Last Updated on June 1, 2023 by AIFS Abroad
One of the best places to study abroad and eat is Turkey, even if you’re a vegetarian.
Alumni Ambassador Aysel studied in Istanbul for the summer and she shared her advice for what to look for in Turkish restaurants and on the street, whether you’re looking for vegetarian meals or not!
As a vegetarian in Turkey, I really had to work to find vegetarians options for all my meals. Not because they are hard to find but because most restaurants don’t flaunt a vegetarian section of the menu like most places in the U.S. But if you know what to look for, you’ll find vegetarian options everywhere. So if you are considering studying abroad in Turkey but are worried because you’re a vegetarian and you know that Turkey loves its meat dishes, here are a few delicious vegetarian alternatives that are easy to find:
Kuru Fasulye is one of my favorite Turkish dishes and it goes perfectly over rice or bulgur. It is a traditional Turkish white bean stew made with tomatoes, onions, and olive oil. It usually comes as a side dish but it is very filling and can easily be eaten as a main dish.
Börek is a baked savory pastry made of flaky dough that is usually stuffed with a variety of things. Often börek is stuffed with meat but it is just as common to find spinach or cheese options.
Çorba is the Turkish word for soup and you will find multiple different soup options at almost every Turkish restaurant. In my opinion, the best vegetarian Turkish soups are: Merçimek Çorbası and Ezogelin. Both are different types of lentil soups made with different colored lentils.
Ciğ Kofte is a spicy vegetarian “meatball” made from bulgur, walnuts, and tomatoes. It is usually served as an appetizer but if you eat it with rice, bread, or salad it could become a meal on its own.
İmam Bayıldı translates into “the imam fainted” and is a dish of stuffed eggplants. The eggplants are usually stuffed with tomatoes, onions, and garlic. This dish can also be eaten with rice or bulgur.
Zeytinyağlı Taze Fasulye
Zeytinyağlı Taze Fasulye is fresh green beans and olive oil made into a simple bean stew served as a side dish but as with kuru fasulye (#1 on the list) you can also eat this with rice or bulgur to make it more substantial.
Dolma can take on the form of many different stuffed vegetables, some have meat but most are usually meatless. Dolma can be stuffed grape leaves, zucchini or bell peppers. They are usually stuffed with rice, currants and spices.
Nohutlu Pilav is rice with garbanzo beans. It is so simple and delicious and can be found on the streets being sold in carts as street food. It alone can be enough for a small meal or you can eat it with any of the various stews on this list or salads to make it a bigger meal.
Gözleme is a thin dough folded over and can be stuffed with cheese, spinach, and/or potatoes, much like a Turkish version of a quesadilla.
Pide is like a Turkish pizza (no sauce) that can be adapted to be vegetarian. It is served with cheese and a variety of toppings!