Discover Croatia through your belly with these 5 regional bites

From zesty seafood on the coast to spicy stews in the mountains, follow our food route to discover Croatia's tastiest treats.

Traditional Croatian black risotto. © Chasing the Donkey
Traditional Croatian black risotto. © Chasing the Donkey

It is a joy (and often a relief!) to find that a country’s cuisine is as rich and diverse as its scenery. Honest home-cooking traditions and a myriad of foreign influences make Croatia’s comfy kitchen and cheerful table manners a sight to see in their own right.

So, when you’re traveling to Croatia, seek out the nation’s tastiest treats by region with our Croatian food route.

1. Dalmatia

Mussel farm on the Dalmatian Coast.

Harvesting shellfish off the Dalmatian Coast.

Under Venetian rule for almost four centuries and sitting so close to Italy, the Dalmatian coast follows a solid Mediterranean regime of flavourful veggies, juicy grilled meats and, above all, copious amounts of exquisite seafood.

Just around the corner from Dubrovnik, and on your way to Split, is one of the country’s most prized gourmet pleasures… oysters. The quiet seaside village of Mali Ston is applauded for this scrumptious shellfish, freshly-harvested just a stone’s throw from your plate.

A slightly less slimy but equally decadent choice is the Crni rižot (black risotto) tinted by the ink of its star ingredient – squid!

2. Kvarner Gulf

Paški sir cheese from Pag Island.

Paški sir cheese from Pag Island.

For an award-winning snack, follow on to the scraggy peaks of Pag Island, home to the internationally acclaimed Paški sir cheese and a salt mining tradition dating back to Ancient Greece.

The two, in fact, go hand in hand. The harsh Bora winds spread the salt across the island so only the toughest plants survive. This steady diet of rosemary and thyme makes the sheep’s milk uniquely aromatic and – voilà! – a one-of-a-kind cheese is born.

Pair those golden triangles with long, paper-thin slices of tangy pršut (dry-cured ham) and you’ve got yourself the most authentic of Croatian spreads!

3. Istria

Worm's-eye view of the forest in Istria.

Truffle-hunting forest in Istria. © Niels Mickers

The rolling hills of Istria are next on our route, where coastal cuisine meets the cosy rustic flavours of inland Croatia and olive oil is king.

This region is the proud holder of one very exclusive title: third largest truffle territory in the world. These much sought-after tartufi can only be uncovered with the help of very clever canines and, although not much to look at, are as savoury as they are shy.

A generous serving of fuži or pljukanci (entirely homemade – hand-rolled! – pasta) served with creamy game sauce and topped with grated slices of these deluxe mushrooms, gives the concept of comfort food a whole new meaning.

4. Slavonia

Čobanac stew cooking over a fire.

Cooking Čobanac. © Croatian National Tourist Board

With a lot of Central European influence in the mix, the vast plains and river valleys of Slavonia are where Croatian recipes get seriously continental. A few dishes here are as representative of the region as its Hungarian heritage.

Čobanac (a meaty stew) is just the dish to fight off the cold winter air, along with spicy kulen, a paprika-flavoured smoked sausage that is so popular in these parts the locals throw an annual festival in its honour!

5. Zagreb

A selection of traditional Croatian desserts.

A selection of traditional Croatian desserts. © Tamara Novaković

Zagreb is the final stop on our route. And – as with any gratifying meal – we’ll end on a sweet note. With an easy-going coffee culture tradition, the city is brimming with bakeries and open-air cafes guaranteed to satisfy your sugar cravings and then some.

Kremsnita (Croatian-style cheesecake), Krafna (jelly doughnuts), Orehnjača (walnut Roll) and Madjarica (chocolate layer cake) are just a sample of the simple yet sophisticated treats on offer in the nation’s unassuming capital.

6. Bonus tip: Wine

Vineyards by the historic town of Motovun.

Vineyards by the historic town of Motovun.

Now that you’re an expert on Croatian cooking, here’s a bonus tip. Not rooted in any one specific region but fertile throughout the country, Croatian vineyards are producing wines good enough to rival the usual suspects.

As you’re following the food trail and savouring all those yummy delicacies, you might want to get familiar with the local grapes too.

Feeling curious about traditional Croatian food? Get acquainted in one of these restaurants.