The bright, fresh flavors of mussels have been an iconic part of Turkish and Armenian cuisine for hundreds of years. The prized bivalves are often found on street carts and at restaurants all over town, from seafood markets to waterfront cafes.
One of the most indulgent street foods in Istanbul, this flavor is perfect for a late-night snack or meal. It can be enjoyed on the go at an affordable price point and also served up with style in high-end restaurants.
This popular seafood is cooked and served in 2 different ways; stuffed (midye dolma) and fried (midye tava). Turkish people have a love for this dish because it is quite filling and reasonably priced while still giving an abundance of flavor that will leave you wanting more.
The restaurants we include in the “Best Mussels in Istanbul list” are carefully selected by mussel lovers including us :)
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What is stuffed mussels and how it is made?
Fresh mussels are boiled for about an hour. Meanwhile, uncooked rice is mixed with cinnamon, allspice, black pepper, and onions. After the mussels are cooked, they are each stuffed with rice filling. Once they are all filled, the mussels are steamed until the rice inside is cooked.
Stuffed mussels are prepared in 3 kinds of sizes (small – medium – large). Pricing is also determined by size. It can be eaten as pre-dinner food. It is an excellent appetizer for beer and lighter alcoholic drinks too.
You can also have midye dolma as a side dish to make the main course last longer. Or maybe, just as locals do, eat 20-30 of them and make it a dinner itself alone. Appetizer, snack, or a main meal, do not forget to use a generous amount of lemon juice.
Is it safe to eat mussels in Istanbul?
Yes, they are not unsafe if they are properly cleaned and cooked.
Only the fresh and alive mussels should be cooked (the shells are tight closed if they are alive). After they are boiled, any mussels that haven’t opened during the cooking process should be discarded. Well-established restaurants in Istanbul are very careful with this process.
Pregnant women may want to skip eating mussels, though.
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Stuffed mussels prices in Istanbul
Stuffed mussels are affordable (and filling) seafood, but prices throughout the city vary. The most significant price difference is between the restaurants and street vendors.
The price can go up depending on the size of the mussels. In an established restaurant, the average price is 5 Turkish liras. However, at street vendors, it can range from 2 to 3 TRY.
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How to eat stuffed mussels?
They are best enjoyed eating with your hands.
- Delicately prise the top shell away from the bottom shell, mussel, and the rice filling.
- Using the top shell as a spoon, scoop the mussel and the rice filling out of the bottom shell.
- Squeeze a generous amount of lemon over the mussel and eat it all in one bite!
List of best mussel places in Istanbul:
1. Midyeci Eşref, Silivri
Midyeci Eşref is one of Istanbul’s most famous and favorite mussel restaurants. The highlight of this restaurant is their real wild mussels. This means they don’t sell mussels grown on farms. The spice is well-balanced, the mussels are plump and flavorful, when you bite it, you know that it’s fresh and meaty mussel.
Eşref, the owner, wakes up at 6 am every morning and catches 400 mussels himself.
It is the first stop for those who want to eat delicious and wildly caught mussels. Although it is a little far from Istanbul, it is worth the distance.
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2. Midyeci Ahmet, Beşiktaş
Midyeci Ahmet, aka “Lord of Mussels” who is quite popular, especially on social media, stands out from the crowd thanks to its unique presentation of mussels and spices used.
Their menu features both classic and hot sauced stuffed mussels. They have even started serving mussel pizzas recently. If you want to try a different taste, Midyeci Ahmet also serves grilled sheep intestines. This offal dish can be found at most restaurants serving mussels.
Midyeci Ahmet also organizes the “Mussel Eating Competition” each year and in 2015, the record-breaking winner ate a total of 310 stuffed mussels.
Midyeci Ahmet has branches located in several districts within Istanbul and you can expect to eat one of the best mussels in Istanbul in any of these branches.
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3. Midyesel, Sahrayıcedit
If you want to eat hearty and delicious midye dolma, this is your place! It’s a small, homey restaurant that makes the best mussel variety known as İzmir Mussels. They do not serve anything but stuffed mussels here.
It is very crowded every day of the week. You do not need to make a reservation, but it can be a little challenging to find a place when you go.
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4. Şampiyon Kokoreç, Beyoğlu
Şampiyon Kokoreç is one of the oldest mussel restaurants in town and has multiple branches in Istanbul and many cities of Turkey.
Although the main dish at this restaurant is grilled lamb intestines (kokoreç), their stuffed and fried mussels are equally delicious.
They also serve “Islak Hamburger” (wet burgers), soup varieties (tripe, head, lentil, and lamb soups), “Zümküfül” (sausages with fried potatoes), “köfte” (meatballs) and chicken shish kebabs.
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5. Midyeci Yasin, Kadıköy
This restaurant, which uses its own spices, is one of the most frequented places for mussel enthusiasts. The restaurant, which serves on the Anatolian side of Istanbul, attracts locals from different districts of Istanbul.
As they serve one of the best stuffed mussels in Istanbul, we visit Midyeci Yasin on our Taste of Two Continents tour and Kadikoy Street Food tour. Midyeci Yasin is always a popular stop during our tours for our tour guests.
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6. Midyeci Memet, Beyoğlu
You are not a big fan of mussels but want to give it a try? Then head over to Midyeci Memet in Beyoğlu but don’t be surprised that you ate 30 of them when you count the shells at the end. Their mussels are without a doubt, one of the best in Istanbul.
This is the only place in Istanbul where you can find mussels stuffed with octopus, calamari, and shrimp.
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7. Sırrı Reis Balık Evi, Silivri
This restaurant is popular with locals and visitors alike, as the extensive menu includes seafood and fish favorites. What makes this spot especially unique are its signature mussels – they’re one of a kind!
If you are planning to have seafood for dinner but also want to taste one of the best mussels in Istanbul, Sırrı Reis Balık Evi should be your place to go. Don’t forget to try their fresh salads and desserts as well.
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We’ve covered the best mussel restaurants in Istanbul, and we hope you found this list helpful. If it looks like your taste buds are ready to explore new flavors, consider booking one of our food tours for a unique culinary experience that will take you through different neighborhoods while introducing you to authentic Turkish dishes along the way.
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