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Balkan Food: The Best Serbian Food You Can’t Pass Up
When traveling the world, it’s not about just seeing the sights and perhaps learning a few words of the local language, it’s about tasting the food too.
Culture is about gastronomy, and in the Balkans, there are plenty of authentic and traditional dishes to try. You’ll also find that many dishes in Serbia overlap with neighboring countries, but there are subtle differences to explore.
Serbian food has had many different influences throughout the years – which is reflected in the food. These influences have made Serbian cuisine a real melting pot (pun intended) of delicious flavors for the taste buds.
Influences, ranging from oriental all the way to many parts of Europe, Serbian cooking has its roots in meat, making it a hearty choice for colder days, but you’ll also find many vegetables included in the most local Serb dishes.
Pastry is also quite prevalent in Serbian meals, so when you combine that with meat, you certainly are not going to starve – but that’s okay there are loads of things to do and see in Serbia to keep you busy and help you burn off those extra kilojoules.
To give you an idea of what you can expect to see when you’re traveling around Serbia, and the best food to try – let’s explore the wonder of Serbian cuisine.
You’ll find cevapcici or cevapi all over the Balkans, and these are delicious, small sausages which are made of minced and grilled meat. The meat is usually either pork, beef, or lamb, and can also be a mixture. You will often find you get a portion of around 5-10 different sausages and they are served on a fresh flatbread with onions, red pepper relish, and sometimes sour cream too if you want it. This is a common and quite cheap street food you will find at most takeaways, so give it a try.
Very similar to cevapcici, pljeskavica is a patty type of food and is usually made with either beef or pork, and a real spicy kick to boot. You’ll find it served in bread, with onions, and the patty itself is mixed with a type of milky cream and a pepper sauce.
This is another very easily found type of street food and is actually one of the most popular snacks you’ll find – cheap and cheerful, and because of the amount of meat in it, also very filling.
This means roasted meat – and you’ll usually find all over the country in various forms. A must-have meal at big celebrations, such as weddings. Pečenje is usually a whole roast pork joint, a whole lamb joint, or even goat, depending on your preference, and is served with various side dishes.
It is always served in thick slices, and in great abundance, so expect to be full!
This particular dish is better known as the ‘Viennese Schnitzel’, and actually hails from Austria, but has found a lot of popularity across the continent and into the Balkans.
It is a boneless meat which is hit with a hammer until thin and then coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried. It is often served as a main meal, usually with potatoes and butter, and garnished with parsley.
Another meaty dish with a punch, this is a steak dish and it is either rolled pork or veal steak.
It is stuffed with something called kajmak, which is like a clotted cream, and is then breaded and cooked, usually fried or baked. Once served, it is usually accompanied by potatoes and tartar sauce.
The kajmak in the middle turns into a creamy sauce when cooked, and makes the meat super-succulent. Delicious!
Perhaps not one for those with a weak stomach, skembici is very old Serbian dish, and is actually a tripe soup. Yes, really.
The tripe is served in a stew, made of various vegetables, herbs and is usually served alongside boiled potatoes, for a real filling and hearty dish. You’ll find tripe soup in many neighboring countries, and if you really want to try something new and traditional, then this is the dish to try.
Sarma has many variations around the Balkan region, but in Serbia, it is usually a type of beef which is ground into mince and then mixed with rice.
It is then wrapped in a cabbage leaf, but can also be a grapevine or a different type of green leaf. This is then simmered and served with several side dishes, often sour cream. You’ll find many traditional households serving sarma, and it is much more hearty and filling than you might think from looking at it!
Seafood is quite popular in Serbia and if you are in a local seafood restaurant then you should definitely try this type of delicious fish stew. If you’re not a fish lover, you should still give this a go, as it’s not overly ‘fishy’, but has a very fresh flavor The stew comprises of paprika and tomato juice and has a spicy kick to it.
Paprika is very commonly found in Serbia, and this is a stuffed paprika dish. It is stuffed with a combination of different meats, rice, tomato sauce, egg, spice, and red capsicum to give it a kick.
Again, it’s a very hearty dish, but a somewhat healthy one at the same time. You’ll also find this commonly in many households at dinner time and in authentic Serbian restaurants.
This is a pastry dish, and one that is easily eaten on the go as a snack. It is basically a cheese pie and is made a little like the regional favorite, burek. There are layers of thin dough which are filled with delicious and quite strong cheese and then glazed with egg to give it a golden color.
This is a cornbread dish that dates back many years. This particular dish was popular during times when money was low and poverty was prevalent in the country. It was easy to make and cheap, hearty, filling and didnt spoil.
Despite times improving, you’ll still find proja in many households and traditional restaurants.
This is a traditional Serbian salad which is served by many other main meals. You’ll find it mostly in the south of the country, but it is quite widespread regardless.
It is a salad of cheese and very hot peppers, as well as a few other spicy treats. You’ll notice that it is spiciest in the southern reaches of the country, where it hails from, and can be a little different from place to place in terms of mildness or otherwise.
Okay, enough of the savory Serbian food – let’s dig into the sweeter Serbian cuisine try in Serbia.
Whilst not native to Serbia, you’ll find baklava all over the Balkans and indeed all over the Mediterranean.
This is a sweet pastry which is filled with chopped nuts and honey and usually sprinkled with pistachio nuts. It’s sticky, it’s sweet, and it’s filling (again), but you’ll definitely want more than one piece!
You’ll usually see popara at breakfast, and it is quite heavy, therefore filling you up for the rest of the day.
This is a meal which is made with bread, cheese, kajmak (the creamy milky ingredient we mentioned earlier), milk and water. This is an accompaniment dish, rather a dish on its own, but again, it will certainly fill you up!
Krofne is a doughnut and it can be filled with various different ingredients, such as jam, chocolate, or even marmalade, custard or cream. The most common filling is jam or chocolate, and you can easily grab and eat on the go if you have a sweet craving.
Again, you’ll find regional variations of palačinke all over the Balkans and Europe, but the Serbian version is quite delicious! This is a crepe or pancake, and it is traditionally filled with cream, chocolate sauce, biscuit, walnuts and sometimes honey. You’ll easily find them all over the place, either as street food or in dedicated shops (that’s how popular they are) and there is also a savoury version to try, which is often filled with cheese or ham.
As you can see Serbian food won’t leave you hungry! These are just a few Serbian dishes to try while enjoying your vacation in Serbia – if you have another you’d like us to add, let us know.