Mainland is represented by heavy and very meaty meals characterized by the earlier Slavic cuisine with Turkish and Hungarian influences. It is common to use lard for preparing almost any meal, even pastries and sweets. In addition to a lot of salt, often used spices include onion, garlic, paprika and black paper.
Coastal, more southern cuisine on the other hand, could be best described as light and quite healthy, very typical Mediterranean cuisine; in particular Italian (and especially Venetian). Its roots date back to ancient times, but here, Greek and Roman cuisine had the biggest influence on the Southern Croatian way of preparing meals. Coastal cuisine is known for using olive oil like there’s no tomorrow. Most common herbs are bay leaves, rosemary, nutmeg, sage, oregano, cinnamon, marjoram, clove and lemon and orange zest.
Charcuterie is also part of the Croatian tradition in all regions, especially in Southern parts where they serve homemade cheese and prosciutto together with olives, grapes and wine. Nowadays it is considered a delicacy and could be quite expensive. Homemade recipes from other Balkan, once Yugoslav countries are also very popular in Croatia.
Most distinct cuisines in Croatia would be from Dalmatia, Istria, Dubrovnik, Gorski Kotar, Lika, Zagorje, Podravina, Slavonija and Međimurje; each of which with its own specific characteristics and cooking traditions and are not necessarily well known in other parts of Croatia. Most dishes could be, however, found all across the country, with variants adapted to the local taste.
Here’s a list of everything you should try; traditional meals that are prepared to this day in every Croatian household.
Ćevapi or ćevapčići is a grilled minced meat usually served together with pita bread, fresh onions and kajmak; type of dairy spread. Ćevapi are very popular in southeastern Europe, especially in Bosnia. Ćevapi originate from Otoman Empire and are a true taste of Balkan. When there’s a party in Croatia, there’s ćevapi, too. Make sure to try the Bosnian version after a fun day of rafting on the Una River.
Goulash, originating from Hungarian cuisine is a stew made of meat and veggies, spiced with paprika. Besides being very popular in Croatia, it is nowadays considered a traditional meal, especially in the Northern regions. It is usually prepared in the cold and dark winter days making you warm and utterly happy inside. We usually serve Goulash in Korana Village where the whole team comes together and prepares it together with our guests after a long walk around Plitvice Lakes.
”Pod pekom” is meal prepared under the bell. The whole cooking process can take up to 4 hours. The meal usually consists of meat and veggies, but some of our chefs specialize in preparing vegetarian and vegan peka. Most common meat prepared under the bell is lamb, veal or pork, but octopus or even tofu are becoming more and more popular. The dish comes out so soft and delicious with a flavor to remember. We are confident to say that the best Under the bell dishes are served in the small village of Broce that we visit on our Adventure Sailing trip and in a secluded hut in Paklenica National Park.
Maneštra or Manistra is a vegetable soup with pasta most common in the Dalmatian region. In Istria for example, famous type of Manistra is called Bobići; thick soup of corn kernels (bobići), dried meat and beans. This bean soup is so popular that we keep annual festival dedicated to its varieties. Try Manestra on some of our continental trips after a long day of adventuring.
Mlinci; thin, dried flatbread, is traditional side dish usually served together with roasted turkey. Turkey and mlinci would be a typical Sunday lunch when the whole family comes together. Mlinci are also served on special occasions and celebrations.
Punjena paprika or Stuffed peppers is another Croatian dish that makes you happy inside. It is made of bell peppers, stuffed with a mix of meat and rice, cooked in tomato sauce, most commonly served with mashed potatoes. Croatian grandmas would usually make a huge pot full of stuffed peppers for their families that could actually feed a small village. This dish is also often prepared in Korana village.
Grah sa kobasom or Bean stew with sausage is classic homemade meal prepared in every Croatian
household. It is especially popular and eaten as a national meal on May 1 st – International Labour Day.
Continental regions usually make mean bean stew.
When it comes to seafood, we are especially crazy about calamari, octopus, tuna and scampi. Calamari is usually prepared either grilled or fried. For a wholesome experience, try it after a long beach day – it somehow tastes best after swimming all day. Why, we don’t know. There is also a variety of octopus meals. Our favorite would be salad version or under the bell. Together with local wine, octopus is just heavenly. Freshly caught scampi are considered a delicacy in Croatia and are most commonly served as Buzzara sautéed in garlic, olive oil, parsley and white wine.
Paški sir is a famous sheep’s milk cheese originating from the Island of Pag in Northern Dalmatia. It has really hard texture and distinctive taste. It can take up to 18 months to age properly and is nowadays sold all across Croatia. Looks like Croatians are not the only one crazy about it as this cheese has won an International Cheese Award.
Štrukle, ah štrukle! Zagorske štrukle are dough with cheese filling served in every Croatian household, especially across Hrvatsko Zagorje and Zagreb regions. Štrukli are made with cottage cheese, sour cream and eggs and can be sweet or savory, baked or boiled. El delicioso and a must try!
Knedle or dumplings are a sweet dish made from boiled potato dough, usually stuffed with plums or homemade peach jam. Try it coated in bread crumbs with sugar on top for a full Knedla experience. Tradition requires preparing Knedle by tons, most commonly by Grandmas and eaten until you explode.
Kremšnita or Cremeschnitte is a chantilly and custard cream cake dessert. Most popular ones come from the small town of Samobor where they are prepared with puff pastry on top and finished off with powdered sugar. For an authentic experience go to Samobor Old Town, sit in the sun in a local cafe and order two Kremšnita that will most likely be warm. Yum!
Huck Finn experience
Our company strives to support local and family owned business. We take our guests to the small
restaurants and off the grid places where you have a chance to try homemade Croatian cuisine. Their
fish is usually caught just before serving by their family members, while veggies are grown in their
gardens. Not only do you get a complete Croatian experience, but you also help people in need that
choose to live their life in a traditional way. It’s rare to experience the authentic, traditional and local
in today’s travel society as we are so used to all things fast and convenient. We, however, give our
best to break through this barrier and really go deeper into discovering old ways of eating and living.
It’s why we travel in the first place