49 Traditional Croatian Food Ideas To Try On Your Next Vacay (Or Make At Home)

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49 Traditional Croatian Food Ideas To Try On Your Next Vacay (Or Make At Home)

People planning a trip to Croatia often ask us: what is traditional Croatian food? It’s a great question to ask when traveling to a new country and wanting to try the best of the local cuisine. And who doesn’t?

Many of our blog readers ask us about learning Croatian recipes, so we have those here if you’re keen to start cooking authentic Croatian food.

Food from Croatia has many influences. Mainly from the Italians, Turkish, Hungarians, plus a few others, this influence on food over the generations has shaped the types of Croatian food you’ll see and taste today.

Well-known local Croatian traditional foods you should try on your adventures include Mljet lobster, Ston oysters, Kvarner scampi, Istrian truffles, veal and pork from Slavonia, turkey from Zagorje and Istria, Pag cheese and the Lika cheese škripavac, delicious Palacinke pancakes, extra virgin olive oil, and pumpkin seed oil, and of course the wines.

We’re going to divide traditional Croatian food into a few categories below. There are sub-categories within these, but this makes it easy for you to know what Croatian dish to try on your travels and where to find them.

Will you be sunning yourself on the coast? Then you’ll be eating coastal Croatia food.

But if you’ll be heading inland, you’ll be served continental Croatian cuisine. That’s not to say you won’t get the other in each area, though. It just won’t be as easy to find. The cuisine between these two regions is distinctly different.

Here is a snapshot of traditional Croatian food from both coastal Croatia and continental Croatia.

Croatian Food: Coastal Croatia

Three Coast in Croatia consists of three regions: Istria, Kvarner, and Dalmatia. They all have their own versions of these traditional dishes, so do try them all as you explore Croatia.

Peka

BACKPACKING DIVA PEKA.jpg-large
Croatian Food Guide: Octopus Peka Credit: Backpacking Diva

If there were a list of the most popular Croatian food, peka (which is also called Cripnja depending on where you live) would unquestionably be on that list.

Peka is, however, not really a food but a method of cooking food.

The peka is a dome or bell-shaped terracotta or steel lid that you heat by burning wood below it. Once heated, you place the food you wish to cook in a round-shaped tray underneath the peka and put embers on top of the peka itself, which then cooks your food.

What do you put inside?

Well, you can cook any type of meat or fish using the peka. Recently, we prepared an octopus, which was terrific. Just remember that you always need to have potatoes, and I’d go so far as to say that the potatoes are the star of the dish. The potatoes suck up all the juices from the meat or fish and are so delicious you can’t stop eating them.

This is Croatian cooking at its best. So simple, yet so delicious. Don’t forget to wash it down with a glass of Croatian wine!

Try peka for yourself at home with this how-to guide + recipe.

There is even one for the vegetarians here.

Skradinski Rizot – Skradin Risotto

Anthony Bourdain showed the world this epic risotto when he filmed “No Reservations” on coastal Croatia a few years back, making the Skradinski Rizot a famous Croatian food!

This risotto is something special. Far from your regular risotto, it takes anywhere from 7 to 12 hours to cook. Yes, that’s right; it takes half a day and requires a team of men to share the cooking duties.

There is no strict recipe, but it’s essentially a veal-based risotto, with the addition of other meats and ham, and either a beef or rooster stock.

Once the Skradinski Rizot is done, the meal is finished with lots of Paski sir – cheese from Pag Island, which gives it that extra flavor.

Given the gargantuan effort that goes into cooking Skradin Risotto, you can appreciate that if you are going to make it, you should make tonnes of the stuff!

Brodet

I absolutely love this classic Dalmatian food, and you will, too! Brodet or brudet, depending on where you’re from, is a Croatian seafood stew typically served with creamy polenta. It’s rich and has a great depth of flavor due to the mixture of seafood used in the dish.

Ideally, you should use a minimum of three types of fish, any shellfish you like, and I also like to throw in a few crustaceans. This Croatian dish is served in homes up and down the coast, as well as restaurants, proving that it’s one of the best Croatian foods.

Learn how we make brodet just like we do here.

Pašticada

How To Make Pasticada_Chasing the Donkey Croatia

Pašticada is the holy grail of Dalmatian Croatian cooking.

Here in Dalmatia, this stewed beef dish is prepared with an extraordinary sauce. You may know it as Dalmatinska pašticada, Dalmatian pot roast, or even just as a beef stew. Whatever you know it as it requires long and meticulous preparation. An excellent Croatian wine to go with this is plavac mali.

We scored you a Pašticada recipe from a Croatian chef.

Soparnik

Soparnik Recipe_How To Make Poljički Soparnik 7

 

A flat vegetarian pie from Poljica in Dalmatia.

Soparnik is filled with swiss chard, garlic, and parsley and baked in a komin (a type of fireplace). A fire is created in the komin, and when ready, the fire and embers are pushed aside, allowing the soparnik to be cooked on the hot stone where the fire once was. Also, some hot ash and embers are placed on top of the Soparnik. This is a unique food from Croatia, which is well worth trying. Kids will especially love it.

Here is an easy to make version of soparnik you can do at home in your oven.

Crni Rizot – Black Risotto

How To Make Croatian Crni Rizot - Black Risotto

This dish has an intense seafood flavor. Croatian seafood is abundant, so one can always find fresh squid or cuttlefish for this traditional dish. Fresh seafood is integral to coastal Croatian cuisine, and you’ll find that it dominates many restaurant menus.

This black, slightly intimidating-looking dish can be found all over Croatia, but it traditionally comes from the coastal areas of Croatia.

In my opinion, nobody prepares crni rižot better than your typical Dalmatian Konoba (small family-run restaurant). They always taste so damn good. Second, on the list is my mother. Although hers isn’t so black, it’s still absolutely delicious.

This black risotto recipe is fantastic.

Bakalar

Salted Cod Recipe Croatia Christmas
Croatian Food Guide: Cod. Photo Credit Gonzalo Mansilla

A salted cod delicacy, bakalar, as it’s known in Croatian, is the must-eat traditional dish in our family for Christmas Eve.

Eaten across Croatia, and in many parts of South America and Europe, the standard cod recipe can be adapted according to your taste. Add more garlic if you like, or change the ratio of bakalar to potatoes to suit your family.

Try our bakalar – cod recipe this Christmas with your family.

Grilled Fish

Traditional Croatian Food: Grilled Fish | Croatia Travel Blog
Traditional Croatian Cusine: Grilled Fish

Croatian seafood is excellent thanks to the Adriatic Sea being so clean, which means the fish are healthy and delicious. You would be hard-pressed to find a Croatian from Dalmatia, Istria, or Kvarner that does not like grilled fish. Whether it be sardines, sea bream, sea bass, or scorpionfish, this is typical Croatian cuisine. Cooked only on a grill, with salt, pepper, and of course, olive oil.

Grilled Sardines

We live in Dalmatia, and to me, Sardines is typical Croatian food. We eat them at least weekly in summer! These delightful little fish need nothing more than a little olive oil and salt a few minutes on the grill, and the fillets peel straight off the bone.

All you need to grill Sardines is to make a fire, wait till dies down till you are left with embers, throw the grill on, and then the Sardines. It’s that simple. They are one of the best finger foods as you just pinch the fillet, and it peels right off the bone. Don’t forget to wash these down with a glass of wine from Croatia.

Fuži

Istraian Fuzi Pasta- Chaisng the Donkey
Istrian Fuži – Traditional Croatian Pasta. Photo Credit Pierovisciada

In Istria, you will find fuži {fooh-shee}, a type of pasta that, at a cursory glance, appears to be penne pasta. It’s not, though. Look closer, and you’ll see the difference.

When these hand-rolled pieces of pasta are served with the local specialty of white truffles, you think you’ve died and gone to foodie heaven. Matched with an Istrian wine, fuži is the must-try dish in Istria, especially with some white truffle shaved over your Fuzi.

Octopus Salad

Croatian Cooking Octopus Salad | Travel Croatia Guide and Blog
Yummy Croatian Octopus Salad

As the name would suggest, octopus salad is basically a salad served most often with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and a little parsley, all chopped up super-small.

The freshest octopus makes the best salad, and the waters of the Adriatic are rich with this tentacled creature! The octopus is chopped up small, tossed in olive oil, garlic, salt, lemon, pepper, and vinegar and served with the salad.

Light, delicious, and fresh, this dish is perfect for the summer months when the sun is beating down.

Edible Dormouse

Yes, it is what the name would suggest, it’s a type of mouse. And, it is considered a delicacy on the islands of Hvar and Brač. If you spend some time on these islands, it’s worth trying!

The dormouse is cooked on the grill, seasoned with salt, and cooked in olive oil before being served between two slices of bread.

Pašta Fažol

Coatian Recipe Pasta Fazol | Croatia Travel Blog

During the winter month, you will find this hearty and delicious pasta and bean soup everywhere (including in my kitchen).

A real mixture of ingredients, the soup/stew, usually contains pancetta, sausage, potato, garlic, carrots, onion, and pasta shells. There may also be a few other regional tweaks and differences from household to household.

You will find this on the menu in most traditional households during winter, and at many authentic restaurants, too.

Rožata

croatian cooking dubrovnik rozata
The yummy Rozata. Photo Credit Englishman in Dubrovnik

If you have a sweet tooth, Rozata is the dish for you.

Hailing from Dubrovnik, this is one of my favorite desserts. Rozata is basically a pudding made of custard, but it’s super-creamy and usually surrounded by a syrup.

Made in a small bowl, the pudding is tipped upside down to serve and surrounded by the syrupy goodness we just mentioned.

More Traditional Coastal Food Options

Croatian Food: Continental Croatia

Venturing away from the Adriatic, what traditional Croatian cuisine will you be served over the Velebit, in Zagreb, and in a Slavonian town like Osijek? Let’s see below.

Punjene Paprike – Stuffed Peppers

Kosovo Food_stuffed peppers

Stuffed peppers are a hearty dish of mincemeat and rice. Typically served with mashed potato.

You’ll find most countries have their version of stuffed peppers. However, I think the Croatian stuffed peppers are the best (of course!). You’ll find stuffed peppers on offer in Croatia as soon as the peppers are in season.

Every Croatian I know has their variation on this recipe, and they, of course, all claim that their way is the best way to make them.

Take this stuffed peppers recipe and serve your whole family for days.

Štrukli

How To Make Zagorski Štrukli Recipe 12

Zagorski štrukli is a popular traditional Croatian dish served in households across Hrvatsko Zagorje and Zagreb regions. It consists of dough and various types of filling, which can be either cooked or baked. Our favorite are cheese štrukli!

Here are two kinds you can make at home

Cobanac

This hearty meat stew is traditionally cooked in a cauldron hung over an open fire.

Cobanac will keep you going all day long, as it did Slavonian shepherds for many generations. Not only will it sustain you all day, but the best part is that it’s super delicious.

This traditional dish is typically prepared with three types of meat, including beef, pork, and anything you like (I like to throw a little game in). And, of course, the essential ingredient of Slavonian cuisine is PAPRIKA! After that, people tend to put whatever they like in their stew, from potatoes and onions to pancetta, carrots, and various herbs.

You can find this everywhere in Slavonia, and you just must try it.

Here is how to make it at home

Šaran U Rašljama

Food in Slavonia_Šaran U Rašljama

Carp cooked on a wooden fork/stick on an open fire. Simple and tasty is šaran u rašljama! Each carp weights about 1.5 kg to 2 kg. Salt, red ground sweet paprika and hot paprika are added, and then it’s cooked for about 2 hours.

I tried my very best to speak with the chef (who spoke no English), and as I understood, you turn them just once, about halfway. They take two hours to cook thoroughly, no more, or they become dry.

The fire must be made using wood to achieve the desirable smokey flavor.

He also told me that there is no garlic or oil added. This seemed weird to me, as they are the main two ingredients for fish in Dalmatia where I live.

Turkey With Mlinci

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Traditional Mlinci. Photo credit: Vbranko

Well, I am sure you know what roast turkey is. But I guess that those of you who are not Croatian would not have heard of mlinci, am I right?

Mlinci is thin, dry flatbread broken up into pieces, and mixed with the roasting juices from a roast turkey. The juices make the mlinci soft and somewhat like noodles. They suck up all those delicious juices and carry a turkey flavor.

Sadly, they do not look very appetizing but don’t let that stop you from eating them. Just don’t be like Mrs. Chasing the Donkey, who always eats too many and forgets how quickly they fill her up, and she can’t finish the turkey.

Fish Paprikaš

Slavonian Food From Slavonia Fis Paprikas

A spicy fish stew, fish paprikaš is made with freshwater fish, which like cobanac, is cooked in a cauldron of fire.

Typically, a mix of freshwater fish is used, including carp, catfish and pike, and the staple of Slavonia, paprika. I love the look of the cauldron because it reminds me of how one may have cooked hundreds of years ago before kitchens.

Sarma

Traditional Croatian Food: Sarma | Croatia Travel Blog
Mrs. Chasing the Donkey’s sarma ready to devour

These little cabbage rolls are something you can find in many continental European countries, including Poland. All Croatians, however, will tell you that their sarma recipe is the best! That being said, don’t be afraid to try these wonderful rolls throughout the Balkans.

Over the years, Mrs. Chasing the Donkey has honed her sarma-making skills and is good at preparing the smelly little rolls – for an Aussie, that is. Why are they smelly? I hear you ask? It’s because the cabbage leaves, in which you roll the meat, are pickled. If you have never tried these, give them a whirl. Don’t let the smell put you off.

Make a big batch of sarma like this and eat it for two days.

Salami – Kulen

Food In Slavonia - Kulen

There is a long Croatian tradition of making salami and all types of charcuterie. Slavonia’s finest salami is Kulen, which consists of various pork cuts, including the thigh, back, shoulder, and neck and, of course, the most important part, belly fat.

It’s then seasoned with spices, paprika, and garlic and packed into the pig’s caecum (a pouch that connects the small and large intestines). Once packed, the salami is cold-smoked and air-dried for five to nine months, depending on its size.

Other noteworthy Croatian salami is a spicy pork salami from Turoplje, Svargl from Slavonia, and Samobor salami, who even hold an annual Salami Festival.

Both Kulen and kulenova Seka from Slavonia are sausage-type products and are one of only a few indigenous Croatian products that enjoy EU protection. Only the best pork meat—there are age and weight guidelines for the pig—is used to make Kulen. All fat and connective tissues are removed, after which paprika, salt, and garlic are added. The Kulen-maker, a respected profession that even has grandmasters, then stuffs the mixture into a cleaned blind gut of a pig.

Kulenova Seka is a paprika-flavored and dried sausage very similar to Kulen. The only difference is that the Kulen mixture is stuffed into a smaller intestine, thereby creating a slightly smaller sausage. If you’re not a vegan or vegetarian, you simply must try this most authentic of Slavonia foods. I swear I ate like 2 kg of it that week.

The best Kulen products are made using the black Slavonian pig. These pigs were raised by crossbreeding several pig breeds starting in the 1860s in the area around Osijek.

In the first decades of the 20th century, this breed rapidly expanded throughout eastern Slavonia, up until World War II. The breed is a meaty, high-fat pig with a solid structure, black in color, and very resilient. Now, these pigs are getting rarer, though. It is said that only a few hundred pigs remain due to the introduction of new, more productive crossbreed pigs that are better adapted to industrial-style farming.

Deer Stew

Food in Slavonia_Deer Stew

In Slavonia, you can enjoy deer stew. I first tried it in the Virovitca area, and I knew as soon as I tasted it that it had that ‘game’ flavor. People at my table were saying it was a pig, but there was no way, not with such an intense flavor.

Of course, if you do not like that ‘gamy’ flavor, you should avoid it, but it is often served with gnocchi, which is just perfect for soaking up that brown sauce.

Čvarci

Slavonian Food From Slavonia_Cvarci

Čvarci (pork rinds) are served along with Kulen, and various cheeses on a platter. Yummy! It’s actually fried skin from a pig. It may not sound appealing, but these fried or roasted snacks are like crisps. And, just like crisps, I found them highly addictive!

Zagorska Juha – Zagorje Soup

Zagorje soup is a hearty soup that has porcini mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, bacon, onions with spices and cream. It is a specialty of the Zagorje region and claimed to be an excellent hangover cure.

Klipići

croatian cooking klipići rolls

Klipići is a savory roll made in the continental part of Croatia, mostly in Zagorje, Podravina, Međimurje, and Slavonia.

They are little crescent-shaped pastries, and as with almost every food in Croatia, there are many different regional versions of this dish. As such, it is known by several different names. These rolls can also be filled with a variety of fillings and seed toppings.

Try this recipe from a Croatian blogger who stole the recipe from her Grandma.

Krvavice Aka Čurke

If you’re not a fan of food made with offal products, look away now!

Krvavice is basically a blood sausage. This means pork blood and a filler, usually barley, cornflour, or buckwheat, and it can contain various parts of a pig. That’s not giving it the most positive write up, but it is very popular and surprisingly delicious. I promise!

This is sausage is usually eaten during the winter months, because it is very hearty and warming, and is often served with sauerkraut, potatoes, and onions.

Orahnjača

Orahnjača Recept - Walnut Roll Recipe

This is a yeast bread filled with walnuts. It is neatly rolled to form a delicate swirl inside the cake. Often served at Christmas time, but also just great on a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea.

This is an easy walnut roll Orahnjača recipe version.

More Continental Croatian Food Options

 
 

Traditional Croatian Food Blog | Croatia Travel Blog

 

Zagrebački Odrezak

Croatian-Cooking_Zagrebački-Odrezak-5

This is a tasty dish you’ll find everywhere in Croatia, but mostly in the Zagreb region, hence the name!

A meaty dish that is certainly very filling and great for the winter months, this is a veal schnitzel, which is rolled and filled up with melted cheese and ham.

The outside is crunchy, and it is most commonly served with potatoes in some guise, and a little salad, of course.

You can make this for tea tonight with this recipe.

Super Popular Croatian Food

Roasted Whole Pig Or Lamb

Roasted Spit Razanj | Travel Croatia Guide
This was our Christmas in Croatia 2013 – roasted piggy!

You might think this looks like something from medieval times. And, well, maybe it once was, but you will see a whole pig or lamb roasted on an open fire (known as a spit roast) quite a bit as you road trip across Croatia.

What makes this traditional Croatian food so special is how tender the meat is once it lands on your plate. If you are on Pag Island, be sure to try the lamb. The island is famous for its lamb dishes.

Cevapcici

cevapi-bosnia | Croatia Travel Blog
Cevapi. Photo Credit: Kaleb Fulgham

It doesn’t matter where you go in the Balkans; you will find cevapcici anywhere.

These are tasty sausages, minus skins, and are usually made of both beef and pork combination, along with seasoning to make them super-delicious.

You’ll find them served on a flatbread as a sandwich, usually with chopped onions and a pepper-containing relish with a little spicy kick known as ajvar.

Burek

You’ll find this pastry dish in various countries around the region, with similar-sounding names, but in Croatia, it is called burek.

This is a flaky pastry layered and filled with various fillings, such as meat (usually beef mince), cheese, cheese with spinach, and sometimes potato or apple.

This is a very popular on-the-go snack, so you’ll find it in bakeries literally everywhere across the country. For those with a sweet tooth, try the apple-filled version with a cup of coffee for breakfast.

Are you hungry now? I hope this list was enough to pique your interest in traditional Croatian food. If you are planning on heading to Croatia, try them all. Okay, try as many as you can. These are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Croatian food.

Depending on where you travel to there will be dozens more traditional Croatian foods for you to sink your teeth into.

Got a suggestion for another traditional Croatian food we should add to the list? Great, let us know below.

Do you need vegan food options? Check out our guide for vegans traveling in Croatia!

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Comments (35)

  1. F*ckin?amazing things here. I am very glad to look your article. Thank you a lot and i’m taking a look forward to contact you. Will you kindly drop me a mail?

  2. A lot of those are not Croatian at all. Some are genuine Croatian dishes a lot are actually regional in particular the Bosnian dishes burek, cevapi….

  3. So great to discover a post on our food that has more than burek and black rice – someone with some originality!

  4. my great parents were from crotia3 and my grandmother use to fix us podarane (poohens is what we call them). Please me find the recipes. I want to be able to pass this recipes to my daughters and family. I have found the pictures of it but there is no recipe. My grandmother didnt write down the recipes. I would be so grateful. My dream is to come to Croatia and find my relatives. My relatives were Poja, Troha and Policks

  5. i was hoping to find a croatian rotisserie chicken recipe.
    if you could help out it would be
    greatly appreciated

  6. So very glad I’ve learned to prepare different dishes from various countries with excellent Croatian ingredients. (Italian, French, Indonesian, yes, sometimes even Dutch).

  7. Will be returning to Croatia for our 4th visit next month. Thanks for sharing the ‘food to eat’ I’m more adventurous than my husband at trying new dishes but now I know what’s in some of the dishes I will be trying some more.

  8. YUM! We ate like total kings during our 2014 honeymoon in Croatia. They’re cuisine is wonderful!

  9. Amazing!!!
    My mother in law is Croatian and yes her “cabbage rolls are the best” according to her haha
    We are visiting Croatia in September, can’t wait to try them all 🙂
    Thank you x

  10. I have celiac disease which means that gluten (found in wheat, rye, barley, malt, most soy sauce, most oats) will make me very sick.
    Will I have a hard time finding food that is safe for me or helping wait staff understand my restrictions?
    So many of these foods look delicious, but even a small amount of flour to thicken a sauce will make me ill.

    1. Ohhh it’s going to be tough, I won’t lie. Stick to fish, salads, fries and risotto (you can eat rice huh). All goulash and things are very likely to have flour to thicken sauce. Good luck and enjoy.

    2. I feel for you Kristen, I’m gluten intolerant so can tolerate small amounts if I have too, I am told European wheat is different and easier to digest unlike Australia’s heavily processed wheat but unhelpful to you being Celiac. Although it doesn’t usually bother me, my mother in law being Croatian almost thought I was an alien! Good Luck!

    3. You can try Krvavice aka Čurke…it contain buckwheat and some pigs blood..I know it sounds strange..but it’s realy tasty. We make them ourself on northern part of Croatia every winter and prepare with sour cabage aka sauerkraut and mashed potato.

  11. Food looks so delicious and tempting too 🙂 I think Croatia have many pages to revealed about the food and I wish if the list carries some vegetarian food also.

  12. Nice to see the fresh version of the article 🙂 Thanx for accepting sime of my advices 🙂 Hope to be able to comment on fb again. Best regards

    1. We’re always glad to learn new things, so thanks for sharing your advice Manuela. We welcome you to the FB page – just remember we are real people, with real feelings.

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