Dubrovnik is not only a region of many sites; it’s also a region of many flavors. The “Pearl of the Adriatic” sits at the Southern tip of Croatia on the border of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and the Adriatic coastline. This strategic location is directly reflected in the fusion of flavors in the local cuisine.
Each local dish gives us a greater understanding of Dubrovnik’s history and cultural unique influences.
1. Dirty macaroni
I’m sorry to tell you that you won’t find any Mac n’ Cheese in Dubrovnik. However, you will find a popular regional dish called “dirty macaroni”. The dish is usually with Penne or macaroni pasta noodles with a red meat sauce. This dish reflects the influence Italy (and the Venetian empire) had on Dubrovnik. Although it is similar to marinara, it has it’s own Dubrovnik twist and flavor.
2. Black risotto
There are various types of delicious risotto in Dubrovnik, but black risotto is a unique dish that you must try once in Dubrovnik. The risotto is made with rice, squid, butter, and sometimes some Parmesan cheese. But the risotto is made “black” from squid ink.
I personally was hesitant to order this when I first came to Dubrovnik, as I am now a huge fan of squid. However, it’s now become one of my favorite dishes. Unlike some other fish like salmon that is usually imported, the squid served in black risotto is usually fresh out of the Adriatic.
3. Young Cheese
You’ll find a variety of cheeses in Dubrovnik, but you may wander what is “young cheese” that is seen on the menu around here. This actually doesn’t have a direct translation to English, but it is a soft cow cheese that is often soaked in oil.
This is a very popular dish in Dubrovnik among locals, especially in the Konavle region. It is best to pair with local Prsut, also known as prosciutto or some of the locally made sausages.
4.Lamb under the bell (Peka)
Speaking of Konavle, another local favorite that is popular in this region is “lamb under the bell”. This dish is cooked the old-fashion way in the outdoor kitchens called “konobas”. Lamb and peeled potatoes are put in a coal oven and left to cook for around three hours. The slow-cooking process makes the meat extremely tender and the potatoes perfectly crispy.
This dish is a popular meal to have on special occasions in Dubrovnik. Many houses in the area have this outdoor kitchen and will make this at home. If you order this in a restaurant, make sure to order in advance as it usually takes extra time.
5. Bakalar na bijelo
There’s nothing better than eating this regional specialty on a chilly winter day in Dubrovnik. Bakalar na bijelo is essentially mashed potatoes mixed with a dried fish called “bijelo”. This dish is usually served around Christmas, especially on Badnjak (Christmas Eve).
You can usually find this in some of the pubs in the Old Town, but only in the winter months.
6. Tuna pate
Along with the aforementioned “young cheese”, tuna pate is a popular appetizer and side dish in Dubrovnik. It’s a creamy mixture of mayonnaise, olive oil, and tuna that is put on bread and crackers. You’ll usually find this dish year round, but this is also very popular to make around Christmas.
7. Dubrovacka zelena menestra
If you’re a meat-lover looking for a hearty, traditional meal you’ll love Dubrovacka zelena menestra. This dish is made from pork ribs and cabbages, boiled over a period of 2-3 hours. It comes out to be somewhat of a stew that is sure to cure your appetite.
While this dish is more popular in the winter, you can find it at some of the more authentic restaurants that are located outside of Dubrovnik’s Old Town that specialize in meats and local dishes.
8. Musule na buzaru
If you’re a mussels or oyster fan, you must try them while in Dubrovnik. Even if you’re not a fan of the latter, do give the mussels a try.
Musule na Buzara is a simple, yet popular dish in Dubrovnik that combines boiled mussels with breadcrumbs and tomato sauce. Most of the mussels in Dubrovnik are locally sourced from the neighboring Peljesac region, which is world-famous for its mussels and oysters. You have some of the best quality mussels in Dubrovnik, and this dish is one of the best ways to indulge.
9. Stone cake
This dish is perfect if you love sweets AND pasta. Stone cake is a regional specialty that combines noodles with chocolate and a bit of cinnamon. It’s usually served as a dessert for dinner or sometimes with tea or coffee in the afternoon.
It’s worth trying at least once, and you can usually find it at local bakeries or some restaurants in the Old Town.
Last but certainly not least is one of my favorite desserts of all time. Rozata is a sort of pudding cake made with gelatin and a citrus flavoring. It is one of the most authentic desserts in Dubrovnik, and for this reason you’ll find it on most of the menus around town. It’s perfect as a light dessert or late-night treat. You surely won’t find anything like it outside Dubrovnik.
If you’re looking to get an authentic taste of Dubrovnik, join us for the Old Town Food Tour. You’ll experience a 4-course meal with a small and intimate group of travelers. Over the course of 3-4 hours, our local guides will take you on a walking tour of Old Town’s sights and hidden secrets. Along the way you will make stop at various restaurants to try many of the regional specialties mentioned above. Even if you eat too much, you’ll have plenty of time to walk it off.
Indulging in the flavors of local cuisine is one of the best ways to experience Dubrovnik’s culture. Check out this tour and more here.