Traditional food from Serbia

Serbian food is known for being heartwarming and savory. Here’s a list of traditional food from Serbia that you should definitely try, along with more info about the dishes and local cuisine.

Ćevapi

Ćevapi is a popular Serbian dish that consists primarily of grilled minced meat. It’s a versatile dish and can be made from all kinds of meat including the popular choices of veal, pork, beef, or more popularly, a mix of them.

Cevapi can be referred to as a unique kind of sausage that closely resembles kofte kebab from Turkish cuisine. Garlic, salt, paprika, and baking soda are the only additional ingredients added to the mixture and it is allowed to stay or refrigerated for a few hours before being grilled and served hot and fresh.

Ćevapi is best enjoyed with a side of sweet onions and flatbreads such as lepinja or pita. It is widely considered to be the national dish of Serbia.

Ćevapi
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Kajmak

Kajmak is a popular Serbian dairy product that originated in the Turkic Central Asian region. It is made from the milk of buffalos, cows, goats, or sheep. Kajmak is usually homemade with boiled milk allowed to simmer on low heat for a few hours. The milk is then skimmed and left to chill for several hours or even a few days. When ready, Kajmak has a thick, creamy consistency with a high-fat content (nearly 60%). Very fresh kajmak is highly sought after and can be very expensive as it cannot be found fresh in large quantities. It is a popular appetizer or breakfast item and is also popularly used as a condiment for several local dishes.

Kajmak
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Karađorđeva šnicla (Karadjordjes schnitzel)

Karađorđeva šnicla is a traditional Serbian dish comprising of breaded cutlets. It is named for the Serbian revolutionary called Karađorđe. Karađorđeva šnicla consists of rolled veal stuffed with kajmak.

The stuffed roll is breaded and then fried before being served fresh and hot. Veal may also be replaced with pork steak. A traditional serving of karađorđeva šnicla includes freshly fried rolls served with a side of roasted potatoes and tartar sauce. 

Sarma

Sarma is a popular Serbian dish that consists of stuffed vine leaves. The stuffing ingredients can be virtually anything but the usual ingredients are bulgur, rice, minced meat, and often vegetables.

The vine leaves popularly used is the Sultana grape leaves in most Serbian recipes. Broccoli leaves are also sometimes used. The choice of meat is usually beef or lamb which should be ground several times to make it very fine.

Sarma can be enjoyed both hot and cold and can be refrigerated and stored for long hours.

Sarma
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Ajvar

Ajvar is a popular Serbian side dish that is often used as a condiment accompanying main dishes. It is made from roasted or cooked bell peppers in oil. Due to the different kinds of peppers used, the flavor ranges from sweet to piquant and eventually attains the very hot or ljutenica type of ajvar.

While the traditions dictate sweet ajvar as the most authentic and original version, the piquant variant is the most popular and common. Ajvar is popularly known as “Serbian Salad” or Serbian veggie caviar.”

Ajvar
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Mladi sir

Mladi sir, or young cheese, is an award-winning Serbian dairy product that comprises reduced milk fat and salt. It has a mild, light, and fresh flavor very similar to that of a traditional fresh white cheese.

Mladi sir is one of the most popular and iconic dairy products that are rich in whey proteins. The light taste makes it a universal favorite and it is often regarded as an integral part of a balanced diet for fitness bums.

Mladi sir can also be used in many local recipes and remains one of the most preferred and popular dairy products in Serbia.

Pljeskavica

Pljeskavica is a traditional Serbian dish that consists of a grilled spiced meat patty. The meat patty is a mixture of pork, beef, and lamb. It is one of the most popular main course dishes in Serbia and is often regarded as one of the national dishes of the country.

A common serving of pljeskavica includes sides of onions, kajmak, ajvar, and urnebes (a spicy cheese salad) served on a plate or a traditional Serbian style flatbread like lepinja.

Pljeskavica
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Prebranac

Prebranac is a popular Serbian bean soup made using baked beans. Other common ingredients include some kind of meat (usually beef, pork, or lamb), smoked meat products such as bacon, sausage, and ham hock with vegetables including mainly onions and carrots.

Paprika, garlic, bay leaves, salt, and pepper are commonly added for seasoning. Prebranac is a hearty soup that is enjoyed daily as a classic comfort dish for winters. It is one of the staple dishes in the region as its inexpensive to prepare and packs a large amount of nutrition.

Prebranac
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Riblja čorba

Riblja čorba is a common Serbian soup that is almost the same as Fisherman’s soup originating in Hungary. The main ingredients of riblja čorba are fish, onions, paprika, garlic, parsley, sterlet, catfish, pureed tomatoes, salt, pepper, and white wine.

The preparation involves cleaning the small fish and cut into halves. Finely diced onion, garlic, and paprika are then added to the strips along with sprigs of parsley.

They are then poured in cold water and allowed to simmer until everything achieves the desired tenderness. The water is then separated and tomato, salt, and pepper are added.

The mixture is brought to boil before adding pieces of sterlet or catfish. Finally, white wine is poured in and everything combined and simmered for about 20 minutes before serving it warm.

Riblja čorba
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Đuveč

Đuveč is a class of dishes in Serbian cuisine that comprise of stews or casserole-style dishes that are cooked in an assortment of earthenware pots collectively called Đuveč.

This dish finds its origins in Turkish cuisine and the Güveç is the original version of Đuveč. The Đuveč pot is notable for adding an earthy aroma to the stew.

The main ingredients are meat (usually chicken, pork, or lamb), onions, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and any other choice of vegetables, herbs, and spices like paprika. Mushrooms and olives are also a popular addition giving the dish a very distinct flavor.

Mućkalica

Mućkalica is a popular Serbian dish that comprises of barbecued meat and vegetables made into a stew. The choice of meat is usually beef or lamb but any type of meat can be used for the dish.

Even different cuts of the same animal can be used or many different types of meat or meat cuts may also be mixed. Mućkalica is often fondly referred to as a cocktail of barbecued meat.

Traditionally, the best mućkalica is typically made from cold and leftover barbecued meat that is stewed with various other ingredients including onions, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, paprika, and salt.

Mućkalica
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Gibanica

Gibanica, or folded, is a traditional Serbian dish that comprises of pastries made with cottage cheese and eggs. They can be both sweet and savory and are popular all over the country.

The main ingredients are phyllo dough and cow milk cheese. Feta or sirene cheese may also be used. Gibanica may also be described as a strudel with multiple layers like a cake. 

The filling may also contain eggs, milk, spinach, meat, nettle, potatoes, onions, kajmak, lard, salt, and water. Gibanica is a very versatile dish and can be made into fabulous multi-layered cakes for celebrations and festive occasions.

Gibanica
Photo: Keni/Shutterstock

Čvarci

Čvarci are a specialty Serbian dish that comprises of pork rinds. The preparation usually starts with melting the lard and cutting it into small blocks. The blocks are fried on low heat in their fat and milk is added to result in a caramel color.

The process continues until the fat completely melts away resulting in a crispy pork rind. Onions, garlic, and salt are commonly added to enhance the taste. Čvarci are a popular winter culinary delight and can be consumed as a snack at any time. It may also be used as an ingredient in many local recipes.

Čvarci
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