Traveling to Croatia? Here are 10 items you must taste when it comes to Croatian food. From cheese, to liquors, desserts, seafood, and more! You’ll find a lot of Italian influence, fine wines, and European cafe culture when visiting Croatia.
Croatian Food: From Savory To Sweet, 14 Things You Must Taste When Visiting Croatia
1. Pag Cheese
Pag is an island in Croatia that looks a lot like the surface of the moon surrounded by pristine deep blue ocean. It’s historically known for harvesting sea salt, and as a byproduct, the island also produces some damn good cheese. Pag cheese, or paski sir, is a sheep’s milk cheese that’s naturally salted.
How is Pag cheese salted? Wind blows some powdery salt out of the ponds collecting seawater for sea salt, and that salt ends up dusting the hearty shrubs vegetation across the island. Sheep eat those shrubs, then produce some pretty flavorful milk that is perfect for cheese.
It seems every restaurant we visited in Croatia proudly offered Paški Sir… Pag cheese. It takes 6 sheep to produce enough milk for one wheel of cheese. And because of that, it’s sort of a delicacy. If you visit Pag, be sure to plan a stop to tour the oldest cheese factory on the island, Paska Sirana.
Croatian food is very similar to Italian, which makes a lot of sense since the coastline along the Adriatic Sea was once part of Rome. Risotto seemed to be more popular than homemade pastas and came in many varieties including seafood risotto, black risotto, and even Pag cheese risotto.
Croatian food includes an abundance of seafood, from grilled trout, to clams, shrimp, and the best oysters in the world. With so much of the country’s coastline along the Adriatic sea, there’s fresh seafood available daily. You could order just about anything raw, steamed, sautéed, or mixed in a risotto. If you do order fish, be prepared that it will likely be served whole on your plate.
4. Candied Oranges
When it comes to Croatian cuisine, candied oranges were one of my favorite treats. In Dubrovnik, these bitter sweet treats are served everywhere as a snack or bar food. And during wine tasting tours, it seemed every vineyard had a bowl of candied oranges on the table. They make a great souvenir to take home too.
There are two cookies that Croatia is known for. The Croatian pepper cookie, paprenjaci, are spicy and richly flavored with black pepper, cinnamon, and clove.
For something a bit sweeter (and absolutely adorable) are Breskvice, Croatian peach-shaped cookies. They’re so named because they look like tiny peaches, but they sort of taste like pop tarts.
6. Zagorski Štrukli
Zagorski Štrukli is a traditional Croatian dish made of a thin pasta or pastry and layered with creamy cheese mix of cottage cheese and sour cream. It is similar to lasagna without the tomato sauce, or maybe a savory cheese layered crepe.
Prosek is a sweet dessert wine that is causing a bit of fuss in the EU at the moment. You see, the Italians are not too happy that it sounds a bit too much like Prosecco. Prosek and Prosecoo are really are nothing alike. Prosek is darker in color and is sweet and syrupy, while Prosecco is light and bubbly. You’ll have to taste it and decide for yourself.
8. Croatian Wines
And speaking of wine, when it comes to Croatian food, most don’t think of Croatia when it comes to wine. But I gotta tell ya, they have some damn good vino. Personally, I think Croatian wines are on par with France, Italy, and Spain. It’s just that Croatia is such a small country, we don’t often get to taste them unless we visit since they don’t export a lot. But whenever you can, definitely try the wine. Two of our favorite wine bar recommendations are PARADOX Cheese & Wine in Split, and D’vino in Dubrovnik.
That photo of me in the middle below was a beer I found at a gas station. I didn’t buy it, but I thought a two liter bottle was impressive and photo worthy. I mean, it’s the size of a bottle of wine. LOL! And the final photo would have to be my favorite wine in Croatia, from the town of Zadar.
9. Maraska Cherry Liquor
Now that I’ve mentioned wine, let me tell you about their liquors! Maraska is a cherry flavored liquor from Zadar that is traditionally served as an after dinner drink. But it’s also fantastic drizzled on ice cream! If you’re looking for a unique souvenir, pick up a bottle of Maraska at a grocery store while visiting Croatia. (Grocery stores are always the best place to find delicious souvenirs. I have a few more food souvenir recommendations below.)
10. Cherry Strudel
Speaking of cherries, out in the countryside among the vineyards, you’ll find a ton of cherry trees. And usually a rustic restaurant or two where they make cherry strudel by hand daily. One restaurant we stumbled upon was hand rolling a strudel along several long tables that had to be over six feet long.
11. Kremšnita (Custard Cream Cake)
When visiting Zagreb, be sure to look for a traditional Croatian custard cream cake called Kremšnita. This classic dessert is a must when trying Croatian cuisine. We had the opportunity to visit a bakery outside of Zagreb and watch these being made. The creamy custard with the flaky crust worth every calorie!
Yes, you read that correctly. Sip and savor the coffee in Croatia. You might think of Italy when it comes to coffee culture, but Croatia will keep you well caffeinated too. After all, one of the top baristas in the world has a coffee shop in Zagreb! (It’s Elis cafe if you want to note it for travel planning).When visiting Croatia, definitely slow down for an afternoon coffee or two.
13 & 14. Croatian Cuisine Souvenirs – Olive Oil & Sea Salt
My final Croatian food recommendation are two more things you could bring home as a souvenir – olive oil and sea salt. Croatia’s olive oil is buttery and smooth, and Croatia also produces some of the finest sea salt I’ve ever tasted.
Add to that a bottle of wine or the Maraska liquor I mentioned above, and a bag of candied orange peel, and you’ll definitely score points with foodie friends and family back home. That is, if you don’t keep that Croatian food bounty for yourself. 😉
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Originally posted in 2013, Updated 2019.
Kristi Valentini says
So, we have been tossing around going to Greece or Croatia next year for our 10-year wedding anniversary. I was leaning more toward Greece, but Rachelle your foodie write-up has me conflicted again! Do most people in Croatia speak English or were you with a guide the whole time?
I found the English was pretty much widely spoken throughout the whole country. I learned the basics to be polite (hello, thank you, good bye), but English was really spoken everywhere.
Did you see the photos too? It’s a beautiful country! Here’s a link to a photo post I did …
Donna Mucha says
Kristi, Croatia is amazing, beautiful, friendly, and yes speak English clearly. We did 9
cities most along the Adriatic & never had a problem. If you go Hvar is a fabulous island.
Peca is a traditional Croatian meal slow cooked for 3-4 hours over open fire in a pot-fantastic. I’m surprised it was not mentioned in this article as well as sarma (stuffed cabbage).
I kinda felt bad eating so much Italian food in Croatia, but I guess it makes sense that it’s kind of “their” cuisine, too. They seem to have more in common with the West than other Slavic countries.
Chasing the Donkey says
Ohhh, how did you just choose 10? We have so much food. I think you need to come back, and I can show you MUCH more.
Gladly! I loved the food in Croatia!
So true! I had to narrow it down somehow, but there are lots of foods in Croatia to love. 🙂
It seems you only saw a sliver of Croatia. Dalmatian food has a strong Italian influence, but in other parts of the country, which are also stunningly beautiful, you will taste Austrian/German, Turkish, and Hungarian influences as well as traditional Balkan fare. Also, if your breskvice tasted anything like pop tarts you didn’t have good ones.
But there are many more excellent things to try, like pleskavica, duved, sarma and other things from grill!
And of course many sweets.
Regards from Croatia!
I was born in Croatia but I live since 1989 in Germany.
I miss here in Germany homemade cakes from my grandmother.
I have noticed that a lot of travellers on trip advisor say the food was just pizza and meat. I have been many times and these comments are typical of the common uneducated traveller who jumps of a cruise ship. Croatia is a young country so has not yet established as strong a brand as older stalwarts.Greece, France, Italy are brands in their own right so people know what food comes with the territory. I have however noticed that Croatias brand is growing like no other especially in Australia. They have amazing culinary choice with influence from the Balkans, Turkey, Austria and Hungary, Italy and Slavic but with very much their own spin and in many cases do it better than their neighbors. Try Punjene Paprika, Pasticada, Peca and Divjac. It also possibly has the coolest restaurant I have ever been to in the world and I have seen many corners of globe from Australia. A restaurant called Etno Village Solaris. This is a restaurant inside a small village food museum. Abs amazing with the best meal I’ve ever had in veal peca.
ZeeShan GhuMman says
Great to here i am deciding to visit Croatia next month and i’m collecting information about this country and your this article really helpful for me …!!! Thanks…..!!!
Vadim Dvirnyi says
Great review, nice done! Thank you a lot for your guide, will use it definitely.