Istanbul for food lovers: the coolest food tours and culinary courses in the city
Influenced by many different cultures from Europe to the Middle East, Turkish cuisine is an enchanting fusion, bursting with amazing flavours and textures. A holiday in Turkey is worth it for the food alone. Famous chefs from all over the world have sung its praises, and Istanbul is the cosmopolitan centre of it all. From thriving markets to cooking classes taught by locals, there is no shortage of exciting excursions for adventurous foodies. If your diet is vegetarian or gluten-free there are plenty of options to delight your tastebuds. Feast your senses with our picks for cooking courses and food tours in the beautiful city of Istanbul. Before you know it, you’ll be eating your way through the city just like a local.
TOP FIVE FOOD TOURS IN ISTANBUL
Turkish Flavours - Feneryolu, Kadikoy
Located on the Asian side of Istanbul, Turkish Flavours offers a variety of tours and cooking courses. You can either plan a customised outing or opt for one of the popular Taste Istanbul food tours. In The Spice Bazaar and Kadikoy Tour you can explore the centuries-old Egyptian Bazaar, where exotic spices were once imported from Southeast Asia via Egypt. Follow up with a trip through the renowned Kadikoy market and a lavish Anatolian lunch made with regional ingredients such as aromatic red pepper, pistachios, chickpeas, olive oil and pomegranate molasses. You can also take a cooking class in a local home.
Part of the international multi-city collective Culinary Backstreets, founders Ansel Mullins and Yigal Schleifer at Istanbul Eats take you off the beaten path onto some of the lesser known historical streets and hidden culinary treasures. Choose from four walks: Cosmopolitan Beyoglu, Culinary Secrets of the Old City, Two Markets, Two Continents, and Culinary Backstreets of the Bazaar Quarter. The Istanbul Eats mission is not only to introduce you to tasty food, but to support local artisans and merchants as well. Check out their blog for fascinating cultural happenings and local food news. You can also take a shopping and cooking culinary adventure, finished off with a pumpkin dessert laced with tahini and walnuts and robust Turkish coffee.
Whether you prefer a high-end restaurant or a hole-in-the-wall kebab shop, the guides at Istanbulite offer customised foodie tours. Skip breakfast and feast on grilled doner, mezes, and countless desserts. Try a simit (Turkish salty bagel) or manti (Turkish ravioli). Wash it down with fresh pomegranate or pickle juice. The cost of food isn’t included, but you get a professional tour guide and a luxury vehicle with a driver.
The Food Taste Walking Tour Istanbul
This tour promises a “non-touristy” experience. Explore the cultural part of Istanbul and culinary melting pot via tastes of Istanbul in a whirlwind tour through the Asian and European sides of the city. Highlights include a visit to 143-year-old Gulluoglu Baklavacisi where you can watch a baklava-making demonstration.
Get a no-pressure inside track at the Delicious Istanbul tour. Food guide Olga, formerly a high-profile businesswoman from Russia, was enchanted during a visit to Turkey, and you will see why as she shares her food expertise. Become acquainted with local specialties and ingredients via a quick orientation before travelling over the Bosphorus to the Asian side of Istanbul where you will breakfast on delicious pastry and Turkish coffee or tea. After browsing through spice and produce markets, enjoy a lunch of seasonal fish at an eatery frequented by local professionals. You will also find a few edible souvenirs worth taking home.
LEARN HOW TO COOK TURKISH FOOD?
For a more hands-on Turkish culinary experience, there are a number of cooking courses for cooks of all levels. Istanbul cooking schools have been wildly popular for more than a decade with no signs of slowing down. Classes tend to be intimate enough for one-on-one attention and full participation. Many of the cooking schools also feature restaurants on the premises so you can enjoy your meal in a laid-back, comfortable setting. An added bonus is the ability to impress your friends and family with your new culinary skills when you get home.
Cooking Alaturka - Sultanahmet
Opened in 2002 by Dutch chef Eveline Zoutendijk, Cooking Alaturka was Istanbul’s first cooking school. Half-day classes teaching Turkish cooking techniques using fresh local ingredients are offered. After learning how to cook a five course meal in the kitchen, sample the fruits of your labour in the restaurant while enjoying a nice glass of wine and conversation with fellow patrons.
Sarnic Hotel Turkish Cooking Class - Sultanahmet
Learn how to cook traditional dishes in this four-hour class at the Sarnic Hotel. The class is taught by a professional chef, and participants are given the recipes to take home. Enjoy the meal you just prepared at the rooftop restaurant.
Istanbul Cooking School - Beyoglu
Classes at Istanbul Cooking school are a relative bargain at only 50€. Menu items include historical Ottoman cuisine as well as more homey fare. Nurse a raki hangover with traditional soups made with time-tested ingredients like lentils and yogurt. If soups aren’t your thing, make Ottoman staples that would have been enjoyed by sultans.
Istanbul Culinary Institute - Cibali
The institute offers monthly amateur classes. While the selection varies, recent menu items have included Anatolian cuisine and Turkish regional dishes. There is also a practise restaurant and gourmet food shop on the premises called Enstitu.
Les Arts Turcs - Sultanahmet
Founded in 1997, Les Arts Turcs is an art gallery and cultural centre in Sultanahmet. There you can take a Turkish cooking course in a relaxed atmosphere. From the corn and anchovy-based dishes of the Black Sea region to the kebabs, mezes, fine Turkish wines, and dough-based desserts of the Southeast, Les Arts Turcs offers a great overview of all the delights of Turkish cuisine. Tea or coffee is available before, during, and after the class. You can also take a homemade baklava lesson in the flat of a local housewife.