41 Must-Try Croatian Foods (With Recipes From Croatia) (2024)

41 Must-Try Croatian Foods (With Recipes From Croatia) (1)

Written by our local expert Mate

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

People often ask us: what is traditional Croatian food? I have all that and more in this guide. I know all about food in Croatia; after all, I have been living in Croatia for a decade – and I am from a Croatian-Australian family. Keep reading if you want to try the best of the local Croatian cuisine.

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Many blog readers ask about learning Croatian recipes, so we have those here, too, if you’re keen to start cooking authentic Croatian food.

Food from Croatia has many influences. Mainly from the Italians, Turkish, and Hungarians, plus a few others, this influence on food over the generations has shaped the types of Croatian food you’ll see and taste today.

Two of the most well-known Croatian foods are high-quality extra virgin olive oils from Istria and fig spreads/jams made from fresh figs from the Dalmatian Coast, which are available here.

Other well-known local Croatian traditional foods you should try on your adventures include Mljet lobster, Ston oysters, Kvarner scampi, Istrian truffles, veal and pork from Slavonia, turkey from Zagorje and Istria, Pag cheese, and the Lika cheese škripavac, delicious Palacinke pancakes, extra virgin olive oil, and pumpkin seed oil, and of course the wines.

We’re going to divide traditional Croatian food into a few categories below. There are sub-categories within these, but this makes it easy for you to know what Croatian dishes to try on your travels and where to find them.

Will you be sunning yourself on the coast? Then you’ll be eating coastal Croatia food – some of the best Croatian food.

But if you’ll be heading inland, you’ll be served continental Croatian cuisine. That’s not to say you won’t get the other in each area, though. The cuisine between these two regions is distinctly different. It just won’t be as easy to find.

Here is a snapshot of traditional Croatian food from both coastal Croatia and continental Croatia. Once you’ve finished reading this, you’ll never ask again, “What is typical Croatian food?”…

But before you go to our guide, here is a short list of gastronomic guided tours in Croatia:

Skip Ahead To My Advice Here!

My Kids’ Favorite Croatian Food

1. Croatian Kremšnite Recipe (Croatian Custard Slice)

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Crispy pastry and custard. My kids love this. Kremšnite is also known as krempite – which is a mix of crispy pastry and a wobbly type of custard. They have been known to eat way too big a serving of this sweet treat. Regularly. This type of custard dessert is popular in Croatian cooking andin many other European countries. Within Croatia, the regionalrecipe variations aremany. However, two things stay the same. They all include a puff pastry base with custard inside.

Find out how to make Kremšnite here.

Croatian Food: Coastal Croatia

The coast of Croatia consists of three regions: Istria, Kvarner, and Dalmatia. They all have versions of these traditional Croatian dishes, so try them as you explore Croatia.

2. Peka

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If there were a list of the most famous Croatian food, peka (also called Cripnja, depending on where you live) would unquestionably be on that list.

Peka is, however, not a food but a cooking method.

The peka is a dome or bell-shaped terracotta or steel lid that you heat by burning wood below it. Once heated, you place the food you wish to cook in a round-shaped tray underneath the peka and put embers on top of the peka itself, which then cooks your food.

What do you put inside?

Well, you can cook any meat or fish using the peka. Just remember that you always need to have potatoes, and I’d go so far as to say that the potatoes are the star of the dish. The potatoes suck up all the juices from the meat or fish and are so delicious you can’t stop eating them. Recently, we prepared an octopus, which was terrific.

This is Croatian cooking at its best. Such a simple dish, yet so delicious. Don’t forget to wash it down with a glass of Croatian wine!

Try peka for yourself at home with this how-to guide + recipe.

There is even a peka for vegetarians here.

3. Skradinski Rizot – Skradin Risotto

Anthony Bourdain showed the world this epic risotto when he filmed “No Reservations” in coastal Croatia a few years back, making the Skradinski Rizot a famous Croatian food!

This risotto is something special. Far from your regular risotto, it takes anywhere from 7 to 12 hours to cook. Yes, that’s right; it takes half a day and requires a team of men to share the cooking duties.

There is no strict recipe, but it’s essentially a veal-based risotto, with other meats and istrian ham (Croatian prosciutto) and a beef or rooster stock.

Once the Skradinski Rizot is done, the meal is finished with lots of Paski sir – cheese from Pag Island, which gives it that extra flavor.

Given the enormous effort that goes into cooking Skradin Risotto, you can appreciate that if you are going to make it, you should make tonnes of the stuff!

4. Brodet

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I absolutely love this classic Dalmatian food, and you will, too! Brodet or brudet, depending on where you’re from, is a Croatian seafood stew typically served with creamy polenta. It’s rich and has a great depth of flavor due to the mixture of all types of seafood used in the dish.

Ideally, you should use a minimum of three types of fish, any shellfish you like, and I also like to throw in a few crustaceans. This Croatian dish is served in homes up and down the coast and in the best restaurants, proving that it’s one of the best Croatian foods.

Learn how to make brodet just like we do here.

5. Pašticada

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Pašticada is the holy grail of Dalmatian Croatian cooking.

This stewed beef dish in Dalmatia is prepared with a fabulous sauce. You may know it as Dalmatinska pašticada, Dalmatian pot roast, or even just as a beef stew. Whatever you know, this Croatian dish as it requires long and meticulous preparation. An excellent Croatian wine to go with this is plavac mali.

We scored you a Pašticada recipe from a Croatian chef.

6. Soparnik

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A flat vegetarian pie from Poljica in Dalmatia.

Soparnik is filled with swiss chard, garlic, and parsley and baked in a komin (a type of fireplace). Fire is created in the komin, and when ready, the fire and embers are pushed aside, allowing the soparnik to be cooked on the hot stone where the fire once was. Also, some hot ash and embers are placed on top of the Soparnik. This is a unique food from Croatia, which is well worth trying. Kids will especially love it.

7. Rafioli

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A typical coastal Croatian food, rafioli, is found all along the coast, from Istria to Dalmatia. Numerous varieties are known by their local name, including dalmatinski, trogirski, makarski, and sinjski rafioli. They are a staple at events like baptisms, birthday parties, and weddings. The fun thing about rafioli is that you can experiment and try out new ingredients—basically, every Croatian family has its own rafioli recipe.

Rafioli is a simple Croatian shortbread cookie traditionally filled with an almond filling. Modern versions can have different fillings, ranging from chocolate and cream to citrus and vanilla. The basics, however, are always the same.

8. Crni Rizot – Black Squid Ink Risotto

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This dish has an intense seafood flavor. Croatian seafood is abundant, so one can always find fresh squid or cuttlefish for this traditional dish. Fresh seafood is integral to coastal Croatian cuisine, and you’ll find it dominates many restaurant menus.

This black, slightly intimidating-looking dish can be found all over Croatia, but it traditionally comes from Croatia’s coastal areas.

In my opinion, nobody prepares crni rižot better than your typical Dalmatian Konoba (small family-run restaurant). They always taste so damn good. Second on the list is my mother. Although squid risotto isn’t so black, it’s still absolutely delicious.

This black risotto recipe is fantastic.

9. Bakalar

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As it’s known in Croatian, a salted cod delicacy, Bakalar, is the must-eat traditional dish in our family for Christmas Eve or during the Christmas season.

Eaten across Croatia and in many parts of South America and Europe, the standard cod recipe can be adapted according to your taste. Add more garlic if you like, or change the ratio of bakalar to potatoes to suit your family.

Try our bakalar – cod recipe this Christmas with your family.

10. Sinjski Arambaši

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The cultural significance of this beautiful Croatian dish is undeniable. This famous dish from Sinj is on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list, making this a must-try food when visiting the Dalmatian hinterland.

Sinjski arambaši originated in Turkey, but like so many of the other best Croatian dishes, it has evolved into its own variety over time. A Croatian version of sarma, it resembles its culinary ancestor only slightly. These tasty cabbage rolls are filled with chopped beef and pork, smoked bacon, parsley, red onions, garlic, cloves, cinnamon, and a touch of nutmeg and boiled in water for a couple of hours.

Learn how to make them here.

11. Viška Pogača

A culinary classic on the island of Vis, viška pogača is a traditional stuffed bread pie that dates back at least 2,000 years. Similar to focaccia, pogača from Vis is baked bread filled with anchovies or other salty fish, onions, and, sometimes, tomatoes.

It almost looks like a regular round pie, eaten as slices, but it is definitely the bread and has a layer of hearty filling. This is arguably one of the oldest surviving dishes in Croatia.

12. Grilled Fish

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Seafood is a popular traditional Croatian food, which gets its excellence thanks to the Adriatic Coast being so clean, which means the fish are healthy and delicious. You would be hard-pressed to find a Croatian from Dalmatia, Istria, or Kvarner that does not like grilled fish.

This is typical Croatian cuisine, whether it be sardines, sea bream, sea bass, or scorpionfish. It is cooked only on a grill with salt, pepper, and olive oil.

13. Grilled Sardines

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We live in Dalmatia, and Sardines is typical Croatian food to me. We eat them at least weekly in the summer! These delightful little fish need nothing more than a little olive oil and salt for a few minutes on the grill, and the fillets peel straight off the bone.

All you need to grill Sardines is to make a fire, wait till it dies down till you are left with embers, throw the grill on, and then the Sardines. It’s that simple. They are one of the best finger foods as you pinch the fillet, and it peels right off the bone. Don’t forget to wash these down with a glass of wine from Croatia.

14. Fuži

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In Istria, you will find fuži {fooh-shee}, a type of pasta that, at a cursory glance, appears to be penne pasta. It’s not, though. Look closer, and you’ll see the difference.

When these hand-rolled pieces of pasta are served with the local specialty of white truffles, you think you’ve died and gone to foodie heaven. Matched with an Istrian white wine, fuži is the must-try dish in Istria, especially with some white truffle shaved over your Fuzi.

15. Octopus Salad

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As the name suggests, this is a salad with octopus. Often served with potatoes, tomatoes, onions, and a little parsley, all chopped up super-small.

The freshest octopus makes the best salad, and the Adriatic waters are rich with this tentacled creature! The octopus is chopped up small and tossed in olive oil, garlic, salt, lemon, pepper, vinegar, and salad. Light, delicious, and fresh, this dish is perfect for summer when the sun beats down.

16. Edible Dormouse

Yes, it is what the name would suggest; it’s a type of mouse. And it is considered a delicacy on the islands of Hvar and Brač. If you spend some time on these islands, it’s worth trying! The dormouse is cooked on the grill, seasoned with salt, and cooked in olive oil before being served between two slices of bread.

17. Pašta Fažol

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You will find this hearty and delicious pasta and bean soup everywhere (including in my kitchen).

A real mixture of ingredients, the soup/stew usually contains pancetta, sausage, potato, garlic, carrots, onion, and pasta shells. There may also be a few other regional tweaks and differences from household to household.

You will find this on the menu in most traditional households during winter and at many authentic restaurants.

18. Rožata

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Hailing from Dubrovnik, this is one of my favorite desserts. Rozata is a pudding made of custard, but it’s super-creamy and usually surrounded by syrup. Made in a small bowl, the pudding is tipped upside down to serve and surrounded by the syrupy goodness we just mentioned.

If you have a sweet tooth, Rozata is the dish for you.

19. Pjukanci

Istria was once a part of Italy—you can still see street signs in Italian and Croatian—and this heritage continues to shine through in the regional cuisine. Take pjukanci, for example, a traditional Istrian pasta that shares a common history with Italian kinds of pasta.

Also known as makaruni, you make this pasta by rolling the dough between the palms of your hands until you get a string of pasta. Ideally, for real pjukanci, the strings should be thicker in the middle and thin at both ends. The dough is nothing more than flour, salt, hot water, and a sprinkle of oil. Istrian pjukanci is phenomenal with meat sauces or fresh seafood.

20. Neretvanska Mandarina

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Although this is not an authentic Croatian dish or recipe, it is a classic, traditional Croatian food or ingredient from the southern Croatian coast. Neretvanska Mandarina—mandarins from Neretva—are aromatic and sweet citrus fruit grown and produced only the Croatia’s Neretva River Valley in southDalmatia.

Easily peeled and segmented, these sweet fruits are hugely popular throughout Croatia. Nowadays, the Neretva mandarin farms are a tourist destination, too. The mandarin harvest takes place from September through November and allows visitors to participate.

21. Kroštule

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An incredibly popular dessert or sweet treat in coastal Croatia, kroštule are a type of sweet pastry knots. They are especially popular between Christmas and Easter, particularly around Carnival.

Originating from the coastal regions of Dalmatia and Istria, this crunchy deep-fried dessert is super-easy to make. The dough consists of little more than flour, sugar, egg yolks, milk, and oil. Powdered sugar is sprinkled on top to give them an even more festive look. Additionally, flavorings can include lemon zest, orange liqueur, or limoncello.

Check out our kroštule recipe here!

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More Traditional Coastal Food Options

  • Sardines
  • Pag Island cheese (Paški Sir)
  • Maraschino liqueur
  • Mišni sir
  • Žižula
  • Skradin cake
  • Luganige (sausages)
  • Arancini (sugar-coated orange, grapefruit, and lemon peel)
  • Rab cake
  • Chesnuts
  • Šurlice
  • Lika potatoes
  • Basa
  • Škripavac cheese

Croatian Food: Continental Croatia

Venturing away from the Adriatic Sea, what traditional Croatian cuisine will you be served over the Velebit in Zagreb and a Slavonian town like Osijek? Let’s see below.

22. Punjene Paprike – Stuffed Peppers

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Stuffed peppers are a hearty dish of mincemeat and rice. You will find punjena paprika typically served with mashed potato. You’ll find most countries have their version of stuffed peppers. However, I think the Croatian stuffed peppers are the best (of course!). You’ll find stuffed peppers on offer in Croatia as soon as the peppers are in season.

Every Croatian I know has their variation of this recipe, and they all claim that their way is the best way to make them.

Take this stuffed pepper recipe and serve your whole family for days.

23. Štrukli

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Zagorski štrukli is a popular traditional Croatian dish served in households across Hrvatsko Zagorje and Zagreb regions. It consists of dough and various types of filling, which can be either cooked or baked. Our favorite is cheese štrukli!

Here are two kinds you can make at home.

24. Cobanac

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This hearty meat stew is traditionally cooked in a cauldron hung over an open fire. Cobanac will keep you going all day long, as it did Slavonian shepherds for many generations. Not only will it sustain you all day, but the best part is that it’s super delicious.

And, of course, the essential ingredient of Slavonian cuisine is PAPRIKA! This traditional dish is typically prepared with three types of meat: beef, pork, and anything you like (I like throwing a little wild game in). After that, people tend to put whatever they like in their stew, from potatoes and onions to pancetta, carrots, and various herbs. You can find this everywhere in Slavonia, and you must try it.

Here is how to make it at your home.

25. Šaran U Rašljama

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Carp cooked on a wooden fork/stick on an open fire. Simple and tasty is šaran u rašljama! Sea salt, red ground sweet paprika, and hot paprika are added, then cooked for about 2 hours. Each carp weighs about 1.5 kg to 2 kg.

I tried my best to speak with the chef (who spoke no English), and as I understood, you turn them just once, about halfway. They take two hours to cook thoroughly, no more, or they become dry. The fire must be made using wood to achieve the desirable smokey flavor. He also told me that there is no garlic or oil added. This seemed weird to me, as they are the main two ingredients for fish in Dalmatia, where I live.

26. Turkey With Mlinci

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Well, I am sure you know what roast turkey is. But I guess that those of you who are not Croatian would not have heard of mlinci, am I right? Mlinci is a thin, dry flatbread broken up into pieces and mixed with the roasting juices from a roast turkey. The juices make the mlinci soft and somewhat like noodles. They suck up allthose delicious juices and carry a turkey flavor.

Sadly, they do not look very appetizing but don’t let that stop you from eating them. Just don’t be like Mrs. Chasing the Donkey, who always eats too many and forgets how quickly they fill her up, and she can’t finish the turkey.

27. Fish Paprikaš

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A spicy fish stew, paprikaš, is made with freshwater fish, which, like cobanac, is cooked in a fire.

Typically, a mix of freshwater fish is used, including carp, catfish, pike, and Slavonia’s staple, paprika. I love the look of the cauldron because it reminds me of how one may have cooked hundreds of years ago before kitchens.

Here is how to make fish paprikaš.

28. Perkelt-od-soma

A typical dish from continental Croatia, particularly Baranja and Slavonia, perkelt od soma is a delicious stew originally from Hungaria. This is essentially Croatia’s version of Hungarian pörkölt. When visiting inland Croatia, you’ll often see perkelt-od-soma on local restaurants’ menus, besides other staples like fish paprikas and čobanac.

This hearty and spicy stew combines catfish, bacon, garlic, onions, and paprika. After sitting on the stovetop for a while, allowing the flavors to mix, it is usually served with cheese-and-bacon noodles.

29. Sarma

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These little cabbage rolls are something you can find in many continental European countries, including Poland. All Croatians, however, will tell you that their sarma recipe is the best! That said, don’t be afraid to try these beautiful rolls throughout the Balkans.

Over the years, Mrs. Chasing the Donkey has honed her sarma-making skills and is good at preparing the smelly little rolls – for an Aussie, that is. Why are they smelly? I hear you ask. It’s because the cabbage leaves, in which you roll the meat, are pickled. If you have never tried these, give them a whirl. Don’t let the smell put you off.

Make a big batch of sarma like this and eat it for two days.

30. Salami – Kulen

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There is a long Croatian tradition of making salami and charcuterie. Slavonia’s finest salami is Kulen, which consists of various pork cuts, including the thigh, back, shoulder, and neck, and, of course, the most essential part, belly fat.

It’s then seasoned with spices, paprika, and garlic and packed into the pig’s caecum (a pouch that connects the small and large intestines). Once loaded, the salami is cold-smoked and air-dried for five to nine months, depending on its size.

Other noteworthy Croatian salami is a spicy pork salami from Turoplje, Svargl from Slavonia, and Samobor salami, which even holds an annual Salami Festival.

Kulen and kulenova Seka from Slavonia are sausage-type products and only a few indigenous Croatian products that enjoy EU protection. Only the best pork meat—there are age and weight guidelines for the pig—is used to make Kulen. All fat and connective tissues are removed, after which paprika, salt, and garlic are added. The Kulen-maker, a respected profession that even has grandmasters, then stuffs the mixture into a cleaned blind gut of a pig.

Kulenova Seka is a paprika-flavored and dried sausage very similar to Kulen. The only difference is that the Kulen mixture is stuffed into a smaller intestine, creating a slightly smaller sausage. If you’re not a vegan or vegetarian, you must try this most authentic of Slavonia foods. I swear I ate like 2 kg of it that week.

The best Kulen products are made using the black Slavonian pig. These pigs were raised by crossbreeding several pig breeds starting in the 1860s in the area around Osijek.

The breed is a meaty, high-fat pig with a solid structure, black in color, and exceptionally resilient. In the first decades of the 20th century, this breed rapidly expanded throughout eastern Slavonia until World War II. Now, these pigs are getting rarer, though. It is said that only a few hundred pigs remain due to introducing of new, more productive crossbreed pigs that are better adapted to industrial-style farming.

31. Deer Stew

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In Slavonia, you can enjoy deer stew. I first tried it in the Virovitca area, and I knew it had that ‘game’ flavor as soon as I tasted it. People at my table said it was a pig, but there was no way, not with such an intense flavor.

Of course, if you do not like that ‘gamy’ flavor, you should avoid it, but it is often served with gnocchi, which is perfect for soxaking up that brown sauce.

32. Čvarci

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Čvarci (pork rinds) are served along with Kulen and various kinds of cheese on a platter. Yummy! It’s fried skin from a pig. It may not sound appealing, but these fried or roasted snacks are like crisps. And, just like crisps, I found them highly addictive!

33. Zagorska Juha – Zagorje Soup

Zagorje soup is a hearty soup with porcini mushrooms, carrots, potatoes, bacon, onions with spices, and sour cream. It is a specialty of the Zagorje region and is claimed to be an excellent hangover cure.

34. Klipići

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Klipići is a savory roll made in the continental part of Croatia, mainly in Zagorje, Podravina, Međimurje, and Slavonia.

These rolls can also be filled with various fillings and poppy seeds. They are little crescent-shaped pastries, and as with almost every food in Croatia, there are many different regional versions of this dish. As such, it is known by several other names.

Try this recipe from a Croatian blogger who swiped the recipe from her Grandma.

35. Krvavice Aka Čurke

Look away now if you’re not a fan of food made with offal products!

Krvavice is basically a blood sausage. This means pork blood and a filler, usually barley, cornflour, or buckwheat, containing various pig parts. That’s not giving it the most positive write-up, but it is very popular and surprisingly delicious. I promise!

This sausage is usually eaten during the winter because it is hearty and warming and is often served with sauerkraut, potatoes, and onions.

36. Salenjaci

Also known as “Croatian croissants with character,” salenjaci are a sweet dessert from Slavonia. What distinguishes this one from other continental Croatian desserts is the use of pork leaf lard. The highest grade of lard, leaf lard, has a minimum pork flavor, making it perfect for baked goods. It produces impressive flaky, moist pie crusts.

Traditionally, salenjaci were made in wintertime in Slavonia, during the slaughter season, when an abundance of pork lard was available. Salenjaci are layered pastry wraps with a hearty filling of homemade jams and/or ground walnuts. They may also have a dusting of icing sugar on top. We will tell you exactly how to make salenjaci at home here.

37. Orahnjača

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This is a yeast bread filled with walnuts. It is neatly rolled to form a delicate swirl inside the cake. It was often served at Christmas time and just great on a Sunday afternoon with a cup of tea. Definitely a delicious traditional Croatian food for any time of the day!

This is an easy walnut roll Orahnjača recipe version.

More Continental Croatian Food Options

  • Paprenjaci (Pepper Biscuits)

38. Zagrebački Odrezak – Zagreb Schnitzel

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This is a tasty dish you’ll find everywhere in Croatia, but mainly in the Zagreb region, hence the name! A meaty dish that is very filling and great for the winter months is a veal schnitzel, rolled and filled with melted cheese and ham. The outside is crunchy, and it is most commonly served with potatoes in some guise, and a little salad, of course.

You can make this for tea tonight with this recipe.

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Super Popular Croatian Food

39. Roasted Whole Pig Or Lamb

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You might think this looks like something from medieval times. And, well, maybe it once was, but you will see a whole pig or lamb roasted on an open fire (known as a spit roast) quite a bit as you road trip across Croatia. This traditional Croatian food is so special in how tender the meat is once it lands on your plate. If you are on Pag Island, be sure to try the lamb. The island is famous for its lamb dishes.

40. Cevapcici

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It doesn’t matter where you go in the Balkans; you will find cevapcici anywhere. These are tasty sausages, minus skins, and are usually made of both beef and pork combination, along with seasoning to make them super-delicious. You’ll find them served on a flatbread as a sandwich, usually with chopped onions and a pepper-containing relish with a bit of spicy kick known as ajvar.

Make cevapi like this at home.

Make the bread to match.

41. Burek

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You’ll find this pastry dish in various countries around the region, with similar-sounding names, but it is called burek in Croatia. This flaky pastry is layered and filled with different fillings, such as meat (usually beef mince), cheese, spinach, and sometimes potato or apple.

This is a very popular on-the-go snack, so you’ll find it everywhere across the country in bakeries. For those with a sweet tooth, try the apple-filled version with a cup of coffee for breakfast. Are you hungry now? I hope this list piqued your interest in traditional Croatian food. If you are planning on heading to Croatia, try them all. Okay, try as many as you can. These are just the tip of the iceberg regarding Croatian food.

Depending on where you travel, there will be dozens more traditional Croatian foods to sink your teeth into.

We have more ideas about Croatian food and recipes in English here.

So, now that you know what food to eat in Croatia, I bet your taste buds are tingling- right? So, what will be your first Croatian meal?


41 Must-Try Croatian Foods (With Recipes From Croatia) (2024)
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