Croatian cuisine isn’t as internationally applauded as, say, French or Italian, but that’s only because it is founded on simple ingredients and ancient recipes which don’t necessarily pack a punch. Instead, this cuisine makes you feel the comfort of home cooking. In Dalmatia particularly, seafood-focused dishes use few but careful ingredients to craft standout creations from the Adriatic. But that doesn’t mean that meat loses its shine in the spotlight, with tried-and-true hearty classics to enjoy on the coast. So, what should you absolutely eat on your next sailing holiday? Keep reading, then start eating.
‘Pršut i sir’
What you may be more familiar with as ‘prosciutto and cheese’, it is commonplace to begin a meal in Croatia with a charcuterie of local cheeses and smoked meats, often decorated with gherkins or pickled onions, and certainly a selection of preserves or jams from the area. Not only is it a foolproof sailboat snack, but it’s guaranteed to please your peers at a dinner out!
Your sailing holiday is not complete until you’ve tried one of Croatia’s most prized dishes - peka. Most common in Dalmatia, ‘peka’ is when various meats and seafood are cooked ‘under the bell’, with potatoes and veggies, in a cast-iron baking vessel over open flames. While lamb and veal peka is a shoo-in for meat-eaters, octopus peka is a showstopper that can’t be missed. And you’ll be dreaming about the peka-soaked-potatoes forever!
On those hot summer sailing days, there are few things as refreshing as octopus salad. This chilled appetizer uses sliced octopus as the star, mixed with red onion, tomato, sometimes boiled potato, and parsley, seasoned with olive oil and red wine vinegar. There are many variations of this simple salad up and down the coast, though no matter where you are, you’ll be looking for more.
Perhaps the simplest dish on the list is grilled fish, and Dalmatians do it best. Freshly caught that morning, fish is placed on a hot grill, seasoned with just olive oil and salt, some sprigs of rosemary, and served atop a bed of garlicky olive oil for your bread-dipping pleasure. Does it get any better than that?
Dalmatian comfort food in a dish, pašticada comes straight from the Croatian grandmothers’ cookbook. This sweet-and-sour braised beef dish marinates with cloves and vinegar to earn its unique flavor, and should swim in this marinade for 2-3 days! The meat then simmers in a hearty brown sauce, ultimately poured over homemade gnocchi, so no bit is missed. And each bite is heavenly.
Gregada is one of the most famous seafood dishes in Dalmatia, and especially from the island of Hvar, where it is called forska gregoda (Hvar gregada). Believed to have ancient roots dating back to the Greeks on the island of Pharos (Hvar), and most likely in the area of Stari Grad, gregada is a fish stew that uses primarily white fish, onion, garlic, potato, and a minimum number of spices, cooked on high heat. This unassuming seafood stew is drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with parsley when ready and promises you’ll be back for seconds.
Also called ‘brodet’ or ‘brujet’, this seafood dish of many names is also endlessly evolving, meaning you’ll never have the same brudet twice! Using (usually) 3 types of the freshest fish you can find as the base, with the mandatory additions of olive oil, garlic, and onions, brudet is enhanced by tomatoes and white wine to form a fish stew you’ll be dipping bread in for days.
Because it doesn’t have to be all about seafood on the coast. While it may be challenging to pronounce, cevapčići are minced meat treasures of beef, pork, and lamb - and if you make them yourselves, you can mix them any way you’d like! Served with Croatia’s most famous condiment of roasted red peppers and eggplant (hello, Ajvar!) this is a cheap, easy, and undoubtedly delicious meal you won’t want to miss on your next sailing holiday.
This rich and silky risotto is famous for its rather infamous color. Using cuttlefish ink at its center, black risotto features pieces of cuttlefish and is seasoned with Dalmatian dessert wine prošek, which helps it gain its bold flavor. And if you don’t mind a black tongue, you’ll likely be eating it around Dalmatia for days!
Using the flavors of the sea, this finger-licking good sauce is treasured in Dalmatia. With scampi or mussels at its core, buzara can be made two ways - white (with white wine) or red (with a tomato base). Both versions use breadcrumbs, garlic, onion, and precious amounts of olive oil. You just make sure no drop of sauce is left behind.
You know that summer is in the air when the smell of stuffed peppers permeates through every kitchen window. And you better believe this intoxicating scent lives up to its expectations. Bell peppers stuffed with minced meat and rice are then simmered in a tangy tomato sauce and served atop a bed of mashed potatoes for your indulging pleasure. And it is one of Dalmatia’s most beloved comfort meals.
So, what will you be eating first?