Croatia is a gastronomic paradise that’s guaranteed to delight food lovers from around the world. Heavily influenced by the bounties of the Mediterranean, Croatian cuisine is centered around fresh seafood, free-range meats, and a seemingly endless array of fresh fruits and vegetables.
While each region has its own traditional recipes and flavors, some dishes have become particularly noteworthy throughout the entire country. So, regardless of whether you’re dining in a seafront taverna or enjoying a home-cooked meal in the mountains, you can’t go wrong when indulging in the following mouthwatering Croatian dishes.
1. Crni Rižot
A dish that’s equally as appealing to the eyes as it is to the tastebuds, crni rižot is a traditional Dalmatian black risotto. It gets its iconic rich color from cuttlefish ink, which is slow cooked with an aromatic mix of onions, garlic, and white wine. The mild, briny flavor of the cuttlefish is usually enhanced with mussels, clams, or other types of shellfish and served with freshly grated parmesan.
2. Ispod Peke
Although it’s not a dish per se, ispod peke is a method of cooking that’s guaranteed to make your mouth water. The name literally translates to “under the bell,” which refers to the metal, domed lid that covers the dish while it roasts different types of meat over hot coals. Lamb is the most common, although octopus, fish, chicken, and veal variations can also be found.
3. Paski Sir
While the island of Pag is known for its lunar-like landscape and sun-soaked coastline, it’s also famous for producing Croatia’s most popular cheese. Made from sheep’s milk, Paski Sir (otherwise known as Pag cheese) has a robust herby flavor due to the island’s salty air and fragrant vegetation. It’s best served as a starter along with a dry-cured ham (Pršut) or garlic pork sausage (Češnjovka).
As one of the most labor-intensive dishes of Croatian cuisine, pašticada is a must-try for anyone lucky to find it on the menu. First, a succulent cut of round steak is stuffed with garlic and bacon and marinated overnight in a mixture of onions, peppercorns, vinegar, and herbs. The meat is then slow-cooked with other vegetables, prunes, and sweet prošek wine (giving it a sweet and sour flavor) before it’s sliced and served with a side of homemade gnocchi.
5. Zagorski Štrukli
Zagorski Štrukli are small, pillowy dumplings filled with fresh and creamy cottage cheese. There are countless ways to make them, although the two most common variations are either boiled in a soup or baked and topped with sour cream. Zagorski Štrukli is so beloved around the country that it was recently added to the Register of Intangible Cultural Heritage of the Republic of Croatia.
A staple on practically every menu along the coast, brudet is a tomato-based fish stew that’s perfect for lunch or dinner. Every family and restaurant has their one unique recipe with whatever type of fish was recently caught or available at the market – so you’ll likely never have the same dish twice! Order it with a side of polenta or bread to soak up the fish broth and juicy flavors at the end.
7. Šporki Makaruli
Translating to “dirty pasta,” this dish from Dubrovnik was originally eaten by aristocrats to celebrate the city patron, St. Blaise. However, it became so popular that you can now find it served in restaurants throughout the year. It’s a simple but delicious pasta dish topped with a hearty beef and wine sauce.
8. Istrian Truffles
Although not as famous (or as expensive) as their Italian cousins, Istrian truffles are a true Croatian delicacy. Foraged from the depths of the Motovun forest, these “black diamonds” have a strong, earthy flavor and aroma, making them the perfect addition to pasta, cheese, and even ice cream.
If you’re craving something sweet, then madjarica is one of the best desserts to order in Croatia. These bite-sized cakes are layered with a velvety chocolate crème and covered in a dark chocolate glaze, making this a delicious, decadent after dinner treat (or really any other time of the day!)
These sweet, doughy, fried balls of goodness are a favorite snack for the Christmas, carnival, and Easter holidays. While you can find different versions of these fritters around the world (they are related to Italian zeppole, Dutch oliebollen, and New Orleans beignets), the Croatian fritule are flavored with citrus, raisins, and brandy. The culinary delights of Croatia are just one of the many reasons to visit this spellbinding country. If you’re ready to sink your teeth into these gastronomic dishes (while also visiting the most beautiful sites and landmarks around the country), then book your Gate 1 trip around Croatia today!