Traditional Croatian food you should try (and where to find it)

Why you should visit Croatia for the food

I was recently in Croatia where I spent two whole weeks eating and drinking just about everything I came across. I spent most time in Istria, which is a heart-shaped peninsula in the northwest corner of Croatia. This region is bursting with gastronomy, beauty and heritage, but for foodies it’s more specifically known for its olive oil, honey, wine and truffles.

Every year, food-lovers flock here to have a culinary experience, and honestly guys, after having been there I totally get it! I was simply AMAZED by the Istrian food; no exaggeration needed. If you’re looking for a gourmet experience, then you should head to Istria.

Although Istria is the place to go for gourmet food, you shouldn’t miss Dalmatian food. Dalmatia is a narrow coastal region in Croatia, stretching from Rab island to Kotor Bay in Montenegro. Aside from great seafood, this region’s signature dish is peka, which is a blend of vegetables and meat sprinkled with herbs, drizzled with olive oil, and then baked to perfection under a bell-like dome. If you like lamb, this is an absolute MUST-TRY!

Read next: The ultimate guide to Croatia

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– PRŠUT –

Ok, so let’s get started…

One of the things I really loved about Croatian food is the pršut, which is salty paper-thin sliced ham. It’s not smoked, only dry-cured and treated with sea salt or seasoned with natural spices like pepper, rosemary and garlic.

You eat it as an entrée .. There’s salty ham and there’s cheese, olive oil, bread and of course.. wine. I love how unpretentious this dish is. You just eat with your hands.

Istrian food
Pršut, cheese and rosé wine
Istrian food
Different kinds of local cheese, olives and smoked sausage
Istrian food
Pršut, wild boar sausage, cheese and freshly baked bread with truffles

Restaurants with great pršut

– SEAFOOD –

Croatia is by the sea so seafood is an indispensable part of the cuisine. Since my dad is a fisherman, I’ve had seafood and fresh fish at least once a week growing up. I know quality when I see it, and Croatian seafood definitely passed the test.

Aside from the fact that I had oysters for the first time (big milestone btw as I have an issue with jelly-textured LIVE food), I was really impressed by the sardines I had. Sardines, you ask? Why yes!

I was in two different restaurants, one in Fažana and the other in Labin, and they both served deconstructed sardines. Just look at this first photo below. There’s nothing canned or boring about these sardines.

Croatian food
Sardines – deep-fried, in tomato, with sesame, marinated and minced. Plus, bread with squid ink. Points for creativity.
Croatian food
More sardines – raw, cooked, deep-fried and marinated
Istrian food, Croatia
Shrimp entrée
Istrian food, Croatia
Oysters with squid and shrimp tartar

My first oyster —> Don’t let my questionable face fool you. It was actually kind of nice once I got used to the texture.

Thanks to Ilkka for immortalizing this precious moment.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Restaurants with great seafood

– TRUFFLES –

Probably the most popular ingredient in Croatian cuisine: truffles. There are many species of truffles, of which only nine are edible. Mostly though, you distinguish between the white and the black truffle.

It’s hard to explain how it tastes, but I found it exquisite, aromatic and slightly garlicky. At the same time it’s quite the versatile ingredient. As I discovered, you can basically put truffles in any dish. In scrambled eggs, pasta, risotto, bread, sauce… the gastronomic possibilities seem endless to a foodie like me.

Istrian food, Croatia
Bread with black truffles
Istrian food, Croatia
Pasta with truffles
Istrian food, Croatia
Truffle feast
Istrian food, Croatia
Pasta penne with truffles and lobster

Restaurants with amazing truffles

Find more Istrian restaurants that serve truffle here.

– OLIVE TAPENADE –

Although I’m not a big fan of olives, I somehow still like olive tapenade. Tapenade is a type of dip or spread used in Italian cuisine, and is usually served as an appetizer. Here, I’m having it on home-baked bread together with wine. I highly recommend trying it. It’s delish!

Istrian food, Croatia
Black olive tapenade

– RISOTTO –

As I was busy stuffing my face with seafood and truffles in Istria, I decided to have some risotto as soon as I reached Dalmatia. You can find risotto everywhere in Croatia, but I only had it in Zadar, where it was really good. It’s definitely worth a try if you ask me.

Croatian food
Risotto with parmesan and prawns

Restaurants with good risotto

  • Zadar: Kornat

– GNOCCHI –

Ah, the gnocchi. In Zadar, I went to Bruschetta Restaurant by the sea promenade because the restaurant is known for its gnocchi with squid ink. I couldn’t really taste the difference, but it was fun to try a different type of gnocchi.

Croatian food
Squid ink gnocchi with seafood

Restaurants with gnocchi

  • Zadar: Bruschetta Restaurant

– CRISPY PIZZA –

Thin, crispy pizza and many choices of topping. Oh yeah, Croatian pizza is awesome! It’s similar to Italian pizzas, which are some of the best in the world. This is not just greasy fast food. Seriously, Croatian pizza is a culinary meal that should be on your must-try list.

Croatian food
Delicious ham and mushroom pizza

– FRESH SALAD –

There’s nothing like a fresh mixed salad when it’s 35 degrees outside. This dish is probably more Greek than Croatian, but it tasted great nonetheless. You can never go wrong with a chicken, mozzarella and avocado salad.

Why you should visit Croatia for the food
Chicken, avocado and mozzarella salad

Restaurants in Split

-THE ICE CREAMS –

Well, I’m not saying you should get on a plane to Croatia just for the ice cream. But if you’re there, you simply must try one. The flavor is much more intense than regular ice cream, plus, it’s not made from cream, but on yoghurt, which makes it low on calories – win-win. It’s SUPERDELICIOUS.

Istrian food
Amazing snickers flavoured ice cream

You can buy ice cream everywhere

– HONEY –

Honey has been used in Istrian households as food and medicine for centuries. Istria produces acacia, chestnut, sage, and meadow honey, flavoured honey, walnuts, hazelnuts and almonds in honey, honey sweets and honey brandy.

We went to a honey producer close to Motovun and tasted different kinds of honey. It’s high quality and has a surprisingly amount of different flavors.

Croatian honey
Why you should visit Croatia for the food

Honey tastings

  • Livade: Medea Honey Products

– DRINKS & WINERIES –

If you’re a wine lover like me, you’ll simply love Croatia. You’ll be surprised how many vineyards and wineries there are in Istria, and many of them are open for wine tasting. In Istria you can find delicious wines like Muscat (my absolute favorite), Teran, Merlot, Mavasia and many others. They have lots of great wines in Dalmatia, too.

Istrian food and drinks, Croatia
Champagne in Novigrad
Istrian food and drinks, Croatia
Red wine tasting in Labin
Croatian drinks
Croatian cognac
Istrian food and drinks, Croatia
Home-brewed snaps
Istrian food and drinks, Croatia
Rosé wine tastings
Istrian food and drinks, Croatia
White wine and a sunset

Wineries

Drinks

– OLIVE OIL –

Istria is famous for having some of the best olive oil in the world so olive oil tasting is simply a must when you’re in Croatia. I discovered that good quality oil smells like freshly cut grass on first sniff, a light texture and a decidedly peppery flavour.

You can have olive oil at almost any restaurant, but if you want a pure and outstanding bottle (or two) to take home then head to Vodnjan. I had an olive oil tasting at Brist and I loved the taste so much that I bought three bottles. 

Croatian olive oil
Istrian olive oil
Croatian olive oil
Brist olive oil

Where to find great olive oil

  • Vodnjan: Brist
  • Labin: Negri

Many thanks to Visit Istria for hosting me on this press trip in Croatia. As always, all opinions and thoughts are my own, regardless of who is footing the bill.

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Croatian food


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30 Comments

  1. Terrific post and I concur 100%, Croatian food is an attraction in its own right. I dedicated THREE posts to restaurants in Split alone, though we only have spent 36 hours there in total.

  2. Oh my God, everything looks so delicious – I’m literally drooling all over my keyboard right now! I love truffles, so Croatia sounds like my version of foodie heaven!

  3. Mniam mniam! What a yummy food, girl!!! You’ve tried everything here I can see. I recently turned vegan so some of these dishes wouldn’t be for me, but…… Cez would love to try them!!!!!! I love your face when tasting oyster for the first time – so funny!!

  4. Wow, this post makes me hungry. I’ve never been to Croatia, but it’s high on my list. In the meantime, I’ve met so many people that have travelled there and told me great stories, however never about the food. I love food, I love to eat and so this should be my place to be 🙂

  5. Oh my word, my mouth has dropped open as a result of this post. This all looks so. good!! One of my coworkers visits Croatia frequently, and so it has lately been on the back of my travel mind. But seeing all of this food? Pushes it quite a bit further towards the front of my mind. Ha!

    1. Heh heh, Croatian food tends to have that effect! If you do make it to Croatia, be sure to visit Istria because this is where most of the amazing food is.

  6. I love this post! I’m heading to Croatia did my honeymoon this June! Where did you have the black truffles with bread? It looks delicious!

    1. Glad to hear that and congratulations on your wedding! 🙂 I had the black truffles & bread at restaurant Loggia just outside of Motovun. It’s the best food I had in Croatia so it’s worth the trip!

      1. Thank you! I am such a picky eater and being hesitant on choosing Croatia over Greece or Italy. We are planning to visit Dubrovnik, Hvar and Istria 🙂

        1. Those are great destinations 🙂 If you like Italian food, you’ll like Croatian too, because it’s so similar. In Dubrovnik and Hvar, there’s a lot of seafood, and in Istria you’ll get AMAZING gourmet with truffles, wine and olive oil. I’m a picky eater too, but I wasn’t served anything in Istria that I didn’t like. It’s some of the best food I’ve ever had.

  7. Absolutely beautiful photos! A region that’s known for honey, truffles, olive oil and wine?? Take me there immediately! Pinned this one for my next trip to the Balkans!!

    1. Hi Rod, I don’t know, unfortunately. But maybe you can find a shop in Croatia that ships honey to England. I know it’s possible with wine and olive oil.

  8. Hi, I often read about your travels! Going to Croatia. I read the article and can’t wait until I can try something delicious from the Croatian cuisine. Very beautiful and mouth-watering photos. Thanks for the review.

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