World's Best Street Foods
Hero Images/Getty Images

29 Must-Try International Street Foods Under $5

View Slideshow
World's Best Street Foods
Hero Images/Getty Images

STREET FOOD GOES GLOBAL

If there's one thing that every culture has in common it's a love of eating delicious food for little money. As food trucks and stands have proliferated across the United States during the past decade, many vendors are taking inspiration from low-cost snacks and street foods from around the globe — and customers are eating it up. Here are 29 of the tastiest and least expensive items you'll find in cities far and wide, many of which are now found on stateside streets. (Prices gleaned from personal travel experience, friendly sources, and online reviews; all prices given in U.S. dollar equivalences.)

Related: 40 Foods That Americans are Missing Out On

Falafel
izikMd/istockphoto

FALAFEL


A cheap Middle Eastern delight, falafel is well ingrained in the late-night culture of major American cities. Fried chickpea balls are stuffed into a pita pocket with a variety of toppings, from fresh cucumber and tomato to pickled cabbage and tahini, a creamy sesame seed sauce. Munch on this filling vegetarian meal for as little as $3, about the same price you'd pay in its original home.
Best Places to Try It: Falafel shops are common in urban areas and Middle Eastern neighborhoods. Maoz, an international chain, can be found in Florida, Chicago, and New York.

Torta
Kazuki Yamakawa/istockphoto

TORTA


This classic Mexican sandwich combines avocado, jalapenos, mayonnaise, cheese, beans, and a choice of meat — all grilled to perfection. A large sandwich that easily passes for a meal, costs around $2 in Mexico; north of the border the price edges closer to $5.
Best Places to Try It: The best Mexican food in the United States is often found within immigrant communities and along the West Coast. A lot of taco trucks offer tortas, and their chipotle-kissed cousin the cemita, as well as the standard tacos, burritos and quesadillas.

Related: 15 Simple, Tasty Sandwiches That Cost $1 or Less to Make

Crepes
naikon/istockphoto

CREPES


While the French are better known for elaborate full-on dining, the light and oversized pancake makes a fine meal-on-the-go for as little as $4. Offered with a variety of sweet and savory fillings, from apricot jam to mushrooms and cream, it's no wonder that crepe stands appear on city streets worldwide.
Best Places to Try Them: Crepe stands aren't as common across the U.S. as other countries, but crepes can usually be found in sweet and savory versions at French cafes and sometimes at prepared food stalls at farmers markets.

Turkish Fish Sandwich
Joel Carillet/istockphoto

TURKISH FISH SANDWICH


Istanbul is an ancient city where many cultures coalesce, creating a rich diversity of culinary offerings. One of the most famous cheap street foods is the fried or grilled fish sandwich known as balik ekmekdoled out from boats near the city's seven bridges. Light, fresh, and crispy, with fish straight from the sea, these lemon-spiked sandwiches, sometimes topped with onions, herbs or a simple salad, cost about $2 each.
Best Places to Try It: This street food is so unique to this particular place right by the bridges, it's not easily found anywhere else. The best bet would be to make your own with fresh fish — many recipes often recommend using mackerel.

Dumplings
bhofack2/istockphoto

DUMPLINGS


Hailing from China — though variations can be found around the world — these little satchels of lusciousness are an irresistible and easy-to-eat snack. Plenty of classic and fusion examples are available at quick-serve stalls and carts all over the world for about $2 for a half dozen, or 33 cents each.
Best Places to Try Them: No matter what city you're in, if there is a Chinatown, that's the place to go for dumplings. Nom Wah Tea Parlor in New York City has been specializing in dumplings and other dim sum items since 1920.

Knish
hipokrat/istockphoto

KNISH


An Eastern European mainstay, the street food version of a knish is fried dough encasing a filling, usually potato or buckwheat, both hearty and indulgent. Often overlooked at the carts selling hot dogs and pretzels in New York City, knishes cost $1 and are even cheaper in the Ukraine and Russia.
Best Places to Try It: Jewish bakeries and bagel shops often carry knishes. Yonah Schimmel Knishery in New York City is an old knish shop that still exists today in the old Jewish neighborhood, the Lower East Side.

Shawarma
Instants/istockphoto

SHAWARMA


Falafel's meaty cousin, shawarma is the original spit-roasted meat sandwich. Roasted on an upright, rotating spit and liberally seasoned, the meat is sliced off into tender and crispy bits and served in flatbread with sauces and vegetables (or atop rice as a platter), often accompanied by creamy white sauce and fiery chili sauce. Another cheap street food from the Middle East, shawarma costs about $5 in the U.S. and $3 abroad.
Best Places to Try It: This sandwich always seems to taste best when served from a cart on a city street. The Halal Cart in New York on 11th Street and 1st Avenue is a particular favorite, but the best bet is to let your nose guide you; go with the cart that has the best aromas wafting from it. Elsewhere you can also look for The Halal Guys, which began as a New York City street cart and has since expanded across the U.S. and around the globe.

Churros
Brasil2/istockphoto

CHURROS


These Mexican donut-like pastries are crisp on the outside yet soft and chewy on the inside. Popular throughout the Americas and Europe, churros often pop up in the subways where food is permitted or on street carts and fetch $1 or so for three pieces.
Best Places to Try Them: Mexican bakeries in ethnic communities often have fresh churros on offer, or better yet, buy them in parks and public transportation hubs in Latino neighborhoods. Churros are also increasingly appearing on dessert menus of upscale restaurants — though you'll definitely pay more for them there than you would on the street.

Mussels
bingokid/istockphoto

MUSSELS


After a night of drinking and dancing at the many clubs and bars near Taksim Square in Istanbul, you'll stumble on a vendor nearly every 50 feet offering large trays of stuffed and roasted mussels. The seasoned rice and fresh seafood are the perfect snack for soaking up the alcohol and sell for about 50 cents apiece. If you're feeling brave, try negotiating a lower price for a larger portion.
Best Places to Try Them: Shellfish is best when it is fresh, so choosing a high quality seafood establishment is the safest option, though Belgian-themed cafes often have this dish as a staple. You can also try making them at home.

Hot Dogs
Juanmonino/istockphoto

HOT DOGS


From German beginnings comes a now-American standard: the hot dog. Many cities boast their own take on the dog. Top one off with sauerkraut, onions, sweet relish, and mustard on the sidewalks of New York for just $1; head to Chicago and enjoy toppings such as pickles, hot peppers, and tomato wedges for about $3; add chili, onions, and cheddar cheese for about the same price and you'll know you're in Cincinnati.
Best Places to Try Them: While traditional, the New York City hot dog carts are not a perfect picture of sanitation; head to Nathan's on Coney Island for an authentic flavor and experience or try Pink's in Los Angeles for a Hollywood version.

Related: America's 25 Best Hot Dog Stands

Sabich
Максим Крысанов/istockphoto

SABICH


Taking a back seat in popularity, but not in deliciousness, to other Middle Eastern standards, sabich is another cheap street food now finding its way in this country. Sabich is a pita sandwich filled with tender fried eggplant, boiled egg, and amba, a tangy and savory mango sauce. It sells for about $3 in its native environs and $4 in the States.
Best Places to Try It: The international chain Maoz keeps sabich on the menu. Anywhere they sell falafel usually also offers this similar sandwich.

Tacos
TobinC/istockphoto

TACOS


Perhaps the ultimate street food, tacos in both classic and fusion form are experiencing a huge boom in demand all over the world. Conceived to be cheap, quick, and tasty, traditional tacos cost about $2 each in the U.S. and Mexico. Their fusion cousins are often served in larger tortillas and can hit the $5 mark.
Best Places to Try Them: Tacos are best enjoyed fresh, while they are still hot. The ideal way to enjoy them is from a truck, ideally in California, and ideally in a Mexican neighborhood. On the East Coast, Taco Bamba in the Washington, D.C., area does a good job of slinging both traditional and inventive tacos.

Related: 25 Tasty Taco Places Across the Country

Waffles
alexsalcedo/istockphoto

WAFFLES


A Belgian classic, waffles have become increasingly popular as a sweet street snack across Europe and in the U.S. Priced at about $4 in both regions, the crispy yet tender and vaguely sweet waffle, crowned with whipped cream and strawberries or decadent chocolate sauce, is bound to satisfy those sugar cravings.
Best Places to Try It: Wafels And Dinges is a local New York City chain serving up authentic Belgian waffles. A real Belgian style waffle can be difficult to find, with a lot of diners and breakfast joints calling any jumbo waffle a Belgian waffle, but the real thing is different. Among other differences, Belgian waffles have larger, deeper pockets.

Tlayuda
DarioGaona/istockphoto

TLAYUDA


Mexico's answer to the pizza, this Oaxacan specialty is an oversized tortilla grilled with cheese, tomato, avocado, optional meat, and plenty of salsas. Spicy, cheesy, and available nearly all night long, there's no better deal than a tlayuda — especially at the bargain price of $3.
Best Places to Try It: Inventive and high end Mexican restaurants like Cosme and Oxomoco in New York have tlayudas on the menu, and while delicious, they are far from the classic Oaxacan version, and definitely not cheap. This is another item that you may be lucky enough to find in an authentic Oaxacan restaurant, you just may have to look closely to find one depending on where you are. In particular, inexpensive Oaxacan restaurants can be found in Los Angeles.

Related: 15 Memorable Things to Do in Oaxaca, Mexico's Culinary Capital

Frites
©plusminus20/istockphoto

FRITES


Another Belgian specialty that's been adopted by many cultures worldwide is the frite — because who doesn't love fried potatoes? Often available in different sizes, a $5 serving of double-fried crispy potatoes with a variety of dipping sauces (mayonnaise and onions is the thing in Belgium, malt vinegar does it in England) is enough for two.
Best Places to Try Them: Some cities abroad are graced with Belgian fry stands, but in the U.S., we have our own similar tradition of boardwalk fries, made popular by Thrashers in Ocean City, Maryland, with the signature Old Bay Seasoning topping.

Noodles
carpinxo/istockphoto

NOODLES


Hand pulled, chewy, and as long as possible, this Asian pasta signifying long life is a cheap street-food staple all over the world. A bowl of noodles, often served in a savory broth with herbs and vegetables, costs as little as $2 in Asian countries and about $4 in the States.
Best Places to Try Them: This is another dish for your local Chinatown. Look for a place that advertises "hand pulled noodles" for fresh noodles that approximate the real thing.

Paratha
ArishaRay/istockphoto

PARATHA


This Indian flatbread is layered with butter and often stuffed with spicy potatoes, meat, and herbs. A filling and delicious snack, it costs about $1 in India and triple that in many American cities. While not always featured on the menu of quick-serve Indian food stalls, paratha is often available if requested.
Best Places to Try It: To get authentic quality paratha, head to areas that cater to Indian communities. Jackson Heights in Queens, New York, is a favorite with plenty of options for those willing to make the trek.

Pretzels
nycshooter/istockphoto

PRETZELS


The big soft pretzel studded with large salt crystals is a German classic turned New York City staple. You can find them, served with spicy brown mustard, on countless street corners in Manhattan for just $1.
Best Places to Try Them: German beer gardens are an obvious place to find homemade hot pretzels, like Rhein Haus in Seattle.

Elote
fazeful/istockphoto

ELOTE


Available year round in Mexico, but more of a summer treat in the U.S. and increasingly around the world, elote is corn on the cob rolled in mayonnaise, cheese, and chili powder. A full-flavored snack that often costs less than $1 in Mexico, it usually costs about $2 up north.
Best Places to Try It: You'll often find this as an appetizer at casual Mexican restaurants. Another option is to scope out parks in Latino neighborhoods where there are usually mobile vendors on carts dishing them out.

Pizza
svetikd/istockphoto

PIZZA


Though its origins can be traced back to 16th century Naples as a street food eaten by the working poor, pizza owes much of its global popularity to Italian Americans. While cheap, by-the-slice pizzerias can be found throughout the U.S., pizza in Italy is typically sold as a whole pie. Though you can still manage to find it by the slice — especially in Rome where inexpensive square slices known as pizza al taglio ("cut pizza") are popular.
Best Places to Try It: There's no shortage of cheap pizza in New York City, and while New Yorkers will debate the best slice until the end of time, Patsy's Pizzeria in East Harlem has been a beloved institution since 1933 and still sells slices for under $2. The good news for pizza lovers in the U.S. is that while styles might vary by region, delicious and inexpensive slices can found across the country.

Related: Where to Get Delicious Pizza in All 50 States

Tequeños
imv/istockphoto

TEQUEÑOS


These popular Venezuelan snacks are like Latin American mozzarella sticks. These fried cheese bread sticks usually come with a savory sauce or two and can be purchased a few at a time for $1.
Best Places to Try Them: Patacon Pisao in New York sells three for a dollar that come with two house-made sauces. Venezuelan restaurants usually have these on offer as a starter or side dish.

Empanadas
Aleksandr_Vorobev/istockphoto

EMPANADAS


These little dough purses with savory fillings are popular across South America, especially in Argentina. Filling options can include a variety of meats, vegetables and cheese, while one of the more popular versions features seasoned ground beef with boiled egg and sometimes include a sweet kick from raisins, and usually come 2 for $1.
Best Places to Try Them: Empanada Mama in Doylestown, Pennsylvania, offers both traditional fillings as well as more modern and experimental fillings.

Gelato
Jecapix/istockphoto

GELATO


Gelato is a frozen dessert similar to ice cream that is extra creamy — thanks to a higher proportion of milk than cream, little to no egg yolks in the recipe and a slow churning process that incorporates less air than ice cream. The silky, smooth treat is enjoyed throughout the streets of Italy, especially on a warm, summer night. Classic flavors include chocolate and pistachio, as well as seasonal fruit. A few scoops in a cup or a cone will usually cost less than $5.
Best Places to Try It: These days, it's easy to find a gelato shop in just about every city. The ideal places to try real gelato are in Little Italy sectors of cities like New York, Boston, San Diego, and Philadelphia. Other popular spots include Gorgeous Gelato in Portland, Maine; Amorino in Chicago; and Bulgarini Gelato in Los Angeles.

Tamales
DebbiSmirnoff/istockphoto

TAMALES


Tamales are steamed corn cakes made from nixtamalized corn, or masa, that is also the base of tortillas. These Mexican delicacies are super cheap, typically less than $1, and typically come filled with seasoned meats, cheese and chili peppers, or sometimes with corn kernels and sugar for a sweet take.
Best Places to Try It: Mexican restaurants and food carts often have these on offer during the weekends. If you're having trouble tracking them down near you, Trader Joe's also offers fresh and frozen tamales that are pretty good.

Pupusas
DerekNeumeier/istockphoto

PUPUSAS


Pupusas are savory corn cakes with fillings that range from spiced meat to cheese and beans, typical in El Salvador. For around $1 per piece, they come topped with pickled cabbage and onions to cut through the richness.
Best Places to Try Them: Pupuseria Salvadorena in Santa Rosa, California, has a reputation for offering authentic pupusas for cheap.

Samosa
SKashkin/istockphoto

SAMOSA


This cone-shaped Indian and Pakistani pastry is typically filled with spiced potatoes and peas — though depending on the region, they can also contain meat or chickpeas — and served with a variety of sweet, savory, and spicy condiments known as chutneys. The carb-heavy snack is filling and satisfying for around 50 cents per piece.
Best Places to Try Them: This dish is a staple at most Indian restaurants and quick-serve counters that service the ethnic communities. Samosa House, a small chain in Los Angeles, is highly regarded for its namesake dish.

Beef Patties
Supersmario/istockphoto

BEEF PATTIES


Beef patties are a staple in Jamaica where they cost around $3 each. The traditional snack is comprised of a flaky pastry that encases seasoned ground beef and vegetables in a handheld pie.
Best Places to Try Them: Jamaican Pride Bakery in Brooklyn makes fresh patties daily.

Banh Mi
Sebastien Boisvert/istockphoto

BANH MI


This iconic Vietnamese sandwich combined meat or vegetarian options paired with pickled vegetables, cilantro, and spicy chilies for a dish that is both rich and refreshing. The sandwich which can be a meal or a snack usually goes for around $5.
Best Places to Try It: Banh Mi Saigon in New York City's Chinatown offers authentic versions for under $10, while Cali Banh Mi in San Diego has a more experimental menu.

Charales
Courtesy of tripadvisor.com

CHARALES


These small finger-sized fish are native to Mexico and can often be found in Michoacan. They come fried with hot sauce, usually in a large cup for the equivalent of just $1. The tasty little fried fish are crunchy and salty, making a perfect snack for beer.
Best Places to Try It: This super-local delicacy is hard to find outside of the Mexican region, but other types of fried fish can be found near the sea and elsewhere, usually for an equally good deal. Preserved versions of charales can sometimes be found in Latino markets, but they don't compare to the fresh ones. Midwesterners have their own version of miniature fish. They're called smelt, and they are especially popular this time of year — at least among those with the acquired taste.