Photo by Maja Danica Pečanić

Christmas food so tasty that Santa will forget to deliver your gifts

Croatia is a country where one can eat well throughout the year, but the true culinary magic starts with Christmas, and leaves nobody indifferent. While it’s snowing outside, the wind howls or the Bora whistles, Christmas time defines prosperity, a warm home, family, and friends, so it is best to relax, forget about all the problems and enjoy some fantastic delicacies.

Christmas Eve

By tradition meat is not served on Christmas Eve. It is fish, mostly codfish, that takes over the role. It is prepared in a red sauce stew or in bianco style as a spread, and it is served in many different ways from Istria and Kvarner, to Dalmatia and Zagreb.

Dalmatians make “codfish oil-style”, boiled and served with potatoes, and then seasoned with a lot of olive oil, garlic, and finely chopped parsley. The dried codfish is soaked for at least 24 hours, and often even for two or three days in order for it to soften and be made into a delicious brudet red sauce stew.
The Istrian and Littoral versions include codfish in bianco style with added garlic and olive oil, like a pâté spread on top of fragrant, freshly toasted bread.
The traditional Istrian dish prepared during fasting is pasutice, a local pasta cut into squares, topped with hot olive oil and salted anchovies or served with codfish in bianco style. Islanders will enjoy conger eel brujet stew with tomatoes or squid baked in the oven with potatoes on Christmas Eve.
Slavonians will prepare the famous pike perkelt (a type of goulash) with lots of onion, hot red peppers, tomatoes, and homemade lard.
In the Šokadija area old customs require that one eats suve šćuke, which is dried pikes, but only the best ones caught throughout the year.

Christmas

If you enjoyed your meal for Christmas Eve, you will enjoy it even more at Christmas. Who could resist the recipes used for decades or centuries, and taken from old grandmas’ cookbooks?
Dalmatia therefore every Christmas smells like pašticada stewed beef dish. Although everyone claims to have the best pašticada recipe, made according to the original recipe, preparations vary across the Adriatic. Some cook it in prošek dessert wine, others in wine with added sugar, and it is then stuffed with bacon, garlic, carrot, celery, and cloves. The special flavour and density is due to dried plums. Everything is naturally accompanied by homemade gnocchi, known as the best in the world, made by Istrian and Dalmatian grandmothers.


Gorski Kotar enjoys turkey with mlinci pasta, just like Zagreb, and the Northern Adriatic. The experience for that perfect holiday roast has been gathered for years. The delicious fillings such as the corn bread squares, onions, apples, celery, garlic, chicken liver, and parsley can retain all the juices, but the true secret is that Croatian turkeys are fed with barley, chestnuts, and walnuts, and this is what makes them so special. Together with homemade mlinci pasta, of course! Roast suckling pig is famous in Slavonia, its skin has to be crispy, and the meat melt in your mouth. It is served, obviously, with her majesty, the Olivier salad! A mix of vegetables, mayonnaise, and eggs.

Duck is prepared in Međimurje, and as with all their roasts, it is filled with buckwheat porridge.
Lika is faithful to cooked pork with boiled cabbage for Christmas, and the smell of sarma rolls spreads out from the holiday tables all around our country.

You think you’re full?

You should leave some space for sweets – roščići (corn shaped cookies), lincer cookies, čupavci cakes, Bishop’s bread, orahnjača walnut roll, makovnjača poppy roll, wafers, cat’s eyes cake, and kiflice rolls!

Among traditional cookies there are also stars and hearts filled with jam, pine tree-shaped cookies coated with marzipan cream, and decorated with sugar beads, and the holiday cheese bundt cake is served for Christmas breakfast.
The smell of cinnamon and vanilla, roasted sugar and delicious walnuts stays in the air for some time, but even more in people’s memories! Scents remind us of Christmas!