Croatian Food: 52 must-try Croatian Dishes

One of the many reasons to visit Croatia is to experience its delicious cuisine. Croatian food is influenced by neighboring countries and the various nations that have ruled the area throughout history.

Traditional Croatian food is in some ways similar to other Mediterranean, Italian, Austrian, Hungarian, and Turkish dishes, but it still offers unique flavors.

Croatian food is a must-try for any traveler, along with the country’s natural beauty, the Adriatic Sea, and historical towns.

Our Guide to the 52 must-try Croatian food, Illustration
52 must-try Croatian food, Illustration

Regional food in Croatia

Croatian cuisine offers a variety of flavors across regions. Favorites like sarma, punjena paprika, peka, and traditional charcuterie can be enjoyed throughout the country.

Dalmatian food, found along the coast and islands, relies heavily on fish, vegetables, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and fresh parsley.

Traditional Croatian food in Zagreb consists of hearty meat dishes with potatoes, root vegetables, and cabbage.

While reminiscent of Dalmatian cuisine, Istrian cuisine has unique dishes like manestra and fuzi pasta.

In Slavonia, pork takes center stage in many dishes, complemented by the prominent use of red sweet and spicy paprika.

Croatians have long embraced the tradition of three meals a day, with lunch as the focal point. However, with changing lifestyles and work patterns, the concept has evolved, particularly for those who work from 9 to 5 and are unable to return home for lunch on weekdays. Nevertheless, lunches remain cherished as a significant family affair on weekends.

Typical Croatian food

Here is a list of 52 Croatian dishes that represent typical Croatian food. These traditional Croatian foods best reflect the diverse regional cuisine of Croatia.

These dishes are not listed in any particular order and offer a variety of options, including starters, pasta, risotto, meat and fish dishes, and popular Croatian desserts.

Crni rizot (Black risotto)

In Croatia, it is common to find crni rizot (black risotto) on the menu of every seafood restaurant. This traditional Croatian food is made with squid ink, which gives the rice a unique black color. Along with squid, the risotto may include other seafood like mussels, clams, and shellfish. Trying black risotto is a must-do when exploring Croatian food.

Crni rizot, a typical Croatian dish
Crni rizot (black risotto) is another typical food in Croatia

We had delicious crni rizot at a charming restaurant Ficovic in Hodilje near Ston. Kapetanova Kuca is also a great spot to try black risotto. Just be aware that it can darken your teeth and stool for a few days.

Strukli

This delicious pastry, filled with cottage cheese and sour cream, originated in Slovenia. However, today it’s a popular food in Zagreb as well as in the Hrvatsko Zagorje region.

Zagorski Strukli, a cheese-filled pastry from Croatia
Photo credit: Borc & CC

If you’re in Zagreb and looking for this cottage cheese delicacy, you have two options: boiled or baked.

In Zagreb? Try the best strukli at Hotel Esplanada or La Struk, which serves traditional and modern variations of the dish. Don’t miss out!

Pasticada s njokima

Pasticada, a “Queen of Dalmatian cuisine”, is the most famous Croatian food along the coast. Every house and every family has its recipe for pasticada. So what really is this traditional Croatian dish?

Baby beef’s fake fillet is marinated in vinegar for days, then braised for hours, first in its juice, and later with red wine, and served with homemade gnocchi.

Pasticada with gnocchi, a queen of Dalmatian cuisine

This is my favorite Dalmatian dish. And I don’t even like meat that much. Trust me, you’ll dream about this dish long after tasting it.

Unfortunately, due to its long cooking process, and relatively expensive ingredients, it’s hard to find a quality pasticada in restaurants.

That would be perfect if you got a chance to eat it at people’s houses while in Dalmatia. Otherwise, try it in a restaurant to get the idea of a dish.

We’ve eaten a good pasticada in the Vinica Monkovic restaurant, and Adria restaurant in Metkovic.

Peka

Baking meat, seafood, and veggies under a bell-like lid, covered in embers, is, to my knowledge, a unique cooking method found in Croatia and its neighboring countries (like Bosnia, Montenegro, Serbia, etc.).

Peka, a unique dish found in Croatia and other Balkan countries
Peka, a unique dish found in Croatia and other Balkan countries

Basically, you can put any meat and veggies in a tray, salt it, add herbs, oil, and cover it with a bell-like lid. Placed in a fireplace, the lid is then covered with embers. It cooks for two hours, but after about an hour or so, the lid is lifted, the meat is turned, and some other spices are added (like a mix of honey and cognac with Mediterranean herbs).

Peka can be made with any kind of meat (chicken, veal, sausages, etc.) or seafood. My all-time favorite peka is octopus peka. Octopus really turns tender and succulent, while the potatoes become especially sweet and tasty. The sauce is delicious, and if served with bread baked also ispod peke (under a bell-like lid), it’s a festival for taste buds.

This dish usually needs to be ordered in advance in a restaurant. Some restaurants always have it on a menu, but peka is the best when made on order. We’ve eaten an excellent octopus peka in the tavern Roki’s on Vis Island.

Buzara

Buzara is a method of cooking seafood, mainly crustaceans and shellfish, wildly used in coastal Croatia. Scampi, shrimps, mussels, or clams are shortly cooked with white wine, garlic, fresh parsley, and breadcrumbs. Tomato paste is sometimes added for color. However, my mother-in-law never uses tomato paste when she makes this dish.

A plate of scampi na buzaru, traditional Croatian dish
A plate of scampi na buzaru, traditional Croatian dish

This is the simplest yet one of the most delicious ways to prepare shrimp or mussels. Roll your sleeves (yes, buzara is eaten with hands), and indulge in this traditional Croatian dish.

Istarski fuzi

Croatian cuisine: Fuzi, a typical hand-rolled pasta from Istria
Fuzi pasta, Croatian delicacy

Fuzi is a quill-shaped homemade pasta typical for Istria. Along with pljukanci, a spindle-shaped pasta, it’s the most popular homemade and hand-rolled pasta in Istria.

Pasta dough is cut in a diamond shape, then rolled around a chopstick (often pencil) to form a quill-shaped hollow tube. Fuzi is usually served with different stews: mushrooms, truffles, chicken, or beef stew. This yummy pasta you can taste in many Istrian restaurants, but our favorite places to eat fuzi are Stari Podrum in Momjan and Tavern Toncic in Zrenj.

Brudet

Brudet, a fish stew found in Croatia
Brudet, Croatian food from the coast

Another classic Croatian food typical for the coastal area, brudet (brujet, brodeto) is a fish stew. Similar to pasticada, brudet is one of the most common dishes you can find in coastal Croatia. Every family has its way of making brudet.

Various types of fish and crustacea are stewed with onions, tomato sauce, a drop of vinegar, and spices. Covered in water, it cooks on low fire until the fish is done. Laurel and chili pepper are added to the stew to your taste. Brudet is usually served with polenta.

We love brudet made of eels and frogs that they serve at the tavern Duda & Mate in a village Vid. If you like weird (but super tasty) food, you can visit this restaurant on a day trip from Dubrovnik.

Skradinski Rizot

Skradinski rizot (Skradin risotto) is one of the best risotto I had in my life!

Skradinski rizot, Skradin risotto, a must-try dish in Croatia

This veal risotto is cooked for hours and constantly stirred. And when they say constantly, they mean it like a pro. If a person who stirs needs to go to the toilet, another one takes over. They don’t let it just sit, not even for a minute. The result is the creamiest veal risotto in which the meat has completely dissolved and disappeared.

Other ingredients include homemade chicken, baby beef and beef broth, onions, salt, pepper, oil, hard cheese, and rice.

We had the best Skradinski risotto in Skipper’s Club Arka. But Arka doesn’t have this risotto on their menu regularly. They do it twice a year: usually on the 1st of May and the first Saturday of August. Places go quickly, so if you are interested, make sure to book your place early. They also do it on order but for a minimum of 40 people.

Tavern Vinko in Konjevrate is another excellent place to try this risotto (and many other traditional Croatian foods!).

Manestra

The most common dish you’ll find on menus in Istrian restaurantsmanestra is basically a bean soup. Manestra cooks slowly for hours on low fire, with pešt and cured meats (pieces of prosciutto, or alike) that enhance a taste. Pest comprises pancetta, garlic, and parsley, all ground together to form a paste. This paste is added to the manestra at the very beginning of the cooking process. Manestra has many variations, and the most common are manestra od bobići (with corn) and jota (with sauerkraut).

We like manestra in a tavern Vela vrata in Beram, and in the Boljunska konoba in Boljun.

Croatian Food, Illustration for pinterest
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Gregada

A Croatian traditional food, gregada is a fish stew cooked with white wine, parsley, onions, garlic, capers, salted anchovies, and potatoes. This Croatian dish is typical for the central Dalmatian islands, particularly the Hvar Island. We tasted an excellent gregada in the restaurant Tramerka in Volosko.

Viska and komiska pogaca

Croatian streetfood, Komiska pogaca, a fisherman's pie filled with tomatoes, anchovies, and onions

Viska pogaca is a pie drizzled with olive oil and filled with salted sardines and onions. Baked and cut in squares before being served, Viska pogaca has been enjoyed by generations of people from Vis for over 2000 years.

Komiska pogaca, on the other hand, additionally has tomatoes, and it’s usually cut in triangles before being served.

Besides the island of Vis, we enjoyed a good version of Komiska pogaca in the restaurant Maestral in Rovinj.

Soparnik

Soparnik, swiss chard pie

Soparnik is a savory pie filled with Swiss chard. It’s one of the most traditional Croatian dishes, typical for the Poljica region in central Dalmatia. Soparnik makes a part of the intangible cultural heritage of Croatia since 2009. There is also a yearly Soparnik festival held in Dugi Rat every July.

Many local families compete for the title of the best Soparnik. This competition gives any visitor a chance to taste a real homemade Soparnik.  If you are around at the end of July, make sure you make it to Dugi Rat to try this traditional Dalmatian dish.

Punjene paprike

I don’t really know the origins of the stuffed peppers recipe (punjene paprike in Croatian), but this dish is extremely popular in Croatia during the summer. Bell peppers are basically stuffed with minced meat, rice, and spices and cooked with tomato sauce.

Punjenje paprike, stuffed peppers

Stuffed peppers are consumed all over Croatia. The only thing that differs among different regions is the choice of meat used in a recipe.

In Dalmatia, the meat consists of baby beef, while in Slavonija, pork meat is used. Stuffed peppers are usually served with mashed potatoes.

Sarma

Sarma is one of most popular winter dishes in Croatia

Sarma (stuffed sauerkraut) is the most popular winter dish in Croatia. The stuffing is basically the same as for stuffed peppers, minced meat, and rice with spices, but with sarma, the stuffing is wrapped in sauerkraut instead of bell peppers. Sarma is a Croatian national dish for cold winter days.

Cobanac

A traditional dish from the eastern Croatian region of Slavonija, cobanac is a spicy meat stew. This stew is cooked for a long time but always on an intense fire, and it often contains different meats: pork, baby beef, lamb, and pork hind feet. We’re not much into meat, and as Vera’s from Dalmatia, we don’t really eat cobanac at home, but it’s an excellent dish for everybody who likes meat.

Sinjski arambrasici

Sinjski arambasici is a specialty similar to but not quite the same as sarma.

It involves meat-stuffed cabbage rolls. But unlike sarma, the staffing for arambasici is made of finely chopped (not minced) baby beef and pieces of cured meat (but not rice). It also contains a few spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.

Srdele and other small oily fish

Fried sardines serves on a bed of rocket salad

Oily fish from Adriatic represents the essence of the Dalmatian and Istrian diet. Sardines, mackerels, anchovies, Mediterranean sand smelt, tuna, and bonito are all equally popular.

They are served in many restaurants along the coast but are also consumed a lot in Croatian homes. I love oily fish and am always happy to find it on the menus.

Croatians eat lots of grilled sardines and mackerels,  fried sand smelt, marinated or salted anchovies and sardines, tuna steaks (especially sliced steak), and sardines in savor. When in Croatia, make sure to indulge in these tasty oily fish dishes.

Purica s mlincima

Purica s mlincima is a typical dish from the northern Croatian region of Zagorje, and from the capital, Zagreb.

Purica is turkey, and mlinci is a type of dried and very thin flatbread. Mlinci is easily prepared by pouring or quickly soaking them in hot water.

Turkey needs to be roasted. And then served with mlinci pasta in its sauce from roasting.

You can taste this dish in the restaurant Stari Fijaker in Zagreb.

Kotlovina

Kotlovina is a meat specialty popular in Zagreb and northwest Croatia. Different meats and veggies are fried in a big metal dish and then slow-cooked in their sauce over an open fire.

The meat usually includes pork (chops, neck, spare ribs, and sausages) and chicken breasts.

Kotlovina is prepared in a specially designed cauldron and is usually prepared outdoors. Once the meat is done, it’s placed on the side of a cauldron to keep warm.

Zagrebacki odrezak (Zagreb Schnitzel)

Zagreb Escalope, a breaded veal meat stuffed with ham and cheese

If you like Vienna Schnitzel or a Cordon Blue, there is no reason not to like Zagrebacki odrezak (Zagreb Schnitzel, or Zagreb escalope).

Zagrebacki odrezak is a veal escalope stuffed with a slice of cheese, and ham, breaded, and then deep-fried. You can also find a version of this dish with pork or turkey meat in restaurants.

Zagreb escalope you can find on menus of many restaurants in Zagreb.

Dalmatian misanca

Misanca is a peasant’s meal that costs very little as it uses wild plants that grow freely in nature.

We live in Istria, which shares many culinary traditions with Dalmatia. However, some Croatian food is only found in Dalmatia, and misanca is one of them.

The literal meaning of misanca in the Dalmatian dialect of the Croatian language is a mix, mixture. Misanca is, in fact, a mix of wild edible plants cooked together like a soup.

You chop garlic and some pancetta and fry it shortly in the pot with olive oil. Then add some wild collard greens previously parboiled, followed by wild onion, spinach, sow thistle, and wild fennel. Cover with water, add olive oil, and cook slowly until done. Serve warm with plenty of olive oil. You can also make misanca spicy by adding pepperoncino to your misanca.

Rastika (Collard greens)

Rastika, collard greens, very popular dish in Croatia

Rastika is a Dalmatian collard greens stew. Almost all veggie gardens in winter contain collard greens, a tall leafy plant with yellow flowers.

Collard greens are mostly made as a stew or soup with cured meat, particularly cured sheep meat, called kastradina in Croatia.

However, we find cured sheep meat to have too strong a flavor for our taste, and we prepare rastika using only pancetta.

Quickly boil collard greens and throw the water. In olive oil, fry some garlic, pancetta, and a few pepperoncini. Add collard greens, cover with water, and add olive oil. Cook slowly until done. Serve warm with extra olive oil to your taste.

Maslinovo ulje (Olive oil)

Bottles of Chiavalon olive oils, full product range
Photo credit: Chiavalon

Croatia has excellent olive oil, particularly in Istria. Istria is one of the world’s northernmost regions producing olive oil. It is a staple of Dalmatian and Istrian cuisine.

The majority of olive oil comes from small family-owned farms that produce small quantities of olive oil. You will also find lots of single-sort olive oils. Visit the Chiavalon olive oil estate if you are in Istria.

Stonska sol (Sea salt from Ston)

Salt has been harvested in Ston for centuries. And it is still the case. Unlike industrially produced salt that you can find in stores, salt from Ston is entirely natural, humid to the touch, and never overwhelms the food.

Make sure to buy a bag of salt from Ston if you visit Croatia. It’s healthy, natural, and it makes for a great (and cheap!) souvenir.

Burek (pita)

Various types of burek, popular food in Croatia
Burek is a popular food in Croatia

Pita or burek is a major part of not only traditional Croatian cuisine but the cuisine of the entire Balkan peninsula.

Pita or pie is one of the simplest yet most delicious savory pastries to find in Croatia.

It’s basically a phyllo dough stuffed with various fillings. The most popular pita is one with minced meat, also called burek. Other famous pita include potato pie (krumpirusa), cheese pie, spinach pie (zeljanica), pumpkin pie (bucnica), and apple pie (strudel).

You can taste pita in any bakery. In Zagreb, there are also some restaurants that only sell pita, like Piterija Tomislav on Selska Cesta. And if you are interested in trying your hand at pita, here is a great family recipe for mixed meat and potato burek.

Cevapi

A plate of cevapi in bread with onions

Cevapi is minced meat rolled in a finger-like shape and grilled. They are usually served with pita bread, chopped onions, and red pepper spread called ajvar.

Cevapi aren’t only found in Croatian cuisine but in all countries of the Balkan peninsula.

Cevapi make a part of the menu in many restaurants in Croatia, especially touristy ones.

Prsut (Croatian prosciutto)

Prosciutto and cheese platter is a popular starter in Croatia

Prsut, a Croatian prosciutto, is a dry-cured ham, similar to its Italian and Spanish counterparts.

Prosciutto is a staple of Croatian cuisine in the Istria and Dalmatia coastal regions.

Meat is salted and spiced and then let to dry in the wind. In addition, prosciutto in Dalmatia is also smoked before drying. This gives it a distinguished smokey taste.

In Istria, you can find good quality homemade prosciutto in all the best restaurants, while in Dalmatia, it’s more of a challenge. However, we have tasted the best Croatian prosciutto at the Skipper Club Arka in Skradin, Dalmatia. The owner of Arka makes it under the brand name Pasquale. If you have a chance, stop for a bite!

Kulen

What prosciutto is for Istria and Dalmatia is Kulen for Slavonia – the most popular charcuterie type in Croatia.

Slavonian Kulen is a spicy cured sausage made of the best cuts of pork, mainly legs and sometimes shoulders, and with added spices like garlic and sweet and hot paprika.

Kamenice (Oysters)

Ston oysters, Bota Oyster Bar in Dubrovnik

The town of Ston is famed for a few things: salt, the longest fortification in Europe, and awesome oysters.

In Mali Ston and nearby Bistrina Bridge, you’ll find small oyster farms where you can taste this delicacy or buy some to bring home.

Besides, you can also indulge in them in one of the popular restaurants in Mali Ston. They all have lovely outdoor seating by the sea and serve fresh oysters from their farms.

Salata od hobotnice

Octopus Salad is a popular food in Croatia

Salata od hobotnice as they call it in Croatia, or octopus salad, is a classic food in Croatia, and you can easily find it on many menus along the Croatian coast.

Octopus is cleaned and cooked in water until tender. Once cooled down, it’s chopped and placed in a bowl. Finally, it’s sprinkled with olive oil and vinegar. Capers, diced onions, and parsley are added to the salad. You can also add cubes of boiled potatoes. Yummy!

Riba s gradela (Grilled fish)

Food in Croatia, Grilled fish, gradela

All along the coast, you can taste this Croatian classic: grilled fish with Swiss chard. Dalmatian people even have a nickname – blitvari because they eat lots of Swiss chard).

The most popular fish are sea bream and sea bass. But to be honest, many of them come from fish farms. Thus we prefer different kinds of fish (like mackerels, sardines, red mullet, hake, etc). Or, if you have money, go for the dentex fish, the most appreciated Adriatic fish.

Janjetina (Spit-roasted lamb)

Janjetina na raznju, or spit-roasted lamb is popular everywhere in Croatia but especially on Croatian islands, particularly Cres, Pag, and Brac.

And in Croatia, this traditional dish is on the menu for all important life events like marriage or baptism.

If you visit the Brac island, taste roasted lamb in the tavern Kopacina. On Cres Island, check the tavern Bukaleta.

Fritaja

Fritaja, scrambled eggs with asparagus and prosciutto, typical dish in Istria

Scrambled eggs or fritaja (or frittata) is a simple yet tasty Croatian food particularly popular in Istria. The most common frittatas you will find in Istria are wild asparagus, mushrooms, homemade sausages, prosciutto, or truffles frittata.

Pasutice s kupusom i bakalarom (cabbage and cod Pasta)

I know this combination of homemade pasta, cabbage, and dry cod pate sounds absolutely weird. But I thought so, too, until I tasted it.

This Croatian food is popular in Istria and is often served on Christmas Eve. Pasutice is a homemade pasta cut in squares.

Mjesano meso (Mixed meat)

A plate of grilled meat, Uje Oil Bar in Split

Mjesano meso (mixed grilled meat) is a classic dish many restaurants in Croatia offer. Besides cevapi, it usually contains meat skewers, then pljeskavica (patty with beef, veal, and pork meat), grilled chicken breasts, and sausages.

Restaurants often serve it with french fries, grilled veggies, diced onions, and ajvar (red pepper spread).

This dish typically provides good value for money when you order it in a restaurant.

Fis-paprikas

Fis paprikas is a Croatian food typical for the eastern region of Slavonia. It’s a spicy fish stew containing river fish, often carp.

Originally a Hungarian dish, today, fish paprikas is a delicacy in the entire area of the Pannonian plain. Spicy red paprika is abundant in this dish, and it makes it one of the spiciest dishes in Croatia.

Typical Croatian Cheeses

Paski sir (Pag cheese)

Cheese from Pag, paski sir
Photo credit: OPG Fabijanic, Pag | Pag Cheese

The most famous Croatian cheese, Paski sir (Pag cheese), is a hard, aged sheep cheese from the island of Pag. Pair it with some Croatian wine for the perfect taste combination.

The cheese is served in many restaurants in Croatia and can be purchased at many stores.

If you want to taste a traditional Pag cheese made of unpasteurized milk using ancient methods, order one from the OPG Fabijanic. This is by far the best Pag cheese {Cro. Paski sir} that we have ever tried!

Skripavac

Skripavac cheese, squeaky cheese, is extremely popular in Croatia. This cheese owes its name to the fact that it simply squeaks against the teeth when you chew it. It’s a mild, fresh cheese particularly popular in the Lika region.

If you visit Plitvice Lakes or Nikola Tesla memorial center in Smiljan, you should taste this cheese. In fact, we stop in Smiljan on the way to Dalmatia to buy a real homemade skripavac for my mother-in-law, as she really loves it. We can share the number if you are interested.

Skuta

Skuta, curd from Croatia
Photo credit: Vesna Loborika

Curd, a milk product obtained from whey, is called skuta in Croatian. Skuta is very popular in Croatia, particularly in Istria and on the islands.

Curd can be made from cow, goat, or sheep milk, but the most sought-after one is a sheep milk skuta. Skuta is equally popular as a starter, and as a dessert, especially in combination with honey and extra virgin olive oil.

A diary farm Vesna Loborika is a good place to taste cow curd. OPG Fabijanic makes yummy sheep curd, and Kumparicka makes the best goat curd.

Weird Croatian Food

Vitalac

Vitalac is a typical dish on the island of Brac. And it’s a good contender for a weird Croatian food award!

In short, vitalac are skewers made of baby goat or lamb’s entrails (lungs, liver, spleen), wrapped in caul fat, and spit-roasted. It’s served with warm bread and green onions.

Istarska Supa

Bukaleta, a ceramic jug in Istria
Photo credit: Litany via cc

Istarska supa (Istrian soup) is not really soup in the way you might expect. It’s a soup made of Teran, a typical red wine from Istria, with some sugar, pepper, olive oil, and bread.

Istrian soup is served in bukaleta, a traditional jug made of ceramic, and it’s passed around and shared with everybody at the table.

The recipe is simple: warm red wine is poured into a jug, and then a teaspoon of sugar, pepper, olive oil, and slices of grilled bread are added to the wine.

Puh

Dormouse (Puh in Croatian) goes under the list of weird food eaten around the world. We ourselves have never tasted it. Too gross even to think about. People keep telling us they are vegetarians and have the cleanest meat possible. But, yet, dormouse looks like a rat, and we can’t stop thinking about that.

Anyways, the dormouse is a specialty in the mountainous region of Gorski Kotar, and on Croatian islands, particularly on the islands of Brac and Hvar.

They prepare it grilled, stewed, or fried. If you are interested in trying it, you can do so in the tavern Kokot in Dol on Hvar Island.

Typical Croatian desserts

Paprenjak

Paprenjak is a traditional Croatian cookie dating back to the 16th century. The name comes from black pepper (papar in Croatian) because Paprenjak, among other ingredients, contains black pepper. Other ingredients are walnuts, hazelnuts, honey, butter, and various spices.

Arancini

Croatian Recipes | Arancini: Candied Orange Peel
Croatian Recipes | Arancini: Candied Orange Peel

Traditional sweets from southern Croatia, arancini, are candied orange peel. They make a great souvenir to bring home, too. However, when they are homemade, they are simply the best. I am lucky because my mother-in-law often makes them, and they are yummy.

How can you make this recipe? You cut orange skin (but sometimes also lemon or grapefruit) in long stripes, and you leave it in water for two days. Once drained, you need to weigh them and then put them in a pan with equal sugar. Once the water evaporates, the sugar will start crystalizing again, and they are done.

Rozata

Rozata, custard typical for Dubrovnik region

A custard pudding similar to flan typical for the Dubrovnik region, rozata, when well-made, is one of my favorite Croatian sweets. My mother-in-law often makes rozata, and her rozata is seriously the best I’ve tried.

Krostule

Krostule, dessert from Croatia
Photo credit: Tim Ertl via Flickr

Krostule is a traditional pastry that you can find in coastal Croatia from Istria to Dubrovnik. Long thin strips of dough are tied in a loose knot and then deep-fried in oil and sprinkled with powdered sugar before serving. Krostule is a simple dessert but very crunchy and delicious to eat!

Fritule

Fritele, a small ball-shaped donuts popular in Croatia

The most common sweets you’ll find in coastal Croatia, fritule are ball-shaped dough made with flour, raisins, a touch of local schnapps, and lemon zest, and then deep-fried. These sweet fritters are addictive and challenging to say No to.

Strudel

Apple strudel, Croatia desserts

A traditional Viennois dessert, apple strudel also has its tradition in Croatia.

Thin phyllo dough is filled with grated apples, pieces of walnuts, and raisins. You can also sprinkle some pieces of almonds on the top. Sprinkle some powdered sugar atop before serving.

Palacinke (Pancakes)

Palacinke (pancakes) are the single most popular dessert in all Croatian restaurants.

Croatian pancakes are thin, crepe-style, and come with a variety of spreads. Marmalade, Nutella, and a mix of grounded walnuts and sugar are the three most popular fillings.

You can order them in any restaurant but also at many pancake stalls in small coastal towns.

Bajamini

Bajamini is a dry almond cookie typical for Dalmatia. These cookies are similar to Italian cantuccini or almond biscotti but not as hard. They are made of eggs, sugar, little flour, and almonds. The best part is that they are easy to make yet so tasty.

Krempita (Custard slice)

Krempita, vanilla slices, popular dessert in Croatia
hoto credit: Mike Rowe via Flickr

Krempita is a Croatian version of the more famed mille-feuilles cake or vanilla slices cake. This cake is popular in Croatia and many Central European countries.

The bottom and top of the cake consist of puff pastry, and in between, it’s filled with custard cream. Some recipes also contain chantilly cream (but not the one my mother-in-law makes!).

Poppyseed or walnut roll

Croatian Desserts | Poppyseed and walnut roll

Makovnjaca (poppy seed roll) and orahnjaca (walnut roll) are very popular cakes in the continental part of Croatia.

This is another culinary tradition we share with other Central European countries.

Sweet yeast dough is filled with poppy seed or walnut paste, rolled, and baked.

The filling is simple, poppy seeds or ground walnuts are mixed with sugar, cinnamon, and some milk.

These cakes you can buy in just about any bakery.

travel guides & cookbooks

further reading

Have you tried any of the Croatian food listed above? What’s your favorite Croatian food? Let us know in the comments below. 

SHARING IS CARING!



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41 thoughts on “Croatian Food: 52 must-try Croatian Dishes”

  1. Frank,
    See this article on the Origins of Cevapi

    Citizens, this “sausage” is actually closer to an American hamburger in many ways (despite being sausage-shaped) since it lacks a casing and is made from chopped meat. It is however spiced similar to a sausage and is exceptionally flavorful! Ćevapi or ćevapčići (formal diminutive) are found traditionally throughout the countries of southeastern Europe (the Balkans).

    As noted in this excerpt from an excellent and well-researched article from philosokitchen.com:

    The origin of Cevapi is probably Serbian and relatively recent: dated during the expansion of the Ottoman Empire into the Balkans area (XIX Century).

    The term Cevaci derives from the Persian word Kebab. They are also called Cevapcici, that can be translated as Small Kebab. In North Macedonia, they are called Kebapi.

    The Serbian Journalist and Novelist Branislav Nušić (1864-1938) affirmed that the Cevapi was an idea of a man called Zivko, owner of a family restaurant in Belgrade. In 1860, Zivko shaped the mixture of the Pljeskavica – the traditional Serbian hamburger – into a Kofta Kebab.

    The success of this new recipe had been incredible: tons of persons started to crowing the Zivko’s restaurant asking for Cevaci all day long, even at breakfast!

    Ziko’s was originating of the region of Leskovac, the home of another Serbian specialty: the Ajvar. Zivko served the Cevapi with Ajvar for the first time: a pairing that is a classic even nowadays!
    The legend says that Cevaci made Zivko rich, and he decided to honor his home city, financing the building of a church.

    During the first decades of the XX Century Cevapi crossed the Serbian borders becoming popular in several countries of Balkans and East Europe.

    Nowadays, this recipe is considered a National dish in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Romania, and Serbia.
    The Cevapi recipe it is also traditional in several other countries, like North Macedonia, Croatia, Montenegro, Albania, Kosovo, Slovenia, Bulgaria, Austria, and North-East Italy.

    Ćevapi are usually served as 5–10 pieces on a plate or in a flatbread (lepinje or somun), often with chopped onions and kajmak, a creamy dairy product similar to clotted cream that is made from the milk of water buffalos, cows, sheep, or goats in the Balkans.
    Bosnian ćevapi are made from two types of minced beef meat, hand mixed and formed with a funnel, while formed ćevapi are grilled. Serb ćevapčići are made of either beef, lamb or pork or mixed. Macedonian, Croatian, Bulgarian and Romanian varieties are often made of both pork and beef.
    Ćevapi are frequently served with Lepinje, also known as somun, a triple-raised flatbread that is a popular street food in the Balkans. It is baked initially at high temperatures to achieve a hollow, puffy shape like Middle Eastern pita.

    Add in some chopped fresh onion and the unique TFD touch of fresh herbs and you have one hell of a delicious Ćevapi sandwich, Citizens! 🙂

    Thanks to my dear friend Vladeta Marjanovic for the secret tip to making the best Ćevapi – adding a lightly-beaten egg to the mixture! Apparently, most recipes omit this secret, so I am grateful for his generosity for sharing it with me!
    I’d personally enjoy this with some Serbian Lamingtons for desert.
    Battle on – The Generalissimo

  2. For how many years do we need to eat something to become traditional? We’ve been eating cevapi and burek in Croatia for quite a longtime. And not only in restaurants, but everybody prepares them at home. So, I don’t know, they seem quite traditional to me. But yes, they both originate from Turkish cuisine.

  3. Some of these dishes like ćevapi or burek, whilst they are very often eaten in Croatia, they are NOT traditional croatian dishes. Nonetheless, as a tourism student, i really like this article. :)

  4. Great list! I’m excited to try some traditional Croatian dishes when I visit in December. I’ll be going to Zagreb and Opatija/Rijeka. I have two questions. 1– what are the best gluten-free Croatian dishes I can have? What do you recommend for December in Zagreb and Opatija/Rijeka?

  5. I’m going to go out on a limb here, but I suspect your grandmother actually made a Polish dish called oponki. They’re known, albeit uncommon, throughout the Slavic world. They have that ring shape most donuts have, but they’re made with a dense dough based on farmer’s cheese.

    Alternatively, she might have been describing what the donuts were doing — that is, inflating or puffing up. The Croatian word for that is ‘napuhati’. In that case you might want to look into krafne, more commonly known in the English speaking world as pączki (Polish) or berliners (German). Fritule might be another possibility, as Frank G mentioned.

    It’s also entirely possible it could have been a very local thing that wasn’t known nationally. If you know what city/town/village she grew up in, you could probe around there and see if anyone remembers such a dish.

  6. We will be visiting this August. We are doing a home visit and I am interested to know what a typical everyday meal would consist of.

  7. My grandmother was from Croatia and when we were little she would make a treat for us that she called poo hins. I’m not sure how to spell it, but my cousins and I have tried to make them with no luck. Does anyone have a recipe? They resembled a donut.

  8. There is a lot of variety in Croatia, they don’t just serve the specialties. There are fussy eaters and vegetarians visiting same as anywhere in the world.
    Let the restaurants know your allergies and I’m sure they’ll oblige. The Adriatic has all types of fish. They also do great pastries and breads. You’ll be fine.

  9. My wife loves a local desert in ston call macarola, or Stonska cake, basically a cake made from pasta and chocolate, it’s an acquired taste but ok. People travel for miles to eat it. Sorgo restaurant in Ston serves the best. Actually I reckon it’s ok with red wine…… give it a try

  10. Sorry for my late reply, Laura! I don’t know of any restaurant in Split or Hvar that makes sarma, though. Also, it’s mostly a winter dish, while in summer people eat more stuffed peppers. Hope you had a nice time in Croatia.

  11. He’ll be fine in Croatia, as we mostly cook using olive and sunflower oil, and not butter. make sure you mention his allergies in the restaurants before ordering anything.
    Check Cooking class with Tatjana in Trogir, and cooking classes with EatIstria in Pula.

  12. I am late with the reply but if you decide to do it again, here are some ideas: soparnik, viska and / or komiska pogaca, zucchini fritters …

  13. Great to read this! My Grandmother was Serb and I miss her cooking so much, particularly sarma. She also make gibenice, which I think must have been a Serb variation of strukli – using filo pastry, cream, cottage cheese and oil – a heart attack on a plate but so delicious! I’d love to find a recipe book for all the different sweet treats she used to make, she taught me vanilice which are really easy, shortbread sandwiched together with jam, rolled in sugar, but there were so many other kinds of cakes and pastries she would make for slava. Apple and walnut filo, hazlenut balls, dark nutty fingers covered in crisp icing… nom nom

  14. Hi Alex,
    I’ll be visiting Pula soon and would be very interested to read your blog. Can you provide a link? thanks!

  15. Hi Frank,

    I was just wondering about owning property in Croatia. I live almost close by in Turkey:) but would like to have a very small place abroad. Any tips?

    Btw the food list is great! Croatia is on the top of my list of places to visit:)

    All the best from Turkey!

  16. I am looking at different Croatian dishes to make for the World Cup final tomorrow (I’m going for Croatia). Anyway, is there like a famous appetizer that I should’ve making? Many of these dishes look delicious but not sure if they can be considered “tapas” or appetizers.

  17. How can I get an invitation to your mother-in-law’s home for dinner?!
    She sounds like a fantastic cook!!!

  18. I have rented a villa in Istria with a bbq. I like to use a large variation of herbs and spices. can anybody tell me if these are available. lemon grass for ex. cardomon, ginger, sage, coriander, thyme??

  19. Thanks for all of the information about the food. Unfortunately I can’t eat any foods w/garlic, pepper or hot spices and hate to say it but don’t think I could down octopus or squid. We’re taking a tour of the Croatian coast in May and hopefully there will also be non-oily fish such as cod; salmon; haddock, etc.

    Your comments please? I’m looking forward to the trip but my stomach isn’t.

  20. I love fish. All kinds. I am so looking forward to my trip this April to Croatia to try the foods you so invitingly describe but especially and mainly the fish.

  21. Thanks for this list! We are so excited to visit in June.

    Two questions:
    1) My fiancé has a dairy allergy- butter, cheese, milk- how much of a problem will this be in Croatia?

    2) We love doing hands-on cooking classes when we travel. Do you have a recommendation of the best city to do this in or any specific places that offer great classes?

  22. You must not forget Orahnjaca. Our family, from Icici in Austria, adds chocolate to the traditional receipt.
    Allen Blazic

  23. Hello Frank, Iam following your blog since a couple of months since Iam going to Croatia, early october. My family on my mother side migrated from Hvar island (Stari grad, Jelsa, Pitve and Vrisnik) to Argentina. Even though my grandmother and my mom make very good kiseli kupus and sarma, I want to try it in Croatia. Most of my travel will be in Dalmatia area. Do you know local restaurants (either Split or Hvar) that make kiseli kupus and sarma? Very nice blog and very helpful too.

  24. No you won’t. There are plenty of other delicious dishes in Croatia. Most wonderful place in the world to visit.

  25. You’ll find plenty of meat, veggies, pasta & pizza here too. Don’t worry. Sorry for your allergy, ’cause seafood in Croatia is really good :).

  26. We are in Zagreb right now having lunch. For an appetizer, my husband and I shared a dish of baked strukli. Very tasty.

  27. Hi Alex,
    thanks for reading! If you are into food and wine than Istria is definitely the best base in Croatia. Try to contact local winemakers directly; they’ll certainly need an extra hand at that time of the year. As for short term rentals, have you checked our apartment in Barbici near Porec. Can be a good base to stay if you have a car (that you’ll definitely need in Istria anyway). Here is the link: https://www.frankaboutcroatia.com/franks-place/ – let us know if it can interest you. If not we’ll be happy to help you find something else. Let’s get in touch via e-mail (info at frankaboutcroatia dot com), so we can give you more info on cooking classes and other activities. Happy travels! Frank

  28. This might be the best list I have found so far. It has been extremely helpful. My GF and I will be visiting Croatia for 3 months starting in August. We will be trying to base our selves in the region of Istria. I would love to try and work in the wine industry. For our blog though we want focus on the cuisine of this region. I also I love learning about the history of the cuisine. Do you have any sources to learn more about the cuisine history? Also do you have any tips about finding short term apartments? Any help would be appreciated. Who knows maybe we can meet up and we can buy you a beer. I would to learn about the culture of Croatia from someone living there. Thanks for your time.

  29. What about Burek? I had delicious cheese and spinach filled ones each morning I was in Croatia. And I tried Crni Rizot which is delicious, as long as you don’t look at it for too long :)

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