Discovering Croatia’s Flavours

Croatian food proved to be a delightful revelation to Nikki and myself. It is tasty, fresh and very diverse and whereas we have always targeted Sicily and mainland Italy for our food trips, we have discovered that neighbouring Croatia provides some stiff competition with many restaurants dishing up some very fresh, high quality and relatively inexpensive meals. 

The cuisine along the Dalmatian coast is mostly seafood-based whilst the food served inland also includes rich, continental Balkan fare. The Istrian peninsula is well-known for its gastronomy which incorporates local truffles and high-quality olive oil resulting in some very intense flavours which were right up our street.

Discovering Traditional Croatian Food

A seafood platter at a restaurant serving croatian food

Here are some traditional Croatian food dishes we tried that deserve a special mention:

Black cuttlefish risotto 

at home cuttlefish (or squid) ink is usually incorporated in a pasta dish but in Croatia, it’s in a risotto. Very rich and fishy, we both loved it.

A plate of black cuttlefish risotto

Grilled anchovies

a light dish usually served with boiled potatoes and greens; this together with a glass of white wine makes for an excellent lunch.

A dish of grilled anchovies and potatoes accompanied by salad

Grilled squid 

ubiquitous along the Croatian coast, another perfect lunch dish.

A dish of grilled calamari accompanied by potatoes - traditional Croatian food

Calamari stew 

often served with polenta and crusty bread this is a very hearty dish, I would say best enjoyed during the colder months. Although we visited in spring, I enjoyed its intense flavours so much that that I ordered it three times during our stay in Croatia.

Thick calamari stew accompanied by polenta- traditional Croatian food

Fresh pasta with truffles 

the Istria region of Croatia is truffle heaven so we made sure to indulge in truffle dishes during our time there. My personal favourite was homemade pasta with fresh truffle and shrimp from a restaurant in Volosko.

Fresh homemade pasta smothered in a sauce of truffles and cherry tomatoes - traditional Croatian food

Ćevapčići 

cyclindical rolls of minced meat grilled and traditionally served with ajvar and onions. Ćevapčići are found in almost every Balkan country and we didn’t really notice any particular differences between Croatia’s version of the dish and any other.

Ćevapčići and fries accompanied by raw onions and avjar

Štrukli 

this dish is traditional to the Zagreb region and can be made sweet or savoury. It is primarily made of dough and a creamy, cheesy filling and other ingredients are added as desired. It is usually baked but can also be boiled. Nikki and I both had baked dishes – mine included truffles whilst his was made with wild boar sausage. This dish is really heavy but it was a very welcome dinner after having only snacked on some fruit for lunch (myself not Nikki). We would have loved to share a sweet version of the dish for dessert but we were far too stuffed to try anything else.

A dish of Štrukli served at a restaurant - traditional Croatian food

Rakija

a strong fruit brandy available in many flavours. In istria, the drink is made from grapes and known as grappa (and is similar to Italian grappa). Many restaurants served us complimentary shots of rakija before or after a meal.

Bottles of different flavoured rakija

Sweets

Croatians love their sweets and there’s so much to choose from… from sweet breakfast pastries to lavish cakes, we loved sampling the different types. We also had the pleasure of being invited to a Croatian friend’s wedding where we were told that traditionally the bride’s neighbours send different sweets to her house on the wedding day which were then served to us at the pre-wedding party!

Pašticada 

this is a Dalmatian dish of stewed beef cooked with a sauce of bacon and prunes and traditionally served with a side of potato gnocchi. It tasted very different to the beef dishes we are normally used to eating, but it was definitely very tender and rich!

An assortment of miniature sweets - traditional Croatian food
stewed beef cooked with a sauce of bacon and prunes served with a side of potato gnocchi.

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