Such a small country with more than 1000 islands and amazing traditional cuisine – those are the best words to describe Croatia!
This Central European and Mediterranean country has some really intertwined roots when it comes to its cuisine. Through its past, it was influenced by many countries and civilizations. For example, its continental cuisine combines Turkish and Austro-Hungarian recipes, while its coast and islands are influenced by Mediterranean, ancient, and Illyrian cuisines.
All those influences set the basis of Croatian traditional cuisine and gastronomy. The people took those basis and then enriched them with the usage of new ingredients, interesting flavors, tasty aromas, aromatic herbs, and classic seasonings. And just like that, Croatian cuisine became quite popular among the tourists and visitors.
In order to present you the gastronomy scene of this small country, I’m bringing you 20 must-try, to-die-for, delicious dishes – from appetizers to main courses, and desserts, these are the dishes which are a must-try when visiting Croatia! Enjoy!
Okay, I know we’re not starting with the appealing name, but trust me – blood sausages are a true delicacy in Croatia! They are made of natural or artificial intestines filled with pork blood, entrails, millet, rice, buckwheat, corn flour, and basically any ingredient which gives the sausages that fullness. Of course, they are carefully chosen in order to bring beautiful flavors and aromas. What makes blood sausages so special is their black color and quite distinctive fragrance, and they are usually served with sauerkraut or mashed potatoes. Try them, trust me!
You’re looking for a perfect snack while wandering through Istria? No worries, their ham is truly amazing! Istrian ham is made of specially selected raw ingredients in order to offer those true flavors and nuances. Ham is coated with sea salt, black pepper, fresh garlic, laurel, and rosemary, and then it is dried for at least 12 months. In the end, Istrian ham presents beautiful aromatic red meat intertwined with sweet fatness, and that combination brings out quite a characteristic fragrance and flavor – and you really can’t miss that, can you?
Octopus salad is probably one of the most popular cold appetizers in Croatia, especially on its coast and islands! This dish offers you the best aromas of the Mediterranean and it is a true summer specialty. The octopus is cooked, cooled, and combined with potatoes, onion, garlic, rosemary, parsley, black olives, and – olive oil. All those ingredients are perfectly combined into seductive ecstasy and the beautiful palette of the Mediterranean flavors.
When it comes to the cold cuts of Croatia, Slavonian kulen is the one you really can’t miss. This is a Croatian original cured meat product which is created with smoke drying of the pork intestine stuffed with a beautiful mixture of spices, as well as finely chopped pork meat. Kulen has a characteristic red color and an interesting aromatic flavor, and it often comes with quite a specific spicy aftertaste. Kulen is usually served with fresh cheese and pork rinds. And that combination is to die for!
This is a Croatian traditional dish from the region of Zagorje. Baked strudels present fresh cheese wrapped in pulled homemade dough. Besides the cheese, the dough is also filled with sour cream, eggs, and a couple of spices and seasonings which perfectly combine with the rest of the ingredients. The strudels must be baked well in order to get that a bit burnt-out touch. This dish is an excellent hot appetizer served after the soup and before the main course. Croatia has a lot of strudel combinations, they can be baked or cooked, sweet or savory, but the thing is this – once you try them, there is really no turning back.
Combination of seafood and rice with interesting not-everyday black color? Where do I sign in? Black risotto is a Dalmatian delicacy, and it combines rice and cuttlefish. It is creamy with beautiful aromatic flavor, texture, and fragrance, and a few drops of Prošek certainly give a specific touch to this incredible dish. Black risotto brings the most beautiful touches of the sea depth and combines them into an extraordinary dish rich in flavors and aromas.
Mussels On Buzara
In Dalmatia, shells are quite popular cooking ingredients. Even though all the shells are quite delicious, mussels certainly stand out. They are usually made on buzara. Buzara is a simple, easy, and fast way of cooking mussels and it brings out the best of the Mediterranean cuisine, as well as from the mussels. These shells combine with olive oil, garlic, parsley, pepper, and white wine and all these ingredients create a nice dipping sauce too! While serving, mussels are also accompanied with lemon. Sounds delicious, doesn’t it?
When you’re in Istria, pasta needs to be on your must-try list. This region is known for its original pasta recipes – from fuži and gnocchi to pljukanci, posutice, and more, Istria is rich with interesting pasta which is the main ingredient in probably every restaurant there! Chefs combine pasta with seafood, meat, and sauces in order to bring interesting new flavors which will surely seduce everyone’s palate.
The recipe for Brač’s vitalac is old and delicious, and it is listed on the protected cultural assets of Croatia. This dish presents lamb or goat’s innards (lungs, liver, spleen, heart) which are skewered, salted, and wrapped in lamb’s sheath, and then in lamb’s intestines. Okay, I know this may not sound exotic or appealing, but once all those ingredients are baked, they present a truly delicious specialty.
Brodetto or a fish soup/stew is a Dalmatian classic. And that definitely means – a must-try dish! There are a lot of different recipes for preparing brodetto and the rule is simple – the more fish, the better. This stew usually combines grouper, shrimps, mussels, shark, sea bream, and other fish, shells, seasonings, and herbs! Brodetto needs a bit of time to prepare, but once it is done, oh, let me tell you, it certainly seduces all your senses!
Sinj arambašići or sarma prepared by the alkar’s recipe present sour cabbage stuffed with traditionally finely chopped meat, lemon zest, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. I know the ingredient combination may not sound too good but don’t worry – if the dish is prepared according to the traditional recipe, you’ll be seduced within the first seconds of tasting. Sinj arambašići are so traditional that they are on the list of the protected intangible cultural assets of Croatia!
This dish is probably the weirdest one on the list, I can’t lie, I admit it immediately! But once you try this delicacy, you’ll meet the flavors you never knew existed. On the island of Brač, the tradition of preparing dormouses goes long back. Gourmet dormouses are incredibly tasty and since they have a lot of fat, their flavors are often described as pork with sweet nuances. This delicacy is baked on the stick and served between two slices of bread. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!
If you’re looking for one more classic Dalmatian dish, you’ve found it! Grilled fish is prepared throughout the entire Croatian coast and islands, both at home and in restaurants! From sardines, tuna, and sea bream to the mackerel, saithe, groupers, and more – almost every fish is suitable to be prepared this way. The fish is coated with olive oil, rosemary, and classic seasonings, and its crispy skin and juicy meat amazingly combine with those ingredients. Grilled fish is usually served with chard, potatoes, and other vegetables.
Lamb Under Peka
In Croatia, no gathering, party, wedding, or other festivities can pass by without the lamb. Lamb is a beautiful specialty that can be prepared in numerous ways and the most popular one is under peka. Peka is a bell-shaped ceramic or iron vessel that covers the lamb and potatoes during cooking. Once the dish is covered, the cook puts the coal on the vessel in order to perfectly cook all the ingredients. Needless to say that in the end, the lamb is just amazing!
Okay, you’ve probably heard of the beautiful island of Vis, right? Well, not only it has breathtaking views, but its traditional cuisine is to die for! It is simple, yet so rich in flavors and it surely brings out the best flavors of the Mediterranean. Komiža’s bread is a trademark of the island. It presents a homemade dough filled with tomato sauce, onion, anchovies, olives, oregano, parsley, and olive oil. Simple to make and even easier to eat all the bread by yourself!
Cake Of Imotski
Almonds are a quite popular dessert ingredient in Dalmatia and due to that, they are the key ingredient of this cake. Besides almonds, the cake also has a touch of lemon and orange, while other ingredients basically vary from one household to the other. The cake offers amazing flavors as well as an aesthetic look – it is decorated with almonds and due to that, it often looks like the cake is wearing a crown. No wonder it is called the queen of the desserts!
The flavors of međimurska gibanica you’ll either love or hate, there is no in-between. This dessert is made with a couple of different ingredients and layers and due to that, it may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Međimurska gibanica combines the homemade dough with ground walnuts, poppy seeds, cow cheese, and apples. Yes, all of these ingredients present layers of gibanica! But even though the combination sounds a bit weird, it actually presents beautiful aromas and juicy texture!
This old and traditional dessert comes from a small town called Rude. Unlike classic sweet desserts, rudarska greblica is a great salty dessert that can be filled with walnuts, yellow carrots, onion leaves, nettle, or spinach. The filling is amazing in the harmony with homemade dough. Rudarska greblica is really simple to make and yet, it presents a beautiful and rich dessert, as well as a traditional heritage of this town!
Have you already had the pleasure of tasting Samobor kremšnita? If your answer is no, then put it immediately on your must-try list! Kremšnita combines crispy pastry and whipped cream, and it is served warm! The filling is light and foamy, while the crust is perfectly crispy – need I say more? The combination of foamy whipped cream and crispiness must never be declined!
Imagine this – strong and intense flavors in the combination of walnuts and almonds, as well as with a touch of cinnamon, orange, lemon, honey, rum, prosecco, and rose brandy, while the entire cake is coated in chocolate. Yes, that is a description of the Skradin cake. Beautiful, elegant, rich in flavors, aromas, and nuances, and incredibly tasty. I rest my case!
Well, that’s the 20 traditional Croatian dishes which just wait to be tasted! I tried to present them the best I could but sometimes the words are just not enough to describe the beauty of the flavors and the harmony of the ingredients and aromas! But I’m sure your palates are quite seduced, aren’t they?
There are a lot more traditional recipes, interesting ingredients, herbs, and dishes that beautifully present Croatian cuisine. To meet more of them, you can visit the KitchenToast where you can read a list of 76 traditional dishes from Croatia! I’m sure there are a lot more of them than just 76 but we all just got to explore them together!
The influences from other countries and civilizations have certainly left a trace on Croatian cuisine and thanks to that, Croatia has developed an amazing and rich gastronomy scene. Are there any dishes you’ve already tried? Or have you found some new ones which are now on your must-try list? Let me know!