Serbian Cuisine – History and Facts
Serbia is a small country in the central Balkans. However, the significance of this country has been vast throughout the centuries. Serbia has always been on the crossroads of the East and the West, occupied by Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empires, thus its heritage consists of elements of both cultures .
The same is with Serbian cuisine. Being situated in the Balkans, Serbian cuisine is very similar to the cuisine of the rest of the Balkan countries. Travelers who come to Serbia instantly fall in love with the food. They also like the fact that portions are big and very reasonably priced!
Serbian people love food, all kinds and shapes of it. If you come to Serbia and decide to try some local dish in a local restaurant, you won’t be disappointed – Serbs serve big portions for both themselves and guests. They are very hospitable and it is very likely that you will enjoy your stay and food.
Serbian Cuisine Menu
Serbian cuisine is wide known for abundance of meat, variety of cheese, pastries and various vegetable dishes, both fresh and cooked.
Appetizers in restaurants include Meze (smoked meat, sausages, čvarci (pork rinds), pečenica, prosciutto cheese, etc.) and pastry, followed by various kinds of soups (chicken, beef, vegetables).
Generally, Serbs are all about meat, so barbecue is main course in most of the restaurants across the country. It is served with fried potatoes, vegetables and salads. Serbia is also rich in rivers, so fish is another important thing you will find on their menu. Choice of fish is wide and definitely shouldn’t be skipped. There are also both tasty and healthy fish soup. Pickled foods are very popular in Serbia, and more importantly, they are homemade. Serbs also enjoy drinking alcoholic drinks, which go well with their heavy dishes.
Serbs usually wake up early, have a cup of coffee (sometimes tea) and enjoy a heavy and tasty breakfast before starting their working day.
The most common breakfast in Serbia looks like this: Kajgana (scrambled eggs), bread, smoked meat/ sausage or bacon, yogurt (Serbian type of yogurt), kajmak (type of cheese)
When women have time, they often make various kinds of pastries for breakfast – pita (with cheese, potatoes, minced meat, mushrooms, etc.), burek (with cheese or minced meat), and all of that is served with yogurt. The taste of hot, fresh and homemade pita is unforgettable.
Serbian breakfast can also be sweet and a bit lighter. It consists of, for example, bread with butter and jam or honey that goes with a glass of milk, or sweet pastry.
Lunch is normally eaten after work; families come home and gather around the table. Sometimes it seems like no lunch in Serbia goes without meat. Lunch usually starts with soup and finishes with meat and vegetables. But sometimes, they simply have cooked vegetables for lunch, like beans, which is one of the favorite dishes among Serbs, green beans, peas, that go with salad made of pickled or fresh vegetables, depending on the time of the year. But steaks and sausages can also be found in these cooked dishes. If you are invited for more special lunch, the main course will probably be barbecue – variety of meat including pljeskavica, ćevapi, sausages, chicken fillets, etc. It all seems simple and nothing special, but the taste of it is like nothing you’ve tried before. It tastes like real meat.
Snacks are not very popular in Serbia. You have so much for lunch that you practically don’t need any snacks. They often include something sweet, fruits, nuts, or some pastry.
Dinner in Serbia is the least important meal of the day, sometimes they even skip it. It resembles breakfast, but portions are smaller. Serbs often eat eggs for dinner, sandwiches, or pastry. One of the most famous Serbian (and Balkan) homemade pastries is Proja (cornbread), which is often served for both breakfast and dinner. They also adore pancakes for dinner with homemade jam, walnuts and honey or simply with sugar. Whatever the meal and time of the day is, Serbs know how to enjoy their meals and food.
Most of the Serbian desserts are of Turkish or Hungarian origin, but the origin isn’t so important after all, what matters is the taste, and Serbian sweets are as tasty as their other dishes. There is Vasa’s Torte, a cake rich in chocolate and nuts, Slatko (fruits in jelly), which is usually served to guests or in the morning with coffee, Bundevara (pumpkin pie) and other sweet pies, baklava (Turkish pastry with chopped nuts and sweetened syrup), Palačinke (type of pancakes), etc.
Alcohol is very popular in the Balkans, and Serbia is no exception. Serbia is famous for its national drink called Slivovitz (Šljivovica – type of plum rakija (brandy). Rakija can be made of various fruits – apricots, grape, pears, etc. and is made after the fruit used. Rakija is equivalent to Western whiskey.
Another popular alcoholic drink is beer. They drink beer everywhere and at any time. They mostly drink beer produced in Serbian breweries, which is cheaper, and doesn’t taste bad.
Serbia has very good grape and various sorts of high-quality wine, but Serbs simply don’t have the habit of drinking wine every day. And maybe it’s because of the price too.
When it comes to non-alcoholic drinks, the most popular drink is kafa (coffee), which is prepared without milk and sugar and has a very strong taste. The quality of fruit in Serbia is very high, so there are many tasty juices to try.
Christmas in Serbia is one of the two most important holidays. It is the time of the year when every Serbian family is gathered and enjoys. As Serbs eat a lot throughout the whole year, you can imagine their holiday menu. Typical
Serbian Christmas table looks like this:
Česnica (type of bread with a coin it)
and many side dishes, salads, etc.
Easter is the most important holiday. It is also considered the happiest holiday. Easter menu is very similar to Christmas menu, only there are died eggs on the table along with mandatory lamb.
Most popular dishes in Serbia:
Sarma (sauerkraut stuffed with minced meat, or even walnuts and rice)
Various kinds of pies – with gibanica being the speciality
Cooked and baked beans
Pečenje (roasted meat – pork, lamb)
Bečka šnicla (Schnitzel) – meat coated in bread crumbs and fried
Punjena paprika (stuffed peppers)
Burek (baked phyllo with minced meat, cheese or mushrooms)
Ajvar (bread spread made of bell peppers, garlic, chili pepper and eggplant). it can also be served as salad)
Palačinke (crepe -like type of pancakes)
Most used ingredients
Most used ingredients in Serbian dishes are meat, onion, paprika, red pepper, pepper, salt, flour, oil, parsley, celery, milk, bread crumbs, cheese…
Serbs really do enjoy eating meat and fish is somewhat underrated in Serbia, even though it is a country rich in rivers. But if you ask an average Serb to choose between fish and meat, he would probably choose meat. Fish in Serbia is more expensive than meat and they eat it mostly at special occasions.
Everything in Serbia tastes so great, especially fruits and vegetables. It’s because of the climate and fertile land.
Vegetables that are used in everyday cuisine are beans, peppers, tomatoes, potatoes, peas, carrot, celery, cabbage
Serbia is famous for its apples too. There are many kinds of apples and other fruits that are exported. But every fruit in Serbia is yummy. So, the first fruit on the list of every Serb are apples, plums, pears, sour cherries, cherries, raspberries, strawberries
Traveling Foodie – What to eat when you travel to Serbia
As mentioned above, roštilj (barbecue) shouldn’t be skipped, smoked meat, cheese and all dairy products, pastries (burek, proja, pies) and, of course, sweets.
Street food is very popular in Serbia. Streets of Belgrade, capital of Serbia, are rich in bakeries, places to try pljeskavica (and other barbecue), and places that serve international food (Chinese, Thai, Greek and Turkish). Whatever you decide to try in Serbia, you won’t be disappointed, since you will get amazing quality at a price lower than almost anywhere in Europe.
There are many types of restaurants in Serbia that serve both international and Serbian food, but it’s best to go for a smaller typical Serbian restaurant somewhere in the heart of Old Town of Belgrade, or south of Serbia if you are not limited to Belgrade only. Maybe Zlatibor (mountain resort). There you can get the best of Serbian cuisine.
Are you from Serbia? Maybe you visited there? Please feel free to comment and add your own thoughts on Serbian ethnic food.