Whenever you travel to new destinations, trying out the local dishes is all part of the fun. And, when it comes to the Mediterranean and the exotic Dalmatian gem of Croatia, the cuisine definitely doesn’t disappoint. That said, it can be a little daunting when you arrive at that first restaurant and eye up a whole host of unknown and exotic sounding plates, piled high with local delicacies. To help you identify the mouth-watering meals on display, let’s explore them in this taste bud tingling countdown of the ten must-eat foods in Croatia!
1. Crni rižot
If you’re pretty au fait with languages, you may have clocked the rizot and straight away known it has something to do with rice.
But a twist on most risottos that you’ve probably previously munched on, Crni rižot is a black tinted risotto, with its dark appearance coming from the ink of the prehistoric-looking cuttlefish (or sometimes squid ink).
Don’t be put off by the strange color of the dish. By ordering this in any Croatian restaurant, you are going to be trying a delicious local dish, and you’ll probably notice many of the locals in the restaurant ordering the same.
Often served with chunks of cuttlefish or squid mixed into the rice, you’ll experience a rich, fresh flavor that screams of the coast, and wraps you in rustic, home-cooked warmth.
A favorite of almost anyone who tries this dish while on holiday in Croatia, Buzara is the name of a local cooking style; a distant cousin of the white wine and garlic sauce that is used to create the famous French Moules Marinières.
Add lashings of olive oil and herbs to the white wine and garlic, and you get a superbly light and aromatic sauce that is mainly used to cook two different Croatian dishes, either with mussels, known locally as Dagnje na buzaru or with scampi – škampi na buzaru.
3. Kulen & Pag
If you see Kulen and Pag on your menu and decide to order it, then you’ll be rewarded with two of the finest Croatian tapas-style ingredients.
Kulen is a delicious traditional dried sausage, more commonly found in the region surrounding Zagreb, while Pag is a superb hard sheep’s milk cheese with a unique taste, originally produced on the enchanting island of Pag!
Although if you can’t find Kulen, you may well instead come across the wonderful pršut ham, which is an equally more-ish alternative.
Whichever ham and cheese you try, you’ll be handsomely rewarded with the perfect sharing platter that’s ideal as a light evening snack. Just make sure you wash it down with a great local drop… more on that later.
Peka, known affectionately as ‘Under the Bell’, is the stuff of legends from a Croatian holiday, and something that has to be on your must-try Mediterranean dish list.
A slow cooked meal of meat (or fish) and vegetables, placed inside an open fire, it’s covered with a metal lid (the bell) and topped with fiery hot coals, to allow all the flavors and juices to mingle together in what can only be described as a scrumptious, savory BBQ stew.
Another stew-style delight, but this one is a tasty little fish dish. Brudet is a traditional Croatian seafood stew that is served year-round along the Adriatic coast, and even into nearby Montenegro.
Typically concocted in a single pot, the fish is mixed with spices, vegetables and liberal splashes of wine before it’s served with lightly toasted bread or perfectly-made polenta; a hearty meal that’s a must-have during the cooler months.
The only soup to make it onto the list, Maneštra is a fragrant vegetable soup almost bursting with flavor.
Closely associated with the well-known Italian soup, minestrone, it can also be served with any vegetables (although corn is a stalwart) and will likely have a base of potatoes and carrots.
With Croatia not being too far from Italy, and with a lot of Mediterranean and Italian influences, you’ll find some first-rate pizza restaurants up and down Croatia. But don’t commit your calories to pizza – save that doughy, tomatoe-y goodness for your Italian jaunts – and instead hook yourself up with a slice of Soparnik!
One of the most famous ‘snack’ dishes from any holiday to the Split region of Croatia, this cheesy, herby pie is super simple yet a taste sensation.
Where Turkey has the humble kebab, Croatia is home to the equally modest Cevapi. This street food favorite really packs a punch and is the perfect late-night snack for all you party animals.
Essentially, grilled pork sausages that are added to a pita with a tomato sauce, onions and cheese, it’s the ideal hangover cure, or just heavenly at any time of the day.
In case you hadn’t noticed it yet, seafood makes up a major part of the Croatian diet, and you can’t avoid that famous ‘love it or hate it’ seafood delicacy: The oyster.
Croatia is a great place to indulge in shucking these slurpy delights. The town of Ston is particularly famous for offering up some of the best in the region, so add a little bit of lemon and get stuck in.
No list of must-eat Croatian goodies would be complete without a few sweets, the pastries and delectable desserts of Dalmatia. But with so many on offer, it’s the street snack of Fritule that gets the nod.
Essentially doughnut balls, dipped in chocolate or dusted with sugar, there is nothing better than picking a few of these treats up for your post-dinner wander.
And, just in case you were wondering what to pair these first-class courses with, then don’t fret. Croatia has an illustrious history of winemaking and the local tipples won’t let you down. Try a glug-alicious Grasivina or an overly drinkable Dingač to accompany your meal.
No matter where you head to in Croatia, you’ll be rewarded with some unusual, exotic and always exceptional dishes. From charcoal-tinted cuttlefish to doughy delights, no trip to the country is complete without taking home a few extra pounds. So, get those taste buds ready and get primed to proclaim Bon Appetit or, as the locals say it, Dobar tek!