Traditional Croatian Food - All you need to know

updated on
July 12, 2022
Traditional Croatian Food - All you need to know

Do you know and have you tried all of the traditional Croatian food? Diverse and spread out in different regions, Croatian food is a mixture of Mediterranean flavours, Balkan ingredients and under the influence of cultures and countries that ruled on this area. 

What do you get out of this mix? Unique and tasty cuisine that is distinguished by many Croatian national dishes beloved throughout the country, from seafood delicacies like scampi and fish to truffles and olive oil, to the hearty meat plates and stews in continental Croatia. 

We are sure that your appetite just increased – and now it's time to bring you a list of traditional Croatian food divided by regions. Go ahead read it and then try them all! 

Central Croatia

Let’s start from the center, shall we? Often overlooked as a region for gastronomy delicacies, central Croatia has its fair share of great food to offer!

Ever tried roasted turkey with mlinci? It is a specialty of this region, mlinci are a thin dried flatbread poured into boiled salted water and after dipped into turkey fat. And, another reason for you to try mlinci is that they have been protected by the EU as an authentic local product!

For starters, the most popular meal is made of fresh cheese and is called štrukli. It can be done in both savory and sweet versions, and it is a must-try specialty here, especially in the capital Zagreb and its nearby city of Samobor.

From other amazing foods, there is sour cabbage with pork legs, stuffed cabbage rolls, and a famous zagreb steak (zagrebački) - all are must-try meals of the Central Croatia region.

From sweets you must try – samoborske kremšnite (in Samobor!) & međimurska gibanica and mađarice.

Eastern Croatia (Slavonia and Baranja)

Over the centuries of Austro-Hungarian influence combined with the local products resulted in a rich and authentic food of Slavonia and Baranja region.

If you find yourself in Slavonia and Baranja the typical starters are kulen and kulenova seka, homemade dry-cured meat products. It has been a while now that kulen is recognized as a world-renowned dish with Croatia’s origin. 

On a typical Slavonian table you will for sure find a spicy stew called fiš paprikaš if it’s prepared with fish (freshwater one!) or čobanac if it’s prepared with meat, usually from wild animals. 

When talking about sweets the most usual ones you will find in Slavonia and Baranja are breskivce - jam-filled peach-shaped cookies and the sweets made from homemade dough, called strudels (štrudle) filled with poppy seeds makovnjača or nuts – orehnjača.

Lika and Gorski Kotar

When thinking about the region of Lika and Gorski Kotar the first thing that many of us imagine are beautiful green landscapes, Plitvice Lakes, clean air, fresh water, etc. But you should not skip this region because it has divine food also.

Because of the harsh climate, constant wind, and hard work in the fields, the food in this region was modified according to that. Today on a typical Lika and Gorski Kotar table we can find a lot of cold appetizers starting from homemade sausages, dried venison, smoked ham, and young cheese known as škripavac.

Main dishes in this region are a bit intense – they vary from meat jelly, all kinds of meat stews cooked together with cabbage or dried beans – meals popular especially during the winter months. 

One special vegetable you should try in the Lika region are – potatoes! Lika is known for delicious organic potatoes (lički krumpir) which are usually just cut in half and baked in the oven.

The most common desserts are pretty simple - fritters served with all sorts of tasty jams and marmalades or in combination with young cheese. Jams and marmalades are usually made of forest fruits, plums, or apples – all of which can be found in the beautiful nature of this region.

Istria and Kvarner Region 

Istria is home to Croatia’s best quality wine and olive oil, a place of white and black truffles, homemade pasta, seafood, prosciutto, sausages, and meat from authentic domestic cattle.

As a starter In Istria, you usually have a platter of homemade sausages, Istrian prosciutto and all other sorts of homemade cold cuts including ones made of Istrian ox called boškarin.

Don’t miss homemade pasta: fužipljukanci, and šurlice (on the island of Krk) that are served mixed either with seafood, truffles sauce, or different types of meat ragus. 

The most authentic meal you can try in Istria (especially in spring) are fuži or pljukanci (pasta) served with asparagus and truffles.

Among the most popular traditional foods in this region are žgvacet, a meat stew made of chicken or lamb and served with homemade gnocchi or polenta, and istarska maneštra with a selection of seasonal vegetables and homemade sausage or bacon. 

The typical Istrian desserts are fritule and kroštule as well as cukerančići and istarski pandišpanj. All of the mentioned desserts are made out of similar basic ingredients such as flour, sugar, and eggs. 

However similar Istria and Kvarner might be, few rarities can be found only in the Kvarner territory. The first is the famous Kvarner scampi and you can enjoy them prepared in several dishes such as scampi a la buzara style. 

Secondly, the prosciutto from Krk island is a must-try traditional food! It has been protected as a Croatian authentic food and is characterized by the smell of pure dry meat that gets its flavor and dryness during the winter season thanks to the wind called bura. 

Another local traditional food in this area is the chestnut from Lovran, grown on the slopes of Učka mountain (Chesnut is mostly used in traditional sweets of the Kvarner area). Last, but not least the most popular cake of the Kvarner area is definitely rapska torta or cake from Rab island. 

Dalmatia region

When you try to describe Dalmatia to anyone who has not been here you would always start with beautiful beaches, many must-visit islands, rich history.. but also food!

From fish stews, grilled fish (riba na gradele) only topped with olive oil and rosemary, fish carpaccio, fish salads, scampi..divine food we would even say!

But, one small Adriatic fish is a must-try in Dalmatiasrdela – simply grilled and sprinkled with olive oil can be found on any traditional menu in Dalmatia.

One of the best traditional foods in Dalmatia is brodet, a fish stew cooked in tomato juice. 

Still, fish is not the only thing Dalmatians eat – meat is just as equally important, and among the many tasty meat meals pašticada and teletina pod pekom (under the lid) stand out! 

Traditional desserts in this region vary from are varied and very rich in flavors – from dubrovačka rožata, fritule, paradižot, and many other traditional cakes.

Does all of the above sound like a paradise on Earth? Yes - Croatian traditional food, lifestyle, and culture are a true example of a country made for hedonists. 

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