Croatian cuisine is diverse, interesting, and tasty. To help us discover classic Croatian desserts, meats, pasta, and breads, we went to an expert, Ana of KitchenToast. She shares with us the most popular dishes served in this European country. (See her details below).
Croatia is a country rich in history, culture, and natural beauty. It has more than 1000 islands, beautiful fields, and vineyards, as well as breathtaking views. Its diversity is not only seen in its nature, old traditional towns, and interesting streets but it can also be found in its cuisine.
If we look into Croatian past, its cuisine has been influenced by many different cultures and civilizations. For example, if we look at Croatian continental cuisine, it was mostly influenced by the early Slavic, Hungarian and Turkish cuisine. That is visible in the usage of fatness, pepper, paprika, and white onion.
The coast was influenced by Greek, Roman, Italian, and Mediterranean cultures and cuisines. It can be detected in the usage of olive oil and different herbs such as rosemary, sage, bay leaf, oregano, marjoram, cinnamon, orange and lemon peel, and others.
Today, all those influences present the basis of Croatian cuisine, which is diverse, interesting, and tasty. In order to introduce you to the cuisine of this Central European and Mediterranean country, we are going to talk about some of the most delicious and must-try main dishes and Croatian desserts!
Traditional & authentic Croatian pasta
Istria is known for its original and authentic recipes for pasta. It is served as a side dish to almost every main dish and one of the most famous pasta there is called fuži.
Fuži are traditional pasta that resembles small flutes or spindles. Unlike other pasta, which is typically made of flour and water, fuži are made of flour and eggs. When it comes to their serving, they are great in combination with a classic tomato sauce and rosemary, as well as with different types of seafood and meat.
Since we’re already talking about pasta, we must mention mlinci from the region of Zagorje and žrnovski makaruni from the region of Dalmatia.
Mlinci are quite unique pasta. To be more specific, they present a combination of pasta and flatbread, and they have recognizable burnt-out bubbles. Mlinci are crunchy and thorn-up and they are baked, left to dry, and then cooked as a delicious side dish.
In Zagorje, roasted turkey with mlinci is a must! In the rest of Croatia, mlinci can be served with any type of roasted meat and they are amazing with it!
Žrnovski makaruni are traditional pasta from the island of Korčula.
These makaruni are medium-sized oblong pasta with a small hole in the middle. They are made according to the ancient recipe of Korčula‘s housewives. They are perfect with beef mange, tomato sauce, pesto, prawns, cheese, and actually, anything you can think of!
Variety of Croatian meat, seafood, and vegetables
There are a lot of different (must-taste) recipes when it comes to specific ingredients such as meat, seafood, and vegetables.
In continental Croatia, barbecue and peka are a part of every gathering, party, and festivity.
Ražnjići are one of the most popular meat preparations when it comes to barbecuing (besides the famous ćevapi). It is pieces of meat that are placed on metal or wooden sticks and then roasted on the barbecue.
They are made of chicken or pork, and besides that, they can be made in the combination with vegetables too! If they are prepared correctly (and marinaded for a couple of hours before roasting), they are quite juicy and rich in flavours!
Peka or to be more precise, lamb under peka is a specific cooking method. The lamb with potatoes is covered in a bell-shaped ceramic or iron vessel and then coated with coal in order to perfectly cook all the ingredients. This dish is quite a specialty in Croatia and due to that – a must-try!
Ombolo is an Istrian amazing cold-cut! It presents chopped pork rubbed with pepper, salt, and bay leaf. Before consuming, ombolo needs to dry for at least 3 weeks. When it comes to its serving, ombolo perfectly combines with just a few simple and everyday ingredients such as olive oil and homemade bread.
Seafood dishes are the trademark of the entire Croatian coast, especially of the region Dalmatia. There, seafood is combined with simple ingredients and aromatic herbs in order to create outstanding flavors and interesting aromas.
White risotto with prawns
One of the most popular dishes is white risotto with prawns. It is creamy and delicious, and the combination of rice, prawns, and a touch of white wine is just amazing!
Besides the risotto, some of the top fish dishes are certainly brodetto (a fish soup/stew), grilled fish, mussels on buzara, and shrimps. Each dish is carefully prepared so it brings the best flavors of the sea depth, as well as of the Mediterranean!
One more dish needs to be mentioned – Komiža’s bread.
This dish is a trademark of the island of Vis, and it presents a pie with a filling made of tomato sauce, salted anchovies, onion, parsley, oregano, and olive oil! Quite yummy!
Vegetables have quite a big role in Croatian cuisine, and due to that, there are a lot of different ways to prepare them! Soparnik is a savoury pie with a filling made of chard, onion, and parsley.
This is a traditional dish of Dalmatian Poljica, and it presents a simple dish made of simple and everyday ingredients. Chard is often used in Croatian cuisine, and besides in pies, it is also prepared na lešo mixed with potatoes, salt, and olive oil.
Croatian desserts: sweet cakes, cookies and pies
Samobor kremšnita is made of whipped cream and crispy pastry. And unlike other desserts, it is served warm! The vanilla-flavored cream is foamy, and it beautifully harmonizes with the crispy pastry.
If it is made well (and in Samobor, they all are), it simply melts on the top of your palate, which is seduced within the first seconds of the tasting!
One of the most elegant Croatian desserts is rožata.
It is considered to be the queen of all the desserts despite its simpleness – it presents a traditional Dalmatian pudding with caramel dressing. The dessert origin from Dubrovnik where it is prepared with a touch of rose brandy.
But throughout the entire Croatian coast, you can find different recipes for this dessert. Each town, village, and household add something different to the recipe so there’s no way you’ll try the same rožata twice!
Of course, there are some cakes which are simply amazing. Skradin cake is made of a combination of almonds, walnuts, honey, cinnamon, orange, lemon, rum, rose brandy, and prosecco, and then coated with chocolate. The cake comes with amazingly combined ingredients that offer quite specific, strong, and intense flavors.
Cake of Imotski
The cake of Imotski is often called the queen because it is decorated with almonds, so it seems that the cake is wearing a crown. This cake is also made of almonds with a touch of orange and lemon. Its recipe varies from one household to the other, while the almonds filling, and the crust create outstanding flavors!
Arancini and limuncini
Limuncini and arancini are unusual Croatian desserts but you really don’t want to miss them! Arancini are made of orange peel and limuncini of lemon peel. The peel is cut into strips and covered in sugar, so these small snacks beautifully combine sweet nuances with sour aromas.
For small and sweet bites and snacks, Croats usually prepare kroštule.
Kroštule are crunchy knot-shaped sweets coated with powdered sugar. They are prepared in every region of Croatia but what’s interesting is that they have 4 different names (depending on the region) – kroštule, fanjki, hroštule, and poderane gaće (thorn undies!). This dessert will certainly be your favorite!
More about Croatian desserts and cuisine
All the mentioned dishes and desserts are made by recipes you really don’t want to miss! They are classic and simple, yet rich in flavours and aromas, and they truly beautifully present Croatian traditional cuisine.
Of course, there are a lot more dishes that you can find while wandering through the Croatian regions, but I’m going to let you discover them!
This small list of must-try dishes and desserts presents you with some of the most popular dishes which offer you interesting combinations of ingredients and herbs, as well as delicious flavours, aromas, and textures. But most of all, they present the diversity of Croatian gastronomy.
If you want to read more about this country’s cuisine, you can read this article about 76 amazing Croatian traditional dishes!
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Which Croatian desserts or mains will you try first?
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About the author
Ana has a bachelor’s degree in journalism. She is an experienced writer for restaurants and wineries. Ana loves to cook, research, and experiment with different cuisines and ingredients. Besides writing for the KitchenToast, Ana loves to photograph and travel, especially to Korčula which is her second home and the best inspiration for new article topics, recipes, and flavors.
I clearly denied myself a rich culinary experience when I visited Croatia. I couldn’t get past the seafood that was fresh and delicious. I’m inspired to broaden my horizons on my next visit. Thank you.
L. Diane Wolfe
Kroštule sounds tasty. I would love all the pasta dishes.
I actually had no idea what Croatian food was like considering I haven’t been but it strikes me as quite Italian with a hint of Slovenian which considering its location makes sense. I loved the cream cake in Slovenia but so interesting that Croatian’s have their own version, but it is served hot!
Oh WOW! I would LOVE to try these dishes!
I spent a few months in croatia and was OBSESSED with the food. As a Serbian by heritage, we have a lot of similar dishes but our desserts aren’t quite the same
Food posts are always our favorite!! We love reading about what we need to try that’s culturally significant instead of commercialized?! Croatia has been on our bucket list forever!!
Just came back from my 2nd visit to Croatia. I have tried some of this but I wish I had found out your guide beforehand- especially for the Rožata which looks delicious! Thanks for all the ideas!
I didn’t know anything about Croatian cuisine before reading this. Everything looks delicious!
YUM! When I was pet sitting in Slovenia, I only got to visit Zagreb for one day. But I knew immediately that I wanted to return. A big reason was the food that I saw everyone eating. I can’t wait to go back and eat some “thorn undies!” Thanks for a delicious guide. I wish I knew how to pronounce all these yummy dishes!
Simply wonderful. I am drooling just by going over this lineup of desserts
Alex J. Cavanaugh
So many pastas and pizza-like dishes – I never knew.
This was such an informative post. Thank you for introducing me to Croatian cuisine.
oh this post is so interesting and inspiring. I have so many recipes and a new cuisine that I want to explore now 🙂
I have always wanted to go to croatia and all this delicious food is making me want to go more.
All these dishes and desserts sound delicious! I’ve never tried croatian cuisine but am looking forward to trying some of these recipes. They all look so flavorful!
I didn’t know alot about Croatian cuisine. Thank you for sharing this, I’m craving all the Croatian foods now!