk. No:12, 16220 Osmangazi/Bursa
Phone: +90 224 254 7264
Operating Hours: Monday – Sunday, 11 am – 7 pm
Average Cost of the Dish: 250TL/$8.50
Website: uludagkebapcisi.com

13. Baklava

Baklava with Ground Pistachios on a white plate.

When visiting Turkey, you must try baklava, whether it’s your first time or not. This is one of those foods that tourists love, and locals enjoy on special occasions, and it’s famous across the country. You’ll find baklava in most high-end restaurants as a dessert and in local patisseries (bakeries) to buy by weight.

Baklava is one of those foods in Turkey that you only need a very small amount of it, because it’s quite rich and sweet, but there are different types so you can find your favorite version. I like the original type the most, which is made of layers of filo pastry with honey syrup and pistachio filling – it’s delicious with ice cream too.

I think baklava makes a great gift for friends and family back home, and Köşkeroğlu Baklava Tophane is a top spot to buy it. The choice on offer is huge, and they gift wrap it in a tin to make it look really fancy. Of course, it might not make it that far – I wouldn’t blame you for eating it yourself before your return home…

Köşkeroğlu Baklava Tophane Information

Address: Hacımimi, Kemeraltı Cd. No:46, 34425 Beyoğlu/İstanbul
Phone: +90 053 097 74821
Operating Hours: Monday – Sunday, 8 am – 12 pm
Average Cost of the Dish: Varies depending on weight
Website: koskeroglu.com.tr

14. Kuru Fasulye

Turkish cuisine; Lamb and beans in tomato sauce and onions.

Kuru fasulye is arguably the staple food of Turkey and it’s a traditional home-cooked food that most families enjoy at least once a week. You’ll also find it in most home food restaurants around the country, known as ‘ev yemek,’ and it’s quite reasonable in terms of price and is easy to make.

Put simply, kuru fasulye means ‘dry beans,’ but the dish in general is a white bean stew in a tomato sauce. It’s typically served with rice and bread and often comes as the main course after soup and salad. The dish can be made with a small amount of meat (usually beef), or it can be vegetarian.

This is a typical Turkish food that’s cooked throughout the year and is found absolutely everywhere, however, the tastiest home-cooked food like this is found in the southeast, with a whole host of delicious spices to make the dishes even more delicious. İspir Fasülyeci Diyarbakır is highly recommended by many locals as a top place to try this traditional food.

İspir Fasülyeci Diyarbakır Information

Address: Yenişehir, Lise 5. Sk. No:6, 21100 Yenişehir/Diyarbakır
Phone: +90 412 999 4720
Operating Hours: Monday – Sunday, 9 am – 10 pm
Average Cost of the Dish: 100TL/$3.50

15. Çiğ Köfte

A raw meatball in Turkish with lettuce, tomato, pickle, and lemon, hot çiğköfte

When you first see çiğ köfte you’ll wonder what on earth it is, but looks can be very deceiving and you have to give it a try. This is a very healthy and flavorful food of Turkey and one that you’ll find in many small vendor stores around the country. The other plus point is that it’s super cheap so it’s a great street food option if you’re on a budget.

Çiğ köfte hails originally from the southeast of Turkey, particularly the Urfa and Adıyaman area. It’s a mixture of bulgur wheat, tomato paste, and spices that are kneaded together until extremely smooth and served either in lettuce with pomegranate and lemon juice or in a wrap with whatever salad ingredients you like. You can also ask for a spicy or non-spicy version.

There are large companies that make this famous dish, such as Komagene and Oses, but there are small vendors too, and you often find the tastiest versions from places like that. Çiğ köfte all over the country but if you want to try the most traditional version, head to Adıyaman and check out Yeni Nesil Adıyaman Çiğköfte Kenan Usta, a favorite amongst locals.

Yeni Nesil Adıyaman Çiğköfte Kenan Usta Information

Address: Kapcami, Eski Kahta Cd. No:10, 02100 Adıyaman Merkez/Adıyaman
Phone: +90 416 216 0282
Operating Hours: Monday – Sunday, 10 am – 12 pm
Average Cost of the Dish: 100TL/$3.50

Must-Try Foods in Turkey: FAQs

Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions about must-try foods in Turkey:

What are the most traditional foods in Turkey?

A typical meal in Turkey involves soup to start, rice, meat, vegetables, and salad. The most famous traditional foods are therefore güveç and kuru fasulye. However, kebabs are also common, with a huge range available, including Adana kebab, Urfa kebab, and Iskender.

What is the national food of Turkey?

Turkish cuisine is extremely varied, but the kebab is undoubtedly the country’s most famous dish. You’ll find countless different types of kebabs with varied meats. Doner kebab is probably the most famous of them all, and you’ll find these types of restaurants throughout the entire country.

What’s the most popular food in Turkey?

The most popular food in Turkey is hard to pinpoint, but doner kebab is extremely popular, along with lahmacun and pide.

Which area is best for food in Turkey?

Every part of Turkey is famous for a specific cuisine, with Izmir famous for köfte, Cappadocia famed for its mantı, and Adana for its Adana kebab. However, for a varied mix of dishes, you can’t beat Istanbul; you’ll find everything you’re looking for in this huge city.

Is Turkey known for street food?

Some of the best food in Turkey falls under the street food umbrella. Doner kebab, börek, pide, çiğ köfte, köfte, and kokoreç are some of the most famous types of street food on offer.

In Conclusion

Turkish food is some of the best in the world. Perhaps I’m a little biased, but spending large amounts of time in the country has opened my palate to completely different flavors that I probably wouldn’t have dared try otherwise. Whether you’re a meat lover, all about the vegetables, or you’re into super-spicy cuisine, you’ll find something you’ll fall in love with.

Different parts of the country are famous for specific dishes, but there are some all-rounders, such as lahmacun, pide, and güveç that excel no matter where you are. And of course, you can’t start the day without a full and hearty Turkish breakfast!

So, prepare your stomach for a plethora of delicious tastes on your upcoming visit to Turkey—you certainly won’t leave hungry.

Nicola Curtis writer bio photo

Written by

Nicola Curtis

Born and raised in the north of England, Nicky is a writer of more than ten years’ duration and through that time, she has hopped around the world trying new cuisines, meeting amazing people, and experiencing different cultures. Of course, she loves to put all of that into words for others to read and be inspired by.

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