Croatian food: What do they eat in Croatia?

Croatian Food: What Do They Eat in Croatia?

Are you curious about the diverse and mouthwatering cuisine of Croatia? Look no further! In this article, we will delve into the fascinating world of Croatian food, exploring the traditional dishes and culinary delights that make this country a paradise for food lovers. From the rich and hearty stews to the delectable seafood specialties, Croatia offers a wide array of flavors that will tantalize your taste buds. So, let’s embark on a culinary journey and discover what the people of Croatia love to eat!

Traditional Croatian Dishes


Peka is a traditional Croatian dish that is popularly prepared in a bell-shaped dome oven known as a peka. This method of cooking involves slow-cooking a combination of meat, vegetables, and herbs in a covered dish placed over hot coals. The dish is typically made with lamb or veal, although variations with chicken or seafood also exist. The slow cooking process allows the flavors to meld together, resulting in tender and flavorful meat, and perfectly cooked vegetables. Peka is often enjoyed during special occasions and family gatherings, as it requires time and patience to prepare.


Ćevapi, also known as Ćevapčići, is a well-loved Croatian dish that consists of grilled minced meat sausages. These small, finger-sized sausages are made from a combination of ground beef, lamb, or pork mixed with various spices and seasonings. The meat mixture is shaped into small cylindrical sausages, which are then grilled until they are slightly charred on the outside and juicy on the inside. Ćevapi are typically served with traditional accompaniments such as flatbread, diced onions, sour cream, and ajvar (a red pepper relish). This dish is a popular street food in Croatia and is enjoyed by locals and tourists alike.

Octopus Salad

Octopus salad is a refreshing and vibrant Croatian dish that showcases the flavors of the Adriatic Sea. This salad typically features tender octopus that has been boiled until it is tender and then marinated in a mixture of olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and herbs. The marinated octopus is then combined with fresh tomatoes, red onions, capers, and parsley to create a colorful and flavorful salad. Octopus salad is often enjoyed as an appetizer or a light lunch, especially during the summer months when seafood is abundant. The combination of tender octopus, tangy marinade, and crisp vegetables make this dish a delightful and refreshing choice for seafood lovers.

Influences on Croatian Cuisine

Mediterranean Influence

Croatian cuisine is greatly influenced by the Mediterranean region, which is no surprise considering its coastal location. The Mediterranean influence is evident in the ingredients, flavors, and cooking techniques used in Croatian dishes.

One of the key aspects of the Mediterranean influence on Croatian food is the abundant use of fresh seafood. With a long coastline stretching along the Adriatic Sea, Croatia has access to a rich variety of fish and seafood. Grilled fish, octopus salad, and black risotto with squid ink are just a few examples of popular dishes that highlight the Mediterranean influence.

In addition to seafood, the Mediterranean influence is also reflected in the use of olive oil, herbs, and vegetables. Croatian cuisine often incorporates olive oil as a primary cooking and dressing ingredient, adding a distinct Mediterranean flavor to many dishes. Fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and basil are commonly used to enhance the taste and aroma of various Croatian recipes. Vegetables like tomatoes, eggplants, and zucchini are frequently included in Mediterranean-inspired dishes, adding both color and flavor.

Austro-Hungarian Influence

Croatian cuisine also bears the influence of the Austro-Hungarian empire, which ruled over parts of Croatia for several centuries. This influence is particularly evident in the northern regions of Croatia, where dishes tend to be heartier and incorporate ingredients commonly found in Central European cuisine.

One of the main contributions of the Austro-Hungarian influence is the use of meat, especially pork and beef. Dishes such as schnitzel (breaded and fried meat cutlets), goulash (a stew with meat and vegetables), and sausages are popular examples of Austro-Hungarian-inspired Croatian cuisine. These dishes often feature rich flavors and are accompanied by side dishes like potatoes, sauerkraut, and various types of dumplings.

The Austro-Hungarian influence can also be seen in Croatian desserts, with cakes and pastries being highly regarded. Strudel, a layered pastry filled with fruit, nuts, or cheese, is a classic dessert that showcases the influence of Central European baking traditions.

Turkish Influence

The Ottoman Empire once extended its reach into parts of Croatia, leaving behind a lasting Turkish influence on Croatian cuisine. This influence is most pronounced in the eastern regions of Croatia, where traditional dishes have been shaped by Turkish culinary techniques and flavors.

One of the most iconic Turkish-inspired dishes in Croatian cuisine is the burek. Burek is a pastry made with thin layers of dough filled with various fillings, such as meat, cheese, or spinach. It is typically served as a savory snack or breakfast item. Another popular Turkish-influenced dish is the kebab, which consists of grilled or roasted meat, often served in a pita bread or alongside vegetables and yogurt sauce.

Turkish coffee is another culinary tradition that has found its place in Croatian culture. Known for its strong flavor and preparation method, Turkish coffee is a popular choice for coffee enthusiasts in Croatia.

In conclusion, Croatian cuisine is a delightful fusion of various influences, with the Mediterranean, Austro-Hungarian, and Turkish flavors playing significant roles. Whether you’re indulging in fresh seafood by the Adriatic coast, savoring hearty meat dishes in the north, or enjoying Turkish-inspired pastries and coffee in the east, Croatian food offers a diverse and enticing culinary experience.

Regional Croatian Cuisine

Dalmatian Cuisine

Dalmatian cuisine is known for its simplicity and the use of fresh, local ingredients. Located along the Adriatic coast, Dalmatia offers a variety of seafood dishes that are a staple in the region. Some popular dishes include "Brudet," a fish stew made with a variety of fish, shellfish, and tomatoes, and "Pasticada," a slow-cooked beef dish marinated in red wine and served with gnocchi. Dalmatian cuisine also includes traditional smoked ham called "Prsut" and a wide range of Mediterranean vegetables like zucchini, eggplant, and tomatoes.

Istrian Cuisine

Istrian cuisine offers a unique blend of Italian and Croatian influences due to its proximity to Italy. This region is known for its truffles, olive oil, and wine production. Istrian dishes often incorporate truffles into various dishes, such as truffle pasta or truffle-infused oils. Another popular dish is "Maneštra," a thick vegetable soup made with beans, potatoes, and seasonal vegetables. Istria is also famous for its seafood, particularly "Scampi," a type of langoustine found in the Adriatic Sea.

Slavonian Cuisine

Slavonian cuisine, originating from the eastern part of Croatia, is characterized by hearty and meat-based dishes. Pork is a prominent ingredient in Slavonian cuisine, and dishes like "Čobanac" (a spicy meat stew) and "Kulen" (a smoked sausage) are popular choices. Slavonian cuisine also includes a variety of freshwater fish, such as carp and catfish, often prepared in a traditional way by grilling or baking. Additionally, Slavonia is known for its production of high-quality wines, particularly white wines like "Graševina" and "Traminac."

Overall, Croatia’s regional cuisine offers a diverse range of flavors and specialties, each influenced by the unique characteristics of its respective region. Whether you prefer seafood, truffles, or hearty meat dishes, Croatian cuisine has something to offer for every palate.

Popular Croatian Ingredients

Olive Oil

Olive oil is a staple ingredient in Croatian cuisine and plays a crucial role in shaping the flavors of many traditional dishes. Croatia has a long-standing tradition of olive oil production, boasting a diverse range of high-quality varieties. The country’s favorable climate and rich soil provide ideal conditions for growing olive trees.

Croatian olive oil is known for its exceptional taste and nutritional value. It is commonly used in various cooking methods, such as sautéing, frying, and even dressing salads. The distinct aroma and fruity notes of Croatian olive oil add depth to dishes and enhance their overall taste.


With its extensive coastline along the Adriatic Sea, it comes as no surprise that seafood is a prominent ingredient in Croatian cuisine. The abundance of fresh fish and shellfish is a true delight for seafood lovers. From succulent grilled fish to mouthwatering seafood stews, Croatia offers a wide array of delectable seafood dishes.

The traditional Dalmatian cuisine, which is heavily influenced by the sea, incorporates seafood in numerous ways. Octopus, squid, mussels, and various types of fish are commonly featured in coastal specialties. The simplicity of preparation allows the natural flavors of the seafood to shine, making it a favorite among locals and tourists alike.


Prosciutto, also known as pršut in Croatian, holds a special place in Croatian gastronomy. This dry-cured ham is deeply rooted in Croatian culinary traditions, particularly in the regions of Istria and Dalmatia. The production of prosciutto in Croatia follows time-honored methods, ensuring exceptional quality and taste.

Croatian prosciutto is renowned for its distinct flavor and delicate texture. The ham is carefully salted and air-dried, allowing it to develop its unique savory and slightly sweet taste. Served thinly sliced, Croatian prosciutto is often enjoyed as an appetizer or paired with cheese and olives. Its rich, smoky aroma is a true testament to the craftsmanship and dedication that goes into its production.

In conclusion, olive oil, seafood, and prosciutto are popular ingredients in Croatian cuisine. These ingredients not only reflect the country’s geographical location but also contribute to the rich and diverse flavors of traditional Croatian dishes. Whether it’s the golden hue of Croatian olive oil, the freshness of Adriatic seafood, or the exquisite taste of Croatian prosciutto, these ingredients are integral to experiencing the authentic flavors of Croatia.

Famous Croatian Desserts


Strudel is a popular Croatian dessert that has been enjoyed for generations. This delicious pastry is made by rolling a thin sheet of dough and filling it with a variety of sweet ingredients. The most common filling for Croatian strudel is apple, but it can also be made with cherries, plums, or even cheese. The dough is then carefully rolled up and baked until golden and crispy. The result is a mouthwatering dessert that is perfect for any occasion.


Rafioli is a traditional Croatian dessert that is often served during special celebrations and holidays. These sweet treats are made by combining a delicate pastry dough with a rich filling. The filling typically consists of ground almonds, sugar, and lemon zest, giving rafioli a unique and delightful flavor. Once the dough is filled, it is carefully shaped into small pockets and deep-fried until golden brown. The final touch is a dusting of powdered sugar, adding a touch of sweetness to this beloved Croatian dessert.


Kremšnita, also known as cremeschnitte, is a heavenly Croatian dessert that is sure to satisfy any sweet tooth. This delectable treat consists of layers of puff pastry filled with a creamy vanilla custard. The custard is made by combining eggs, sugar, milk, and vanilla, creating a smooth and luscious filling. Once the layers of pastry and custard are assembled, the dessert is topped with a generous layer of whipped cream and dusted with powdered sugar. The combination of flaky pastry, creamy custard, and fluffy whipped cream makes kremšnita an absolute delight to indulge in.

In conclusion, Croatian cuisine offers a wide array of delicious desserts that are loved by locals and visitors alike. Whether you’re craving the fruity goodness of strudel, the nutty perfection of rafioli, or the creamy delight of kremšnita, these famous Croatian desserts are sure to leave you wanting more. Don’t miss the opportunity to experience the sweet side of Croatia during your culinary adventures.

In conclusion, Croatian cuisine offers a delightful blend of flavors and influences from its rich history and diverse geography. From the coastal regions with their abundance of seafood dishes to the hearty meat-based dishes of the inland areas, Croatia has something to offer for every palate. Traditional dishes such as cevapi, burek, and pasticada showcase the country’s culinary heritage, while modern interpretations and fusion cuisine add a unique twist. Whether you’re a seafood lover, a meat enthusiast, or someone with a sweet tooth, Croatia’s food scene is sure to leave you satisfied and wanting more. So, when visiting Croatia, don’t miss the opportunity to indulge in the country’s delicious and diverse gastronomy.

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