Croatian Food

Croatian Food: 25 Must-try Dishes (My Guide as a Local)

Marking my first year of writing a blog, I decided to write about what I love most – food! By now I already took you on a journey through Croatia’s cities, so I think now is the right time to dive into Croatian Food!

Influenced by a variety of cultures, including Italian, Hungarian, and Turkish, the cuisine of Croatia is something one truly has to experience. To ensure you experience the finest dishes, I’ve prepared the Ultimate List of 25 Must-Try Dishes.

Warning: reading this blog post may cause growling stomachs!

1. Punjene Paprike (Stuffed Peppers)

Hold on to your taste buds, because I am starting this adventure with a well-known flavorful mixture – punjene paprike! 

Translated to stuffed peppers, this dish consists of plump peppers stuffed to the brim. And what exactly are we stuffing them with? Well, the mixture is a blend of minced meat, rice, onions, and various spices. So prepared, the peppers are simmered in a luscious tomato sauce and cooked for about 2 hours. 

This dish is often served with a side of creamy mashed potatoes or white rice, which perfectly complement the rich flavors. 

I have to note that this dish is so hearty the peppers won’t be the only thing that’s stuffed! After stuffing your stomach, you’ll most likely end up taking a well-deserved nap. 💤 

Punjene paprike
Punjene paprike

2. Soparnik

What makes soparnik truly special is its connection to Dalmatian culture and tradition. Historically, it was a staple food for local farmers and shepherds. The preparation and the ingredients did not change throughout the years, so this nutritious meal is just as cherished today as it was in the past. 

At its core, soparnik is a pie made from thinly rolled dough filled with leafy greens, such as chard or spinach. Adding garlic and olive oil makes the taste even fuller. 

In modern times, it is mostly enjoyed at family gatherings and celebrations. So, if you ever find yourself in a Dalmatian get-together, make sure to sneak an extra slice of soparnik. 

Also, don’t forget to carry a toothpick on you. Trust me, I had to learn the hard way. 🙁


3. Brodetto

Hold your spoons tight, because this meal is a flavor rollercoaster! 

The name of this Croatian culinary wonder depends on where you are. While most regions of Croatia will call this dish brodet, in Dalmatia and the islands it is often referred to as brujet.

So what does it taste like? Well, imagine your favorite seafood – fish, shrimp, mussels, and maybe even calamari – taking a dip in the savory pool of sauce. The sauce is enriched with just the right amount of garlic and herbs to round the flavor the right way.
Brodetto is so well cherished that every year, in the small town of Opuzen, a traditional event Neretvanska brudetijada occurs. The preparation remains the same, however, the local people use eels, frogs, and mullet fish.


4. Sarme

As passionate culinary enthusiasts, we Croatians just can’t help but dive head-first into the heated stuffed dish debate. What meal is better – punjene paprike (aforementioned stuffed peppers) or sarme, the delightful cabbage rolls?

It’s a showdown that just can’t be ignored! Well, the answer to this lies in your personal preferences. 

As the two might share similarities in stuffing and preparation, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that a foreigner confused one for another. 

However, when it comes to taste, each dish brings its own flavor profile to the table. While stuffed peppers deliver a bolder, spicier taste, sarme tend to be more on the subtle, earthy side. 

Give both of these dishes a chance and let me know – are you #TeamSarme or #TeamPunjenePaprike?  


5. Pašticada

Forgive me, Father, for I have sinned – I have been gatekeeping this dish from my foreign friends for so long! Now I feel is time to come clean, so let me present to you (by far) one of the best-known dishes of Croatia!

Pašticada is an absolute classic that you have to try when visiting my amazing country.

It’s a dish made with braised beef cooked in a rich wine sauce, enriched with aromatic spices like garlic, rosemary, black pepper, and bay leaves. Often served with a side of gnocchi or mashed potatoes, this hearty meal is a true taste of Croatian culinary culture. 

Every household along the Dalmatian coast swears to make the best pašticada. No cook enthusiast will back down in this battle! 

But whether you find yourself in a fancy restaurant or a cozy home somewhere on the Adriatic, the experience will never fall short!

Pašticada, source:
Pašticada, source:

6. Sataraš

This flavorful stew will make you lick your plate and craving seconds!

Sataraš is a traditional dish in Balkan countries, particularly cherished in Serbia, Hungary, and Croatia as well.

This flavourful stew is made primarily from ripe tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, and in some cases, eggplants. Variations of sataraš may include the addition of garlic, paprika, chilli peppers, and similar herbs and spices. 🍅🧅

Sataraš is commonly enjoyed for lunch, accompanied by grilled meat, rice, or polenta, especially during the warmer time of the year. 

Not only is it delicious but also nutritious, as it is packed with vitamins and antioxidants from the vegetables.

If you decide to make it yourself, remember – the longer you cook, the better the taste! 


7. Burek

This crispy sensation is popular not only in Croatia, but also in other Balkan countries, and parts of the Middle East.

Burek is a pastry made of a thin flaky dough on the outside, while the filling can be made of minced meat, spinach, cheese, or sometimes even potatoes

Needless to say, burek is always the best when it’s homemade and enjoyed with family. However, it is also commonly found in bakeries around the country, ready to satisfy your cravings anytime. You can grab it as a quick bite on the go or indulge in it as a late-night snack along with some yogurt.

If you ever find yourself in Split, make sure to visit Burek Zvrk, as they have any and every kind of burek you can think of! If you’re longing for this pastry after a long night out, make a stop at Krafne kod Mate and indulge in their delectable selection of pastries. 

Trust me, both are worth the visit!


8. Zagorski Štrukli

Ever wondered what is Croatia signature dish? Well, look no further than Zagorski štrukli. This true culinary masterpiece is composed of dough and various fillings

No household in Zagreb or Hrvatsko Zagorje doesn’t take pride in making štrukli for their loved ones. That’s why it is often called the comfort food of Croatia.

When it comes to preparation, its form begins as a thinly rolled-out dough filled with cottage cheese, butter, sour cream, and eggs. So prepared, štrukli can either be cooked in boiling water or baked to perfection. The entire process can take anywhere from 1 to 2 hours, depending on the type of dish to be made.

What I appreciate most about štrukli is their versatility. 

Care to try them in a tasty soup? Or perhaps baked, served as a side dish to your favorite meat? Maybe you’re just in the mood for a sweet snack?

Whatever your preference is, this delicious pastry can be enjoyed in countless ways.

Zagorski štrukli
Zagorski štrukli

9. Sirnica

Every year as Easter approaches in Croatia, it’s not just the flowers blooming that signal the arrival of spring. 

Nope, it is the sight of sirnica gracing the lunch table and its aroma filling the air.

Sirnica (also called pinca) is a staple treat cherished by generations. This traditional bread is often made with white flour and filled with a mixture of cottage cheese, eggs, and sometimes sugar.

Whether homemade days before Easter or picked up fresh from the bakery, its arrival marks the start of a festive feast. 🐇🐣

But the magic doesn’t stop there. On Holy Saturday, families gather in church, bringing baskets loaded with sirnica, eggs, and ham.

The food receives a sacred blessing and is shared with family for breakfast on Easter Sunday. This holiday in Croatia truly paints a picture-perfect scene. 

Sunshine all around, days packed with laughter, and plenty of sirnica… Can it get any better?


10. Pogača

Crafted with either white or whole wheat flour, this bread is a canvas for culinary creativity. 

In most cases, pogača is made plain, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enriched with fillings such as cheese, onions, potatoes, etc. They can elevate it to new heights, giving the flavor a whole new dimension.

I feel the need to mention my favorite island, Vis, where two variations of this dish reign supreme.

Picture this – Komiška pogača, originating from a charming fisherman town Komiža, and Viška pogača, hailing from the historic town Vis.

Each with its own twist, these local specialties embody the essence of the island cuisine, drawing visitors from afar. And don’t forget to enjoy them with a glass of local wine for the full experience!

Viška pogača
Viška pogača

11. Kulen

What if I told you this isn’t just any sausage – it’s a symbol of Croatian culinary culture. The rockstar of all Croatian sausages. It is spicy, smoky, and oh-so-satisfying. I am talking about the one and only – kulen.

Kulen is a type of flavored sausage made of minced pork. The hot flavor of meat comes from the hot red paprika, garlic, and in some cases, even black pepper.

The traditional way of making kulen is by stuffing meat into bags made of pork appendix casings and then subjected to a process that may last up to a year. This involves smoking and drying the sausage to perfection. When stored properly, it has a shelf life of up to two years.

Among its many varieties, Baranjski kulen, hailing from the Baranja region, stands out as one of the most esteemed meat delicacies among Croatian food.


12. Pršut

What kulen is to Slavonija and Baranja, pršut is to Dalmatia and its hinterland.

This renowned dry-cured ham is a common national dish admired throughout the country.

The most sought-after pršut originates from Dalmatia, Istria, and the island Krk

But pršut isn’t just a treat for the taste buds. It embodies years of tradition, passed down through generations and cherished as a sign of generosity. 

I have fond memories from when I was a little girl. Visiting the village where my grandparents used to live, the air was always filled with the rich aroma of grandpa’s homemade pršut. 

He always carefully selected the finest cuts of meat and seasoned them with just as much expertise. 

His pršut wasn’t just smoked ham you put on a slice of bread. It was something that brought the whole family together. In a nutshell, this culinary gem is truly unmissable!


13. Ćevapi

The tales of meat didn’t stop just there! If sampling kulen and pršut made you dive deeper into the meat delicacies of Croatia, you will love this one. 

Even though ćevapi were not originally born in Croatia, but are consumed all over the Balkan region, they deserve to be on the list as one of the quintessential Croatian food. Ćevapi are considered a national dish of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but today, every country has a little twist on it.

Ćevapi are usually served hot, straight from the grill. You can enjoy them on a plate with a side of french fries, or nestled inside lepinja (a flatbread) along with onions and a creamy sauce, such as ajvar or kajmak.
Whichever way you choose to enjoy them, stack some paper tissues with you, because this culinary delight will have you licking your fingers! 😋

Čevapi in lepinja
Čevapi in lepinja

14. Mlinci

Ah, mlinci, the crispy wonder of Croatian cuisine! 

You start with a simple dough, rolling it out into thin sheets and baking until they’re crispy and golden. Then comes the fun part – breaking them into irregular shapes and sprinkling salt over them until they taste perfectly crunchy. 

The anticipation builds for that first satisfying crunch. But don’t worry, the preparation time is no more than 40 minutes from start to finish.

However, if you’re as passionate about cooking as I am, you will opt for the store-bought version. I love a good shortcut. 😎

And how exactly do you serve mlinci, you ask? They are the ultimate sidekick to any hearty dish, often enjoyed with some baked meats or roasted poultry.

It’s a comfort food with a twist, leaving your tastebuds begging for more.


15. Crni Rižot (Black Risotto)

If you’re wondering what is the number 1 food in Croatia, black risotto is the answer you’re looking for! This flavorful dish bursting with seafood and a touch of squid ink offers a unique taste of the Adriatic. Its captivating black hue is in charge of its savory flavor, making it a must-try for anyone exploring Croatian cuisine.

And I promise, even though the name of this dish doesn’t sound as appealing, black risotto – or crni rižot as we call it, is anything but disappointing!

Prepare for a culinary surprise that exceeds expectations.

As a dish of creamy texture, it is often enriched with ingredients such as fresh squid, garlic, onions, parsley, white wine, and olive oil.

Not only do I love ordering it in a restaurant, but it is also one of those meals I don’t find tiring to make. I genuinely enjoy the preparation process, and even more so – the eating. Every spoonful evokes memories of lazy summer evenings with friends. 

If past life exists, I was living by the sea and eating risotto in every one of them.

Black risotto
Black risotto

16. Janjetina (Lamb)

When it comes to meat, my country has a clear favorite. So, what is Croatia main meat?

Lamb, or as we would call it – janjetina, holds a special place in our gastronomy. 

Whether roasted, grilled, or stewed, janjetina brings people together, embodying the heart and soul of Croatian cuisine.

As with many other dishes listed in this blog post, lamb is often enjoyed during festive occasions and family gatherings. I can confidently say that I’ve never been to any celebratory gathering (such as a wedding or baptism) where lamb wasn’t a part of the menu.

As for preparation, roasted lamb is often seasoned to round out the taste. 

In Dalmatia, herbs like rosemary and thyme enhance the flavor, while in Slavonia, peppers and garlic are mostly used as seasonings. 

Moreover, in Dalmatia we serve it with vegetables and potatoes on the side, whereas people from continental Croatia add their twist to this meal by adding mlinci or sauerkraut.

Braised lamb
Braised lamb

17. Fritule

These sweet little balls, known as fritule, are a beloved treat during the Christmas season throughout Croatia. They are so famous that even our renowned singer, Petar Grašo, wrote a song about it.

In essence, fritule are deep-fried dough balls, similar in taste to doughnuts without any filling. Sometimes you might stumble upon a place that sells fritule filled with raisins, but that is a rare treat. In most cases, they are coated in powdered sugar or drizzled with a sweet chocolate or caramel topping

During Christmas, Croatian cities come alive with festive celebrations all over the old town cores and main squares. Zagreb stands out as one of Europe’s top holiday markets, drawing visitors from near and far to experience the joy of Christmas and indulge in treats like fritule.

There is no Christmas without this traditional treat, and I’m positive all Croatians will agree. ❄️


18. Pasta

I have a weakness for a well-made pasta dish. When it comes to choosing between pasta and anything else, pasta takes the win, hands down. 🍝

As a beloved staple in Croatian cuisine, many types of pasta dishes are enjoyed throughout the country. Other than the aforementioned black risotto, some famous pasta dishes are:

  • Fuži – this type of pasta resembles tubes twisted into diamond shapes. It is often served with various sauces, which can be meat-based (mostly chicken or beef) or creamy (truffles).
  • Pljukanci – another type of pasta typical for the northern coastline of Istria, very popular in Croatia thanks to the Italian influence. However, the Croatians added their own spice to it, often serving it with local truffles, asparagus, or hearty Istrian sausages, giving it a distinctive Croatian twist.
  • Gnocchi – As we Croatians call it, njoki are a popular dish among Croatian food, particularly in Dalmatia and Istria. They are often served with various sauces, whether tomato-based, creamy cheese sauces or simple toppings like butter and mushrooms.

19. Pag Cheese

Also known as Paški sir, this renowned Croatian delicacy hails from the island of Pag. 

The cheese is unique as the island itself, with its distinct flavor and texture shaped by the island’s rugged terrain and salty sea air.

It is crafted from the milk of Pag sheep. The production process involves traditional methods passed down through generations. 

This is exactly what I love about Croatian cuisine – the traditions are cherished and kept alive for so many years.

With its tangy taste and crumbly texture, Pag cheese has earned its place on the tables of gourmands worldwide. It can be enjoyed on its own with a slice of bread, or paired with local wines and olives. 

Whatever option you choose, I can guarantee you will enjoy the aftertaste.

Pag cheese
Pag cheese

20. Zagrebački Šnicel

Zagrebački šnicel (or the schnitzel of Zagreb) holds a special place in Croatian cuisine. 

Consisting of a breaded and fried pork cutlet, it’s a staple on menus throughout the northern part of the country.

Šnicel is known for its crispy coating and tender meat. Its delightfully savory taste makes it a beloved dish for both adults as well as children.

It is usually served hot, with a side of fries or mashed potatoes, and often accompanied by a wedge of lemon for added flavor. While the exact origins of the dish may vary, it has become a staple of Croatian cuisine and is enjoyed by locals and visitors alike. 

And remember, if you’re eating Croatian food with a local, prepare for a fierce debate on which region makes the best šnicel!

Zagrebački šnicel
Zagrebački šnicel, source:

21. Oysters

Just like in many other coastal regions, oysters have shucked their way onto the list of must-try dishes in Croatia.

Despite their slippery reputation and the peculiar technique required to enjoy them, they remain one of my top orders when I’m seaside.

You’ll often find these ocean gems on the menus of high-class restaurants. They can be considered a luxury treat due to their high demand and limited availability.

Their cost can vary depending on various factors, making them quite a catch for your wallet. But hey, don’t be shellfish 🐚, sometimes you just have to splash out for a taste of the ocean’s finest.


22. Rožata

This creamy dessert is a must-try when you’re in Dubrovnik. Being the city that birthed the tasty Rožata, you’ll find it not only in local restaurants, but at home gatherings also. 

The main composition of rožata consists of eggs, sugar, and milk. Often, some ingredients are added to enhance the overall taste of the dessert, such as lemon zest, vanilla, and rose liqueur. 

The rich and creamy texture makes it a favorite among locals and visitors alike. Not only that, but it is often presented in a very elegant way. Makes you think twice before you dig your spoon in it!

For those enjoying it, it offers a delicious taste of traditional Croatian sweets that perfectly caps off any meal. With its smooth and indulgent flavor, rožata is sure to leave you craving more after the first bite!


23. Istrian Truffles

Istrian truffles have dug their way into the hearts of food enthusiasts all across the country, and believe me when I say, they’re not going anywhere.

Hunting for truffles may sound like a game perfect for a gourmet treasure hunt, and if you ask me, this should be a reality show. Has anyone thought of this before? 

Anyway, these fungi are seriously sought after. 

Their unique flavor profile and earthy aroma have the ability to elevate even the simplest of dishes. If you don’t believe me, check their price tag. It surely reflects their rarity, but don’t let it scare you off – they are worth every penny. Whether they’re shaved over pasta, infused into oils, or something else, they are a true delicacy that every food enthusiast should try at least once in their life.

Black truffles
Black truffles

24. Gradele

If you Googled the meaning of gradele, you’d think it is just a cooking practice popular along the Dalmatian coast and islands. I’m not saying that is not true, but in my opinion, the invitation to gradele means more than just gathering people to eat.

It is an experience you share with your family and friends. Imagine a setting where you call your loved ones for a get-together to enjoy freshly grilled meats, seafood, and vegetables. 

Not only do you enjoy the process of preparing the food, but you listen to music and crack jokes with one another (and hope people don’t eat everything before you snag your favorites).

Keep in mind that gradele is never just an hour or two – expect to spend the whole afternoon by the grill fire.

Oh and by the way, day drinking is totally acceptable in this case. 😉

Gradele, source:

25. Peka

Saving the best for the end, I can now address the question directly – What is the traditional food in Croatia? Peka, with its rich and rustic flavor, embodies the essence of Croatian culinary tradition. As the meat slowly cooks under the peka lid, it absorbs the fragrant blend of herbs, garlic, and olive oil. And the result? A dish bursting with savory essence!

From succulent meats like beef and octopus to tossing in some potatoes and carrots, there’s no limit to what you can cook under that lid. 🦑 The only rule with peka is that there are no rules – except, of course, making sure you put in enough to feed everyone!

The tradition of peka doesn’t differ much from the one of gradele. Just like gradele, peka brings people together – be it friends or family, these memorable gatherings are a place to be! The moments around peka aren’t solely about food, but about creating lasting memories and strengthening bonds.

The process of peka
The process of peka


We’ve come to the end of my Croatian Food list and these amazing must-try dishes. I hope you’re not starving right now! And remember, if you ever need a dining companion, you know who to call – I’m always ready for another bite.

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