The Essential Guide to Croatian Food: 21 Traditional Dishes Not To Miss in Croatia

Croatian food is a unique blend of Mediterranean and Continental flavors, comprising fresh seafood, hearty meat dishes, regional specialties, and an emphasis on simple, high-quality ingredients.

Must-try Croatian food, illustration
21 must-try Croatian food, Illustration

Influenced by Mediterranean, Italian, Austrian, Hungarian, and Turkish traditions, Croatian cuisine reflects the country’s rich cultural and geographical diversity.

Still, it boasts its own distinctive flavors and preparations. Food is one of the reasons to visit Croatia!

Croatian food varies significantly from one region to another. Coastal regions, for instance, have many seafood dishes due to their proximity to the Adriatic Sea.

On the other hand, the inland areas are more known for their hearty, meat-based meals rooted in Central European culinary tradition.

Some of the most popular Croatian dishes include “crni rizot” (risotto made with black squid ink), “ćevapi” (small grilled meat sausages), “peka” (meat and vegetables cooked under an iron bell), and “punjene paprike” (bell peppers stuffed with minced meat and rice).

When visiting Croatia, don’t miss the chance to try Croatia traditional cuisine, which perfectly complements the country’s stunning natural beauty, the Adriatic Sea, and charming historical towns.

Regional food in Croatia

Croatian food varies across regions. Still, some locals’ favorite dishes, like sarma (sauerkraut rolls filled with minced meat), punjena paprika (bell peppers filled with minced meat), peka (meat or seafood and vegetables cooked under an iron bell), and traditional charcuterie, are cherished across Croatia.

Croatia has two distinct food regions: the coastal region and the inland region.

The coastal areas, including Dalmatia and Istria, are known for their fresh seafood dishes that reflect Mediterranean influences. On the other hand, the continental parts of Croatia, such as Zagreb and Slavonia, offer hearty meat-based meals influenced by Central European cuisines.

Nevertheless, variations exist even within the same region. For instance, Istria and Dalmatia feature inland and coastal areas, leading to subtle differences in their culinary offerings.

Dalmatian Food

Dalmatian food: buzara, brudet, calamari, fried fish

Dalmatian cuisine, found along the coast and islands, emphasizes fish, vegetables, olive oil, garlic, rosemary, and fresh parsley.

Popular seafood dishes include “buzara,” a traditional seafood dish featuring shellfish in a wine sauce, and “crni rižot,” a distinctive black risotto made with cuttlefish ink.

The culinary experience is rounded out with grilled meats and fish, salads rich in olives, staples like Swiss chard and kale, and locally produced wines, making Dalmatian food a true reflection of its Mediterranean roots.

Food in Zagreb Region

In Zagreb, traditional Croatian cuisine is known for its hearty meat dishes accompanied by potatoes, root vegetables, and cabbage.

Among the most popular dishes are “štrukli,” a delicious cottage cheese-filled dough, and “purica s mlincima”, roasted turkey served with a thin, crispy flatbread softened in hot water.

Zagreb’s culinary landscape beautifully showcases Central European cooking’s influence, blending techniques and flavors to create a unique and inviting dining experience.

Istrian Cuisine

Istrian food: homemade pasta with truffles

While it shares many similarities with Dalmatian cuisine, Istrian cuisine has unique dishes like manestra and fuzi pasta.

While Istrian cuisine is similar to Dalmatian food, it still stands out with its unique dishes, like “manestra,” a hearty, thick bean soup, and “fuži pasta,” a type of quills-shaped homemade pasta served with a variety of sauces.

Istrian gastronomy is defined by the luxurious flavor of truffles, the generous use of olive oil, and local wines that reflect the region’s unique terroir. Together, they create a rich tapestry of flavors, making Istrian cuisine a must-try for food enthusiasts

Slavonian Cuisine

Baranjski kulen, Croatian traditional charcuterie

In Eastern Croatia’s Slavonia and Baranja regions, pork takes center stage in many dishes, enhanced by the liberal use of red, sweet, and spicy paprika for rich flavors.

“Kulen,” a flavorful dry-cured sausage, and “cobanac,” a meaty stew with spices and vegetables cooked over an open fire, are key examples of the region’s culinary delights.

Slavonian food reflects cultural exchanges with Hungary, evident in its bold, hearty flavors and communal dining, showcasing a shared history and a passion for rich meals.

Croatian Cuisine

21 Must-Try Croatian Dishes

Here is a list of 21 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.

1. Crni rizot (Black Risotto)

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

Crni rižot (pronounced tsuer-nee ree-zhot), which translates to “black risotto” in English, is a signature dish of the Croatian region of Dalmatia.

Black risotto is made with squid ink, squid or cuttlefish, arborio rice, garlic, onion, white wine, and sometimes, other seafood. The ink gives the dish its striking black color and imparts a subtle seafood flavor.

Black risotto is a must-try for seafood lovers and showcases Croatia’s culinary expertise in combining simple ingredients to create an exceptional dish that embodies the essence of the Adriatic Sea.

Origin of crni rizot: Coastal Croatia.

Where to try crni rizot? Kapetanova kuca, Ston (location).

Word of wisdom: Keep in mind that consuming black risotto may temporarily discolor your teeth and stool for a couple of days.

2. Strukli (Cheese-filled Pastry)

Strukli, Croatian cheese-filled pastry typical of Zagreb region
Strukli, sweet version

Strukli (pronounced sh-troo-klee) is a traditional Croatian pastry filled with cottage cheese and sour cream. Strukli can be boiled or baked. This dish, deeply rooted in the culinary tradition of Zagreb and the Hrvatsko Zagorje region, offers a taste of Croatia’s rich cultural heritage.

A quick recipe involves stretching dough and filling it with cottage cheese, eggs, and sour cream. Then, it is cooked in salty water or baked until golden brown.

Origin of strukli: Northern Croatia, particularly Zagreb and Hrvatsko Zagorje.

Where to try Strukli? La Štruk (location) in Zagreb specializes in this comforting, cheesy delight, serving it in various styles to suit every palate.

3. Pasticada s njokima (Baby Beef Stew With Gnocchi)

Pasticada with gnocchi, a queen of Dalmatian cuisine

Pašticada s njokima (pronounced pah-STEE-tsah-da s NYOH-kee-ma) is the most popular Dalmatian specialty, often described as the “Queen of Dalmatian cuisine.”

Pasticada consists of a slow-cooked beef stew, marinated in a unique blend of vinegar and herbs, studded with carrots, and then then slowly braised with red wine and spices, imbuing it with depth and richness of flavor. Pasticada is traditionally served with homemade potato dumplings called njoki (gnocchi).

Origin of pasticada: Dalmatia, Coastal Croatia.

Where to try pasticada? To experience authentic Pašticada s njokima, Konoba Kod Hvaranina (location) in Split offers a version that consistently receives high praise for its adherence to tradition and quality.

Word of wisdom: 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.

4. Peka (Croatian Meat Roast)

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

Peka (pronounced “peh-ka”) is a Croatian meat roast. Peka is synonymous with the traditional cooking method under a bell-like dome covered in embers, which involves slow-cooking meat or seafood with vegetables, herbs, and spices.

A simple recipe includes placing potatoes and various meats or octopus under the iron bell, seasoning liberally with herbs, and then slow-cooking to perfection covered under embers.

Origin of peka dish: Peka is deeply rooted in the Dalmatian region but is enjoyed across Croatia.

Where to try Croatian peka dish? Konoba Roki’s (location) on the island of Vis and Konoba Dubrava (location) near Dubrovnik offers an exquisite peka experience.

Word of wisdom: To enjoy peka at a restaurant, placing your order ahead of time is necessary.

5. Buzara (Seafood in a Wine Sauce)

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

Buzara (pronounced “boo-zah-rah”) is a traditional Croatian method of preparing seafood, characterized by its simple yet flavorful sauce.

This delectable dish includes simmering shellfish, typically shrimp or mussels, in white wine, garlic, breadcrumbs, and parsley, creating a savory broth.

Origin of Croatian buzara dish: Coastal Croatia.

Where to taste buzara in Croatia? For an authentic taste of buzara, visit Restaurant Obala (location) on Lopud Island near Dubrovnik, where the dish is prepared with the day’s freshest catch, embodying the true essence of the Croatian seaside.

Word of wisdom: Roll up your sleeves, as buzara is traditionally enjoyed most when eaten with your hands.

6. Cevapi (Skinless Minced Meat Sausages)

A plate of cevapi in bread with onions

Ćevapi, pronounced “CHE-vah-pee,” are the Balkan favorite, small, skinless grilled sausages, often served in a flatbread with chopped onions, a red pepper spread called “ajvar,” and sometimes kajmak (cream cheese).

A simple recipe involves combining minced beef, veal, or a mixture of beef and pork, or veal and sheep with spices, then grilling the formed cylinders until they are brown and slightly crispy on the outside.

Origin of Ćevapi: This dish has Ottoman origins and has been embraced in the Balkan region, with each area adding its own twist.

Where to try Ćevapi in Croatia? Chevap by Duje Pisac (location) in Split and Stari kotac 2 (location) in Zagreb.

7. Istarski fuzi (Istrian Quill-Shaped Pasta)

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

Istarski Fuzi (pronounced “ee-star-skee foo-zee”) is a quintessential pasta dish from the heart of Istria. It features quill-shaped homemade pasta with various sauces, including truffles, wild asparagus, chicken, game, or beef stew.

A simple recipe includes mixing eggs and flour to create the pasta, cutting it into a diamond shape, rolling it around a chopstick (often a pencil) to form a quill-shaped hollow tube, and tossing it with a hearty truffle or meat sauce.

Origin of Istrian fuzi pasta: Istrian peninsula, north Adriatic.

Where to try Istrian fuzi pasta? For an authentic Istarski Fuzi, Stari Podrum in Momjan and Tavern Toncic in Zrenj offer a sublime experience, allowing visitors to savor this traditional dish amidst the picturesque hills of Istria.

8. Brudet, Brujet, Brodet (Spicy Fish Stew)

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

Brudet (pronounced “broo-det”), also known as brujet or brodet, is a rich and flavorful Croatian fish stew, popular throughout Croatia’s Adriatic coast.

A variety of fish and crustaceans are simmered with onions, tomato sauce, vinegar, and spices, and then served with polenta. This is Brudet!

Origin of brudet dish: Coastal regions of Croatia.

Where to try Croatian brudet dish? Try the delicious brudet dishes in Croatia at Restaurant Duda and Mate in Vid village, Batelina in Pula, Senko on Vis Island, or Villa Spiza in Split.

Word of wisdom: Brudet can be made mild or hot. Mention your preferences when ordering!

9. Manestra (bean Minestrone)

Manestra, pronounced “mah-NEH-strah,” is a traditional Istrian bean soup that combines beans, smoked meats, and sometimes other veggies, like corn or sauerkraut, in a rich and hearty broth. Manestra is the most common dish on menus in Istrian restaurants.

This simple one-pot dish revolves around a base of pancetta, garlic, and parsley, all ground together to form a paste and beans. It is often enriched with dried pork for depth and flavor and sometimes with other ingredients, too, like corn or sauerkraut in winter and fennel in spring.

Origin of manestra dish: Istria.

Where to try Istrian manestra? Tavern Selo Mekisi near Porec (location) and Boljunska konoba (location).

10. Gregada (Fish and Potato Stew)

Gregada, pronounced “gre-GAH-da,” is the typical fish stew originating on Hvar Island.

Made by gently cooking a mix of white fish, potatoes, onions, garlic, capers, and olive oil in their own juices and a splash of white wine, this dish is a testament to the traditional island cuisine.

Origin of gregada dish in Croatia: The Dalmatian region, particularly the island of Hvar.

Where to taste Croatian gregada dish? For an authentic taste of gregada, visit the restaurant Dva Ribara (location), located on the picturesque waterfront of Hvar Town.

11. Soparnik (Swiss-Chard Filled Flatbread)

Soparnik, swiss chard pie

Soparnik, pronounced “so-PAHR-nik,” is a traditional Croatian dish reminiscent of a savory pie filled with Swiss chard, onions, and parsley.

This simple yet flavorful dish involves spreading Swiss chard filling between two layers of thin dough, which is then baked to perfection.

Origin of soparnik: This dish hails from the Dalmatian hinterland, specifically the Poljica region, which is celebrated for its agricultural heritage.

Where to try Soparnik? To savor an authentic soparnik, head to the Bistro Market (location) in Zagreb.

12. Punjene paprike (Stuffed Peppers)

Punjenje paprike, stuffed peppers

What is punjene paprike dish?

Punjene paprike, pronounced “POON-yeh-neh PAH-pree-keh,” is a traditional Croatian dish that consists of bell peppers stuffed with minced meat, rice, and spices.

This comforting meal is enjoyed across Croatia during the summer, with each region having its own variation. For instance, while Dalmatia prefers baby beef, pork is preferred in Slavonija. It is usually served with mashed potatoes.

How to prepare punjene paprike?

To prepare stuffed peppers, fill bell peppers with a mixture of minced meat, salt, pepper, parsley, rice, and onion. Then, simmer them in tomato sauce and water on low heat for 90 minutes.

Where do punjene paprike originate from?

Punjene paprike have their roots in the wider Balkan region, where they are a staple in home cooking and traditional celebrations.

Where to try punjene paprike?

13. Sarma (Stuffed Saurkraut)

Sarma is one of most popular winter dishes in Croatia

Sarma, pronounced “SAR-mah,” is a traditional Croatian dish of cabbage leaves stuffed with minced meat, rice, and various spices.

The basic recipe involves rolling the mixture in pickled cabbage leaves and cooking these rolls in a flavorful broth. The filling mirrors that of the previously mentioned punjene paprike dish; however, it is encased in sauerkraut leaves rather than stuffed into bell peppers.

Origin: The dish has roots in the Ottoman Empire, spreading across the Balkans and becoming a winter staple in Croatian cuisine.

Where to try sarma dish in Croatia? Bistro Gladni Vuk (location) and Vinodol (location), both in Zagreb.

14. Cobanac (Slavonian Meat Stew)

Cobanac, traditional meat stew from Croatia's Slavonija region

Cobanac, pronounced “CO-bah-natz,” is a rich, spicy stew that is one of the most beloved traditional dishes from the eastern Croatian region of Slavonija and Baranja. A hearty mix of meats, vegetables, paprika, and other spices simmers for hours to achieve its distinctive flavor.

The preparation of cobanac dish involves slow-cooking beef, pork, and sometimes game meat, with potatoes, carrots, onions, and a generous amount of paprika.

Origin of cobanac: Cobanac has its roots in Croatia’s Slavonia and Baranja region, known for its agricultural abundance and love for meaty, robust meals.

Where to try traditional Croatian cobanac dish? Restaurant Kod Pere (location) in Zagreb and Baranjska Kuca (location) near Beli Manastir.

15. Purica s mlincima (Turkey with Mlinci Pasta)

Purica s mlincima, pronounced “POO-ritsa s MLEEN-tsima,” is a popular Croatian dish that pairs roasted turkey with a special flatbread called mlinci. It is a typical dish from the northern Croatian region of Zagorje and the capital, Zagreb.

The basic recipe consists of roasting a turkey and soaking the mlinci flatbread first in the hot water, and then in the rich, flavorful sauce produced during the roasting process.

Origin of Purica s mlincima dish: This dish is a traditional meal in Croatia’s northern and central regions, symbolizing festive and family gatherings, especially around holidays like Christmas.

Where to try purica s mlincima dish in Croatia? Restaurant Stari Fijaker (location) and Bistro Tockica (location) in Zagreb.

16. Zagrebacki odrezak (Zagreb Schnitzel)

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

Zagrebački odrezak, pronounced “zah-greh-BAH-chkee OH-drez-ak,” is a traditional Croatian dish reminiscent of a stuffed Vienna schnitzel or cordon Blue.

Zagrebački odrezak consists of a breaded and deep-fried veal escalope stuffed with ham and cheese. It can also be made with pork or turkey meat.

Origin of Zagrebacki odrezak dish: Zagrebački odrezak originates from Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia.

Where can you try Zagrebački odrezak in Croatia? Restoran Lanterna na Dolcu (location) in Zagreb.

17. Prsut (Croatian prosciutto)

A plate of Istrian prosciutto, traditional Croatian food

Pršut, pronounced “PR-shoot,” is Croatia’s answer to Italian prosciutto. It is a dry-cured ham that is a staple in Croatian cuisine. The process involves salting the ham and then air-drying it for several months. A simple way to enjoy pršut is to thinly slice it and serve it with cheese, olives, and bread as part of a traditional Croatian antipasto. 

Origin of pršut dish: Pršut has a special place in Croatian gastronomy, mainly originating from the Dalmatian region, where the unique climate contributes to its distinct flavor and texture. 

Where to try Pršut in Croatia? Konoba Jure (location) in Rovinj and Skipper Club Arka (location) in Skradin. 

18. Salata od hobotnice (Octopus Salad)

Octopus Salad is a popular food in Croatia

Salata od Hobotnice, pronounced “SAL-ah-tah od ho-BOHT-nee-tse,” is a traditional Croatian octopus salad. This refreshing dish typically combines tender octopus with onions, parsley, olive oil, capers, lemon juice, and sometimes small cubes of boiled potatoes.

The octopus is boiled until tender, then mixed with the chopped vegetables and dressed with olive oil and lemon.

Origin of Salata od Hobotnice dish: This dish has its roots in the coastal regions of Croatia.

Where can you try Salata od Hobotnice in Croatia? Bota Sare (location) in Mali Ston and Batelina (location) near Pula

19. Riba s gradela (Grilled fish)

Food in Croatia, Grilled fish, gradela

Riba s gradela, pronounced “REE-bah s GRAH-dell-ah,” is a Croatian grilled fish.

This simple dish features fresh fish, like sea bream or sea bass, seasoned with olive oil, garlic, and herbs and grilled over a wood fire.

The simple recipe involves cleaning and seasoning the fish with salt and olive oil, then grilling it over hot embers until crispy and flaky. It is typically served with boiled Swiss chard and potatoes.

Origin of Riba s gradela dish: This culinary delight hails from the Adriatic coast, embodying the essence of Croatian seaside cuisine where the freshness and quality of the catch are paramount.

Where to try Riba s gradela in Croatia? Johnson Restaurant (location) near Opatija, and Konoba Nikola (location) near Split

Word of wisdom: When ordering fish, avoid sea bass and sea bream from fish farms. Instead, try dentex fish, which is highly prized in the Adriatic region.

20. Janjetina na ražnju (Spit-Roasted Lamb)

spit-roasted lamb in metkovic, croatia

Janjetina na ražnju, pronounced “YAN-yeh-tee-nah nah RAHZH-nyoo,” is a traditional Croatian dish of spit-roasted lamb.

The lamb is seasoned with natural herbs and slowly roasted over an open fire, creating a tender, flavorful, and aromatic meat that falls off the bone.

Origin of Janjetina na ražnju dish: This dish is deeply rooted in the pastoral traditions of the Croatian hinterland, especially in regions like Dalmatia and the Croatian islands.

Where to try Janjetina na ražnju in Croatia? Tavern Kopacina (location) on Brac Island, Perlica (location) in Klis near Split, and restaurant Tamaris (location) in Zadar.

21. Miješano meso (Mixed Meat)

Mijesano meso (mixed meat), popular Croatian food

Miješano meso, pronounced “MEE-yeh-shah-noh MEH-soh,” is a mix of grilled meats. Typically, the dish includes a combination of grilled cevapi, skewers, beef patties (pljeskavica), sausages, veal or pork chops, and chicken with french fries, grilled vegetables, and ajvar, a red pepper relish.

Origin of Miješano meso dish: Entire Croatia.

Where can you try Miješano meso in Croatia? Many restaurants serve this dish, from curb-side shacks to upscale dining establishments and everything in between.

Croatian Food 101

While exploring the must-try foods in Croatia offers insight into the nation’s culinary depth, a deeper dive into the more unique aspects of Croatian cuisine unveils its rich diversity and innovation.

From the peculiar to the exquisite, Croatian food encompasses an array of quirky regional specialties, celebrated cheeses, vibrant street food, irresistible desserts, unique drinks, and fresh produce that all showcase the country’s culinary creativity and agricultural bounty.

Let’s discover some of Croatian cuisine’s more unusual and enticing aspects!

Weird Croatian Food

Spicy Frog Stew from Croatia's Neretva Region

Culinary oddities and weird Croatian food, such as frogs, often found in stews or fried, and the intriguing dish of dormouse, reflect a blend of historical necessity and local tradition. Vitalac, consisting of grilled lamb’s offal wrapped in lamb gut, blood sausages, or tripes, might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they are still an essential part of Croatia’s culinary heritage.

Croatian Cheeses

Croatian Skripavac Cheese

Cheese lovers will revel in Croatia’s cheese variety, with Pag cheese (“paški sir”), a hard sheep’s milk cheese, leading the pack as a must-try. It is known for its sharp and distinctive flavor derived from the island’s salty pastures.

Other must-try Croatian cheeses include the soft and mild Skuta cheese, the squeaky and milky Skripavac cheese, an array of goat cheeses from soft and spreadable to aged and crumbly, and semi-hard cheeses made from cow’s, sheep’s, or a blend of both milks.

Croatian Street Food

Burek, Croatian street food

The streets of Croatia buzz with the aromas of delicious street food. From the savory “čevapi” served with a side of “ajvar” and burek, a savory, flaky pastry filled with cheese, meat, or spinach, to the sweet “fritule,” fried dough balls dusted with powdered sugar, Croatian street food offers quick, flavorful, and affordable on-the-go bites that are deeply ingrained in the local lifestyle.

Croatian Desserts

Much like the savory specialties, Croatian desserts vary greatly from region to region. In coastal Croatia, the typical cakes are dry and often include almonds or Mediterranean fruits like orange peel, lemon, or dried figs.

Some of the popular cakes in coastal Croatia are bajamini, crunchy almond biscuits, rafioli, dry crescent-shaped cakes filled with a mixture of almonds and sugar, and cukerancici, short cookies dipped in Istrian malvazija.

In contrast, sponge cake-based desserts rich in cream are more popular in Croatia’s interior, especially in the east of the country.

Some of the popular cakes in this part of Croatia are madarica, a multi-layer cake filled with rich chocolate cream; bijela pita, a multi-layer cake filled with custard cream; and honey pie, a multi-layer cake made of dough sweetened with honey and filled with semolina cream.

Croatian Drinks

From the robust flavors of Croatian wines, such as Plavac Mali, to Rakija’s unique herbal notes, Croatian drinks complement any meal perfectly.

Wine lovers are in for a treat, as Croatia boasts diverse wine regions with indigenous and international grape varieties. White wine Istarska Malvazija and red wine Plavac Mali from Pelješac are two of the most popular and acclaimed Croatian wines.

Rakija, a strong fruit brandy, is enjoyed as an aperitive or a digestive. It comes in different flavors, such as travarica (herbed brandy), orahovaca (walnut liqueur), or medovaca (honey brandy).

For a non-alcoholic option, cedevita, a popular instant powder drink among locals, offers a refreshing summer beverage. Additionally, coffee culture also holds a special place, offering a moment of leisure and enjoyment during the day.

Croatian Produce

Finally, the Croatian soil, nurtured by the Mediterranean climate, yields a wealth of fresh produce.

What we love most about Croatian food is its high quality, wide variety, regional specificity, relatively small production, and the possibility of purchasing food directly from the producers.

Therefore, we always select the finest produce, including Istrian truffles and olive oil, marinated seafood delicacies from Dalmatia, Lika’s potatoes, the exquisite Ston salt, Neretva mandarins, and strawberries from Vrgorac. These are just a few examples of the many delicious offerings available.

Croatian Dining Customs

Croatians traditionally have three meals a day, with lunch being the most important one.

However, with changing lifestyles and work patterns, the concept has evolved, especially for those who work from 9 to 5 and cannot go home for lunch on weekdays.

Nonetheless, lunches are still considered a significant family event on weekends and are highly valued.

When we visit my in-laws, our eating habits follow this exact routine. Breakfast is invariably light, often just a cup of coffee or a slice of bread with butter, jam, or honey.

The main meal of the day is always at 1 p.m. and is a family affair where we eat together, ensuring the table is meticulously set, and indulge in a variety of dishes.

Dinner, served around 7 p.m., is a more casual affair, usually comprising leftovers from lunch or a simple sandwich. Sometimes, we all eat dinner together, while at other times, everyone eats as they please.

What is a typical Croatian breakfast?

A recent survey conducted by the JA Trgovac portal and Hendal agency showed that 80% of Croatians eat some kind of breakfast. According to the survey, 51% of Croatians maintain a regular breakfast routine, while 17% of Croatians seldom eat breakfast.

Traditional options like bread with spread and pastries are the most preferred breakfast choices (47%), followed by cereals (22%), eggs, and meat products (22%), and fruit (9%).

Coffee is the favorite morning beverage (54%), while milk (14%), tea (17%), yogurt (9%), and fresh fruit juices (6%) are less common.

What time are breakfast, lunch, and dinner in Croatia?

Breakfast in Croatia is typically served between 8 am and 10 am.

Lunch in Croatia is around 1 pm.

Dinner in Croatia is usually around 7 pm.

Restaurants Working Hours

When visiting Croatia, one of the many pleasures is the accommodating restaurant hours that cater to locals and tourists alike.

Most restaurants open their doors at noon and welcome guests until 11 pm, ensuring continuous service throughout the day.

This is in contrast to countries like Spain, Italy, or France, where restaurants typically operate on a two-shift system. In these countries, one must adhere to predetermined lunch and dinner slots, planning their day around these windows if they want to eat out.

In Croatia, the flexibility of being able to walk into a restaurant almost any time of the day and enjoy a meal is not only liberating but also showcases the country’s laid-back, hospitable culture.

This approach to dining ensures that whether one craves a 3 p.m. lunch, an early dinner or a late-night feast, the vibrant Croatian culinary scene is always ready to oblige.

Croatian cookbooks in English

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 “The Essential Guide to Croatian Food: 21 Traditional Dishes Not To Miss in Croatia”

  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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