What to eat in Croatia?

You have picked Croatia as your next traveling destination. What a great choice! We will give you some tips on which traditional Croatian dishes to try to awaken the taste buds and provide you with authentic local experience. Although small in area, Croatian has a rich gastronomic offer. Its diversity can mostly be attributed to the turbulent history in which the influence of different countries such as Turkey, Hungary, Italy and Austro-Hungary has mixed. All of them left their mark on today’s cuisine, either with way of preparation, ingredients or new spices which merged to everyday’s cookbooks and blended with traditional dishes. When it comes to Croatian cuisine, because of its diversity, it is inevitable to talk separately about each region. Slavonia, Istria, Lika, Dalmatia or Zagorje are just some of the regions, each of which has its own special cooking tradition characteristic for the area. As Dalmatia is one of the most visited Croatian regions, we will dedicate this article to its cuisine. Read carefully because this is the list with some of the Dalmatian ”must-try” dishes.

The taste of Dalmatia

Traditional Dalmatian cuisine belongs to the Mediterranean type of diet. Characterized by simple, light and healthy dishes it is one of the healthiest in Europe. If you ask locals to describe their typical lunch, the first association among many usually is grilled fish prepared with lots of olive oil and vegetables. Along with fish, preference is given to the preparation of fresh seafood which we can thank to the closeness of the sea. Among the meat dishes the roast lamb has its own unique place in the hearts of the locals making it the most important meal of almost every festive occasion. As an integral part of traditional dishes we need to mention spices as well, among which dominate parsley, garlic, rosemary, laurel and sage. On top of it every local considers the meal as an occasion for a glass of a good wine, and Dalmatia has some of the best vineyards in Croatia. Its sunny slopes are home of indigenous grape varieties, which, bottled in limited quantities, sell out almost as soon as they are made.

Grilled sardines

If you visit the fish market, you will easily notice that there is always busy around the fisherman who sells the sardines. Don’t be surprised because not only is it very affordable, but this oily fish is also rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which makes it a very healthy meal. As Dalmatia is traditionally a region of fishermen, and small pelagic fish is available almost all year round, generations of locals have grown up with grilled sardines. Alongside with the sardines, very popular is also mackerel, but grilled can be any type of fish, depending on the tastes of those who prepare. It is only important that it is prepared with a little salt and a lot of olive oil, which those more experienced ones will spread with a rosemary sprig. As a side dish most common is a chard with potatoes or popular raštika –a type of a kale with big green leaves. There is even a story about raštika being planted in the area of Split and enjoyed by the emperor of the Roman Empire, Diocletian himself. Who knows, maybe he served it with roasted sardines as well.


Living along the Adriatic Sea brings many benefits, and one of them is the daily supply of fresh fish. That’s why it is a pity to be in Dalmatia and not to try some of the traditional fish dishes. 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 these are two dishes that you should put high on your ’’must try’’ list. Black risotto is made from cuttlefish, using its ink to color the whole dish, giving it a characteristic sea flavor, making its admirers remain faithful to it for life. The secret of preparing black risotto, apart from the freshness of the main ingredient, is the skill of the chef who has 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 are your black teeth which occur while you are smiling with content. 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.

Pašticada with gnocchi

After the fish dishes, it is time to recommend a couple of meals where meat predominates. The absolute queen of Dalmatian cuisine is pašticada with gnocchi. It is a dish prepared from marinated beef cooked with dried plums. Cooked only for special occasions, our grandmothers used to put an extra effort in making pašticada. That means that their preparation of this dish used to stretch for as much as three days, resulting in meat so soft that it would melt in the mouth. As vinegar is used for the marinade, and the meat is cooked in the sauce with the dried plums, pašticada is characterized by a sweet and sour taste that dates back to ancient cookbooks, surviving to this day. As there are many ways to prepare pašticada, almost every seaside place 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

In order to conjure up this dish, first we need to introduce you to peka. Peka is a bell-shaped ceramic or iron baking dish for baking on an open fire which resembles a large bell-shaped lid with a handle on top. After the fire has turned into an ember, a metal pan with veal, potatoes and vegetables is placed on the hearth and covered with a baking sheet. Everyone who loves peka says that meat cooked in this way is tastier and softer because it is bathed in its own juices. In addition to roast veal, this can also be a way to prepare lamb, goat or even an octopus. There are many varieties of peka preparations, depending on the personal taste.

Grilled lamb

Last but not least is roast lamb. While driving through Croatian you have probably noticed a skewer with spinning lambs. Although it looks completely barbaric, this is one of the most favorite Dalmatian dishes, and skewer is its most authentic way of preparation. Therefore, if you want to try this dish, we must immediately warn you that you will probably not find it in restaurants in the city center, but you will have to visit some of the popular destinations located mainly along the road. Why? Because the proper way of preparing the roast lamb requires a skewer, so you are more likely to find it in the restaurant offered outside the city. If you are still not sure if you would like to try the lamb, we will only add that this is an indispensable dish of 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, regardless of other delicacies that were served.

No matter which dish or dishes from our list you decide to try, the simplicity of preparation and the unmistakable combination of foods will delight anyone who appreciates a healthy meal, intense taste and special aromas. By tasting some of these dishes you will try an authentic Dalmatian cuisine which is today, just like Dalmatian cities, a combination of traditional and modern: it blends everyday life and new trends with centuries-old tradition and historical heritage.

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