18 must-try Croatian foods in different parts of the country
- by croatiaweek
- in Food & Wine
Croatia is made up of a number of regions. Each region has its own history, culture and cuisine which it is famous for.
When travelling around Croatia, you will notice each area has its own different dishes on the menu. In some cases dishes will be specific not only to a region but even to a village.
Whilst each region or area have a lot of more dishes to offer, we have signalled out just some of the ones you must-try when visiting. The guide will help you know what to look for in different parts of the country when you want to try something famous to the area.
Central / Northern Croatia
When visiting the Croatian capital Zagreb, make sure to give the Zagrebački odrezak a try. This is a veal schnitzel filled with ham and cheese and popular in Zagreb. It is a schnitzel cordon bleu only named after the Croatian capital.
Although sarma is pretty much a national dish adopted across Croatia, give it a try when you are in the north. Sarma is rolled cabbage leaves stuffed with minced meat is popular in winter. Sarma is not readily available at every restaurant so you will need to look around.
When you are in the north in Zagorje then Zagorski štrukli is a must. A real true traditional Croatian dish, inducted into the list of Croatia’s intangible cultural heritage, maintained by Croatia’s ministry of culture. Zagorski štrukli is composed of dough and various types of filling, usually cheese and can be either cooked or baked.
Another food which has been inducted into the list of Croatia’s intangible cultural heritage is the Samoborska kremšnita from the town of Samobor. When you are in Samobor this is a must. The Samoborska kremšnita is characterised by having a puff pastry top, predominantly custard cream filling and is finished with powdered sugar.
If you visit Međimurje in northern Croatia then make sure you try a Međimurska gibanica. This is a type of layer cake made of puff pastry and four fillings: nuts, fresh cheese, poppy seeds and apples, as well as of many additional ingredients. It is a traditional dish rich in flavour.
Fuži with Truffles
When in Istria then you will not be able to escape truffles. The ‘home of truffles’ even has a restaurant where everything on the menu, including dessert, includes truffles. One dish you must try is fuži, a traditional Istrian pasta, topped with truffles.
If you are visiting the region in spring then give the Maneštra a try. This is a type of vegetable stew or soup from Istria and made with spring vegetables. Whilst there a few variations, it should contain potatoes, carrots, celery, peas and corn.
Kapešante is the Istrian word for a famous Saint-Jacques Shell or scallops and are one of the famous specialities of this area, along with the other sea delicacy. It is said to be one of the tastiest because in Novigrad maritime zone saltwater is mixed with the one from the river. Virgin olive oil and homemade bread make this specialty simple and unique.
Soparnik is a savoury pie with a filling of Swiss chard, or blitva as it is known in Croatia. It is the most famous specialty of the Dalmatian region Poljica, which lies between Split and Omiš and was recently given EU protection status. A great alternative to pizza and it goes fantastic with red wine.
Komiška / Viška pogača
If you are in Dalmatia and find yourself visiting the island of Vis then you need to try Komiška pogača. This is a type of baked bread, similar to focaccia which is filled with salty fish, tomatoes and onion is a specialty from Komiža on the island. The Viška (Vis) pogača is the same just without tomatoes.
One of the most authentic Dalmatian dishes you need to try is Dalmatinska pašticada, or just pašticada. It is a stewed beef dish cooked in a special sauce and served usually with gnocchi or homemade pasta. The long and meticulous preparation, and the range of fascinating ingredients such as roasted bacon, onions, parsley, nutmeg, prunes, and the sweet dessert wine prošek, helps the wonderful flavours come out.
It is wide spread all over Dalmatia, but also other regions of Croatia. We suggest you try ‘Ispod peke’, or ‘under the bell’ in Dalmatia, is something you need to try at least once when in Croatia. Usually lamb, veal or octopus is placed with vegetables inside a dish with a metal lid. The dish is then cooked in an open fireplace by the hot coals and embers which are placed over the lid. The dish is left to cook slowly in its own juices until the meat is tender. This dish is a winner.
Another dish that is popular in the Dalmatian region is crni rižot, or black risotto. Cuttlefish and squid are the star of this risotto, which is given its unique presentation thanks to ink from the cuttlefish which is added to the dish just before it is finished. A bit of grated parmesan cheese and you are ready to go. This is a heavy meal and best washed down with a glass of red wine.
If you are in Skradin then you have to try their famous 12-hour slow cooked risotto. The recipe is a secret but it includes veal shank, veal neck and chicken. If Skradin is not on your itinerary then it is worth going for the risotto which blew away celebrated late chef Anthony Bourdain when he tried it.
When you are in the east of Croatia in Slavonia you have to try the famous flavoured sausage ‘Kulen’ which has been protected at EU level. The meat is low-fat and the flavour is spicy with the hot red paprika bringing it aroma and colour, and garlic for additional spice.
Čvarci from the region of Slavonia are also a must-try. They are a kind of pork “crisps”, with fat thermally extracted from the lard. Onion or garlic may be added as a spice and salt is always used as condiment.
Another dish to try is the tasty fish stew from Slavonia. It is made from river fish, due to the location which the dish originates from, and has garlic, wine, paprika and chill in it to give it a kick.
Čobanac, or Shepherd’s stew, is another specialty from the eastern Croatian region of Slavonia. It is a traditional meat stew usually prepared in a cauldron on an open fire. Although not too spicy they can have a nice little kick to them courtesy of the paprika.