Croatian cuisine has historic roots going back centuries, with distinct culinary traditions and recipes in every region. Mainland dishes are influenced by Slavic culture and share some ingredients and techniques with neighboring Hungary and Turkey. Coastal cuisine benefits from the bounty of the Adriatic sea, and influences from nearby Italy and Mediterranean culinary traditions. Every region in Croatia boasts unique flavor profiles and food preparation methods, and claims that their food is the best. Visitors have a wealth of opportunities to taste, compare, and explore the depth and variety of Croatian foods.
Here are a few must-try Croatian dishes:
Peka (sometimes known as cripjna) is the signature dish of the Dalmatian region, although it’s not a specific dish at all, but a method of cooking. Meat, vegetables, spices, and olive oil are cooked in the embers of a fire, in a special dish with a bell-like lid, until the meat is tender and delicious. Many homes have a designated area in the fireplace for cooking peka. Peka can be prepared with a variety of different meats, and restaurants will often offer diners a choice.
Thanks to the abundance of fish in Croatia, grilled fish is a classic favorite. Sardines, sea bass, sea bream, or other local fish, are grilled with salt, pepper, and olive oil. This simple, traditional dish is timeless and celebrates the natural beauty of the fish.
Every region has a unique take on this seafood stew, but all rely on the combination of seafood, white wine, garlic, tomato, and the surprising addition of raisins. It’s an essential dish in coastal regions, and locals flock to seafood markets in order to prepare it fresh.
Central to Dalmatian cooking is the meticulously prepared pašticada, with origins going back to the fifteenth century. This beef stew requires long marinade and slow cooking to achieve the proper flavor, and preparation begins days in advance. This dish is served at feasts, weddings, and important traditional celebrations.
Croatian vegetable dishes
Vegetarians don’t have to be excluded from the special flavors and traditions of Croatian foods. Here are some exceptional meat-free dishes:
Soparnik is such a celebrated dish that the Ministry of Culture has declared it part of the cultural heritage of Croatia. A savory pie with fluffy pastry surrounding a filling of chard, garlic, and parsley, soparnik is historically cooked on a hot stone in the remnants of a fire. This traditional dish is unique, flavorful, and delicious.
Fuži is a Croatian pasta with a shape resembling penne. In Istrian cuisine, this pasta is handmade and wrapped around the handle of a wooden spoon. Traditionally served with white truffle cream sauce, fuži is a must-have Croatian delicacy.
Palacinke are a thin, crepe-like pancake. They are served everywhere, stuffed with sweet or savory fillings. Typically stuffed with creamy mushroom or vegetable fillings and eaten at lunch or dinner, they may also be filled with jam and sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar for dessert.
For your sweet tooth, no holiday is complete without some sweet indulgences and Croatian cuisine has many delicious desserts. Make sure to try fritule, a sweet fritter popular throughout the country. Fritule is a small ball of dough mixed with raisins, flavored with rum and citrus zest, deep-fried, sprinkled with powdered sugar, and served hot. While they are a local staple at Christmas, they are irresistible all year long.
The wide variety of ingredients, traditions, and cooking methods, dating back centuries, make Croatia a unique and special destination for the adventurous palate. While many dishes are common throughout the country, each region claims to have the best recipe and variation on the classics, giving the visitor an ideal opportunity to taste and compare. Don’t miss this singular chance to expose yourself to a whole new range of culinary traditions, cooking methods, and flavor profiles.
Download our Tour of Croatia eBook to learn more about this magnificent Mediterranean destination!