What to Eat in Istanbul: 5 Dishes You've Got to Try

Oh, Istanbul! This gorgeous and historic city is home to some of the world’s best culinary treats, and you just can’t miss out on trying them on your next visit. From the sweet (baklava) to the savory (dolma), the tastes you’ll find in Istanbul are enough to warrant rolling up your sleeves and forgetting about your diet -- after all, you're on vacation!

1. Iskender Kebab

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Iskender kebab is an Istanbul classic, characterized by its thin, wide strips of lamb meat that are topped with tomato sauce and melted butter. Usually accompanied by lavas bread and yogurt, the Iskender is lighter than your average plate of meat -- thankfully thus leaving more room for dessert.  

Pro Tip: Have your first Iskender Kebab at Uludag Kebab House, a local restaurant famous for the dish. If you'd prefer a beef kebab, the Agatha Restaurant at the luxe Pera Palace offers a delicious one, plus various Istanbul appetizers. 

2. Pide (Turkish Pizza)


You can get it with cheese, you can get it with meat, you can get it with an egg on top -- Turkish pizza is football-shaped, cooked to your liking, and cut into slices. Yum! 

3. Dolma

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Dolma is a Middle Eastern dish that consists of meats and/or spiced rice, wrapped in either grape leaves, plum leaves, or cherry leaves. Served with yogurt, it can be stuffed with a variety of vegetables, including tomato, eggplant, or zucchini; the best way to find your favorite, of course, is to try them all. We love the braised beef dolma, paired with pickled vinegar salad, offered at Ciragan Palace, a luxe resort housed in the former palace of an Ottoman Sultan.

4. Baklava

Leonid Yaitskiy/Flickr

You just can't visit Turkey without chowing down on some sweet baklava. The Turkish treat is abundant around town in small bakeries and shops that specialize in different types and styles. Like with most hometown dishes, you’ll find a sharp difference in opinion amongst locals as to where you can find the “best” baklava. Our recommendation? Head to the famous spice market area to discover a great variety.

5. Dondurma (Turkish Ice Cream)

Katie Hunt/Flickr

Unlike western ice creams, Turkish ice cream is thickened with special flours and resins that make it resistant to melting -- and a bit chewier than what you’re probably used to. Turkish ice cream also tastes like its flavor -- if you get a strawberry flavored ice cream, you’ll actually taste real strawberries. Pick it up from a cart and you'll get a free show; vendors are notorious for teasing customers by taking away their ice cream with a stick before finally giving it back to them.