Croatia is a country in Southeastern Europe, bordering with Slovenia, Hungary. Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Italia. It has a predominant favorable, moderate climate and it consists of three regions- lowland or Pannonian, coastal region or Adriatic, and mountain region or Dinaric.
These three regions have historically gone through a great number of events and encounters with different nations and rulers. In the course of several centuries, from 11th to 21st, Croatia had close communication with Hungary, the Habsburgs as well as the Austro-Hungarians so its cultural elements, including traditional cuisine, have undergone changes and influences.
The main feature of Croatian cuisine is its regionality and therefore, versatility. This makes Croatian dishes and recipes quite intriguing but nonetheless delicious. It is said that people of each region made food with the best of nature’s bounty in their surroundings.
Actually, you may hardly find any other place in the world with a modest geographical size but such a wide array of tasty food in each of the regions within borders.
Here is a list of 20 Croatian dishes according to regions:
After a hard day of work in the field or in the forest, Croatians enjoy indulging in this meal to recover and eat something warm and comforting.
The name of this dish derives from the word “cobani” which means shepherds who were initially prepared it outdoors, over the fire and cooked it for hours.
Cobanac usually contains several types of meat, mainly pork and veal, however lamb or another type if also found.
The stew where the meat chunks cook slowly is made of a great number of vegetables such as carrots, onions, celery, tomato, and herbs like laurel leaf, salt, paprika, and black pepper. The main spice is spicy ground red paprika that provides the popular color and taste of this traditional meal.
2. Patka s mlincima
Patka s mlincima is a traditional Croatian food whose main ingredients are a duck and the homemade pasta- mlinci made of flour, water, eggs, and lard (optional).
The duck is roasted with salt, wine, and water until finely baked, yet containing its delicious meat juices in the baking pot. The mlinci are prepared with baking, then steeping in boiling water before they are finally drained. Next, the mlinci are covered with the duck juices.
This juicy meal is served as a main dish with red cabbage salad on the side, paired with a glass of fine red wine.
Strukli is a much favored Croatian traditional dish that is regularly made in many homes but also served in almost all Croatian restaurants.
This dish resembles long, wide strands of pasta that can be made in a sweet or savory version, depending on preference. The dough is prepared with pulling and then it is filled before being rolled and cut into pieces that are finally baked or cooked .
The traditional version of Strukli contains a filling made of sour cream, cheese and eggs, topped with butter and baked in the oven.
The sweet Strukli versions may contain fruit jams, yolk cream or/ and ground nuts.
4. Medzimurska gibanica
Medzimurska gibanica is a real feast for both eyes and hungry stomachs. It is a delicious, yet abundantly caloric dish that is sweet and therefore, served as a dessert though it can also align with the nutritional value of a full meal.
This pastry has a layered composition and each layer of dough is covered with a different type of filling- cottage cheese, grated apples and ground walnuts, ground poppy seeds, raisins, cinnamon and rum.
Medzimurska gibanica is baked in the oven until golden brown and best when served cold.
Related post: Top Bosnian Foods You Must Try
5. Sir i Vrhnje
A peculiar yet simple and incredibly tasty dairy food. Sir i vrhnje is a popular Croatian food that is a basic combination of fresh cottage cheese and sour cream.
Some variations of this dish include garlic, red paprika powder, salt, and pepper in order to enhance flavor,
Sir i vrhnje is mainly served as breakfast food or as an appetizer or dip accompanied by smoked meat, fresh vegetable or small pastries.
6. Medzimursko meso ‘z tiblice
A real meat specialty from the northern region of Croatia. Medzimursko meso was initially invented as an attempt for meat preservation.
In general, this dish is prepared by salting pork cuts which are then boiled or roasted before being finally dunked in a generous amount of lard, including spices and herbs to add flavors such as peppercorns and laurel leaves.
In the past, this meat was preserved and kept in “tiblica” or wooden firkin, hence its traditional Croatian name whereas today it is mainly preserved in metal barrels.
Medzimursko meso’ z tiblice in served cold as a starter dish alongside a thick slice of rustic sourdough bread topped with a thin layer of lard and a dash of black pepper or red smoked paprika powder.
Coastal Region, Adriatic
7. Crni rizhot
Crni rizhot is the name for black risotto, a typical Croatian food served in restaurants and sea-side taverns on the coast of the region Dalmatia.
This black risotto is made with cuttlefish or fresh squid whose ink gives its recognizable black color though a wide variety of seafood is also included, such as clams or mussels.
This dish is served as a light main dish and it’s best when paired with a glass of cold dry white wine.
Brudet is one of the classic dishes of the Adriatic cuisine in Croatia.
This fish stew is prepared with different seafood and vegetables though it is hard to define any exact recipe for it since each town or area by the coast has its authentic version.
In general, fish chunks of three types of white fish are used, such as monkfish, scorpionfish, and sea bass. Then mussels are added to enhance the flavor while the vegetables may vary but the basic ones are tomato sauce as the foundation as well as onions, garlic and parsley.
The Brudet is served warm as an appetizer or a light main dish with a slice of white sourdough bread on the side.
9. Salata od hobotnice
Salata od hobotnice is one of the popular traditional foods of Croatia, served in any tavern in the region of Dalmatia but consumed all over the country.
This octopus salad is made of octopus, vegetables sych as parsley, potatoes, onion, gralic and tomatoes, seasoned with salt, olive oil, laurel leaves and vinegar.
The octopus is cleaned, cooked, cut and combined with the rest of the ingredients. Some versions of this octopus salad include capers or lemon juice.
Salata od hobotnice is best served cold alongside a glass of white wine .
10. Blitva na lesho
This amazingly tasty yet simple side dish is one of the most popular of Croatian cuisine in the Dalmatian region.
The ingredients of this dish are simple- potatoes, swiss chard, salt and olive oil, as well as its preparation which takes only three steps.
Potatoes are boiled and cut into cubes, the swiss chard is blanched then combined with the potatoes, then seasoned with salt and olive oil.
Some versions of this dish include minced garlic. Blitva na lesho is traditionally a must-try side dish with grilled fish or squid.
11. Pashki sir
Pashki sir is a hard cheese that originates from the island of Pag in Croatia. It is made of sheep milk from the so-called Pag sheep which is fed with a variety of herbs that grow on the island.
Sage, sea fennel and imortelle are herbs that are constantly dusted with sea salt brought by the harsh wind, thus the milk these sheep produce has a special flavor,
Prashki sir has a crumbly, dry texture and salty flavor. It is usually rubbed with olive oil before being left to mature for a minimum of 4-6 months while its taste becomes stronger with maturing.
When mature, this Pag cheese resembles Pecorino Romano. It is usually served by being sliced into triangles and paired with fruit jams, honey anchovies or prosciutto. The younger version of the cheese is used as a risotto or pasta topping.
12. Dalmatinska pastichada
Dalmatinska pastichada is a dish that has built its reputation over centuries in the region of Croatia.
This dish originated in ancient Greece, then it was handed down to Ancient Romans before arriving to the noblemen in Venice and finally nestling in Dalmatia.
Dalmatinska pastichada is made of beef marinated chunks marinated that after 203 days of marination are stewed in red wine with bacon, tomatoes, root vegetables as well as several dried figs or prunes.
When cooked, the sauce and the meat are served alongside gnochi or other homemade pasta, topped with grated mature cheese.
Amareta is a traditional dessert that stems from the island of Korchula in Dalmatia.
The main ingredients for amareta are ground almonds, whipped egg whites, and sugar. Lemon or orange zest, as well as an amaretto (bitter almond) flavoring, are added to enrich the flavor.
Amareta are served with a cup of black coffee or a glass of Maraschino liqueur.
Related post: The Best Slovenian Food Dishes
Mountain Region, Dinaric
Presnac is a traditional sweet pastry that derives from the island of Krk.
This dessert has a unique taste complemented by fresh sheep cheese creamy filling laid on a pastry base.
The original recipe suggests sheep cheese though you’ll find Presnac also made of cow cheese, eggs and lemon zest.
This pastry is one of the staple traditional foods of the town of Kornic in Croatia where the locals organize an annual festival and present the best versions of this rustic dessert.
Budla is a delicacy that derives from the region of Gorski kotar.
This meat preparation is made of stale bread, eggs, a few varieties of meat delicatessen such as bacon or ham as well as chopped onion, black pepper and salt.
This mixture is stuffed in pork casings and is then cooked before being cut into thick slices and served along with bread or charcuterie.
16. Grobnichki sir
Grobnichki sit is cheese which is produced in the valley of Grobnik, an area near the city of Rijeka.
Grobnichki sit is made of sheep milk, has a cylindrical form and its color is purely white.
The texture of this cheese is hard while the taste is very salty yet delicious. It is best when consumed as an appetizer with boiled or preserved ham.
17. Bribirski prisnac
Bribirski prisnac is a festive dish, usually prepared during the Easter holidays in Croatia.
Basically, it is a savory cake made of flour, eggs, bacon, spring onions, yeast, and a local cow’s milk cheese.
The vegetables and the ham are sauteed and then combined with the rest of the ingredients before they are finally baked in the oven until golden brown.
Bribirski prisnac can be served either warm or cold with sour milk on the side and it can be consumed as an appetizer or even for breakfast.
18. Torta Frankopan
The basis of this cake is puff pastry which is covered with a cream made of egg yolks, sugar, whipped cream, butter, raisins and almonds.
The basic method of preparation includes 4 layers of the puffed pastry- cream combining and finally Torta Frankopan is left in the refrigerator for 24 hours to cool down.
The next day, the entire cake is covered with fresh whipped cream and the top is decorated with fresh fruits according to preference.
19. Fazol s repom
This is a traditional dish that is mainly favored during wintertime though it is also consumed during the rest of the year.
Fazol s repom is a bean stew made or beans that are boiled and cooked with smoked pork ribs, shin or bacon and then combined with either pickled turnip or suaerkraut. Lastly, the stew is thickened with a light batter of fried garlic and flour.
This dish is commonly served hot alongside a slice of homemade wheat bread.