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A Guide to the Cuisine of Croatia

Croatia’s Eastern European location has aided it in fusing together classic Mediterranean flavours with popular central European cuisine. Whatever your preference, you’re sure to find delicious dinners to suit on a visit to this popular holiday spot.

Food in Croatia varies greatly from region to region, encompassing everything from Hungarian-style meat stews to fresh seafood and pasta dishes reminiscent of the best Italian dining. That said, there are a few national favourites you’re sure to find wherever you go, such as punjene paprike – stuffed peppers filled with meat, rice and spices – and the fishy favourite, brodet stew. Here’s a handy guide to what you can expect to see on the menus during your time away.

Hearty stews and moreish soups galore

Croatian mainland cooking is heavily influenced by foods from Turkey, Hungary and other neighbouring Slavic cultures. Variations on the Hungarian goulash can be found across Croatia, straying from the traditional beef version for rich rabbit and venison stew, vegetarian-friendly mushroom goulash and lashings of red wine throughout. A popular Istrian stew, also found in north-western Croatia, is Jota – a delicious combination of butterbeans, pickled turnip, potatoes, bacon and stewed spare ribs.

Most stews come well seasoned with either black pepper and paprika or garlic and olive oil, and are usually served with doughy, fried polenta dumplings to soak up the juices. Brodet stew is a nationwide favourite – a tomatoey fish choice made with bay leaves and garlic, often including eel or frogs legs for a quirky edge.

Soups are also an integral part of Croatian dining, and are usually a lighter affair. Manestra is a popular Istrian soup made from spring corn, served as a vegetarian starter or literally beefed-up as a meaty main. Thin beef broths with pasta are also common, as well as smoky veal soup with dill, and a thick wintery potato soup known as zagorska juha.

Mediterranean influences

Particularly popular in the Dalmatian region, pasta dishes can be found in restaurants across Croatia to sate the stomachs of travellers in search of more familiar tastes. Manistra na pome features on almost every menu, a quick and easy dish of pasta with tomato sauce, but there are plenty of more interesting choices too.

Try the krpice sa zeljem – pasta with braised cabbage – or sporki makaruli, a traditional pasta dish smothered in cinnamon-spiced meat sauce. Italian gnocchi can be found topped with pašticada, a Dalmatian beef and bacon sauce similar to French beef daube.

Stuffed peppers are often thought of as a lazy choice to make when cooking for vegetarians, but punjene paprike prove this theory wrong. The undeniably Mediterannean flavour of roasted pepper and paprika takes on a Balkan twist in this filling dish, where minced meat and rice are the filling of choice.

Do any of these Croatian dishes take your fancy? Let us know in the comments below whether you’ll be dining on those flavoursome soups or rich, meaty stews on your holiday to Croatia.