Croatia has a rich culinary tradition, shaped by interesting historical events and its geographical position
Continental, mountain, and Mediterranean climate throughout the country are suitable for growing different types of plants and animals which is, other than creativity, the most important factor in preparing meals. These are also reasons why every region stands out with its unique specialties, passed on from generation to generation.
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Locals from this Eastern region, known for its golden fields, like to gather around the fire and cook together. Cooking together with a glass of homemade rakija is their way of bonding. Except for its golden fields, people of the Slavonia region nurture a long tradition of producing high-quality meat from their farm animals.
While spending your time in this part of Croatia, it is a must to taste traditional meat-based food.
The most popular dish of this area čobanac originates from Hungary, and it is cooked for several hours in a large copper pot hanged over the open fire. It is a stew which must contain a few different kinds of meat. Typically, it consists of pork, beef, and game meat mixed with vegetables.
The other delicious stew from Slavonia is fiš paprikaš. Fiš paprikaš is also prepared on the fire, but its main ingredient is freshwater fish - carp, pike, catfish.
Unlike čobanac and fiš paprikaš, sataraš is prepared in the comfort of home without any meat. It is a vegetable stew with a combination of tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, and parsley. Vegetables are first prepared on a large pan, and then gently stewed.
As stated before, Slavonia people are proud of their meat production. It is no wonder their most exquisite delicacy is kulen – cured sausage made from best pork parts and red paprika. Kulen preparation lasts several months. This homemade spicy sausage needs to be smoked and dried to get the right kind of flavor. It is perfect for every occasion and meal. Kulen can be a quick snack, the main ingredient of the breakfast sandwich, or a spicy addition to traditional stews. Lastly, kulen can be an excellent evening meal with homemade cheese, fresh tomatoes, and fine local wine.
What else to eat while in Slavonia:
A region of Central Croatia that stands out with its cuisine the most is Zagorje. It is best known for two delicacies, first one is the main course meal Zagorje turkey with mlinci and the other one is Zagorski štrukli. Zagorje turkey with mlinci is the star of the Christmas and Easter table. Mlinci are the simple but tasty side dish, made from flour, water, and salt.
Soft mlinci, that melt in the mouth, along with the juicy turkey, still warm from the oven, is the recipe for a full and happy stomach.
Salty or sweet Zagorski štrukli can be served as a soup, starter, dessert or a main course. This dish consists of dough filled with cow cheese, and it is a rather simple dish with rich flavor. Today, numerous restaurants serve different versions of štrukli. You can even find a modern twist on traditional štrukli with blueberries, truffles, or pumpkin.
While Slavonia people display their meat through čobanac, Central Croatia shows off their meat products through kotlovina. Kotlovina are various meat and sausages prepared on a shallow, but wide plate placed over the specially made barrel-like construction (kotao). Making of kotlovina is a chance for family and friends to spend time together outdoors, usually with cheerful sounds of traditional music and a few drops of alcoholic beverages.
What else to eat while in Central Croatia:
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Lika and Gorski Kotar are both mountain regions. Throughout history, due to the poverty, housewives of these areas had to be creative and cook with what they could find. Their will to feed their families inspired dishes such as savory pie Ogulinska masnica and potato-based meal Ličke police.
Other than these two dishes, Lika is best known for its potatoes and lamb, while Gorski Kotar offers many game meat traditional foods.
Ogulinska masnica is a yeasted horse-shaped dough filled with a combination of onions, eggs, and lard. Before this dish sits in the oven, it needs to be covered in the egg wash to get the golden crust. Ogulinska masnica is the tastiest when served straight out of the oven. The second mentioned dish, Ličke police, is made from the most popular vegetable in Lika cuisine – the potato. Lika potato is even protected as a Croatian geographical good by the European Union. The name of the meal means Lika halves, which indicates that the potato is cut in half. Halves of the Lika potato are seasoned and then baked in the oven. They can be eaten alone or with local cows’ cheese škripavac.
What else to eat while in Lika and Gorski Kotar:
For starters, you can order maneštra, traditional Istrian thick soup with beans, potatoes and dried meat. This soup has different versions. For example, basic maneštra with corn is maneštra od bobići, one with sauerkraut is named jota, and you can also taste maneštra with sour beets, barley or fennel. Posibilities with maneštra are endless. Istrian cuisine was influenced by Italy, which is most evident from the homemade pasta tradition and top-notch olive oil in this region. While fuži are tubular-shaped, pljukanci are spindle-shaped traditional pasta. Both pasta types are best enjoyed in combination with Istrian truffles, venison stew, boletus or asparagus.
Kvarner bay hides an island famous for its cheese. Pag island cheese is made out of local goats’ milk. This renowned cheese has won several awards, including two gold medals on Global Cheese Awards in Somerset, England. The secret of this Pag white treasure is in islands vegetation – aromatic herbs and wind bora. Considering Istrian vineyards produce some of the finest Croatian wine, it would be a sin not to compliment this magnificent cheese with a glass or two of red wine and freshly picked olives. Other than wine roads, Istria is intertwined with olive oil roads. This liquid gold is a symbol of Mediterranean cuisine, with its bitter taste and unique scent it ties together some of the outstanding dishes.
What else to eat while in Istria and Kvarner:
Discover Istria, land of extraordinary food experiences
Just like Slavonia has kulen, Dalmatia has prosciutto. Prosciutto is a pork loin meat seasoned with sea salt and natural spices, smoked, and dried on wind bora. The preparation of this Dalmatian delicacy takes a year, but the result is worth it. Tender thin slices of prosciutto, homemade bread, and cheese make this combination a perfect traditional brunch. As we can see from prosciutto, Dalmatia people put their time into making their food.
Taste Croatian Tradition - tender thin slices of prosciutto, homemade bread, cheese and glass of red wine, a combination made in heaven.
The same goes for the next meal – Skradinski risotto. Preparing of this dish takes 10 to 12 hours, and it is made with veal rump, a bit of ham, some beef, onions, a bouillon of capon, rooster, or beef, and rice. Since it takes longer to make this dish, it needs to be ordered a few days in advance.
Considering Dalmatia geographical position by the Adriatic coast, many popular traditional dishes in this region consist of seafood – gregada, shrimps na buzaru, black risotto, octopus ispod peke. Gregada is a fish stew with potatoes. It is said this is the oldest way of making fish in Dalmatia, brought to Croatia from Greeks 2000 years ago. The traditional recipe is to layer potato and onion slices, sprinkle it with olive oil, and put the saltwater fish on top. The combination of ingredients is covered with water and white wine, then baked. This dish is the most common on the Croatian islands.
Buzara and ispod peke are both techniques for preparing different food. While buzara is making seafood by cooking it in a mixture of olive oil, wine, garlic, and fresh herb which results in a flavorful sauce, ispod peke or under the lid is cooking meals in a fireplace, under a lid covered with hot embers. The most delicious meals with these techniques are shrimps na buzaru, mussels na buzaru, and octopus under a lid. Except for the seafood under the lid, this technique is often used for preparing meat. Veal, lamb, or chicken is mixed with potatoes, then seasoned with rosemary and paprika to give it a real rhapsody of flavors.
What else to eat while in Dalmatia:
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We missed desserts in this overview on purpose. Croatia has a variety of choices for everyone’s sweet tooth. Therefore, this topic deserved a separate section. Check it out (at your own risk) here. To try some of the traditional Croatian food, you can also take a look at our blog about gourmet events throughout the year.
We cannot wait to hear what is the first thing you would like to feast on when you come to Croatia. Contact us, and we will make it possible. Feed your senses with a tailor-made vacation in Croatia.
Throughout the Croatian history, the majority of the population was faced with poverty. For their everyday meals, they would use goodies from their gardens and fields. Therefore, eating cakes or other kinds of pastries was considered a luxury. These types of delicacies were eaten mostly on special celebrations such as weddings, main Christian holidays, birthdays or baptisms. They would still use common ingredients, which they had at their homes, but they would also add some secret ingredients to make their recipe stand out from the rest of the village.
Since Croatia has a unique and diverse palette of delicacies to offer, it is not a surprise there are plenty of food-related events throughout the year in different parts of the country. Through numerous happenings, locals showcase their tradition in the tastiest way possible. This way, curious (and hungry) visitors can learn about Croatia while taking a bite into a yummy piece of heritage.