• Donna

What We Ate: Vegan Food in Istanbul

Updated: Dec 31, 2018

#Istanbul in December for us was cold, wet, and grey. We stepped a little too far out of the equatorial heat belt and weren’t prepared for such climes -- and ended up spending a lot of time sippin' on tea and coffee and chowin' down on delicious vegan food as a result.

Here’s the down-low what and where we ate.

Vegan Istanbul

A huge case of lovingly prepared homemade options awaits you at Vegan Istanbul. The owner doesn't speak the best English but the love she has towards her customers transcends language barriers, and all you have to do is point at what you want. We both got a 3-option plate, 25₺ each (about 5$).

I'm sure she doesn't cook the same thing everyday, and on this cold wet day she had some very comforting and soul-warming food waiting for us.

There is a case of tasty vegan products for take-away. We bought a package of cheddar 'cheese' for grilled-cheese sandwiches at our hostel!

She also has home-made kombucha, and many different dessert options! What a welcome sight.

I'm 90% certain that everything she makes is also gluten-free.

Balcan Lokantasi

A Turkish friend and fellow budget traveler from our hostel brought us to his favorite restaurant, which was one of the self-serve style restaurants where you point at what you want and they give you a plate of it. This one, like most of these type of restaurants, was dominated by meat and cheese dishes, although there were 4 vegetarian options, and the man behind the counter said that there was no butter or milk used in those dishes. So we went to town, and the entire meal pictured above was 30₺ (about 6$). It was delicious.

Another great thing about this restaurant is that it's full of locals. It was very nice to interact with them.

And another great thing about this restaurant is that they give you free tea after you've finished your meal!


Oooo this place was classy. These guys are combining high-quality ingredients in a way that causes little flavor explosions on your tongue. Don't expect vegan junk-food here. Franklin ordered leeks and chick-peas, I ordered stuffed eggplant. But each dish was so, so much more than it's name.

The setting was also magical. The dining area of this restaurant is a plant-filled haven underneath a glass portico connecting a courtyard to the handsome brick ruins of a century-year old building.

As you might expect, the price was heftier than what we were used to. Two entrees plus tea/soda was ~$15.

Arada Cafe

Do come here for delicious Lebanese food in a very cute setting. Creamy herb-infused hummus, crispy and moist falafels, thick and flavorful red-pepper and walnut spread (muhammara), and tangy lemon-spiced french fries -- we were in food heaven.

This was another pricey restaurant and set us back ~$13.


Could not have made it through those long walks across the city without pickle brine, fresh pressed pomegranate juice, and #simit (the round, sesame coated prodigy of #Bagel and #Pretzel that is sold pretty much everywhere).