Croatia’s culinary traditions vary from region to region, especially between inland and coastal areas.
Of the cuisine associated with the interior of Croatia, particularly in the northern regions, food traditions relate to farming and farm animals, with recipes heavy on flour, milk, eggs, butter and pork. Among these, štrukli, a savory or sweet cheese pastry-type dish, is perhaps the most iconic and beloved, especially for Croatians from the Hrvatsko Zagorje and Zagreb regions.
Thin dough with flour on the rolling surfaceCroatian National Tourist Board
The handmade dough is usually made of a combination of flour, an egg, salt, a pinch of vinegar and oil.
Flouring the dough before cuttingCroatian National Tourist Board
After some time resting, it’s rolled out by hand and filled with cottage cheese (or quark, which is kind of a hybrid of yogurt and cottage cheese), sour cream, eggs and salt.
Spreading the dough with fingersCroatian National Tourist Board
The next step requires skill and know-how.
Putting the filling on the doughCroatian National Tourist Board
Once stuffed, the dough—placed on top a tablecloth for rolling—is wound up and crafted into small pillow-shaped pieces.
Filling on the doughCroatian National Tourist Board
Thinly spreaded fillCroatian National Tourist Board
Rolling the dough before cuttingCroatian National Tourist Board
Strukli roll before cutting into shapesCroatian National Tourist Board
Cutting strukli on the floured surfaceCroatian National Tourist Board
Putting strukli into hot waterCroatian National Tourist Board
The rolled and filled štrukli are then boiled in salted water, and often served in a bowl with the water, as a first course soup dish. Alternative cooking methods are to pan-fry them in butter, and before serving sprinkle them with breadcrumbs. Another popular preparation method is to bake štrukli in the oven, with additional sour cream on top. The secret that makes the Croatian štrukli this good, are the local ingredients – from freshly made flour to cottage cheese and unique, family recipe passed down from generation to generation.
Rustic strukli ready to eatCroatian National Tourist Board
There’s great affection for štrukli in northern Croatia, and rivalries between whose mother, aunt or grandmother makes the best version. So important is štrukli to the cultural identity and culinary traditions of northern Croatia, that in 2007 zagorski štrukli was added to the country’s list of intangible cultural heritage.
Served strukliCroatian National Tourist Board
Todays štrukli evolved in unexpected way. In addition to traditional štrukli with cottage cheese, more innovative contemporary variations might add roasted peppers, pesto, spinach or other savory ingredients like paprika, onions and garlic. Sweet versions of štrukli, which include some sugar in the dough, are typically baked, with fillings of honey, walnuts, blueberries, apples or other fruit. Others dessert versions use a sweetened cheese. In Zagreb and across the hilly Hrvatsko Zagorje region, štrukli shows up frequently on restaurant menus; there are even restaurants that specialize in just štrukli. The most popular is La Štruk in the old center of Zagreb. Hotel Esplanade in Zagreb is renowned for its unique preparation of this traditional dish, served at the hotel since 1951.
Strukli ready to eatCroatian National Tourist Board
For Croatians from the region, štrukli, more than anything, is a reminder of home. It’s such a pervasive and traditional dish that it’s difficult to imagine someone from the region growing up without štrukli being a regular dish at family meals. Similar to what’s known as cucina povera in rural Italy, štrukli belongs to the tradition of peasant food in Croatia—people making do with ingredients they had on hand.