A survival guide to
gluten-free eating in Istanbul!

I know I know… Gluten-free eating in Turkey may sound challenging, I admit. If it is not the dishes themselves makes you take the challenge, it is the slaphappy, carefree, lovely waiters, the know it all restaurants and nothing can happen form this kind of attitude bearers.

Yes, you need to be careful. No, you will not stay hungry! Bare with me on this post!

Fact 1: Most of the good hearted, generous, lovely waiters of Istanbul or Turkey may not understand that gluten is a health issue, an illness or allergies… Of course I am not talking about world class restaurants, more about the local and small ones. So be prepared to have a lot of persuasion, a smile might work too!

So what/how to eat and not ruin your fantastic stay in the city!

Istanbul or/and Turkey is a vegetable and fruit heaven and in every corner we have the mahalle manavı, neighbourhood green grocers bursting with seasonal fresh veggies and fruit. So what, are you gonna stay in the room cook your day in? No! But if you like to nibble… Also you may end up at supermarkets scattered around the city, if lucky you may come across  pazar, neighbourhood open air markets even!

Fact 2: Turkish cooking/ cuisine is a very healthy cuisine, and we do not eat kebab all day. We cook lot of vegetable dishes, both hot and cold… Not to forget grains!

Breakfast… We go insane over breakfast (most of us), yes we love to eat simit, poğaça and sorts but we also love sahanda yumurta, or eggs prepared anyway you like,  you may try a menemen, and varieties of cheese, tomatoes, cucumber, olives, bal-kaymak clotted cream and honey, jams and butter…

Soup… Most of the soups has flour as a thickening agent, or starch, or chicken bouillon perhaps. So skip that, you have a lot to taste anyway!

Zeytinyağlılar… Whaat? Alright, basics. Zeytinyağlılar (pl;) zeytinyağlı (sg); sorts of vegetable dishes cooked with olive oil aka zeytinyağı without meat, served cold, a national heritage I must say, we are very obsessed with our zeytinyağlı dishes! (for example I do like my zeytinyağlı served at room temperature, just before putting it in the fridge, the same day it’s cooked, obsession is a sweet thing.) Zeytinyağlı can be made from any vegetables like leeks, peas, green beans, artichokes, aubergines, okra, zucchini, green fava beans, wrapped vine leaves, wrapped cabbage leaves, sarma, stuffed zucchinis, tomatoes, dried aubergines dolma… We have plenty of them, choices will vary due to season for sure… also enjoyed at esnaf lokantası, most of the restaurants serve these kind of dishes.

Salad and Meze… Meze is a large selection of small salads, zeytinyağlı dishes, kinds of appetizers to share, accompany your drink  and every meyhane has different kinds on their menu. Some made from seafood, some fish, some vegetable. Just be sure to ask the ingredients. And have a sip of rakı while you are there! Şerefe!

Vegetable dishes… Stews and sorts… No need to repeat myself but when you stop at any esnaf lokantası tradesmen restaurant in Istanbul, you have a feast!  Not to forget the rice dishes too! All the delicious food displayed on the counter calling your name and they are yours after and you basically point and say aye! You may order a bowl of yoğurt with that…

eat you vegetable!

Fish/Seafood… Order yourself ızgara balık, grilled fish, what is in season.  stay away from the fried ones, we cover them with flour and fry them. Karides şiş or karides güveç, shrimps cook in small earthenware, octopus salad, grilled octopus… Do not order fried calamari, but grilled calamari may do.

Köfte! We put breadcrumbs in köfte, our delicious meatball, so sorry again!

Lahmacun… Sorry!

Kebab/Meat… You will be tasting delicious kebabs, order them as portion, but we serve the kebabs on a pide, lavaş… The thing you have to be careful is ordering them without. Same goes with the döner!

Sweets… You are safe with the fruits, you did not hear it from me!

Istanbul has it all, but gluten-free menus. Who needs that when we have this much of delicious food! Hope you enjoy your food in Istanbul!

P.S. One of my celiac readers shared this link, the gluten-free restaurant cards fro celiacs, she told me the card was really helpful during her stay in Turkey! It has many languages available… 

Disclaimer: IstanbulFood.com does not take any responsibility and is not liable for any illness might be caused at any of the mentioned places or by the food chosen.