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Serbian cuisine

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Serbian cuisine

Serbian cuisine (Serbian: српска кухиња / srpska kuhinja) is a heterogeneous cuisine, sharing characteristics of the Balkans (especially former Yugoslavia), the Mediterranean (especially Greek), Turkish, and Central European (especially Austrian and Hungarian) cuisines.

The national dishes include pljeskavica (a ground beef/pork patty), ćevapi (grilled minced meat), and sarma. The national drink is the plum brandy šljivovica.

Serbian food is characterized not only of elements from Serbia, but of elements from the former-Yugoslavia as a whole. Peasantry has greatly influenced the cooking process. During the centuries under Ottoman rule, the Balkans were influenced by the rich oriental cuisine and some of the most traditional Serbian dishes have common roots with those of Greece and Turkey. Centuries of Austrian and Austro-Hungarian rule richly influenced Serbian cuisine, especially Serbian desserts.

In recent times, the Serbian diaspora has spread the cuisine across the world.


Typical Serbian Christmas table.

William, archbishop of Tyre, who visited Constantinople in 1179, described the Serbs: "They are rich in herds and flocks and unusually well supplied with milk, cheese, butter, meat, honey and wax".[1]

The first published cookbook in Serbia is The Big Serbian Cookbook (Veliki Srpski Kuvar), written by Katarina Popović-Midzina in 1877.[2]

The best known Serbian cookbook is Pata's Cookbook (Patin Kuvar), written by Spasenija Pata Marković in 1907; the book remains in publication even today.[3]


Most people in Serbia will have three meals daily, breakfast, lunch and dinner, with lunch being the largest in the Mediterranean fashion. However, traditionally, only lunch and dinner existed, with breakfast being introduced in the second half of the 19th century.[4][5]

It has unique mix of various traditions; Serbian confectioneries often offer koljivo, baklava, nut roll and sachertorte.

A number of foods which are simply bought in the West, are often made at home in Serbia. These include rakija (fruit brandy), slatko, jam, jelly, various pickled foods, notably sauerkraut, ajvar or sausages. The reasons for this range from economical to cultural. Food preparation is a strong part of the Serbian family tradition.




Breakfast in Serbia is an early but hearty meal, although before breakfast most people usually take a cup of coffee, in modern times maybe an espresso. With the breakfast itself either a tea, milk, milk coffee, or cocoa milk is served, pastries or bread are served with butter, jam, yogurt, sour cream and cheese, accompanied by bacon, sausages, salami, scrambled eggs and kajmak.


Fish soup

There are two types of soups in Serbian cuisine: standard soups called supa, and soups with roux or eggs - called čorba. The most common are simple pottages made of beef or poultry with added noodles. Fisherman's soup (riblja čorba) and lamb soup (jagnjeća čorba) are considered to be delicacies.

  • Goveđa supa (Consommé)
  • Teleća čorba (veal ragout soup)
  • Jagnjeća čorba (lamb ragout soup)
  • Fisherman's soup
  • Čorba od ječma i sočiva (Barley and lentil soup)
  • Čorba od zelja i sira
  • Čorba od spanaća, koprive ili zelja
  • Corba od boranije
  • Paradajz čorba (Tomato soup)
  • Čorba od luka (Onion soup)
  • Ljuta krompir čorba (Spicy potato soup)
  • Čorba jajaruša (egg soup)
  • Škembe čorba (tripe soup)

Main course

Serbian sarma prepared in a grne

The main course is always a meat dish. Main courses that are not grilled include:

Roštilj (Barbecue)

Ćevapčići, a national dish of Serbia
Pljeskavica, another national dish of Serbia

Grilling is very popular in Serbia. Grilled meats are the primary main course dishes offered in most restaurants. They are often eaten as fast food.


  • Meze, small dishes or appetizers
Meat being smoked

Meat products

Traditional Serbian meat products are simple ham, bacon, dry ribs and a kind of pork rinds called čvarci,[5] often made during svinjokolj. They are traditionally made by holding the meat on wind and cold air and only later smoked[5] (except čvarci).

Here are selected some meat Serbian meat products, especially those which attained[6] protected designation of origin status:

Various kinds of sausages and similar more complex meat products were created under Austrian influence in Vojvodina.[5] They include:

Today, Serbian meat industry also produces modern meat products.

Dairy Products

  • Kajmak
  • Kiselo Mleko, Buttermilk
  • Yogurt
  • Pavlaka, heavy soured cream (smetana)
  • White cheese
    • Zlatar cheese
    • White cheese with walnuts from Babine, won the 2012 "best autochtonic cheese" award[7]
  • Cream cheese
  • Kačkavalj yellow sheep milk cheese (Caciocavallo)
  • Brined cheese
    • Feta, brined cheese of mostly sheep milk
    • Sirenje, brined cheese of goat, cow or sheep milk
  • Vlašić cheese (Vlašićki sir)
  • Vurda, Sheep milk
  • Sirac, unpasteurized cow's milk cheese
  • Šar cheese, traditional sheep/cow milk hard cheese
  • Pule cheese, donkey milk cheese, which is the most expensive cheese in the world

Bread and porridges

Soda bread

Bread is the basis of Serbian meals and it is often treated almost ritually. A traditional Serbian welcome is to offer the guest with just bread and salt; bread also plays an important role in religious rituals. Some people believe that it is sinful to throw away bread regardless of how old it is. Although pasta, rice, potato and similar side dishes did enter the everyday cuisine, many Serbs still eat bread with these meals.

In most bakeries and shops, white wheat bread loafs (typically 600 grams) are sold. In modern times, black bread and various graham bread variations regain popularity as a part of more healthy diets. In many rural households, bread is still baked in ovens, usually in bigger loafs. Also, the following breads and porridges are part of the traditional cuisine:



Serbian word for pie is "pita", similar to Greek pita.

A number of Serbian pies are made with phyllo, called "kore" in Serbian language. A common Serbian pie not made with phyllo is called "štrudla". To add to the confusion, it is not similar to strudel, but rather to the nut roll. Most commonly you would see two dominant varieties, sometimes made in pairs: Makovnjača (with poppy seeds) and Štrudla s orasima (with walnuts).

A Serbian pie could, in general, be called in two ways: according to its mode of preparation, and according to its filling (although not every pie is prepared with every filling). For example, a "bundevara" is a pie filled with pumpkin and could refer to either a savijača (made of rolled phyllo) or a štrudla (made of rolled dough). Both sweet and salty pies are made, and some pies could be prepared in the same way with either sweet or salty filling.

For an overview of Serbian pies, you may refer to this informative table:

form → ruffled phyllo rolled phyllo layered phyllo rolled dough
↓ filling ↓ Serbian name → burek savijača štrudla
white cheese sirnica Green tickY Green tickY
meat Green tickY Green tickY
leaf vegetables, spinach zeljanica Green tickY Green tickY
leek Green tickY
mushrooms Green tickY
pizza topping Green tickY
white cheese and eggs gibanica
nothing Green tickY
sour cherries Green tickY Green tickY Green tickY
apples Green tickY
pumpkin bundevara Green tickY Green tickY
poppy seeds makovnjača Green tickY
walnuts orasnica Green tickY

Tarts and similar pies have appeared in Serbian bakeries relatively recently and are not a traditional meal.


Šopska salata

In Serbia, salads are typically eaten with the main course and not as an appetizer.

The simplest of salads are made of sliced lettuce, cabbage, sauerkraut, tomato, cucumber or carrot without any preparation or dressing at all. Oil, vinegar and salt could be added as a dressing, occasionally spiced with pepper or paprika. Beetroot or potato salads require cooking and oil, vinegar and salt.

More complex salads are prepared in a similar way, but by mixing several kinds of vegetables, together with white cheese, garlic and other spices. These include:

  • Serbian salad (српска салата, srpska salata)
  • Shop salad (шопска салата, šopska salata)
  • Greek salad (Grčka salata)
  • Kisele (ukiseljene) paprike (roasted green papers with garlic and vinegar)

Finally, there are salads with complex preparation that could even be eaten as a part of the main course:




Video demonstrating dessert preparation
Vasa's torte (type of cake)
Typical Baklava
  • Alva, flour-based and Nut-butter-based sweet confections.
  • Baklava, sweet pastry made of layers of phyllo dough filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup or honey.
  • Bundevara
  • Kompot, pieces of fruit in sugar syrup (compote)
  • Doboš torta, five-layer sponge cake, layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with thin caramel slices.
  • Grilijaš cake
  • Jam (džem and pekmez - preserve)
  • Slatko, fruits in jelly (fruit preserves)
  • Kadaif (knafe), sweet pastry of Kanafeh layers
  • Kitnikes, jelly sweets
  • Knedle (Knedle sa šljivama – also called Gomboce in Banat)
  • Kuglof
  • Krofne, doughnuts filled with custard, chocolate, cream or jelly (Berliner)
  • Krempita (custard pie)
  • Makovnjača
  • Medenjaci
  • Oblande (Oblatne)
  • Orasnice
  • Palačinke (crepe)
  • Plazma torta, torta of Plazma keks
  • Profiterole (princes krofne)
  • Serbian cherry pie (Pita od Višanja – sour cherries and walnuts with fillo dough)
  • Salčići
  • Šampita, whipped marshmallow-type dessert with fillo dough crust
  • Šnenokle
  • Šerbet
  • Španski vetar, cake that translates to Spanish wind
  • Štrudla, layered sweet pastry
  • Ratluk, sweet jelly confections (Turkish delight)
  • Ruske kape
  • Reform torte (reforma torta), multi-layered torte with chocolate butter-cream filling
  • Sutlijaš, rice pudding with cinnamon
  • Tatlije, sweet pastry
  • Tufahije
  • Tulumbe
  • Urmašice, biscuits served in syrup
  • Uštipci
  • Vanilice
  • Vasa's torte (Vasina torta), traditional Serbian cake rich in chocolate, nut and orange flavour (see recipe in external links)
  • Žito, ceremonial sweet made of wheat, walnuts and some raisins


Koljivo from wheat
  • Česnica, Christmas bread
  • Koljivo, boiled wheat - ritual food during slava
  • Slavski kolač, prepared for slavas.

Spices and seasoning

Serbian cuisine is generally lacking in spices and herbs: practically only salt, black pepper, parsley, celery leaves and dried powdered root, dill, cinnamon, ground paprika, ground chili pepper, and laurel are in widespread use,[5][8] Other spices sometimes used include white pepper, nutmeg, allspice, Coriandrum sativum, and clove.



High quality and quantity of fruit and abundance of water result in a number of high-quality fruit juices and mineral waters produced in Serbia, and being among its most widely known exports. There are few domestic carbonated soft drinks however. An interesting traditional soft drink, made from corn, now less commonly consumed is boza. Kvas is also being made by some breweries.

Serbian coffee, Turkish coffee prepared the Serbian way (домаћа кафа 'domestic coffee' or кафа 'coffee'. Especially strong coffee (without sugar and milk) is often referred to as 'Turkish' or 'black' coffee) is a traditional drink of Serbs. Tea is far less popular and mostly herbal teas are consumed, drunk on their own or as supplementary medicine.

Of dairies, yogurt is common, as are kefir and similar varieties.

The famous Serbian Knjaz Milos mineral water is considered a national brand and can be used in any meal, also with the traditional greeting sweets "Slatko".


Sljivovica is a famous alcoholic drink in Serbia


Of distilled beverages, the most popular are various fruit brandies called rakija. Comparatively many people brew their own rakija, which is highly prized by friends and relatives. Rakija is famous for being smooth but very alcoholic and it is said that one cannot get a hangover from it. Serbian rakija is a prized commodity and is very difficult to find elsewhere in the world. Various kinds of rakija are named after fruit they are made of; among the most known ones are:


Beer is widely enjoyed in Serbia, which has 14 breweries (see Beer in Serbia).




Some specific kitchenware for Serbian cooking include:

See also


  1. ^ William of Tyre, Historia Transmarina 20.4.
  2. ^ Poglaviti majstori svakog krkanluka
  3. ^ Istorija pisanja kuvara u Srbiji
  4. ^ Antonić, Dragomir (2006-07-23). Царство за гибаницу.  
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Nikola Vrzić (December 28, 2000). "Sve srpske kašike" (Windows-1250).  
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Списак ОГП
  7. ^ Press Online :: Društvo :: Srpski sir pobedio švajcarski
  8. ^ "" (in Serbian). Ekonomist magazine. 2006-12-11. 

External links

  • – English language recipe for Vasa's Torte (traditional birthday cake with origin from Paraćin, Serbia)
  • – includes Serbian recipes
  • Slivovitz shop
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