Are you planning a visit to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and want to know all about Bosnian food before you go? Or maybe you’re intrigued by Bosnian cuisine, and want to have a go at cooking traditional Bosnian food yourself? For foodies, the Balkans is an area of the world rich in hearty cuisine, with recipes dating back centuries. Bosnia and Herzegovina, with its fascinating history, is a country whose cuisine has been influenced by an eye-opening list of cultures and countries.
With a helping hand from our expert local, Edis, we’ve put together a scrumptious list of 11 traditional Bosnian foods and Bosnian dishes you simply have to try if you ever visit Bosnia and Herzegovina. With Bosnian food options for meat-eaters, vegetarians, and lovers of sweet desserts, there’s a flavor for most on this wonderful list.
Bosnia and Herzegovina has historically been a meeting point between different nationalities, cultures, and religions from the east and the west. All have left their unique marks on the local way of life, including the cuisine. Bosnian food has been praised by many for its mix of styles and great flavors, and it is one of the things many tourists know about before stepping foot in the country.
Bosnian food itself is a mixture of dishes that have originated in Bosnia and Herzegovina and dishes that have been brought to the country from different corners of the world, which the locals have adopted and started preparing in their own unique way. Many observers will notice Turkish, Arabic, Austro-Hungarian, Greek, Muslim, Catholic, and Jewish influences in the local dishes. All of them have an influence in Bosnian food.
Just like the rest of the region, Bosnians eat a lot of meat, which is reflected in many traditional dishes. It is often joked that Bosnia and Herzegovina is not a country for vegetarians, but this a bit exaggerated. The traditional dishes usually use a lot of vegetables, and not all of them contain meat. One unique thing that sets Bosnian cuisine apart from many others is that special sauces are very rarely used. The food is instead slowly cooked in its own natural juices, which lets the flavor of each individual ingredient shine through.
Here are some of the most famous Bosnian food and local dishes you should try the next time you find yourself in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Please note that not all of them have English translations, which means you will have to use the local names in many cases.
Ćevapi (pronounced che-va-pee) is a signature dish of the local cuisine. They can be described as small skinless minced meat sausages that are prepared on a grill. They are served on a special type of bread and are usually enjoyed with a side of minced onion, kaymak, or both. The bread is usually put on the grill for a short amount of time to absorb some of the favor and the juices of the meat, which makes it incredibly tasty.
The ćevapi are made from a mix of two or more types of meat, most often beef, lamb, or veal, and some spices. Every maker has their own unique mix and recipe, which is passed from generation to generation in their family with pride. It is a must-try Bosnian food.
Bey is an old Ottoman title given to local chieftains, and this dish likely has some Turkish origins. Begova čorba is usually served as a warm appetizer on special occasions such as holidays, but it can also be served as a part of a regular meal. Many visitors may be surprised by the fact that it is thicker than a soup despite being an appetizer, but it is very light on the stomach. It contains vegetables, most often carrots, celery, and parsley. And some type of meat, usually chicken or sometimes veal.
Another signature plant found in this stew is okra, which is a medicinal plant used in many traditional Bosnian dishes. Thickness is achieved by adding ingredients such as egg yolks or sours cream. The end result is a very enjoyable and light appetizer Bosnian food that is a must-try for anyone.
A cabbage and meat lover’s dream, the Bosnian pot is a dish which is believed to originate from medieval Bosnia, where it was a favorite of the local miners. In its most traditional variant, it is prepared in a clay pot and cooked for several hours without adding almost any spices. This kind of cooking allowed the meat and vegetables to achieve the best possible flavor. A lot has changed in the process since and good clay pots are very rare, so the dish itself had to be modernized somewhat.
Today it is cooked in metal pots, and the most common ingredients, aside from the already mentioned meat (usually veal or lamb) and cabbage, are potatoes, onions, garlic, tomatoes, paprika, and eggplant. The modern version is more complex than the original medieval one, but the tradition of the dish lives on, nonetheless.
Burek (pronounced boo-wreck) and other types of pita (pronounced pee-tah) are types of baked pastries filled with meat (in the case of burek) or cheese or vegetables in the case of other types. The most common types of pita besides burek are filled with potatoes, cheese, pumpkin, and spinach/chard. The fillings are not mixed, and the entire pita is filled with only one selected filling. Every pita has a unique name, depending on the filling used.
Only filling that can be mixed with other fillings (except for meat) is cheese. The dough is rolled out until it is almost paper-thin, and then the filling is spread out evenly. The dough is then rolled and baked in a special type of pan. Some restaurants specialize in making only pitas with different types of filling, and they are the place to go if you ever want to try this traditional Bosnian food.
Sogan dolma (pronounced so-gun doll-mah) is an oriental dish that was adopted by the people in Bosnia and Herzegovina when the Ottoman Empire arrived in the 15th century. Stuffed onion is probably the simplest way to describe the dish, and that’s what the name itself means in Turkish. Stuffed vegetables, in general, are common in Bosnian cuisine, but sogan dolma holds a special place in the country’s tradition as it can be served as a ceremonial dish.
The onions are, of course, cooked, and the stuffing for the onions is mixed by hand. The stuffing itself is made from minced meat of choice and a mix of cooked rice, vegetables of choice (usually tomatoes, paprika, or carrots), and spices (usually black pepper). The stuffing is also mixed with a bit of water to reduce its thickness and make the whole dish much lighter and easier to enjoy. A very hearty and delicious Bosnian food.
Japrak (pronounced yup-raak) is a Bosnian food that is very similar to sarma, which is a traditional Slavic dish present in many countries in Eastern Europe. Unlike sarma, which uses cabbage, japrak uses vine leaves or broccoli leaves, both of which give the dish a specific texture and flavor. The filling consists of a mix of minced meat and cooked rice, or just cooked rice in very rare instances. The basic filling can be enhanced with spices and other types of vegetables, such as onion, according to personal tastes.
Ćutfe (pronounced choof-teh) are traditional meatballs that are often served in a tomato sauce and can be enjoyed with a side of mashed potatoes or without any sides. The meatballs themselves are made from a mixture of minced meat, garlic, onion, eggs, and breadcrumbs. They can be fried on their own or in the same pot as the sauce, which gives them an extra source of flavor.
The sauce is made from tomatoes mixed with other vegetables and spices according to personal preferences. The sauce needs to be put on the pan to remove some of the water to make it thicker. In the end, the sauce is poured over the meatballs, and the dish is ready to be served.
Uštipci (pronounced ush-tip-tsee) are fried dough balls that could be compared to “salty” doughnuts. Over the years, people have experimented with the recipe of this Bosnian food by adding different spices and vegetables to the dough before baking it. However, the traditional version of the dish does not have any of these additions.
Uštipci are not meant to be enjoyed on their own, but rather with a side of smoked meat, home-made cheese, kaymak, or some vegetables according to your preferences. While uštipci may not look like much at first glance, they are an absolute delight when paired with a quality side and are they are still enjoyed in their traditional form by both locals and tourists alike.
Dried meat is a local favorite and a staple Bosnian food. Suho meso is often enjoyed as a side dish with other Bosnian foods, such as uštipci, or even when drinking alcoholic beverages, such as rakija or beer. It is usually made by putting a piece of lean meat (most often beef) in coarse salt for several days before hanging it out to dry.
To prevent the meat from spoiling, this process is usually done during the winter in a very dry room. The room is often specially designated for this purpose. The drying process can take up to several weeks, depending on the type and size of the meat, but the end result is one of the most enjoyable local delicacies you can find.
Tufahija (pronounced too-fach-e-yah) is a traditional fruit-based sweet dessert that many enjoy alongside traditional Bosnian coffee. Tufahija is made from apples that are first peeled and boiled in sugar water to give them their signature texture. The top part of the apple is hollowed out and stuffed with a sweet mixture of wall-nuts, egg-whites, and powdered sugar. The sugar water in which the apples were boiled is used for glazing the stuffed apples once they are cooled. The stuffed and glazed apple is topped with whipped cream and served in a special glass-like container. It is a Bosnian food that anyone with a sweet tooth will enjoy to the max!
Hurmašica (pronounced hoor-mah-she-tsa) is another traditional dessert that can be described as a sweet syrup biscuit. Just like tufahija, it is often seen on the table during religious holidays, but it can be made throughout the year. The biscuit is very spongy in appearance, so it can easily absorb the syrup and has a pleasant texture.
The syrup is made of sugar and water. Bosnians will sometimes add lemon or other flavors according to their personal preferences. Hurmašica can also be enjoyed with traditional Bosnian coffee, as drinking coffee is a ritual that has a special place in Bosnian culture.
These are just some of the delights that traditional Bosnian cuisine has to offer, and there is definitely something for everyone. Whether you’re an omnivore, a vegetarian, or have a sweet tooth for some delicious desserts, you’ll always be able to find a traditional Bosnian food that will satisfy your desires. Many tourists have found the food in Bosnia and Herzegovina both unique and flavourful, despite the impression they may have had before trying it.
Many restaurants specialize in preparing traditional Bosnian food. Some even specialize in preparing only one type of dish, such as ćevapi or burek/pita. These are usually the best places to try such Bosnian food, unless you befriend, or already know, local people. Bosnians and Herzegovinians are known for their hospitality and will try their best to make your stay as pleasant as possible. If you know any locals, it’s possible they may even offer to prepare some of these traditional Bosnian food dishes for you. If you get this kind of offer, be sure you kindly accept, and allow yourself to enjoy the very best of what the local cuisine has to offer.
Images licensed from Shutterstock
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