My dear readers, this is a very big moment in the life of my blog. The very first guest post on The Vegan World-Traveller. Benjamin Abeli took some time to write an amazing post for vegetarians as well as vegans traveling to Istanbul, Turkey. But please, feel free to read it yourself. And thanks again, Ben!
Traditionally Turkey is a big meat-eating country but being vegan or vegetarian is a trend that continues to grow, particularly in the capital Istanbul where the number of veggie orientated restaurants and stores are on the rise.
As the country of the kebab, meat is ubiquitous in the kitchen’s of Turkey, however attitudes are changing as evidenced by the high volumes of people converting to meat-free meals whether for healthy eating reasons and/or because they’re against cruelty and exploitation of animals.
“being vegan in Istanbul is full of surprises”
Being vegan/vegetarian is a lifestyle choice but ditching meat doesn’t mean foregoing the pleasures of the palette! Indeed, being vegan in Istanbul is full of surprises and while it may seem complicated to cater for – in reality it isn’t.
Here is my guide to vegan/vegetarian food in Istanbul 🙂
Enjoy typical meat-free dishes
Even if many Turkish dishes are mostly meat, their base remains vegetarian because the meat is added at the end. Turkish cuisine can pack a punch and is often spicy with a full flavour. Vegans often feast of aromatic soups and supplement dishes with yoghurt and lemon.
A traditional Turkish breakfast is made up of a mixture of
- fresh tomatoes,
And while meat eaters may feast on the spicy Turkish sausage sucuk and eggs alongside the fresh produce, obviously vegans just leave that stuff out.
Dolma (see picture) is a very authentic Turkish dish that can be made with or without meat. Vine leaves stuffed with rice and vegetables and seasoned with olive oil and herbs – make for a delicious main dish or part of a meze.
And for those who love a savoury flatbread, you’ll love the Gözleme, a flatbread almost like a crepe and topped with spinach, cheese and sometimes potatoes and mushrooms. It can contain other ingredients of course, sealed and cooked over a griddle. There are plenty of vegan Gözleme options on Istanbul menus.
Some good ideas for meat-free eating
Istanbul has more and more typical vegan restaurants so you can enjoy meat-free cuisines at the likes of Komşu Kafé and Rulo Ezberbozan Lezzetler in Kadikoy which specialises in vegetarian dürüm (wraps).
Everything falafel is served up at Falafel House in the Beyoğlu region. The tasty chickpea dumplings are delicious and a must for vegetarians. This place also serves a good tabbouleh (traditionally made of tomatoes, finely chopped parsley, mint, bulgur and onions and seasoned with olive oil, lemon juice and salt) and high-protein dish hummus (mashed chickpeas, tahini, lemon, olive oil and garlic), as is typical in vegetarian restaurants in Turkey and the Middle East.
Check out the healthy and hearty vegan range at Parsifal, also in the Beyoğlu region.
Like other locations, Istanbul’s attitudes are changing towards vegan eating
It is becoming common for more eateries worldwide to cater towards vegan/vegetarian eating and Istanbul is no different. As the trend focuses on developing good eating habits, organic fresh produce is highly recommended for a healthier lifestyle with high levels of proteins coming from vegetables and such instead of meat.
Generally, Istanbul is proud of its fresh vegetables, often grown locally, and extensive list of herbs and spices used to give Turkish gastronomy its edge. All over Istanbul you’ll find delicate scents and flavours and dishes that don’t contain any meat at all.
“cities contemporary restaurants in picturesque neighbourhoods”
The rich history of the Turkish capital lives on through the food of Istanbul and it’s presented in a modern way in many of the cities contemporary restaurants in picturesque neighbourhoods that make the capital a really cool and cultural Bosphorus destination for holidaymakers.
It’s sure to be an unforgettable trip wherever you stay in Istanbul. Many tourists choose accommodation in places like the Galata district, Pera, Gümüüşsuyu, Taksim, Cihangir, Harbiye, and lively Elmadağ. But for those looking for a bit more peace and quiet, perhaps try Beşiktaş, Nilşantaşı or one of these.