Croatian cuisine has something for everyone, and here are the 10 specialties you shouldn’t miss.
1. Zagorski štrukli
Baked with cheese and sour cream, štrukli represents traditional meal and is a recognizable brand of part of Croatia, Zagorje. This dish is made from fresh cow cheese, homemade butter, eggs, and corn flour mixed with wheat flour. Then, štrukli are coated with homemade sour cream and are ready to put in the oven. Štrukli is a favorite in the northwest of the Croatia, but they are among the most famous Croatian specialties.
To preserve traditional specialty of Zagorje and to create indigenous gastronomic products, every year Štruklijada manifestation is held, so don’t miss a chance to taste the best of the local dishes. Zagorski štrukli are on the protected list of non-material Croatian cultural heritage.
2. Sarma (Stuffed Cabbage Rolls)
Sarma is a dish which has a different personal touch of every country it is prepared in. Regardless of the ingredients which may vary from region to region, all forms consist of roasted meat in a “wrap”. There are plenty of recipes on how to make sarma, but usually, people use ground pork and beef and combine them with the rice. Then, make small rolls and wrap them carefully in sour cabbage. You can add some pork ribs and dry bacon to make them taste better. Croatian usually eat Sarma during the winter, and it’s an irreplaceable dish after Christmas midnight mass.
3. Purica s mlincima (Turkey with Pasta Tatters)
Mlinci are special homemade pasta and often, Croatian serve them as a side dish. They are made from wheat flour, salt, and water, and go well with the turkey. You can make mlinci on your own, or buy them at the local market. This is also a specialty of Zagorje and it’s reserved for special occasions like a family gathering, celebrations and other holidays. Every chef has its own secret for a perfect baked and crispy turkey. Purica s mlincima is a recognizable classic of the Croatian gastronomy.
Čobanac is a specialty of Slavonija, the Eastern part of the Croatia. It is named after the shepherds (čobani) who made them in the kettle. Čobanac is made from several types of meat like lamb, pork, beef and wild game meat. The most important thing is cooking it in its sauce (water, onion, red pepper) for a couple of hours. Hungarian influence in Slavonian gastronomy dictates the use of red peppers and red hot chili peppers to make čobanac taste delicious. Besides peppers, you must add garlic, bay leaf, salt and pepper for a full experience. Čobanac is an irreplaceable local dish and a part of every Slavonian cuisine.
5. Sinjski arambašići
Sinjski arambašići is the most famous dish of the city of Sinj located in the center of Dalmatia, and because of its tradition and history, it’s placed on the list of the non-material Croatian cultural heritage. This is more like Sarma; the only difference is pork and beef meat used to wrap in sour cabbage leaves isn’t grated but chopped. People cook arambašiće with a sausage, beef bones and dry sheep meat. To taste more delicious, add some cinnamon, cloves, and dry slices of the bacon. Cover the boil with the water and leave it to cook for several hours. When you find yourself in Split or Sinj, you should definitely try Sinjski arambašiće to see how tasteful this local dish is.
Pašticada is a traditional Dalmatian specialty that is made from a beef crab. It’s a favorite Croatian meal. It takes very long time for preparing and cooking pašticada. The process includes marinating beef in vinegar or wine for at least 24 hours, then 4 – 6 hours of cooking. There are many ways of preparing pašticada, with only slight differences. Pašticada is reserved for special occasions like weddings, baptism or any other holiday. Usually, it is served with noodles or njoki. Pašticada is known as “The Queen of Dalmatian cuisine”, so prepare yourself to taste the most delicious Croatian dish you have ever had.
Maneštra is a traditional Istrian dish made from various types of vegetables. The most important ingredients are corn grains. It is a pretty popular meal in restaurants throughout the north of the Adriatic sea. If vegetables are the main ingredient, maneštra is served as a side dish and if maneštra consists of ‘stronger ingredients’ like meat, cooks serve them as the main course. Evey year “Festival istarskih maneštra” is held in Gračišće, the municipality of Istria. You can prepare maneštra all throughout the year; no matter if it’s warm or cold outside, maneštra is a great local dish that Istrians are proud of.
8. Viška pogača
This is ancient food from the ancient time. It is a recognizable Croatian dish that originates from the island Vis. Main ingredients are salty fishes that are salted in a traditional way known only to the inhabitant of the island. The art of salting fishes derives from the 19th century and that’s what domestic masters of the island Vis became famous for. Thanks to them, they might have influenced other Mediteran countries in making similar scones like focaccia etc.
Viška pogača consists of fishes, salt, pepper, olive oil, a couple of olives, onion, tomato, and caper to make the whole mixture taste more delicious. So, while visiting Vis island, definitely try Viška pogača, because this is one of the top ways to enjoy tastes of the sea.
9. Crni rižoto (Black risotto)
Crni rižoto is made from cuttlefish and other seafood. It is a traditional Croatian dish favored by seafood lovers and tourists of course. Usually, all restaurant at the Adriatic coast serve Crni rižoto, so you can taste anywhere. Besides cuttlefish, Crni rižoto is also made of calamari. At first, it seems like there is no problem with making this specialty, but the only thing that matters is to choose the right type of rice that will complete and mix all the ingredients and flavors in one. To add a specific taste mix some wine, because a combination of seafood and wine is irreplaceable!
10. Hobotnica ispod peke (Octopus under the bell)
‘Under the bell’ cooking style originates from Croatia. It is a traditional way of preparing meals. Under the bell/lid Croatians prepare not only all kind of fishes but octopuses as well. You can use frozen octopus but the fresh one is much better. Usually, as a side dish cooks serve potatoes that fulfill the menu. Special flavor is given by the use of wine, olive oil, and garlic. Not only Hobotnica ispod peke tastes delicious, but it looks attractive as well! Hosts are usually preparing this specialty while enjoying family gatherings and celebrations. This makes you want to be a part of it, doesn’t it?