Traveling gluten-free is a challenge no matter the destination. Here are some tips for being gluten-free in Croatia.
Traveling vegan and or gluten-free is a challenge no matter the destination. Not only do you have to navigate your diet, but when traveling, you have to factor in language barriers and even the chance that gluten may not be a familiar term in other native languages. It can be a stressful situation, no matter the destination.
Local cuisine is top-notch as well! Croatian cuisine is a melting pot of its neighbors. Goulash, schnitzel, and strudel are popular Austrian and Hungarian dishes that have made their way into Croatian restaurants.
Mediterranean and Greek flavors are also heavily present. Due to much of the country being spread along the Adriatic sea coast, seafood makes up much of the country’s gastronomic fare. Sampling a famed truffle risotto or Istrian ham when in the Istria region in the northern part of the country is always at the top of a foodie’s list.
Luckily, in Croatia, like neighboring Italy, Celiac Disease is widely known, understood, and taken seriously. Although actually finding gluten-free meals will be a bit more of a challenge.
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How To Navigate Croatia’s Food Scene As A Celiac?
Our gluten-free Croatia travel guide will assist you to plan your travel to Croatia with celiac disease!
Opt For Your Own Apartment With Kitchen
Breakfast can be a bit challenging in hotels, with many offering buffets that are a cross-contamination nightmare. Opt for a local guesthouse rental with a kitchen, which will give you the option to prepare meals at home that are safe; you could try some of these Croatian recipe ideas.
However, don’t eat all of your meals at your rental, as venturing out for some dishes is well worth it. And if you find yourself at a restaurant that won’t work, your rental with a kitchen is a safe place to fall back on.
Also, be sure to pack a few of your favorite gluten-free snacks from home to munch on in a pinch!
Shop The Supermarkets & Pharmacies (“Free From” or “Bez Glutena”)
Supermarkets will typically be stocked with specialty gluten-free products and are well marked. Many of these food items are imported, but if you want to try a gluten-free bread made in Croatia, look for Moje Malo Zlato. This gluten-free and lactose-free bread can be found in grocery stores throughout Croatia.
Stores with a great gluten-free range to choose from include Muller, DM, Bio&Bio, Konzum, Spar, Tommy, & Studenac.
Pharmacies and drug stores often will also stock gluten-free products and oftentimes may have a better selection than neighboring supermarkets.
Look for the sections in the supermarkets and pharmacies marked “Free From” or “Bez Glutena” as this will be where the gluten-free products are.
Remember Balance Is Important
Don’t burn yourself out while traveling gluten-free. It’s important to balance cooking your own meals, packing easy sandwiches/salads/picnics and dining out. A combination of all three will minimize your gluten exposure risk while still giving you the opportunity to take a night or two off to enjoy dining out.
Learn Key Phrases For Dining Out & Carry A Gluten-Free Dining Card
When explaining a gluten allergy in restaurants, there are a few key things to remember. First, gluten-free may not be a recognizable phrase. Make sure you clarify that gluten-free means no flour, barley, rye, etc. Waiters and chefs may also be unclear as to whether rice, potato or other flours, or even dairy are ok, so try to clarify that as well when necessary.
Helpful Phrases To Use
Croatian Gluten-Free Dining Card To Carry
The best thing to do is tell the wait staff in Croatian that you are celiac.
You can do that by printing off this:
Or by buying this:
You can also buy this gluten-free Croatian dining card to show to your servers. The Croatian restaurant card from Equal Eats has been written and translated by a local so you can be sure the staff at restaurants and cafes understand.
Be Patient When Dining Out
Make sure to be patient. Staff at the Croatian restaurants are willing to help to ensure you eat a safe meal, but they may not know what you mean straight away.
That said, fellow travelers have told me that most restaurants were very knowledgeable and accepting. This could be because Croatian cuisine is naturally gluten-free friendly.
Dine On Seafood
Seafood is wildly popular throughout Croatia, but especially in the coastal regions. Many seafood dishes will be completely safe for those following a gluten-free diet. Seafood risotto makes a perfect starter dish, followed by a freshly caught whole fish either baked or grilled, and served with simple potatoes and spinach.
Want a late afternoon snack? Try slurping some mussels in a delicious white wine sauce – absolutely delicious!
Beware Of Breadcrumbs
Croatians love to sprinkle breadcrumbs on dishes like Skampi na buzaru. Check your meal for breadcrumbs before diving in. Many meals also have bread and breadcrumbs used as fillers to puff up dishes, so always ask at restaurants.
Finding Gluten-Free Restaurants In Croatia
Researching before you are in a new town is the best way to know what kind of gluten-free options are available.
FindMeGlutenFree is an app that works similarly to GoogleMaps, indicating where the closest gluten-free restaurants, bakeries, and safe menus are and if they are open. This is incredibly useful while on the go, and it works in Croatia!
We’ve also listed some popular gluten-free restaurants in some of Croatia’s main cities to give you an idea of what’s out there:
Best Dubrovnik Gluten-Free Restaurants
Dubrovnik is home to many restaurants known for their gluten-free choices, so make sure to take advantage of any time spent there. Most tourist towns along the coast will also have widely spoken English, describing your dietary concerns easier.
IGRA Street Food is located near Old Town is a dedicated gluten-free street food restaurant, serving pastas, crepes, Croatian specialties and more.
Peppers Eatery & Cocktails is a bar & restaurant with a wide selection of gluten-free options that are well-marked on the menu.
Port Fish Restaurant is a family owned fish and seafood restaurant that is recommended in the Michelin Guide. Many menu items can be made gluten free and the staff is knowledgeable of these options.
Best Split Gluten-Free Restaurants
Salt Gluten-Free House serves up gluten-free sandwiches and pizzas from the fully gluten-free kitchen.
Toto’s Burger Bar offers gluten-free burgers and buns.
Pandora Greenbox is a plant-based restaurant that offers a nice selection of gluten-free options.
Gelatario Marmont has gluten free cones and almost all of the gelato is also gluten-free.
Best Zadar Gluten-Free Restaurants
2Ribara is a modern restaurant in the center of Old Town. It caters to many special diets, including gluten-free.
Pizzeria Pizzara offers gluten-free pizzas in extremely large sizes, so it’s perfect for the whole family. You can also dine in or take out, which makes it a fun option for a picnic.
Proto Food & More has fresh Dalmatian cuisine which they are able to customize for you gluten-free.
Best Zagreb Gluten-Free Restaurants
Bez Glutena is not a restaurant, but a market selling only gluten-free food. If you are in need of snacks or other items to cook at your accommodation, definitely stop here to pick up ingredients!
Bistro Fetiš is a dedicated gluten-free cafe with cool vibes and an excellent selection of sweet and savory menu items. It’s also a great place for a GF beer.
Melt – Gelato & Brunch Bar is another 100% gluten free facility with, of course, gelato, but also an array of all varieties of tasty foods (sandwiches, breads, and loads of desserts).
Kata Brunch Bar has two locations in the city and is dedicated gluten-free, offering breads, sandwiches and other tasty bites.
Vis a Vis by Vincek is the place to go for dessert. A dedicated gluten-free bakery with delicious cakes!
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Gluten-Free Croatia Wrap-Up
Stick to fresh, simple ingredients and seafood, and when in doubt, choose a risotto (try the infamous black squid ink varietal!) to make eating gluten-free a breeze.
Have you had success eating gluten-free in Croatia? We’d love to know the restaurants you tried!