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Croatian Food; 20 Must-try traditional Cuisine

From Sea to Mountains

Learn more about traditions and local food influenced by many countries

LOCAL CROATIAN FOOD: This country is mostly known for its nature, crystal-clear sea, and the fact that it has more than 1000 islands. But Croatia also has a more traditional beauty – interesting, rich-in-flavors, and must-indulge heterogenous cuisine! Croatian food has been influenced by many countries, cultures, and civilizations throughout the past.

All those influences present the roots of the Croatian traditional food on which was developed interesting gastronomy scene and beautiful heritage. Today, Croatian cuisine is known as the food of regions with its own tradition. Due to that, we’re going to travel through the entire country, and talk about 20 must-try and must-indulge dishes – let the gastronomy adventure begins!

Fuži is a spindle-looking pasta with a small hole in the middle.
Fuži is a spindle-looking pasta with a small hole in the middle.

Fuži

Speaking of Istria, this Croatian food region is known for its indigenous pasta – pasutice, lasagne, fidelini, ravijoli, rigationi, makaruni, pljukanci, and gnocchi are just a couple of the most popular Istrian pasta. But the one that certainly stands out is called fuži. Fuži is a spindle-looking pasta with a small hole in the middle. The hole allows the sauce to beautifully intertwine with the pasta. Fuži is usually served with homemade tomato sauce and rosemary, but it is also great in the combination with different types of meat and seafood. Quite a yummy dish!

Blood Sausages

Krvavice or blood sausages are made of pork blood and entrails. I know, I know, it doesn’t sound too appealing but trust me – once you try these sausages in combination with mashed potato and saur cabbage, you’ll be in love! Krvavice have a characteristic black coloring and quite a distinctive fragrance, but in the combination with a simple side dish, they are just perfect. Just imagine – roasted black sausages served with a smooth textured potato and nice saur nuances of the cabbage. Quite a specialty!

Istrian Ombolo

Ombolo, žlomprt, or zarebnjak is a true gastronomy delicacy that can be found in almost every tavern, restaurant, and household in Istria. Ombolo is a part of a pork chop rubbed with salt, paper, and bay leaf, and then dried for 3 weeks. Traditionally, it is grilled with Istrian sausages and served with potatoes. But in case it is not grilled, ombolo is served in an amazing combination with olive oil, eggs, and homemade bread.

Octopus Salad

Is summer really summer if you don’t indulge in amazing flavors of octopus salad? In Croatia, the answer is simple – no. Octopus salad brings the best flavors and aromas of the sea depths. Octopus is cooked and combined with potatoes, parsley, garlic, and olive oil, while a few drops of lemon give the dish that nice sour touch. Octopus salad is a tasty and fresh dish that will certainly seduce you within seconds!

Soparnik is a pie with a filling made of chard, onion, and parsley.
Soparnik is a pie with a filling made of chard, onion, and parsley.

Soparnik

If you’re looking for a delicious but nutritious dish (plus, you love vegetables), then soparnik is your perfect match! Soparnik presents a homemade pie with a filling made of chard, onion, and parsley. After it is baked, soparnik is coated in a mixture made of olive oil and garlic. All the ingredients are nicely combined into a simple, yet delicious, healthy, and nutrients palette of flavors. The dough is crispy, while the filling is rich and juicy – what more to ask for!

Štrukli can be filled with various vegetables, fruits, and cheese
Štrukli can be filled with various vegetables, fruits, and cheese

Strudels

In the Croatian region of Zagorje, štrukli are quite a big deal! They can be baked or cooked, sweet or savory. Štrukli can be filled with various vegetables, fruits, and cheese, but one of the most interesting variations of this dish is cooked strudels served with soup. Štrukli are filled with cheese, eggs, and sour cream, rolled in, cooked, and then served in a simple soup made with a bit of oil, salt, universal food additive, and breadcrmubs. Now, that is a truly traditional dish! And Croatian food to try.

White Risottois a classic, creamy dish made of rice, prawns, shells, or some other type of seafood.
White Risottois , a classic, creamy dish made of rice, prawns, shells, or some other type of seafood.

Risotto

In Dalmatia, almost every tavern and restaurant offer a nice risotto made with various ingredients and combinations. Black risotto is a tasty dish with rice and cuttlefish which gives the rice that characteristic black coloring. The ingredients are nicely intertwined and combined with a few drops of Prošek which gives a special touch to the final flavors. White risotto is a classic, creamy dish made with a beautiful harmony of rice, prawns, shells, or some other type of seafood. Risotto is simply a must while visiting Dalmatia!

Buzara

Speaking of seafood, have you ever heard of buzara? Buzara is a simple cooking method – it basically presents seafood cooked in water and white wine with garlic, olive oil, and parsley. The ingredients which are prepared this way are usually mussels, shrimps, and other types of shells and seafood. The golden rule for buzara is to cook seafood just enough to bring and emphasize those natural flavors and aromas of the sea depths.

This is prepared by the ancient housewives' of island Korčula
This is prepared by the ancient housewives’ of island Korčula

Žrnovski Makaruni

On the beautiful island of Korčula, there is a small village called Žrnovo. There, people prepare an amazingly delicious pasta žrnovski makaruni. Žrnovski makaruni are prepared by the ancient housewives’ recipe and they present indigenous pasta of the island. Each piece of the pasta is placed on a thin skewer and then rolled between the palms of the hands. Once the pasta is cooked, it is served with beef mange, tomato sauce, pesto, prawns, or some other meat, seafood, and sauce.

Brač’s Vitalac

This dish is one of the most important traditions of island Brač. Brač’s vitalac is prepared of lamb or goat innards – the heart, lungs, liver, and spleen are salted and then wrapped in lamb’s sheath. All the ingredients are skewered and wrapped in the lamb’s intestines. This dish is prepared over the hot coals, and it is one of the must-try dishes of the island! I must say – quite yummy and unique!

Istrian Soup

This is one of those dishes which is not a dish, a soup that is actually not a soup. Intrigued? You should be! Istrian soup presents a warm wine mixed with oil and sugar. The mixture (or the fake soup) is served in a jug called bukaleta. How to eat it (or drink it)? Well, you get a piece of warm homemade bread which you dip in the wine! This is a true traditional delicacy in Istria served as a meal or after your gastronomy adventure.

Mlinci are great right after they are baked - a perfect snack throughout the day thanks to their crispiness.
Mlinci are great right after they are baked – a perfect snack throughout the day thanks to their crispiness.

Mlinci

Mlinci or thin dried flatbread are a type of pasta made with wheat flour, water, and eggs. They are thinly rolled out and baked, and they have specific burnt-out bubbles and circles. Once mlinci are baked, they are left to dry for a couple of days and then they are cooked and served with roasted meat such as turkey, pork, chicken, goose, and duck. Besides as a side dish, mlinci are great right after they are baked – they are a perfect snack throughout the day thanks to their crispiness and deliciousness!

This homemade bread comes with a filling.
This homemade bread comes with a filling.

Komiža’s Bread

If you’re looking for the best Mediterranean flavors combined into one amazingly delicious dish, then look no further – Komiža’s bread is your perfect match! This dish presents a simple but oh, so tasty recipe. The homemade bread comes with a filling made of salted anchovies, tomato sauce, onion, parsley, oregano, olives, and olive oil. All the best Mediterranean ingredients, flavors, and aromas are hidden in this delicious bread, and they truly create an ecstasy you’ll never forget!

In Croatia, ražnjići are quite a big deal when it comes to barbecue.
In Croatia, ražnjići are quite a big deal when it comes to barbecue.

Ražnjići

You can find the variation of this dish in probably every country in the world, but in Croatia, ražnjići are quite a big deal when it comes to barbecue. Ražnjići present a grilled meat-on-the-stick. They are made of chicken and pork, but they can also be combined with vegetables such as onion, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Speaking of bell peppers, if they are simply grilled, they are a great side dish for ražnjići!

This traditional Croatian food is often described as the poor man's food, made of cooked corn flour.
This traditional Croatian food is often described as the poor man’s food, made of cooked corn flour.

Žganci

This is a simple traditional dish of both Croatian and Slovenian cuisine. Žganci or how they are often described, the poor man’s food, are made of cooked corn flour. They are served hot with cold sour cream or yogurt – those ingredients create a nice combination of hot and cold nuances. Žganci can also be served with fried bacon. Besides being a delicious breakfast or diner, žganci are also a great side dish with various main courses.

Each town, island, and region adds something different to the recipe, some new ingredient.
Each town, island, and region adds something different to the recipe, some new ingredient.

Kroštule

Kroštule, hroštule, fanjki, or thorn undies are small, knot-shaped sweets covered in powdered sugar. They are quite popular in the entire country, especially on the coast and islands. The most interesting thing about kroštule is that you’ll never try the same recipe twice – each town, island, and region adds something different to the recipe, some new ingredient, or special liqueur, brandy, and wine which certainly nicely contribute to the final flavors of kroštule. These sweets are a great dessert or a simple snack when craving sweet nuances!

Međimurska Gibanica

Okay, I need to warn you right away – this dessert you’ll either love or hate, there is no in-between! Međimurska gibanica is a trademark dish of the region Međimurje. It is made by the old and traditional recipe which surely contributes to its beauty and charm. Gibanica is made with 4 different layers – ground walnuts, poppy seeds, cow cheese, and apples. Now, I know that those ingredients may sound like a lot but trust me – this seemingly incompatible combination is simply amazing and delicious!

Rožata is pudding with vanilla flavoring, orange peel, and rose liqueur while topping is made with caramel.
Rožata is pudding with vanilla flavoring, orange peel, and rose liqueur while topping is made with caramel.

Rožata

Rožata, rozata, or rožada is a traditional Dalmatian dessert. It presents a simple pudding with vanilla flavoring, orange peel, and rose liqueur while its topping is made with caramel. All the ingredients are well-combined, and they surely nicely harmonize in order to provide you with the best sweet nuances you can ever imagine. Rožata is a simple, light, and cold dessert perfect for these hot summer days.

A different dessert: Zlevanka of the Croatian northern parts.
A different dessert: Zlevanka of the Croatian northern parts.

Zlevanka

Cornflour can be used in desserts too – and zlevanka is the proof. Zlevanka, bazlamača, kuruznjača, or zlevka is a simple traditional dish of the Croatian northern parts. It combines a baked mixture made of cornflour, yogurt, and sour cream, which is then coated with sweet cream, and baked once again. Zlevanka beautifully combines sweet and savory nuances into the tasty palette of flavors – quite perfect for those days when you’re craving a bit different dessert.

Croatian Skradin Cake

If you’re a lover of simple desserts with a touch of chocolate, this cake is perfect for your palate and taste buds. Skradin cake combines quite aphrodisiac ingredients and nuances – it is made with cinnamon, lemon, orange, honey, prosecco, rum, and rose brandy. On the outside, the cake is covered with chocolate. Can you feel how your taste buds are already seduced? I surely can!

These are 20 of the most unique and traditional Croatian dishes. Of course, there are many more ingredients and flavors that will give your taste buds a perfectly combined palette of aromas.  If you want to learn a bit more about Croatian food, recipes, and traditions, visit the site KitchenToast!

Text by Anna Cerovski

Gudmund Lindbaek
Gudmund Lindbaek
Journalist founded King Goya a few years back. Meeting people, local food and engaging stories are my passion. I plan for ambitious once-in-a-lifetime trips. My delight is the prospect of Future Travels: Longer, Slower, Farther! I just want a tiny slice of adventure to be alive, and then excited to return home.

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