First published: November 18, 2013 – Updated: September 25, 2021
Iskender kebab is one of the most popular meat dishes of Turkey, typically enjoyed in the north-western areas of the country. It dates back to the early 19th century and is so-named after its original creator, Iskender Efendi. It can also be known in other regions of Turkey as ‘Bursa kebab’, referring to Iskender Efendi’s hometown.
Made from the same rotating kebab but while doner kebab is usually understood as fast food (sandwich or a wrap), Iskender kebab is served on a plate and is the main meal.
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Origins of Iskender kebab: Bursa city and Iskender Efendi
Bursa is famous for its Uludag mountain and the wild thyme growing on these mountains. Iskender kebab should be made with the lamb feeding on this special thyme.
“Kebapci Iskender” is trademarked by the Iskenderoğlu family (family of Iskender Efendi, the creator of Iskender kebab) who still run the restaurant in Bursa. This family has restaurants also in Istanbul serving delicious kebabs.
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What is Iskender kebab?
This special kebab is made by layering delicious doner meat (thinly-cut rotisseried lamb) mixed with tomato sauce over bread, and generously topped with melted butter and yogurt. This kebab is different than the classic doner kebab.
Iskender kebab is served on a plate, first, the sliced pide bread goes on the plate, then layers of thinly sliced kebab, and finally tomato sauce. It is served with yogurt on the side and they usually pour melted butter on the table.
This is one of the favorite types of kebabs enjoyed by locals in Istanbul restaurants, and easily becomes a favorite of visitors to Turkey, also.
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Best restaurants to eat Iskender kebab in Istanbul:
1. Kebapçı İskender
There are a number of variations on the doner kebab, but all of them have one thing in common: the quality of the red meat. Iskender kebab is no different – it just requires high-quality beef and lamb and cooking over charcoal to get that signature crusty goodness for which this dish has become famous. This is what Kebabci Iskender has been doing right since 1867.
On our Taste of Two Continents food tour, our guests often mention that one of their favorite restaurants is Kebapçı İskender.
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2. Bursa Garaj Kebap
Bursa Garaj is already very popular among locals in Bursa and they serve the same delicious iskender kebab in their Istanbul branch. You can also order different types of doner kebabs at this restaurant. Do not forget to taste their cucumber pickles.
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3. Bursa Kebapçısı
Located in Taksim, Bursa Kebapçısı is a small and nicely decorated place that serves up delicious Iskender kebab with its buttery meat. The menu has all of your favorite Turkish kebabs as well so you’re sure to find something for everyone.
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4. Kasabım Ethane
Kasabım Ethane is not your average kebab restaurant. This restaurant serves steaks, beef cutlet, t-bone, smoked meat, lamb tandoori as well as delicious Iskender kebab.
The meat of the Iskender kebab, which they prepare from the tenderloin and serve on special pide bread, is soft and juicy. Fresh tomato sauce with yogurt makes the taste even better!
5. Kandilli Borsa Restaurant
Do you think a fantastic view of the Bosphorus would make Iskender kebab taste better? Some people say yes! Kandilli Borsa Restaurant has one of the best Iskender kebab in Istanbul and offers an unbeatable view as well.
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If you are planning a trip to Istanbul, make sure not to miss the delicious dish of Iskender kebab. It is one of Turkey’s most popular dishes and can be found in many restaurants throughout the city.
To fully enjoy this tasty meal, we recommend joining our Taste of Two Continents tour for an opportunity to taste it while learning about its origins from your local guide!
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