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.
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”.
The first published cookbook in Serbia is The Big Serbian Cookbook (Veliki Srpski Kuvar), written by Katarina Popović-Midzina in 1877.
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.
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.
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.
Various sorts of pastries, often with cheese or meat or filled with jam (pogačice, paštete, kifle that in Serbian usage may or may not be crescent shaped and may be sweet, but, may also be sprinkled with salt crystals, kiflice, perece, buhtle, pletenice, štapići, zemičke, djevreci) and especially often:
Kačamak (also Cicvara) – a type of polenta
Kajgana (scrambled eggs)
Jaje na oko (fried eggs)
Rovito jaje (soft-boiled egg)
Kuvano jaje (hard-boiled egg)
Bread with something:
Bread, (often butter) and honey
Bread, (often butter) and jam
Bread, lard (or schmaltz) and salt and paprika
Bread, lard and sugar
Bread and kajmak
Kosovo bread (kosovska pogača)
Sudžuk (also appetizer)
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)
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)
The main course is always a meat dish. Main courses that are not grilled include:
Pečenje, Roasted meat (whole roasted pork, lamb and goat)
Đuveč, stewed vegetables and pork similar to Ratatouille
Karađorđeva šnicla (breaded rolled steak stuffed with kajmak and occasionally sliced ham and cheese)
Kavurma (lamb or pig intestines)
Wiener schnitzel (Bečka šnicla)
Moussaka (Musaka, made with aubergines/eggplant, potatoes or zucchini)
Mućkalica (diced pork with a pepper and tomato hot sauce)
Paprikaš (pork and pepper stew)
Podvarak (stewed sauerkraut, usually with meat and bacon pieces)
Prebranac, baked beans in sauce
Sataraš, stewed vegetables, similar to Ratatouille
Sarma (stuffed cabbage rolls)
Noodles with poppy (Rezanci s makom)
Pasulj (a thin bean stew)
Punjene paprike, peppers stuffed with ground meat, onion, and rice
Punjene tikvice, stuffed zucchini
Wedding cabbage, (Svadbarski kupus) (cabbage cooked with smoked pork)
Dumplings (valjušci or flekice) with potatoes or cabbage
Meat and vegetables cooked under sač
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.
Pljeskavica (hamburger) National Dish
Ćevapčići (ground meat sticks) National Dish
Vešalica (grilled strips of pork loin)
Mixed grill (mešano meso)
Skewered kabobs (ražnjići)
Leskovački roštilj (Leskovac grills)
Gyro, various meats with tzatziki and Pita bread.
Meze, small dishes or appetizers
Turšija, pickled vegetables
Traditional Serbian meat products are simple ham, bacon, dry ribs and a kind of pork rinds called čvarci, often made during svinjokolj. They are traditionally made by holding the meat on wind and cold air and only later smoked (except čvarci).
Here are selected some meat Serbian meat products, especially those which attained protected designation of origin status:
Smoked Ham (šunka)
Užice prosciutto, beef or pork (užička pršuta), from Užice
Zlatibor prosciutto (zlatiborska pršuta), from Zlatibor
Užice bacon (užička slanina), from Užice
Čvarci, pork rinds
Valjevo duvan čvarci (valjevski duvan čvarci), from Valjevo
Various kinds of sausages and similar more complex meat products were created under Austrian influence in Vojvodina. They include:
Srem sausage (sremska domaća kobasica), from Srem
Srem salami (sremska salama), from Srem
Požarevac sausage (požarevačka kobasica), from Požarevac
Petrovac sausage (petrovačka kobasica), from Petrovac
Srpska kobasica (Serbian sausage)
Srem kulen, from Srem
Blood sausage (krvavice)
Head cheese (švargla)
Today, Serbian meat industry also produces modern meat products.
hot dog (viršla)
potted meat food product (narezak)
pre-made grill products (pljeskavica, ćevapčići etc. – see grill section)
Leskovac grill-meat, from Leskovac.
Kiselo Mleko, Buttermilk
Pavlaka, heavy soured cream (smetana)
White cheese with walnuts from Babine, won the 2012 “best autochtonic cheese” award Cream cheese
Kačkavalj yellow sheep milk cheese (Caciocavallo)
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
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 breadvariations 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:
Đevrek, ring-shaped bread-pastry
Kačamak, made of boiled cornmeal, potato and, sometimes feta cheese or skorup (polenta)
Pereca, baked snack of savory or sweet varieties (Pretzel)
Pogačica, type of bread
Masonica, bread with milk, sugar and kajmak or sirene (Popara)
Languš, deep-fried flat bread
Mekike, deep-fried pieces of dough
Pita, pocket flat bread
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 rolledphyllo) 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.
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:
Russian salad (ruska salata)
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.
Kompot, pieces of fruit in sugar syrup (compote)
Doboš torta, five-layer sponge cake, layered with chocolate buttercream and topped with thin caramel slices.
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)
Krofne, doughnuts filled with custard, chocolate, cream or jelly (Berliner)
Krempita (custard pie)
Plazma torta, torta of Plazma keks
Profiterole (princes krofne)
Serbian cherry pie (Pita od Višanja – sour cherries and walnuts with fillo dough)
Šampita, whipped marshmallow-type dessert with fillo dough crust
Španski vetar, cake that translates to Spanish wind
Štrudla, layered sweet pastry
Ratluk, sweet jelly confections (Turkish delight)
Reform torte (reforma torta), multi-layered torte with chocolate butter-cream filling
Sutlijaš, rice pudding with cinnamon
Tatlije, sweet pastry
Urmašice, biscuits served in syrup
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
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, Other spices sometimes used include white pepper, nutmeg, allspice, Coriandrum sativum, and clove.
DRINKS – NON-ALCOHOLIC
High quality and quantity of fruit and abundance of water result in a number of high-quality fruitjuices 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”.
DRINKS – ALCOHOLIC
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:
Šljivovica (slivovitz, plum brandy), National Drink
Lozovača (grape brandy)
Viljamovka / Kruškovac (pear brandy)
Pelinkovac, (a wormwood liqueur milder than Absinthe)
Medovaca (honey brandy)
Main article: Beer in Serbia
Beer is widely enjoyed in Serbia, which has 14 breweries (see Beer in Serbia).
Main article: Serbian wine