Turkish food is more than just kebabs, and actually, they have a lot vegan and vegetarian options. I’ve spent a month in total traveling in Turkey, mostly in Istanbul, and I’m now going to share my tips for vegan restaurants and dishes.
Let’s Start with the Traditional Turkish Food:
Lentil Soup (Mercimek Çorbası)
This one is my ultimate favorite! I’m usually not a big fan of soups, but this one was just a perfect winter warmer. Usually served with wedges of lemon to give it a taste, and I love lemons, so what a better combination. I had this soup almost every day. When ordering this, make sure that it’s made without butter.
Street food: Simit, Corn, Chestnuts
You can find these everywhere in Turkey. In Istanbul, look for red food carts which can be found in busy places like Taksim, Istiklal Street, and Sultanahmet. Simit is a ‘bagel’ coated in sesame seeds, and this one is 100% vegan. Also, make sure to try steamed corn and roasted chestnuts!
The traditional Çiğ Köfte was made of raw meat (yes, pretty gross), but it has been banned from sale since 2009. Nowadays, Çiğ Köfte is made of bulgur, spices, and herbs, and it’s completely vegan. You can find Çiğ Köfte restaurants everywhere. Try the Çiğ Köfte wrap (dürüm); it’s the best!
Dolma means stuffed vegetable dishes. Grape leaves are usually stuffed with rice, and they are delicious!
Ezme, Hummus, etc.
Turkey also has a variety of different sauces like ezme which is a spicy tomato dip, muhammara made of peppers and walnuts or classic chickpea hummus.
Speaking of chickpeas, Turkey has a lot of main courses made of chickpeas and different kinds of beans. It’s not hard to find vegan options as these dishes are available at almost every restaurant.
I love falafel! I have to admit that Turkish falafel is not the best, though, it’s missing some of the fresh herbs because the falafel balls are not so green inside as they are in some other countries.
My favorite juice in the world! You can find freshly pressed pomegranate juice almost everywhere in Turkey. It’s tasty, very healthy and full of antioxidants!
You just can’t travel in Turkey without trying this. Turkish tea is offered to you anywhere you go as a token of hospitality.
Now Let’s get into the Restaurant Recommendations in Istanbul!
I tried several restaurants, but I had three ultimate favorites where I always ended up going back.
Community Kitchen Kumbaracı Yokuşu 57/ A
As already mentioned in my Monthly Recap (two months ago, I’m so late with this post!), Community Kitchen was one of my favorite restaurants in Istanbul. Here is what I wrote: The one and only vegan restaurant in Istanbul! The owner is a lovely, cat-loving woman and there are always cats hanging around in the restaurant. As a cat fan, this is always a huge bonus for me. The menu changes daily, but here are a few dishes I tried: lentil soup, vegan kebab (made of seitan), pasta, wraps and vegan baklava. Everything was always freshly prepared homemade food. It’s a real “community kitchen” as there is communal seating and the atmosphere is always warm and homely.
Falafel Zone Istiklal Cad Öğüt Sok 4
Also mentioned in my Monthly Recap, Falafel Zone was my other favorite in Istanbul. If you are craving falafel while you are in Istanbul, this is the place to go! The food menu is all vegan, and they offer everything from falafel burgers to salads. Also, try their homemade lemonade, it’s the best! Everything is very affordable and tasty; the owners are friendly and welcoming – what more can you ask for? I would also add that their homemade pomegranate salad dressing is delicious, so make sure to try that!
Beyoglu Bereket Halk Döner Harbiye, Cumhuriyet Cad. No:33
This is a cheap self-service restaurant serving Turkish food. There’s nothing special about this place; you can find similar places everywhere in Istanbul. The reasons why I ate there almost every day was the location (next to Taksim square, close to my apartment), price (very affordable) and they always had vegan options which were usually chickpeas, beans, vegetables or mushrooms, rice, pasta and lentil soup. I recommend this place if you are looking for a cheap restaurant!
Other Places for Falafel and Hummus:
There are several places where you can find falafel and hummus. My ultimate favorite is still Falafel Zone, but I also tried these restaurants:
Kikero Falafel Serdar-ı Ekrem Cd No:1
Falafel House Sehit Muhtar Cad. 19/1 A
Old Damascus Kalyoncu Kullugu Caddesi 75
Food from the Supermarkets:
Large supermarkets have some vegan products but don’t expect too much. You can find plant-based milk, tofu, and even vegan cheese.