Croatian Cooking Grilled fish (Riba sa Žara)

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Post author Mate

Written by our local expert Mate

Mate is Croatian and owns a transport company in the Balkans, he has visited over 30 countries. He is an expert on all things transportation as well as food and wine.

This has got to be the most eaten food at our house here in Privlaka. It’s easy (no, really it is), healthy, and tasty. It has the least amount of ingredients of any food we cook and brings the biggest smiles from all who eat it.

Tips From Our Kitchen To Yours

  • Salt and oil. These are the two critical ingredients in the making sure your grilled fish is tasty! In our Croatian village, nothing else is used when grilling fish. And it’s got to be sea salt and extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). We only eat fish on the day it has been caught, and how can you improve the flavor of freshly caught fish?
  • Select a good quality extra virgin olive oil. Try to buy local to where you are. Please support your local farmers, and then you also know it’s fresh.
  • Buy and use only the best sea salt. We’re fortunate to live next door to Nin, which is known for excellent sea salt, but you can get lots in your local supermarket.
Croatian Cooking Baste with EVOO
Only use good quality EVOO when grilling fish

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Choose Your Fish

You want to make sure each fish is no larger than plate size and will hold well while being grilled. In Croatia, we use sardines or brancin, and while living in Australia, we often use silver bream or snapper. If you’re unsure of what fish to use, I suggest you ask your fishmonger for some suggestions.

Scale And Gut Your Fish

Leave the head-on, and if you’ve had your fishmonger clean it for you, then be sure to just double check they scaled the entire fish—especially those sections around the head and tail. Nobody wants to be spitting out fish scales during lunch!

Salt Your Fish

Be sure to salt each fish individually, inside and out.


Select your favorite EVOO, and lather your fishies in the oil. Do not be shy, or else your fish will stick to the grill.

Heat Up The Grill

We use a metal grill, as shown in the photo below. Be sure to allow your grill to heat up over the burning wood. You want the grill to be super hot.

croatian cooking fire beer Ispod cripnje
It’s always a great idea to have a drink while waiting for the fire.

Let’s Grill

Ta-da – grilled fish

Once the wood on your open grill has burned down to embers, lay down the fish. As they grill, brush over small amounts of the EVOO onto the fish.

When Is The Fish Ready

You only need to flip the fish one time.  If you turn the fish over too early, the fish will stick. Flip them over too late, and the fish will burn! As a rough guide, you want to cook the fish till it’s a golden brown. As for how many minutes this is, it is tough to say. It depends on the size of the fish & the intensity of embers. The fish below took about 7-10 minutes to be cooked. Honestly, learning this part takes a few attempts until you get it 100% right.

Once the fish is done, drizzle with some fresh EVOO, and you’re ready to eat. The tastiest part is the fish cheeks, be sure to try those…

What are your tips and tricks for grilling fish? Let us know what you think in the comments section below; we’d love to learn from you.

Comments (9)

  1. Hi SJ we cook our fish that we catch or not ,the same way at our holiday house on he south coast of N.S.W..the trick is to ok them fast so they don’t dry out ,but are moist inside .I so agree with the cheeks ,my favourite part.My husband has the tail end and thinks he has the best deal???? We know better !!!!!!

  2. Yum yum… Probably a coincidence but I am BBQing fish this afternoon.

    Came here from your interview on Our Adventure etc.

    1. Yay, so glad you found us! Must be fate you were frying those fish. Do you have any frying tips I should add to this post?

  3. nice!!! I am trying to learn how to cook fish and how to buy the right ones here in SPlit, but it is hard know as they are soooo different than the ones in Brasil. Which ones can u use to fry in a tava grill??? this orada, is good for this?

    1. Oh sorry Deb, I just saw this now. Mr. CtD is home late tomorrow I will ask him. He is the expert of fish in our house. Does your fishmonger speak English?

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