Croatian Food: 9 dishes you have to try

Want to know what to eat while on vacation in Croatia? We will guide you through 9 Croatian dishes which you should not skip on your trip. These traditional meals will provide you with an authentic local experience and tell you more about the diversity of Croatian regions.

1. What food is Croatia famous for?
2. Strukli and zganci
3. Grilled Fish
4. Croatian fish stew brudet
5. Black risotto and the octopus salad
6. Pasticada with gnocchi
7. Veal under the peka
8. What is Croatia’s national dish?
9. How to tip in Croatian restaurants?

What food is Croatia famous for?

Croatian cuisine offers a delightful blend of Mediterranean, Central, and Eastern European flavors. In coastal regions, seafood takes center stage, featuring fresh fish, octopus, and shellfish. Inland areas emphasize hearty meat dishes like roasted pork, sausages, and stuffed paprikas. Northern Croatia highlights its agricultural heritage with rich stews and traditional pastries. The eastern part of the country incorporates Hungarian and Austrian influences, resulting in dishes with a delightful blend of flavors. Here is the best of:

Strukli and zganci

If you start your journey from Zagreb, you can not pass through the capital city without trying food typical for Northern Croatia. Traditional Croatian dishes (besides kulen and stuffed peppers) are strukli and zganci. Strukli are a pastry filled with cottage cheese or various fillings like spinach and walnuts and can be sweet or salty. On the other, hand zganci are a bit more plain. In the days of our grandparents, zganci were a common rustic cornmeal meal, often served with roasted meats and gravy.

Grilled fish

Living along the Adriatic Sea brings many benefits, and one of them is the daily supply of fresh fish. Small pelagic fish is available almost all year round. Generations of locals have grown up with grilled sardines making them one of the Croatian dishes typical for the coastal area. Alongside the sardines, a very popular is also mackerel. Grilled can be any type of fish, depending on the taste of those who prepare it. It is only important that it is prepared with a little salt and a lot of olive oil. Those more experienced ones will also spread it with a rosemary sprig. As a side dish most common is a chard with potatoes or popular raštika –a type of kale with big green leaves.

Croatian fish stew brudet

Brudet is one of the best Dalmatian specialties, and although the preparation is very simple, the best chefs have their own little secrets which make this dish a real fisherman’s rhapsody. Like most of the dishes of this region, brudet was first a dish for the poor. It was a mixture of smaller and cheaper fish that would be caught in a kiddle, while the white flesh fish was sold to earn money for living. Basically, brudet is made by adding at least three types of fish in a pot. For the better taste shrimps, prawns or shells can be added as well, together with the inevitable chopped tomatoes, onion, parsley, garlic, white wine and a little bit of vinegar. The herbs like basil and rosemary can also be added, but that depends on the personal taste of the chef. If the brudet is made of first-class fish such as grouper or monkfish with the addition of lobster or shrimp, you will be served with a top delicacy whose taste will evoke in you the gastronomic beauty of this seaside region.

Black risotto and the octopus salad

For all true seafood lovers there are two Croatian dishes that you should put high on your ’’must try’’ list. First is black risotto. Made from cuttlefish, the cook uses the ink to color the whole meal, giving it a characteristic sea flavor, and making its admirers remain faithful to it for life. The secret of preparing black risotto (apart from the freshness of the main ingredient), is to take an ink bubble out of the cuttlefish so that it doesn’t break, and then mix it into the dish. The only side effect of this delicacy is your black teeth which occur while you are smiling with contentment. But, nothing serious that the toothbrush can’t fix. Unlike black risotto which is a warm dish, octopus salad is served cold. It is ideal as an appetizer, but it can also be a main dish and served with homemade bread. Due to its unusual appearance, many people find octopus highly uninviting, but well-cooked and properly seasoned with salt, fresh pepper, onion, capers, vinegar, and olive oil, is an excellent light Mediterranean meal for hot summer days.

Pasticada with gnocchi

After the fish, it is time to recommend a couple of meals where meat predominates. The absolute queen of Dalmatian traditional cuisine is pasticada with gnocchi. It is a dish prepared from marinated beef cooked with dried plums. As vinegar is used for the marinade, and dried plums for the sauce, pasticada is characterized by a sweet and sour taste. Preparation of this dish stretches up to three days, resulting in meat so soft that it melts in the mouth. Almost every seaside place in Dalmatia is proud of its recipe, which claims to be the best. Who is right is hard to say, but this dish served with gnocchi is a specialty that very few will resist.

Veal under the peka

To introduce you to this dish, first we need to explain what is peka. Peka is a bell-shaped ceramic or iron baking dish for baking on an open fire. Its look resembles a large bell-shaped lid with a top handle. After the fire turns into an ember, the person who cooks puts the metal pan with veal, potatoes, and vegetables on the earth and covers it with a baking sheet. Meat cooked in this way is tastier and softer because it is bathed in its juices. In addition to roast veal, this can also be a way to prepare lamb, goat, or even an octopus.

What is Croatia’s national dish?

Last but not least is the roast lamb. While driving through Croatian you have probably noticed a skewer with spinning lambs. Although it looks completely barbaric, this is probably one of the most favorite Croatian dishes. If you want to try it, you will have to visit some of the destinations located along the road. Why? Because the proper way of preparing the roast lamb requires a skewer which you are more likely to find in a restaurant outside the city. Roasted lamb is an indispensable dish for all important events such as weddings, baptisms, and other celebrations. And not only that, if lamb is not served at a Dalmatian wedding, there is a great chance that your guests will go home disappointed with the menu. Soft and tasty, roasted lamb is Croatia’s favorite dish.

How to tip In Croatian restaurants?

Presuming that you will be eating in restaurants, this answer might help a lot. Although it is not obligatory, the tip in Croatia is desirable, especially if you were satisfied with the service. A tip of around 10% on top of the bill is considered appropriate. At the more informal places such as cafe bars, the custom is to round up the bill, or to leave 3-5% of the total amount.

No matter which dish from our list you decide to try, the simplicity of preparation will delight anyone who appreciates a healthy meal. Authentic Croatian cuisine today, just like its cities, is a combination of traditional and modern. It blends everyday life and new trends with centuries-old traditions and historical heritage.

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