Surviving as a Vegetarian in Turkey

Surviving as a Vegetarian in Turkey
23 December 2021

As a traveler, you might be a little skeptical about what you will find to eat as a vegetarian.
There’s no need to worry though, because in Turkey the culinary scene is pretty good for vegetarians.
Most associate Turkey with kebabs and meat dishes, and while that is true, Turkey also has a wide variety of meat free options that are simply delicious.

Although there are plenty of meat- free dishes in Turkey, the concept of vegetarianism isn’t always understood.

In many up market restaurants located mainly in the cities and in touristic locations, the word vegetarian is understood, but elsewhere, you may need to clarify what you can and can’t eat.
If a restaurant has an English menu aimed mainly at tourists, there’s usually a vegetarian section.

Here are a few useful phrases to know.

Etsiz- No meat

Et var mi? – Is there meat?

Etsiz yemek var mi? – Is there a meal without meat?

Ben bir vejetaryen- I am a vegetarian

Tavuk, et ve balik yemem- I do not eat chicken, meat and fish.

Being a vegetarian in Turkey should not change the fact that you should try the wonderful and mouthwatering street food whilst wandering down the streets and lanes in Turkey.
Some of the tastiest street food available for vegetarians is.

These are roasted chestnuts sold from street vendors. The smell is irresistible with a slightly sweet and nutty taste.

These ring shaped and sesame coated breads can be seen all over Turkey and they are the perfect accompaniment to a Turkish tea.

This is simply sweet corn, boiled and sold in cups in varying sizes. You can add whichever ingredients to add on top including mayonnaise, ketchup, butter, curry powder, garlic powder or simply salt and pepper.


This is a baked potato, served with a huge variety of toppings to choose from. They include olives, cheese, beetroot, pickles, salad and many more. The choice is yours.

Cig kofte is another great option as long as it is the ‘etsiz’ type which is more easily found these days. It’s a very tasty and quick meal for vegetarians. Even meat eaters love Cig Kofte. They are small hand formed bites made up of bulgur, onion, pepper and tomato paste. It is sold in either flat bread rolled up, or with lettuce leaves.


This is a bulgur salad full of flavor and made with bulgur, tomato paste, onion, garlic, pomegranate molasses, herbs and spices.


This is normally aubergine and various vegetables sautéed with tomato paste and garlic.

Meals made with olive oil known as ‘yeytin yagli yemekler’ in Turkish are very popular and very healthy. As long as they are ‘etsiz’ you will be fine.

Zeytin yagli Dolma

This is grape leaves stuffed with rice that has been seasoned with olive oil and herbs. Make sure that they don’t contain meat as some recipes for zeytin yagli dolma include it.

Mercimek kofte

These are a cold, spiced, red lentil and bulgur shaped kofte. They are served cold with lettuce and are extremely tasty.


These are courgette fritters that are fried with other vegetables.

There are also lots of pastries suitable for vegetarians and are sold in cafes or from street vendors.

Of course in Turkey, rice, bread and yogurts are also a staple of Turkish cooking. Be sure to check the rice has no meat stock used first. As recent years have seen a huge increase in vegetarianism and veganism worldwide, vegan cafes and restaurants have started popping up around some cities in Turkey, mostly based in Istanbul.
It is now possible to eat tasty vegan doner kebabs, lahmacuns, pides and even drink vegan ayran at these locations.
Without a doubt, being a vegetarian in Turkey is an utterly ambrosial experience

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