Regional Food Specialities to try in Croatia
Continental Croatia, which incorporates Bilogora, Zagreb, Zagorje, Podravina, and MeĐimurje along the Hungarian and Slovenian borders, is known for its hearty, robust dishes that pull from its agricultural foundation. Due to Croatias vast agricultural climates, Croatia offers a variety of dishes that vary seasonally. Below are a list of popular dishes you may find in different regions throughout the country, and the best local wines to pair your meal with.
For breakfast, you are likely to see Žganci, a form of grits usually topped with sour cream, yogurt, bacon, or cheese. Common main dishes throughout the region will usually include preserved meats, turkey, and duck served with baked noodles. Ground meat served in cabbage leaves (sarma), and blood sausage served with sauerkraut (krvavice) are also popular menu items.
Desserts are often phyllo dough or crepes stuffed with fresh fruit, cheese, nuts, honey, or jam. Most menus also list potato dumplings stuffed with plums as a dessert menu. If you visit Međimurje, the pièce de résistance is a yeast cake layered with fresh goodies such as raisins, poppy seeds, walnuts, apples, and cheese; a staple dessert in Croatia not to be missed.
Dalmatian cuisine is most aptly characterized by its simplicity and freshness. Main meals most often begin with pršut, a dry-cured ham similar to Italian proscuitto, and Paški sir, a hard, tangy sheep’s cheese made on Pag Island. Pršut and Paški sir are often served topped with a variety of olives.
Dalmatians also prize seafood dishes due to their coastal position. Oysters (kamenice) from the Pelješac Peninsula are considered a specialty, and many Dalmatians order salata od hobotnice - a salad made of octopus, onions, and potatoes soaked in olive oil and splashed in vinegar; often eaten as an appetizer or light lunch.
Many appetizers were passed down by the Venetians to the Dalmatians, often taking the form of seafood risottos: crnirižot (risotto blackened with squid ink), rižot sa škampima (shrimp risotto), and rižot frutti di mare (seafood risotto, prepared with mussels, prawns, clams, octopus, or squid). And of course, the Adriatic catch of the day is always worth checking out.
Main courses often include blitva, a dish of potatoes and boiled Swiss chard, školjke i škampi na buzaru, a stew made of shrimp and shellfish, ribana žaru, a dish of grilled fish with olive oil), and pašticada, a stewed beef dish in red wine with prunes.
Good Dalmatian wines to pair with your meals:
- Reds: Plavac and Babić
- Whites: Bogdanuša, Pošip, Grk and Vugava
Istria & Kvarner
North of Dalmatia lies Istria and Kvarner, where coastal and inland cuisine merge, making them the regions with the widest range of Croatian cuisine. Neighboring Italy also lent many of its culinary accents to Istria. In particular, Istria’s love of pasta. Istria specifically adopted gnocchi, quill-shaped tubes of potato pasta, hearty minestrone-esque bean and vegetable soup known as maneštra, and mare e monte - which translates to ‘sea and mountains’, which serves up mushrooms with shellfish.
Istria is known for having some of Croatia’s most sophisticated cuisine, with renowned dishes including: boiled prawns, fish stew, fish soup, and black and white seafood risotto. Istrians are also well known for their use of truffles in dishes, so Istrian gnocchi with truffles (Istarski fuži sa tartufima) is a worthwhile dish to try.
Good Istrian wines to pair with your meals:
- Red: Teran
- Whites: Vrbnička žlahtina, Malvazija
Gorski Kotar & Lika
The Lika and Gorski Kotar regions lie southwest of central Croatia and include the Plitvice Lakes National Park. While the cuisine offered in this region is similar to that found in central Croatia, you’ll find things unique to this region like homemade cheeses, spit-roasted pork and lamb, and fruit brandies that are frequently offered by roadside stalls.
Many dishes are baked under a metal, bell-shaped lid known as a peka, and lamb dishes in the region prepared this way is a regional specialty. Sauerkraut prepared in the Lika style, consists of smoked sausage and potatoes along with the marinated cabbage, is a regional delicacy. Cabbage makes another appearance in a dish known as the Licki pot, a stew made of cabbage, root vegetables, potatoes, and meat. Another commonly served dish here is drunken trout. A clean white fish prepared in wine sauce and accompanied with vegetables and potatoes. A delicious meal to try in Croatia!
Slavonia & Baranja
Slavonia and Baranja lie in continental Croatia’s eastern region, and its Hungarian heritage is very much evident in its food, especially as paprika makes a regular appearance in dishes. Popular dishes include: paprika-spiced peppers stuffed with minced bacon, rice, and pork, a fish-based stew heavily spiced with paprika, and a meat goulash seasoned with bay leaves, garlic, and yup, you guessed it, paprika. Egg noodles served with sweetened poppy seeds or walnuts and grilled fish are also favored regional dishes, and you will often spot ajvar, a savory red-pepper tapenade, served alongside meat dishes. Here you can also find the wine region Vallis Aurea, otherwise known as Slavonia’s “Golden Valley,” which has been central to Croatian winemaking since the Illyrians appearance. Visitors can find the distinguished vineyards of Cotes du Rhone, Bordeaux, Piedmont, and Oregon there.
Popular Slavonian Wine:
- White: Graševina
Croatia is the perfect European destination for the food enthusiest. Similar to its exceptional cuisine throughout the country, Croatia is also home to some of the oldest wine regions in the world. When looking to pair a glass of wine with your meal, keep in mind that menus in Croatia list wine in desending order of quality. With 62 indigenous grape varieties grown in Croatia, be sure not to miss out on pairing your meal with a Croatian wine. No matter where you visit in Croatia, there is something delicious to indulge in.