Croatian cuisine: because sometimes tacos need a break

Croatia might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of food, but this little country’s cuisine has been making waves in recent years. From the fresh seafood along the coast to the hearty stews and sausages found inland, Croatia’s food deserves recognition and appreciation.

One of the unique aspects of Croatian cuisine is the fact that it’s heavily influenced by the country’s location and history. Croatia is situated at the crossroads of Central Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Balkans, and its cuisine reflects this mix of cultures. You’ll find Italian influences in the west, Austrian influences in the north, Ottoman and Hungarian influences in the north east, and Greek and Roman influences in the south.

One of the most famous Croatian dishes from the coast is ‘pasticada’, a slow-cooked beef or veal stew that hails from the coastal city of Split. The dish is traditionally served with homemade gnocchi and is packed with flavor, thanks to a combination of red wine, prunes, and spices. Another coastal favorite is ‘black risotto’, a squid ink risotto that’s usually served as a starter or side dish. The ink gives the dish its distinctive black color and briny taste, and it’s often accompanied by a glass of white wine (I’m yet to try making this one).

If you venture inland, you’ll find heartier, meat-based dishes that are perfect for a cold winter evening. ‘Cobanac’ is a stew that’s popular in the east of the country, made with a mixture of meats like beef, pork, and sausage. In the north, ‘kulen’ is a spicy, smoked sausage that’s often served with bread and cheese as a snack.

One of the most appealing aspects of Croatian cuisine, especially for those who love seafood, is its freshness. Much of Croatia’s coastline is still relatively undeveloped, which means there isn’t much pollution or overfishing. As a result, the seafood that’s caught and served in local restaurants is some of the freshest you’ll find in the Mediterranean. From ‘mussels buzara‘ to octopus salad, the variety of seafood dishes on offer is impressive.

Perhaps even more than its savoury offering, Croatia has a rich tradition of delicious sweets and cakes that reflect the country’s diverse influences. The Austrian Hungarian Empires have played a huge role in Croatia’s sweet flavors, with cafes and coffeehouses becoming an essential component of everyday life. Flourless cakes using nuts as a base are also hugely popular, originally this was because flour was not readily available rather than a want of gluten-free foods. Try our chocolate srneći hrbat or Rapski muštaćoni from the island of Rab for a flour-free treat.

Croatia is also home to a number of world-class wineries that produce both red and white wines. Istrian wines like ‘malvasia’ and ‘teran’ are both excellent, and they pair beautifully with the region’s fresh seafood. Further south, on the Pelješac peninsula, you’ll find some of the country’s most famous wines, including ‘dingač’, a full-bodied red that’s made with a type of grape (plavac mali) that only grows in this part of the world.

But perhaps the biggest advantage of Croatian cuisine is its simplicity. Many of the country’s most famous dishes are made with just a few ingredients and rely on slow cooking and preparation. The focus is on fresh, seasonal ingredients that are allowed to shine on their own, rather than being masked by complicated cooking techniques or overpowering sauces. Trying our Dalmatian stuffed artichokes will show you how a vegetarian dish can offer a robust taste with simple slow cooking.

Croatian cuisine is special compared to other cuisines, thanks to its history, location, and simplicity. Whether you’re a lover of seafood or meat, there’s plenty to discover in this underrated country. The freshness of the ingredients, the ingenuity of the recipes, and the expertise of our grandmothers and chefs all combine to make Croatia one of the most exciting culinary destinations in the Mediterranean. If you haven’t tried Croatian food before, make sure you try some of the recipes on the blog.

Save the tacos for another day, you won’t regret it!

Štefi xx

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