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The Best Traditional Croatian Food You Must Try

Have you tried Croatia food? Rich in flavor and fresh on ingredients, Croatian food is a tasty mix of Balkan staples and Mediterranean flavors. There are many Croatian national dishes beloved throughout the country, as well as regional favorites, such as seafood delicacies along the extensive Croatian coastline, truffles, and olive oil in the forests of the northwest, and in hearty meat-and-cheese-focused plates in inland continental Croatia too.

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Traditional Croatian Food

Think of Croatian food and you’ll conjure ingredients such as sea salt, olive oil, cured meats such as prosciutto, light seafood (Croatia’s coast has a reputation for “Mediterranean sashimi” with raw “sea-to-plate” seafood drizzled in olive oil), tender meat and power-packed truffles – some of the world’s highest concentrations of truffles can be found in Istria’s Motovun forests.

Here is a selection of Croatian food to try during your trip, including national foods, Dalmatian cuisine, Zagreb cuisine, Istrian cuisine, Slavonian cuisine, sweets, and desserts, plus traditional drinks to enjoy alongside your Croatian meal.

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Croatian Food – National Dishes

Skradinski Rizot (Veal Risotto)

This slow-cooked risotto takes seven to 12 hours to prepare and must constantly be stirred, meaning a team of people are in charge of cooking this one dish. The finished texture is creamy and flavor-packed due to lashings of Croatia’s famous Paski sir (Pag cheese), with the veal completely dissolved into the rice. 

What is Croatian Peka (Baked Meat, Seafood and Vegetables)

Peka also goes by the name Ispod Cripnje, which means “under the bell” – a reference to how it is made. Meat or fish, plus vegetables and potatoes, are drizzled in oil and spices, then covered with a bell-like terracotta or iron lid and placed to cook in a fire, covered by burning embers.

Crni Rizot (Black Risotto)

One of the most popular Croatian seafood dishes, crni rizot is squid ink risotto, though cuttlefish, clams and mussels are often added as well, along with healthy doses of red wine, olive oil and garlic. The flavor is intense and keep in mind that the squid ink will turn your teeth black!

Clam, Mussel, Scampi, or Shrimp Na Buzaru (Seafood Stew)

Popular along the Croatian coast, this buzara (stew) dish is similar to the French dish moule mariniere, and includes shellfish cooked in a white wine and garlic sauce, though tomato and breadcrumbs are sometimes added too. Traditionally, it should be eaten with hands.

Salata od Hobotnice (Octopus Salad)

Found up and down Croatia’s coastline, a typical octopus salad includes chopped, fresh octopus (which are plentiful in the Adriatic Sea), potatoes, tomatoes, onion, parsley, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, vinegar and a squeeze of lemon – ideal for a light summer lunch.

Brudet (Fisherman’s Stew)

A classic coastal dish, brudet (often called brodeto after its Italian counterpart) includes catch of the day, which can be several different types of fish, including shellfish and crustaceans. The stew is cooked over an open fire with onions, tomatoes, vinegar (which used to preserve the dish for a couple of days for fishermen on the job), spices and chili peppers, which is then served with polenta.

Saran u Rasljama (Slow-Grilled Carp)

As the name suggests, this dish takes at least a couple of hours to cook. A large carp (weighing up to two kilograms) is covered in salt and paprika, then grilled over a wood-burning fire for an extra-smoky flavor.

Punjene Paprike (Stuffed Peppers)

Most popular during the hot summer months, punjene paprika consists of bell peppers stuffed with minced meat, rice, tomato, and spices, served with mashed potato. Other, similar, dishes include sarma (stuffed sauerkraut) and sinjski arambrasici (meat-stuffed cabbage rolls with finely chopped veal and cured meats).  This would pair perfectly with some Plavac Mali wine from Testament Winery.

Pasta Fazol (Pasta and Bean Soup)

This hearty winter soup is a Croatian household favorite during the cooler months and can be found at traditional restaurants too. Ingredients include pancetta, sausage, pasta (usually shells), garlic, carrots and onion.

Burek (Meat Pastry)

Burek is a type of meat pie made using layered flakey pastry available at bakeries all over Croatia and makes for a great snack. The filling is usually beef minced meat, but other common fillings include potato, cheese, spinach, pumpkin, and apple.  The cheese burek would pair perfectly with Posip wine from Saint Hills Winery.

Puh (Dormouse)

Although you may cringe at the idea, dormouse is a common delicacy and worth a mention on this list if you want to be adventurous and eat as the locals do. It can be cooked many different ways: in a stew, grilled, or simply fried.

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Traditional Croatian Cuisine

Dalmatian Cuisine – Croatian Food

Gregada (Fish and Potato Stew)

Most popular on the Dalmatian islands, gregada is comprised of fish (usually a bottom-dweller or rockfish, such as an eel or a grouper), white wine, onion, garlic, capers, anchovies, potatoes, and parsley.

Pasticada Njoki (Beef Stew with Gnocchi) 

Beef is marinated for days in vinegar, then braised in its own juices before red wine is added, making the meat rich and tasty. The sauce is delicious and you can lap it up with plenty of fluffy gnocchi. 

Vitalac (Meat Skewers)

Not one for those with a sensitive stomach, Vitalac is common on the island of Brac. The skewers usually include lamb or kid entrails wrapped in fat, then spit-roasted. The meat is then served with bread and green onions.

Oysters (Ston)

Croatia’s rich Adriatic Sea is full of (tasty) marine life, including oysters. One of the best places to enjoy oysters is in the town of Ston, where there are a number of small oyster farms and seafront restaurants serving them fresh.

Miscana (Peasant’s Soup)

This traditional Croatian meal was once the meal of peasants, so it’s usually cheap and makes use of local ingredients, especially those that grow in the wild, combined together to make a soup. Typical miscana includes garlic, collard greens, onion, spinach and fennel.

Rastika (Collard Greens Stew)

Collard greens are found all around Croatia, are usually grown and eaten in the winter, and they’re a great source of iron. Rastika is usually prepared with cured meat, garlic, pepper and olive oil.

Viska Pogaca (Bread with Sardines)

Hailing from the island of Vis, viska pogaca is a bread made using olive oil and has a filling of salty sardines and onions, cut into squares and served as a snack. Another version is komiska pogaca, which also adds tomatoes, and is cut into triangles.

Soparnik (Swiss Chard pie)

This flat and vegetarian pie is most common in central Dalmatia and holds the title of “intangible cultural heritage” from the Croatian Ministry of Culture. Ingredients include swiss chard, garlic and parsley. This is then baked on a hot stone in a komin (fireplace).

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Croatian Food

Zagreb Cuisine – Croatian Food

Purica s Mlincima (Roast Turkey with Mlinci)

Originating from the region of Zagorje, just north of Zagreb, this poultry dish includes roasted turkey served in its own juices, along with mlinci. Mlinci is a dry, thin flatbread and in this dish, it’s is broken up and mixed in with the sauce, which softens the bread as it soaks up the delicious juice.

Kotlovina (Pork & Chicken Cooked Outside)

This northern Croatian dish includes pork meat cuts and chicken breasts with vegetables, fried together in a big metal dish, then slow-cooked over an open fire in a special cauldron outside.

Zagrebacki Odrezak (Zagreb Schnitzel)

Borrowing from the famous Vienna specialty, Zagrebacki odrezak consists of a stuffed veal escalope (sometimes substituted with pork or turkey) filled with cheese and ham, which is covered in breadcrumbs and fried. 

Strukli (Cheese Pastry)

Originally from Slovenia, this pastry is filled with cottage cheese and sour cream. It can be boiled or baked and is usually served plain, though you may see variations with fruit or fragrant truffles.

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Istrian Cuisine – Croatian Food

Boskarin (Istrian Oxen)

The meat of Istria’s grey-haired, long-horned oxen can be found at high-class restaurants and taverns around the region. Boskarin can be served in a variety of ways, including rare as carpaccio, salami or steak, soup (a variant of oxtail soup), or with pasta.

Istarski Fuzi (Quill-Shaped Pasta)

Fuzi is a type of pasta typical of the Istrian region; the shape is a 5cm by 5cm square with two opposite corners pulled together over a wooden spoon, which creates a quill-like shape. You’ll see variations of fuzi in meat and mushroom stews or served with lashings of white truffles and cream.

Manestra (Bean Soup)

This slow-cooked soup stews for hours on a low heat with ingredients such as cured meats, pancetta, garlic and parsley. There are many variations depending on additional ingredients chosen.

Fritaja (Fritata)

A simple and tasty dish popular in Istria, this take on scrambled eggs includes ingredients such as asparagus, mushrooms, sausage, prosciutto and truffles, depending on what can sourced locally.

Slavonian Cuisine – Croatian Food

Cobanac (Spicy Meat Stew)

Slow-cooked over a high heat, this stew usually contains several different meats or cuts of meats, such as pork, veal and lamb, plus potatoes, onions, carrots and other veggies, topped with a generous helping of paprika. Cobanac was originally made by shepherds, with the idea that a hearty meal would keep them going in the fields all day long.

Fis Paprikas (Spicy Fish Stew)

Similar to cobanac, this stew is cooked over a fire in a cauldron, but is made with freshwater fish, pertaining to Croatia’s inland region of Slavonia. Types of fish found in this region include carp, catfish and pike. 

Kulen (Salami)

Croatia is well known for its delicious salami and charcuterie, and one of the best examples is Slavonia’s kulen. This sausage is made using pork cuts (typically thigh, back, shoulder, neck and belly fat), paprika and other spices, plus garlic. The meat is packed and then smoked and air-dried for months. 

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Croatian Foods – Fritule

Croatian Desserts & Sweets – Croatian Food

Rozata (Custard Pudding)

A Dubrovnik specialty, rozata is a creamy custard pudding dripping in syrup – the perfect dessert for those with an indulgent sweet tooth.

Fritule (Donut Balls)

One of the most common sweets in Croatia, particularly along the coast, is fritule. These donut-like balls are comprised of flour, egg yolks, raisins, rakija (see below) or rum and lemon or orange zest, then the dough is deep-fried. You can enjoy fritule all year, but this dessert is particularly popular in Croatia during the festive period.

Krostule (Powdered Pastry)

Simple but addictive, krostule is a traditional pastry of coastal Croatia and consists of long strips of dough tied into a knot, deep-fried and dusted with powdered sugar.

Arancini (Candied Orange Peel)

Not to be confused with the Italian arancini (deep-fried risotto balls), this arancini refers to candied orange peel, although there are variants made using lemon and grapefruit peels as well. The orange peel is cut into long strips, left in water for a week, boiled with sugar, then rolled in more sugar.

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Croatian Wine

Croatian Wine, Spirits & Drinks

Of course, with all that food, you’re going to need something to wash it down with. 

Croatian Wines

While you’re visiting Croatia, be sure to sample some Croatian wines, particularly from the Istria region. Three favorites include:

  • Malvazija – a white wine with apricot and apple notes, a perfect accompaniment for seafood.
  • Teran – a red wine best paired with meat dishes.
  • Prosek – a very sweet dessert wine from the Dalmatia region made using dried grapes.

Rakija

Rakija is Croatia’s answer to schnapps or grappa and is essentially a brandy-type liquor made from grapes, though other varieties are made by combining grapes with other fruits and botanicals, such as honey, herbs and nuts. It’s usual to enjoy a glass of rakija as a digestif and/or aperitif, and the offering of a glass of rakija is a sign of hospitality.

Maraschino

Another brandy drink typical of Croatia is Maraschino – a name you may recognize for its prime ingredient, cherries. Marasca cherries are grown in Zadar and the drink has a long history, as the cherry brandy was first made by Dominican monks during the 16th century.

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Croatian Food – palacinke

More Croatian Food

Hopefully, this guide to Croatian food has given you some ideas for what to eat during your trip to Croatia and hasn’t made you too hungry during your research! If you have any additional suggestions or recommendations for Croatian dishes not included here, or you have any questions about the dishes listed above, then don’t hesitate to leave a comment below. And enjoy your trip to Croatia!

Interested in trying some Croatian cuisine then try these Croatian food recipes:

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