Croatia is a small country known for its many beauties – untouched nature, crystal-clear sea, more than 1000 islands, urban spots with vivid life, interesting historical and cultural sights, and much more. But have you ever heard about the amazing Croatian culinary heritage? Croatian food dishes truly are something to talk about. Oh, and something to taste too!
As a Central European and Mediterranean country, Croatia has been influenced by many cultures, civilizations, and countries through the past. Thanks to that, its gastronomy heritage presents a beautiful mix of numerous cuisines. Continental parts of the country were mainly influenced by Austro-Hungarian and Turkish cuisine, while on the coast, we can detect the influences by Illyrian, Mediterranean, Austrian, Hungarian, Italian, and French cuisine.
Croatia has 6 main regions, and it is interesting that each one of them has developed a unique cuisine known for that specific region. And you know what that means – so many dishes to try! Let’s talk specifics – which amazing Croatian food dishes wait for you in the continental parts of the country, and which on the Croatian coast and islands! Also, you need not look any further than here for a two week itinerary for Croatia.
Continental Croatian Food Dishes
The dishes of continental Croatia are characterised by a bit complex way of preparation. You will find more nutritious dishes and food prepared with all kinds of meat, various types of vegetables, fruits, cereals, and dairy products. Here are the dishes that best represent the culinary heritage of Continental Croatia –
This autochthonous meat product is a true delicacy. It is made out of pork intestine filled with a mixture of spices and finely chopped selected pork meat. After that, kulen is dried on smoke. What makes kulen special is its unique flavor and spicy aromas. It is quite good in combination with homemade bread and cheese. Now, kulen is a specialty that surely cannot be missed while visiting the continental parts of Croatia, especially if you’re visiting Slavonia.
Slavonian kulen is a trademark of that region and it is listed as a protected cultural heritage of Croatia.
It is a bit hard to explain or describe what mlinci are. To put it simply, mlinci present a mix of pasta and flatbread. First, they are baked, and they have characteristic burnt-out bubbles. After that, they are dried for a couple of days, and then, cooked and served as a side dish to roasted meat, usually, with a turkey.
When you’re in need of a rich dish to gain energy and heal your body, you go for warm and delicious čobanac. Čobanac is made with different types of meat, like pork, beef, and game. The meat is combined with a lot of vegetables like onion, carrots, parsley, tomatoes, potatoes, and celery, while the main ingredients are surely ground sweet and hot red peppers. This dish is spicy, and it beautifully combines all the ingredients and seasonings into an outstanding meal!
This is surely one of the trademark dishes of Croatia.
Štrukli present homemade dough stuffed with various ingredients. Štrukli can be baked or cooked, and filled with cheese, pumpkin, poppy seed, cabbage, apples, cherries, and more. Štrukli is quite a versatile dish that can be prepared in numerous ways, with savoury or sweet ingredients. The choice is yours, just make sure to enjoy the flavors!
When we’re talking about Croatian festivities, kotlovina is a must. Kotlovina actually presents a unique way of meat preparation. Meat such as pork chops, sausages, and chicken, is prepared on a big plate along with beans, potatoes, onion, and other vegetables. In the end, all the ingredients, as well as their aromas, are perfectly combined into a rich palette of flavors. Yummy!
Stuffed Bell Peppers
In continental Croatia, make sure to try this dish. Bell peppers are stuffed with a mixture made of minced meat, onion, garlic, parsley, and seasonings, and then cooked to perfection. The meat nicely contributes to those classic bell peppers’ flavors and in the end, you enjoy an outstanding palette of aromas and nuances.
Now, don’t be too judgy because of the name!
Blood sausages are an amazingly tasty dish! In Croatia, they are called krvavice. They are made by combining pork blood and entrails. They have characteristic black coloring and quite a unique smell. Krvavice offers you interesting flavors and aromas, and they are usually served with mashed potatoes and sauerkraut.
Since we’re talking about pork products, čvarci need to be mentioned! Čvarci or pork rinds present cooked pieces of bacon and fatty meat. During the cooking, the fat is melted and drained, while small pieces of the meat and fat are fried and dried. Čvarci are then salted and, in combination with homemade sausages and cheese, they are a perfect appetizer for starting a new and interesting gastronomy adventure.
Of course, we have to mention some desserts too! Kremšnita or custard slice is quite a delicacy, especially in a small town called Samobor. Kremšnita presents a delicate yellowish cream prepared between a thin leafy dough. It also has one level of sweet cream. What makes kremšnita unique is that it is served warm.
Trust me when I say this – kremšnita will melt on your palate while your taste buds will be seduced within the first seconds.
Zlevanka is a simple traditional dish. Its main ingredients are corn flour, milk, sugar, sour cream, and yogurt. Basically, all the ingredients are mixed together, and once zlevanka is baked, it is coated with sweet cream, and then baked again. It is quite simple, yet it hides interesting nuances which will certainly intrigue your taste buds.
This last dessert is quite different than anything you ever tried, and you’ll either love it or hate it. Međimurska gibanica combines 4 rather incompatible layers – ground walnuts, poppy seeds, cow cheese, and apples. This might seem like a lot but this old traditional recipe beautifully combines all the layers and their ingredients and creates flavors that you’ll never forget!
Croatian Food Dishes from the Coast & Islands
The cuisine of the Croatian coast and islands is a bit lighter than that the continental parts. The gastronomy is based on fish, seafood, fresh vegetables and fruit, as well as olive oil. The dishes are quite simple, and they are prepared with accessible ingredients. But just because they are simple, doesn’t mean they aren’t rich in flavors, aromas, and nuances – quite the opposite! So whether you are headed to sunny Hvar for sightseeing or to the remote island of Vis, make sure to try some of them.
Risotto is quite a classic dish but on the Croatian coast and islands, you can enjoy 2 versions of it – black and white. Black risotto is made with cuttlefish which gives the rice that characteristic black coloring. White risotto is made with cooking cream and some types of seafood such as prawns, shrimps, or shells. Both versions of the dish are creamy, textured, and delicious!
Ombolo is a delicacy of the Croatian peninsula Istria. Ombolo is pork meat rubbed with pepper, salt, and bay leaf, and dried for a couple of weeks. During the period of drying, the rubbed ingredients nicely contribute to the meat itself and create an amazing palette of flavors.
In Istria, you can try ombolo served with homemade bread, eggs, and olive oil.
Seafood is the basis of the cuisine of the Croatian coast and islands, and buzara is one of the best ways to prepare it. Buzara is a cooking technique. It presents seafood cooked in white wine, water, olive oil, garlic, and parsley. And those are the only ingredients you need since they will perfectly emphasize the flavors and aromas of the sea depths. Some of the most popular seafood prepared this way are shrimps and mussels.
Now, this is a delicacy you must try.
Dalmatian prosciutto is considered to be the most prestigious dried meat product of that region.
It is known to have a unique palette of flavors that will give your taste buds quite interesting aromas. Prosciutto is served with homemade bread and local cheese, but make sure to pair it with red wine too.
Istria is known for its autochthonous pasta. Some of the most popular types of pasta there are fuži, pljukanci, pasutice, ravioli, and gnocchi. Istrian pasta is combined with many ingredients – from seafood, fish, and meat to various sauces and truffles. Your only problem is how to choose just one pasta dish!
Dalmatia has many trademark dishes, but pašticada is certainly amongst the more popular ones. This specialty presents beef fricando filled with bacon. Before baking, it is marinated in a mixture made with water, wine, and vinegar, and with a touch of pepper, salt, and bay leaf. Pašticada is baked with various vegetables and then usually served with gnocchi. If prepared right, pašticada will truly offer you the ecstasy of extraordinary flavors!
Soparnik is a healthy and nutritious dish! Oh, and delicious too!
Soparnik has a protected geographical indication at the level of the European Union.
It presents a homemade pie with a chard filling. Besides the chard, there is also onion and parsley. Once it is baked, soparnik is coated with olive oil and garlic. Quite yummy!
Komiška pogača (Komiža’s bread) presents a homemade dough filled with salted anchovies, onions, tomato juice, olives, and oregano. All the ingredients, as well as their flavors and aromas, are nicely combined in order to offer you the best of the Mediterranean!
Brodetto presents a delicious fish stew. It is prepared with numerous different fish and seafood, depending on the chef or your own preferences. Usually, brodetto is made with sea bream, sea bass, grouper, mussels, shrimps, and prawns. Oh, and the stew is amazing for dipping homemade bread. Red wine nicely contributes to the dish too!
Limuncini & Arancini
This is a really simple dessert. But it is a trademark of the Croatian southern parts and islands. Limuncini and arancini present dried lemon and orange peel coated with sugar. And that’s it. The sour aromas of the peel are amazing in combination with the sweet nuances of the sugar. You’re going to love it!
Rožata is simple to make, yet it is so glamourous and elegant, you will simply be seduced.
Rožata is a Dalmatian pudding with vanilla flavoring, rose liqueur, and caramel dressing. It is served cold, and it presents a perfect summer dessert!
These are some of the trademark dishes of Croatia. They are traditional and they truly present the culinary heritage of my country.
Also, read about the Ljubljana food tour for a quick introduction to Slovenian food dishes.
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This is a guest post by Ana. Ana writes for restaurants and wineries at KitchenToast. She loves to photograph and travel, and that gives her a constant source of inspiration for new articles, recipes, and flavors.
Have you tried any Croatian food dish? Any sweet or savoury dish that you particularly enjoyed? Share in the comments below.
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