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13 dishes to fall in love with Croatian food

Recently updated on April 30th, 2024 at 05:51 pm

Croatian food is some of the best in the Balkans. Fresh seafood, hearty stews, grilled meats and sweet pastries… you’ll need to bring your appetite to this delicious country! We’ve put together a Croatian food guide with 13 of the best Croatian dishes, so you don’t miss a thing. Dobar tek!

1. Ćevapi

ćevapčići pork and beef sausages croatian food

Hit the pavement to find ćevapi, the ultimate Croatian street food. Ćevapi (or ćevapčići) are small sausages made from pork and beef, then stuffed into pita-like bread and topped with red pepper, tomato sauce (ajvar), onions and sour cheese.

Most streets stalls sell them and they make for an excellent late-night snack… but we love them any time of the day. To find the best ćevapi, always look for the shops or stands that have a crowd.

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2. Pag cheese & Croatian cured ham

blocks of Croatian Pag cheese
Image credit: Isiwal / Wikimedia Commons

Pag cheese is one of Croatia’s most famous foods and a protected item. It’s from the island of Pag in the Adriatic sea, where the wind blows sea salt onto the island and becomes infused with the island’s scrubby plants. The sheep climb the hills to eat the plants and produce milk with a unique flavour.

Pag cheese is best paired with thinly sliced pršut (cured ham like prosciutto) and black olives. Most restaurants across Croatia serve the dish as a beloved hors-d’oeuvre. Although it’s eaten as an appetiser, we could eat enough of it to be a main.

3. Octopus salad

octopus salad Croatian food

Found on menus in all traditional restaurants along the Dalmatian Coast, octopus salad is a seaside favourite. Some restaurants vary on the recipe, but the classic version comprises octopus, tomato, onion, olive oil, garlic, parsley, vinegar, lemon juice and salt and pepper. The octopus is tender, not chewy, and makes for a divine lunch or a side salad on a hot summer day.

4. Crni rižot (Black risotto)

Crni rižot black risotto Croatian food
Image credit: Zheng / Flickr

Crni rižot, or black risotto, is far tastier than it sounds or looks. It’s made from rice, squid, onion, garlic, red wine and olive oil, and gets its distinctive jet black colour and flavour from the squid ink.

It’s the kind of dish that will turn your teeth and tongue black, so maybe give this one a miss on a first date! You’ll find it in seafood restaurants across Croatia and it’s an absolute must-try Croatian food.

5. Punjene paprike (stuffed peppers)

punjene paprika stuffed peppers mashed potato

Punjene paprike, or stuffed peppers, are bell peppers stuffed with minced meat, rice and spices cooked with tomato sauce. You’ll find this mouthwatering concoction all over Croatia, with slight variations in the ingredients across the regions.

For example, in Slavonija you’ll likely find pork meat, while in Dalmatia, the meat will mostly contain beef. Wherever you go, your chef will usually serve the dish with a steaming pile of mashed potatoes. Finger-lickin’ good!

6. Sarma

sarma rolls Croatian food

Keeping with the Croatian tradition of stuffed foods, sarma is another popular stuffed dish. Sarma is a mix of minced meat, rice and spices wrapped in sauerkraut.

The dish has a Turkish origin and comes from a time when the Ottoman Empire lived on the Balkan Peninsula. Today, it’s a popular winter dish in Croatia, and you can find it in traditional restaurants across the country.

7. Shrimps na buzara

shrimps na buzara Croatian food

The name ‘shrimps na buzaru’ comes from the ‘buzaru’ method of cooking seafood that is widely used along the Croatian coastline. The chef flash fries fresh shrimps, mussels or clams in a frying pan, with variations of white wine, olive oil, garlic, parsley, and breadcrumbs.

Some chefs also use tomato paste for a pop of colour. This Croatian dish is best eaten with a hunk of fresh bread to mop up the sauce, and it’s simply delicious.

8. Ispod Peke

ispod peke croatian food
Image credit: when_night_falls / Flickr

Ispod peke, or ‘under the bell’, is a must-try dish when on the Dalmatian Coast in Croatia. It’s made with lamb, veal or octopus and vegetables set inside a dish with a dome-shaped lid (a peka), which is placed in an open fireplace with hot coals covering the lid.

It’s left to cook slowly in its juices until the meat is tender and it tastes as good as it sounds. For a traditional ispod peke, you need to order from the restaurant a day in advance, so they have time to cook this tasty meal to perfection.

9. Grilled fish

grilled fish swiss chard potato croatia
Image credit: Paulo O / Flickr

There’s no better place to eat fresh fish than by the Adriatic Sea. If you want to eat your fish the traditional Croatian way, head to a typical konoba (tavern), where you can choose from a platter of whole fish (like sea bass and sea bream).

Your fishmonger will weigh and price your fish, then grill and serve it with a wedge of lemon and a drizzle of olive oil. It sounds simple but the results are anything but standard. It’s best eaten with a side of blitva sa krumpirom (Swiss chard and potato) and a glass of Croatian wine.

10. Fuži with truffles

fuzi pasta with croatian truffles
Image credit: Andrew Nash / Flickr

Truffles are classic Croatian food and the oak woods of the Mirna Valley on the Istrian peninsula is the best place to eat them. You can find both black and white truffles here, and the forests contain some of the world’s highest concentrations of truffles.

Istrian truffles have a stronger aroma than other European truffles, and they’re less expensive too. You can have your truffles sprinkled onto steak, mixed in a rich sauce, or even in a dessert, but our favourite dish is fuži with truffles. Fuži is another Istrian speciality – quill-shaped pasta that’s lovingly homemade and hand-rolled.

RELATED CONTENT: 10 things you never knew about Croatia

11. Janjetina na raznju (Spit-roast lamb)

spit roast lamb and potatoes Croatia
Image credit: sailn1 / Flickr

You’ll be hard-pressed to find a Croatian celebration that doesn’t feature Janjetina na raznju, or spit-roast lamb. Croatians have used this traditional cooking method for thousands of years, and it’s possibly the country’s all-time favourite dish.

A spit-roast lamb is always present at important events like marriage or baptisms, but you’ll even spot roadside restaurants with a whole lamb cooking outside. Serve with potatoes and a dash of ajvar (Croatia’s answer to ketchup) and you’re good to go!

12. Kremšnita cream cake

kremsnita cream cake croatian dessert
Image credit: UkPaolo / Wikipedia Commons

You can find variations of the cream cake all over Eastern Europe, but Croatia’s version is amazing. It’s called kremšnita and has a layer of white custard and cream, sandwiched together in a flaky crust and topped with powdered sugar.

You’ll find a variation of kremšnita in Zagreb with chocolate icing instead of the puff pastry top, while in Samoborska, they make their kremšnita with a puff pastry top and mostly custard cream. We recommend trying every kremšnita across Croatia to find your favourite version.

13. Fritule

fritule balls Croatian dessert
Image credit: Arnie Papp / Flickr

Fritule is one of the most popular desserts in Croatia, commonly found on the Adriatic coast. Made with flour, raisins, egg yolks, lemon zest, and a drop of local schnapps, these donut-like balls are then deep-fried to perfection.

It’s traditionally a Christmas recipe, but since fritule is highly addictive, they’re sold all year round by street vendors. They’ll serve you a big cone full of fritule topped with powdered sugar and chocolate sauce. Dobar tek!

Have you tried any of these classic Croatian foods? Let us know in the comments below…

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