Turkey has earned a reputation for being a nation of hardcore, meat-eating fans, all thanks to its donor kebab’s popularity. But that doesn’t mean that vegetarians will go hungry.
There are a lot of veg food options in Turkey that are delicious, plentiful and cheap on the pocket too. So although getting Turkish food with meat is not at all tough, vegetarian varieties are plentiful too.
Top 10 Turkish Vegetarian Dishes
1. Kuru Fasulye
This is a traditional white bean stew that is made with onions, olive oil, and tomatoes. It goes perfectly with bulgur or rice. While it comes as a side dish, it is so filling that it can be consumed as your main meal!
Börek is a baked pastry that is made of flaky dough, stuffed with many fillings. Usually, stuffed with meat, vegetarian options can include cheese or spinach.
3. Ciğ Kofte
Ciğ Kofte is the spicy vegetarian variety of meatballs, and is usually made from tomatoes, walnuts, and bulgur. It is served mainly as an appetizer but when you eat it with salad, bread or rice, it becomes a meal in itself.
4. İmam Bayıldı
İmam Bayıldı (translates to ‘the imam fainted’). is a dish made of stuffed eggplants. Fillings are made of onions, garlic, and tomatoes. This can be eaten with bulgur or rice.
Baklava is Turkey’s famous baked layered pastry that has chopped nuts like walnut or pistachios inside. The outer is crunchy, flaky and covered with sugar syrup. So if you have a sweet tooth, you should surely try this in Turkey.
Another famous dessert worth trying in Turkey is Sultaç, which is a creamy, tasty vanilla-flavored rice pudding that can be a mix of kheer and firni. This is usually served cold and garnished with nuts.
7. Nohutlu Pilav
Nohutlu Pilav is a dish made of rice with garbanzo beans. It is so delicious and simple that it can be found on the streets at carts and street joints. It can be eaten as a smaller meal or can be clubbed with stews or salads to make it a whole meal.
Pide is the Turkish pizza that is made from dough and toppings, but there is no tomato sauce on it. Cheese pide is common and cheap in Turkey.
Another variety of Turkish pizza, Lahmacun has a crisper and thinner base than Pide and is eaten as a roll too. It is made of spicy veggie toppings and cheese.
Gözleme is a dish made of dough that is folded over and stuffed with spinach, cheese and/or with potatoes, just like the Turkish version of a quesadilla.
Top 10 Vegetarian Restaurants in Turkey
As Turkish food is quite vegetarian-friendly. Istanbul has a lot of vegetarian restaurants that can even attract a meat lover to try their dishes.
1. Community Kitchen
Community Kitchen is a great spot on Istiklal Caddesi street, attracting both travellers and locals. The place is popular for creating vegan versions of Turkish popular foods like kofte, iskender kebab, and baklava. And do try the vegan brownies!
2. Muhtelif Mekan
The restaurant turned into a vegan spot in 2017. The best part is that they have a daily changing menu. The regular items include salads, vegan balls, vegan soups, desserts, etc.
The restaurant lies close to Taksim Square and was one of the first vegetarian restaurants in Istanbul It is a local favorite thanks to its vegan and vegetarian dishes. You can try their lentil patties, vegetable lasagne, zucchini pie, smoked bulgur with veggies and enjoy these with a ginger lemonade and vegan brownie.
VegaNarsist is a small eating spot in Nişantaşı. The owner transforms Turkish delights into vegan dishes. We recommend you to try their tofu wraps, no meat islak hamburger or the spinach mushroom pide.
5. Falafel Köy
On the same street where Community Kitchen is located, you can find Falafel Köy. The place serves the best falafel. Plus, everything on their menu is vegan except for ayran which is the yogurt-based drink. You can try their platters too with delicious baba ganoush, hummus, tabbouleh salad, burger, falafel durum, and fattoush.
6. Rulo Ezberbozan Lezzetler
This is a wrap and sandwich spot that has a buffet of Turkish dishes and salads. Choose what you would like to have in your wraps like eggplant, wheat, and lentil salad, beans, chickpeas, baked potatoes, carrot, red cabbage, chips, cig kofte, hummus and more.
7. Cigkofteci Ali Usta
The vegetarian eatery that is famous for serving spice balls in wraps and vegan bulgur. A portion has lettuce, lemon, wrap, and cig kofte. The location of this restaurant is by Sirkeci tram station and you can also walk here from the Spice Bazaar.
8. No 19 Dining
This veggie restaurant provides a nice buffet, allowing the guests to taste most of their delicacies. You can even enjoy the fine dining experience and order a full course meal for your family. We recommend you to try their Kişnişli Tavuk, which is the chickpea puree in lemon, tahini, and garlic, served with olive oil, crushed red pepper, and cumin seeds. They are known for serving the ‘best hummus in all of Istanbul’ which is served on a cumin black seed and seasoned with crushed red pepper and olive oil.
9. Mahatma Cafe & Restoran
At this restaurant, we are sure your hunger for healthy vegetarian food will be satisfied. They have the delicious Patates-Bezelyeli Börek and signature Mahatma Hummus to try for sure. Even the kids can enjoy the Kek with dripping chocolate and some fruity toppings. Another must-try at this place is the Antakya Kömbesi’ which is made with whole wheat flour and olive oil.
10. Dubb Indian Restaurant
Last but not least, if you’re craving some home food, head to this restaurant. Their naan is simply amazing and served just from the oven, hot and crisp.
Important phrases or words for vegetarians in Turkey
If you are a vegetarian visiting Turkey, these are a few important phrases/words that you must know:
Meat – Et
Cheese – Peynir
Vegetables – sebzeler
I am a vegetarian – Ben vejetaryenim
No meat – Etsiz
Is there meat? – Et var mı?
Do you have any dishes without meat? – Etsiz yemek var mı?
I do not eat meat- Et yemiyorum
Do you have vegetarian food? – Sizde vejetaryen vemek bulunur mu?
Keep this in mind, and you’re in for a wonderful time in Turkey, whether it’s exploring, shopping, or eating!