Bosnian cuisine is rich not just in flavor but also in history. Bosnia and Herzegovina share meals from the former Yugoslavian kingdom. With a twist, traditional Bosnian versions of these recipes are enjoyed globally as they are hearty and full of flavor. We also have a list if you’re looking for a healthy alternative.
Do you remember your first foreign meal that changed your life? It may sound quite exaggerated, but food does that to anyone. There is a saying that eating is everyone’s favorite pastime and is enjoyed no matter what culture or differences one may have. Europe’s diversity allows it to be an excellent destination for travelers. Especially if you have a long list of changes in the past, such as Bosnia and Herzegovina, you’re sure to find discoveries from several regions.
Bosnia and Herzegovina shares recipes with its neighbors, which makes their flavors unique and, at the same time, familiar. For starters, Bosnian dishes are always accompanied by sour cream, yogurt, or garlic sauce to eliminate the greasiness of meat.
Curious about the types of Bosnian cuisine and what the common meals are? If you want Traditional Bosnian food dishes, look no further as we have this comprehensive guide. We’ll even throw you some words and phrases you can use as you visit Bosnia and Herzegovina or just want to impress your friends.
If you’re here to know more Bosnian words or just need that quick fix for an appetizing dinner later, get your ideas here!
Facts About Bosnian Cuisine And Eating Traditions
A priceless way to enjoy traveling is by discovering other countries’ perspectives, especially if their traditions are far opposite to what you are used to. By opening your mind to respect how people eat, drink, and enjoy their meals, you’re even enjoying a new world. The locals of Bosnia and Herzegovina may have a long line of traditions and customs from a complex historical background. Yet, one thing connects you with them, food.
Bosnian cuisine and etiquette aren’t as strange or diverse as the rest of the world’s practices. Common bad manners are prohibited, such as talking while your mouth is full or chewing loudly. But, you can enjoy picking off your friend’s plate if you want more of that fresh salad.
Moreover, Bosnia and Herzegovina also treat visitors, whether they are from outside the country or not. If you want to follow the customs of Bosnian food and table manners, you’re in the right place.
Before diving right in, here are some facts about Bosnian food that you should know!
- Many traditional dishes in Bosnia and Herzegovina are similar to Croatia, Serbia, Mediterranean countries, and Turkey
- Bosnian cuisine enjoys Western and Eastern influences
- Usually, family dinner visits are unannounced. So don’t be surprised if there are more guests on your dinner table
- While vegetarianism isn’t introduced widely in Bosnia, there are many vegetable-based Bosnian foods to try!
- Coffee is served three times during visits. You’ll have the greeting coffee (dočekuša), the talking coffee (razgovoruša or brbljavuša), and the parting ways coffee (kandžija’ or ‘sikteruša’)
- Eating time is usually long as most Bosnians love talking after a meal
What Do Bosnians Eat?
Are Bosnians into rice, bread, or salads? The Ottoman empire influenced the Balkan countries in various ways like culture, traditions, customs, and way of life. One is traditional Bosnian food, a mix of Western and Eastern World. Additionally, modern cities embrace influences from the US, Asia, and Africa. You can even find more global restaurants that serve Japanese, Italian, or French in cities like Sarajevo and Mostar.
Although Bosnians eat meat, there is a high percentage of Muslims in the country. So, they must observe Halal practices and must not consume pork accordingly. Salads are always on the menu, and there are also vegetable stew dishes as an alternative.
Ready to dig in? Let’s uncover what fantastic delicacies you’ll find in Bosnian food.
A Typical Breakfast In Bosnia
What do Bosnians eat for breakfast (doručak)? A simple, light meal starts from 5 AM or 6 AM, with most families eating minced meat meals with Bosnian pita bread called Somun. Generally, your Bosnian friend may offer you Cevapi (read more on that below) or Pura s lučinico, a breakfast made of corn flour milled using a water mill with ingredients like sour milk, butter, and garlic. These staple breakfast choices symbolize traditions passed by the changing generations that Bosnia and Herzegovina went through.
A visitor may encounter heavy Bosnian food choices on certain days if the host’s baka (grandmother) insists. Some Bosnian food meals are Zeljanica, Čimbur s mesom, and complementary fruits. Brunch (branč) is also standard as many workers don’t have time to prepare food at home and start their job shifts early.
What’s Cooking For Lunch?
The main meal of Bosnians starts not with breakfast but with lunch. Lunch (ručak) consists of meat, vegetables, and fruits. Most Bosnians serve their lunch at 2 PM, but it depends on whether it’s a busy household. Typically, you’ll find modern families having different diets than what traditional Bosnians or the elderly do. Restaurants are also open for brunch or early lunch with an agenda to accommodate more customers, depending if it’s a commercial area.
Lunch is always a heavy meal with dishes like Bosnian stew, mashed potatoes, and even pickled cabbage leaves as an appetizer or part of the main dish. You’ll find more of these traditional Bosnian foods as we explore more.
End The Day With Bosnian Dinner
After a long day, many Bosnians enjoy dinner (večera) at 8 PM with the whole family eating more heavy meals similar to your lunch. There will also be meza (a plate of appetizers) with sujuk (spicy sausage) and Bosnian cottage cheese.
You can enjoy alcoholic drinks with Bosnian dinner during family gatherings or big events. If you don’t drink beer or wine, you’ll be offered Bosnian coffee to finish that great day.
Types Of Traditional Bosnian Food
Meat lovers rejoice! Bosnian national dishes aren’t complete if it’s not made of meat. On the other hand, Bosnian originally had simple foods as many of the poorer villages only relied on wheat, beans, cabbage, and onions. You’ll also notice how many of the Balkan dishes have bread made of corn flour or what.
If you’re planning to discover a new recipe from the Balkan peninsula, explore Bosnian food first! Choose from your typical vegetable stew to a complex traditional Bosnian cuisine below:
Starting off with Bosnia’s national dish, Cevapi is made of mixed beef and veal, mutton, or lamb. Condiments to add flavor are salt, pepper, and a little baking soda. It looks like sausages combined together in a row and served on Somun with raw onions. Most Bosnians prepare Cevapi often in the slow cooked beef mix, mutton, and veal bone broth before it is grilled.
Bosnian Cevapi is the most popular fast food dish in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as you can find these tiny, oblong-shaped kebabs in most restaurants.
There are also two variations of Cevapi which are the Sarajevski and Banjalucki. Sarajevski Cevapi are mostly single sausages, while Banjalucki is connected as four sausage tiles in one pita bread.
Begova čorba or ‘Bey’s soup’ or ‘Bey’s stew’ is a Bosnian-style slow cooked chicken soup that includes okra, eggs, and roux. It is similar to chorba, an Arabic stew made of veggies and meat. Despite having rich and thick soup, it is relatively light for many Bosnians and may even be a breakfast delicacy. Bey’s stew is usually served during winter and festivals on a metal bowl or clay pot. You can add sour cream or dry herbs to add a fancier taste.
Similar to the Turkish word Börek, Burek is an ideal snack built with flaky pastry and a variety of fillings. A Burek is a pie dish that consists of meat and cheese (sirnica), spinach and cheese (zeljanica), or butter (maslanica). They are sold everywhere in Bosnia and Herzegovina and are usually baked fresh for breakfast. Bureks are either squares or stuffed pies with a spiral shape.
There is also a sweet Bosnian version of Burek with cherries or other fruits. You can also ask for sour cream or a glass of yogurt and water (Ayran) for your drinks.
Many types of dolma recipes include seafood or even remove minced meat. The original Dolma recipe is stuffed grape leaves with either veggie fillings or meat gently cooked in tomato sauce. On the other hand, sogan dolma, dominant in Mostar, is stuffed onions with bell peppers or rice. Another variant is Punjena paprika (stuffed bell peppers) with eggplants and zucchini. They are smaller and sweeter and perfect as a vegetarian alternative.
Communities that prepare Dolma use a wood-fired stove or in-garden ovens constructed of yellow clay. Meat dolma is served warm with an egg-lemon(citrus) sauce, whereas rice-only dolma is eaten at room temperature with yogurt and garlic.
Pljeskavica is also known as a Balkan burger since it is popular in Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia, and Montenegro. It is typically served with raw onions, milk cream (called kajmak), ajvar (pickled vegetables), and several varieties of cheese, in addition to meat and lepinja (a flat bread similar to pita bread). You can get it with a flatbread or without one, but in many restaurants, it’s usually a variation with a spicier version with more peppers on it.
Considered the national snack, Ustipci is similar to savory doughnuts but is deep-fried and yogurt-based. Most menus have it as an appetizer and can be an alternative for your morning bread. They pair well with kajmak, avjar, or any kind of fruit jam. Some restaurants have dissimilar methods of preparing Ustipci, such as which flour to use or what pairings fit well. You can also eat these dough balls at home with your coffee.
Rostilj literally means grilled meat or your local English equivalent of barbecue. It is another popular dish in the Balkans that have high-protein content. They are paired with cevapi, steak, grilled chicken, and beef and have complementary baked potatoes, salads, or coleslaw.
Since it is a popular item on the menu, there are many modern ways to cook a Rostilj. Some restaurants want the slabs of meat in marble, or they are cooked in your usual griller or stove-top.
Bosnian minced meat dumplings or Klepe (also known as Kulaci) is served in many Bosnian homes with a large quantity of pavlaka (sour cream). However, the cooking process doesn’t include baking powder and is mostly gooey-looking, unlike its Asian counterparts. It is swiftly boiled and topped with extra butter, paprika, and garlic. For vegetarian options, you can replace beef with spinach or other vegetables.
Bosanski Lonac, or Bosnian pot of stew, is served in a clay pot with many meat and healthy choices. You can cook it with meat like lamb and veal, carrots, onion, Romano beans, tomatoes, potatoes, and vegetables in low heat. For hours, you’ll smell that extensive flavor that is frequently served during lunch and dinner. Today, you can also have modern types of Bosanski Lonac that suit your own taste. You can even make it a vegetarian option! It is one of the most famous national dishes of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
There is a saying that no Bosanski Lonac recipe is ever alike, as many families have their own recipes passed by their grandmothers as sort of a souvenir.
Grah is a traditional Bosnian white bean soup in the Balkan communities. Any Bosnian, Serbian, or Croatian family has its unique recipe. However, Grah’s key ingredients are white beans, tomato paste, vegetables, and meat. Suho meso (or dried meat) is another key ingredient that will make this hot and comforting soup your favorite during the winter. It is similar to the French cassoulet dish because of its ingredients except confit (duck) in the stew. Grah also has sauerkraut, smoked meat, or sausages from beef ribs with bell pepper paste, parsley, bay leaves, garlic, onions, parsnips, and more herbs.
Grah is famous from Albania to Kosovo, passing through Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatia.
Drinks complement meals, and with oily and savory Bosnian cuisine, it’s an easy decision for many of the locals to drink. But due to tradition and personal choices, not all Bosnians are into alcoholic drinks. Many elderly and Bosnian citizens still enjoy natural juices from fruits and even add in a few amounts of vegetables.
However, non-religious or secular Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) are not shy to drink alcoholic drinks. But some completely secular Bosniaks may not want to participate in large gatherings or private parties that are usually associated with drinking.
Bosnian Serbs (or the Orthodox Bosnians) mostly occasionally for family gatherings, weddings, and life celebrations.
Check out some of the famous Bosnian drinks, alcohol-based or not, that you’ll surely quench your thirst too!
Starting with a non-alcoholic drink, coffee is also a staple drink complementary to meals at any time of the day. Be careful when comparing Bosnian coffee to Turkish coffee, though! The latter is similar to traditional Bosnian coffee but has a different process. The taste resembles a blend of coffee beans, chocolate, and a sugary taste. Authentic Bosnian coffee is served in an ibrik or ǆezva (Bosnian coffee cup). You can have Bosnian coffee any time of the day. But, as is with customs, coffee is a staple for breakfast.
Unlike Turkish coffee, the guest always decides how much sugar syrup or sugar cubes to put in.
Rakija is Bosnia’s brandy version with fruit manufactured in many Southeast European countries. It is distilled and can be used as a foundation for many liquers. Rakija can be distilled from fruits like plums (ljivovica), Williams pear (viljamovka), quinces (dunjevaa), apricots (kajsijevaa), apples (jabukovaa), grapes (lozovaa/komovica), and a variety of other fruits.
Although fruit brandies are created in other European nations and areas, Rakija is a household name in the Balkans and has a wide following across all generations.
Although many of you drinkers may like a smooth, vodka-tasting alcoholic drink, there’s nothing wrong with having heavy alcohol. Pelinkovac is a bitter liqueur made from wormwood, popular in Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Bulgaria, and Slovenia. It is a solid drink with 28 to 35% alcoholic content. Many alcoholic lovers compare it to Jägermeister, but Pelinkovac has a more bitter flavor but with an herby fragrance.
Pelinkovac is traditionally served as an aperitif or digestif, plain or on the rocks, with a lemon slice. It also tastes great when blended with lemon juice or tonic water.
Who wouldn’t resist the sound of getting desserts after getting your tummy full? Bosnian desserts were introduced by the Ottoman Empire and had their variations over the years. You can only find original desserts in Bosnia and Herzegovina apart from the Bosnian version of Croatian, Montenegro, Serbian, Arabian, and even Czech desserts.
All desserts are eaten right after many Bosnian foods for lunch or dinner. But, you may even find them sold on the streets during peak working hours.
Sink your teeth in some of these delightful treats while you enjoy them with your favorite drink of choice.
You may think that Kadaif is pasta, but it’s actually a dessert! Kadaif has a string-like texture made of shredded filo (phyllo) dough with melted butter, chopped walnuts, and baked for an hour. If you’re eating Kadaif for the first time, you may think that the taste is odd, but it’s one of the favorite sweet desserts in the country. As a routine by many Bosnians, it is drizzled with agda and lemon juice.
We’re not stopping from the sweet treat path, are we? Another fluffy and light pastry, Šampita is sure to make you crave more. It is made from a puff pastry base with whipped meringue. Your friend may offer you Šampita with lemon syrup on top. It has an airy texture that you can always pair with a nice cup of coffee to complete that great afternoon.
I’ve had the chance to eat Baklava myself, and I can totally say that it’s one of the best things in life. However, Bosnian Baklava doesn’t contain pistachio, which is a must for its Mediterranean counterpart. The abundant flavor in the flaky pastry is enough for anyone to feel the sweetness in just one bite.
Halva is a candy treat from Persia, widespread across the Middle East, and now seen in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ingredients such as flour, semolina, or finely powdered seeds or nuts (such as sesame or sunflower seeds) and sweetened with sugar or honey are inside Halva candies. They are typically cooked during pilgrimages to Mecca during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
Are Bosnian People Vegetarian/Vegan?
While Bosnian traditional dishes are mostly meat dishes, vegans and vegetarians are slowly getting options for meat-free dishes. You may also find your Muslim friends cooking pork-free meals and concentrating on vegetables only. However, eating out at restaurants or even your friend’s family will automatically have typical meat dishes on their menu. It’s always best to ask for vegetarian or vegan options at any restaurant. Or better yet, look for a vegetarian/vegan app for available restaurants that serve these choices.
You’ll also need to be careful with some meals if you are allergic to some ingredients like peanuts, garlic sauce, or even grains,
As mentioned previously, vegetarianism is scarce. There are even fewer chances of having a fully vegan alternative as of now. Scouting for specific restaurants that offer Pescatarian or an entirely vegan menu may become your goal for a few more years. But you’re in luck as there are existing vegetable dishes that may serve as a temporary replacement.
Apart from eating pickled vegetables (kiselo povrće), here are some vegetarian dishes to try:
Peksimeti And Kajmak
If you need a snack, this is a decent option. Kajmak is a sweet yogurt, frequently served over fried flatbread for a simple and inexpensive dinner. Peksmeti and kajmak are excellent vegetarian food and light snack combos.
Via customary recipes, Đuveč is a Turkish, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Macedonian, and Serbian oven-baked meat and vegetable stew comparable to the French dish, ratatouille. However, Đuveč may also switch out beef with just olives, mushrooms, rice, onions, tomatoes, zucchini, herbs, and more spices. Many families eat it with a mixed salad that consists of roasted eggplant, garlic, vinegar, sweet peppers, and tomatoes.
As a summer food, it has a very intense taste with paprika, similar to what your grandmother may cook as a casserole. Đuveč is a simple, healthful dish offered at potlucks, parties, BBQs, and mid-week family festivities.
Kačamak is a cornmeal porridge found in Western Asia and Southeastern Europe and is mainly a staple for Bosnian food. Initially, it was considered a poor man’s meal with two subregional types. Tourists that eat Kačamak have them in a Bosnian pot with potatoes, milk, cream cheese, or kaymak. On the other hand, they can also be wheat flour turned into porridge with animal fat seasoning.
Kljukuša is another classic Bosnian pie-like dish from the Ottoman Empire. If you haven’t noticed, a typical Bosnian food is based on pies, but Kljukuša is mostly mashed potatoes, flour, salt, and water. You can also add ingredients like eggs, garlic, oil, sour cream, or milk.
After baking, Kljukuša is sliced into bite-sized pieces with a dollop of fat, butter, cream cheese, or more milk. It is simple to make and a complimentary meal for other meat dishes. Many Bosnians eat Kljukuša as comfort food since they are crispy and golden on the outside with a softer inside. If you like hash browns, this is your perfect Bosnian food alternative.
Pastrmka na žaru
Pastrmka na žaru, or grilled trout, is frequently the only fish dish available on traditional Bosnian restaurant menus. Many riverside restaurants take pride in their own catches, so it’s best to visit them when you’re traveling. As they are freshly caught, they are grilled and served quickly with boiled potatoes, dashed with olive oil, garlic-marinated spinach, or even potato wedges or fries.
As a healthy alternative to red meat, it is widely popular as a lighter meal and an excellent source of protein.
Bamje is a traditional Bosnian and Albanian dish enjoyed by many Bosniaks. It is an okra soup that you can cook in a slow traditional Bosnian pot that suits many non-meat lovers that you can add to your healthy recipes. You can also include other vegetables to your liking. Bamje is heaven for those that like vegetable-only food even though its original recipe has meat inside.
Learn More Bosnian Food Vocabulary
After learning all the scrumptious meals, it’s a great time to go back to basics. There are many cognates that the Bosnian language shares with German, Czech, Turkish, and Arabic. So, it’s easy for anyone with these languages as their mother tongue to learn Bosnian.
Do you want to impress your Bosnian friends with your Bosnian vocabulary? Surprise them with these Balkan food ingredients and learn how to pronounce them using the Ling app!
Common Food Ingredients
Bosnian Phrases For Eating And Dining Out
Remember Bosnian Food Vocabulary With Ling!
We hope you’re not feeling sad and hungry after reading this article! But, we’re eager to hear from you how this article helped you learn more about Bosnian food.
If you’re craving more Bosnian food vocabulary, why not check Ling? Packed with 200+ lessons, you’ll use the Ling app for Bosnian words and phrases, grammar tips, and speaking tests for developing your fluency. Start becoming fluent with an interactive flashcard and puzzle app that trains your memory like a natural.
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