Turkey is a Vegetarian’s Destination!

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In a land where the best known dishes are Doner Kebab, meat on a pole, many people often think that no Turkish food is vegetarian, but it’s just not true.  Don’t get me wrong, the Turks love their meat!  I can’t say I know many Turkish vegetarians, however, they have a vast amount of items that will easily fit into a vegetarian diet.  Probably the most important thing to learn is how to ask if there is a vegetarian option.

You do this by saying: Vejeteryen menunuz var mi? or Yalniz sebze menunuz var mi?

Mezzeler (mezzes)

A mezze is a small dish that the Turks, as well as other Meditteranean countries, either serve by themselves or at the beginning of a meal.  Many Turkish mezzes are vegetarian.  Here’s a list of some of the ones you might encounter at any Turkish restaurant.

Haydari – a yogurt and mint mixture that you can dip your pide into

Patlican Tava or Kizartmasi – fried eggplant normally accompanied by yogurt, but also can be served with a tomato sauce.

Biber Kizartmasi – The same dish as above, but the main part is from green peppers instead of eggplant.

Ezme – a red dip that can often be spicy (acili) made from tomatoes and peppers, especially good on bread.

Nohut Ezmesi – this is another yogurty dip with chickpeas

Patlican Salatasi – literally eggplant salad, where the eggplant is usually roasted first and may have a smoky flavor.

Humus (hummmus) – A roasted chick pea favorite, but not as common as in other Middle Eastern countries.

Cacik – a yogurt and cucumber soup, that’s very thin and very refreshing especially when it’s hot outside

borek– I will do a whole post on borek, but suffice it to say, whether it is su borek or sigara borek, there will always be a cheese option (and many times a spinach or other vegetable option…just ask)

Vegetarian Food in Turkey

Some dishes that  are traditionally made with meat, but also could be made with vegetables.

Mantar Manti – a macaroni envelope with a garlicly yogurt sauce.  If you are interested, though, make sure it says “mantar” (mushroom)

Dolma – dolma means stuffed, and there are stuffed grapeleaves (yaprak sarma), cabbage leaves (lahana), and patlican (eggplant).  They all fall under the dolma umbrella, and all of them can be made with meat, so you want to make sure you are not getting “etli dolma”.  Etli means with meat.

Pilav- rice. Again there are many types of rice dishes, some are made with meat or a meat stock, and others are made with fruits and nuts.  Be careful to ask.

This is not a complete list of vegetarian options, and I will try to keep adding to it.  If you have eaten vegetarian in Turkey, please comment with other food suggestions or even a restaurant!

Have you eaten vegetarian in Turkey?


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Vegetarian Food in Turkey



    1. Candice – Exactly! I am not a vegetarian, but have many friends that are, so we were always surprised to see how much choice there was! And it’s delicious!

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