Bosnian food guide: the best food in Bosnia Herzegovina
This post is all about Bosnian food. A cuisine that reflects the multicultural nature of the country and years of cultural influences coming from the Ottoman empire, the Meditteranean and Eastern europe. The food of Bosnia Herzegovina seems quite similar to that of its neighbours at first sight, but holds some great surprises that make it one of the most varied and delicious cuisines of the Balkans.
Bosnian food for travellers
For travellers, good Bosnian food is not always easy to find. Cevapcici and Burek are everywhere. However, my Bosnian husband taught me there is so much more to Bosnian cuisine than grilled meats alone.
The true delights of Bosnian food are in traditional recipes made at home that are handed down from generation to generation. Bosnian home cooking is about fresh ingredients, especially when it comes to herbs and vegetables. Bosnians don’t use a lot of spices and flavours come from cooking the meat and vegetables in their own juices.
Despite the abundance of meat in tourist restaurants, homecooked Bosnian food is actually more plant based. I made this post to make sure that, as a traveller, you will not only eat grilled meats. I hope this guide will help you in knowing what to look for.
One of the best places to eat Bosnian food is Sarajevo of course. There are several restaurants in Sarajevo that serve traditional Bosnian cuisine at its best. But I also had some of my most delicious meals in more off the beaten path places. In general, Bosnia is a great country for dining with cheap places to eat throughout the country.
The secret to find traditional Bosnian food is to look out for an Aščinica. These small canteen style eateries serve homemade Bosnian recipes. The focus is on delicious stews and soups with vegetables and beans. Often there is no menu and people don’t speak english, but they are cheap and there is a big chance they serve some of the dishes below that might be hard to find in the more upmarket restaurants.
Bosnian food for breakfast
Pura is the Bosnian version of polenta, or cornmeal porridge. Bosnia has lots of watermills that were used to make cornflour. It’s a popular breakfast that is often eaten with butter, potatoes or cheese.
Pura s lučinicom is corn porridge that has homemade sour milk, butter, and garlic drizzled over it for extra flavour.
Ustipci are doughnut-like fried dough balls and make a perfect breakfast. If you want things sweet you can eat the Uštipci with jam or nutella. I prefer the savoury combination of Uštipci with cheese or kajmak, the Balkan version of cottage cheese.
Peksimeti are very similar to Uštipci and fall into the category of fried mini breads. I was told the difference lies in the dough. To make Peksimeti the dough is made with yoghurt instead of water. The result is more fluffy and I personally like Peksimeti more than Uštipci.
Palacinke are the Bosnian version of crepes or pancakes. I find them a bit thicker than french crepes, but thinner than the average Dutch pancakes. They make for a great and filling breakfast. You can eat them with nutella or walnuts and honey.
Bosnian coffee might look like Turkish coffee, but the process of making it is quite different. Therefore, don’t make the mistake of thinking it’s the same, even though there is obviously a shared history there.
Bosnian coffee is served in a traditional dzezva. It’s strong and intense and an essential part of a Bosnian breakfast. The beautiful Bosnian coffee sets also make a great souvenir and are easy to find in Sarajevo, Mostar and other touristic places.
Bosnian food for lunch
Burek and pita
Bureks are great for travellers as they provide an easy, cheap and filling, but greasy snack. The dish has Persian and Turkic origins and is made from flaky pastry and comes with different fillings. Meat (pita), cheese (sirnica), cheese and spinach (zeljanica), potato (Krumpiruša), pumpkin (Tikvenjača) or butter (maslanica). You can eat them for breakfast too, although I find them a bit too heavy that early in the morning.
As a traveller it is easy to find burek. Almost every bakery sells them fresh from the oven. In Sarajevo there are special bakeries ( buregdžinica ) that serve Burek only. Bosnians like to eat it with Pavlaka (sour cream) or yoghurt. There comes a time though that you had enough. Luckily, Bosnia has lots of other great lunch dishes too.
For many Bosnians a soup is just a starter, but I find them so satisfying that for me they make a great lunch on its own. One of the most traditional Bosnian soups is Bey’s soup or Begova corba.
A Bosnian style chicken soup with roux that is thickened with eggs. This soup is uniquely Bosnian and is more difficult to find elsewhere in the Balkans. Corba means that it is a thick soup. Something in between a liquid soup and a stew. Nevertheless it is light on the stomach, because of the amount of vegetables.
Another Bosnian soup is Tarhana. The name of this soup comes from its main ingredient. Tarhana is a mixture of fermented sour dough grain and yoghurt. Tarhana soup is common in Southeastern Europe, especially in Turkey. In fact, its origin lies in the Anatolian highlands.
The Bosnian Tarhana soup as I learned to make it has a tomato base and includes the Balkan spice mix Vegeta, parsley and some minced meat. There are also vegetarian versions though that have no meat.
Grah is a bean soup that is popular all over the balkans. Every family will have its own recipe, but the main ingredients are beans, tomato paste, Vegeta and some kind of meat. In Bosnia this is often Suho Meso or dried meat. It’s a filling soup that warms you up in winter.
Cevapi is Bosnia’s most common fast food dish, similar to kebab. It is surprisingly simple. Minced meat sausages are grilled and eaten in a pita bread called Somun or Lepinja with lots of onions and kajmak.
The most famous are the Sarajevski cevap and the Banjalucki cevap. The Banjalucki cevap is different in size. Basically the sausages don’t get separated, but are kept together in a large chunk. This makes them slightly more juicy than the Sarajevski cevap.
Like burek it is very easy to find all over Bosnia. It makes for a quick, easy and cheap lunch or dinner. In a similar way you can soon find yourself suffering from a Cevapi overdose when traveling in the Balkans. Make sure you try some of Bosnia’s other delicacies too.
Bosnian food for dinner
In Bosnia most dinners start with meza. A plate of appetizers with Suho Meso (dried meat), Sujuk (spicy sausages) and bosnian cheese. Absolutely delicious, but already quite filling as well so I was always in doubt to order one at a restaurant. In the end, the thought of these delicious bites made me order one anyway. It’s a great way to start a meal for sure and with some bread it could be a great lunch meal.
Rostilj basically translates as grilled meat. Grilled meats are hugely popular in the Balkans. I already mentioned Cevapi. It was all I knew after my first trip to Bosnia. Now I know there is so much more on offer in the grilled meat department and often the fast food restaurants serving cevapi have other things on the menu too.
One of my favourite combinations is Pljeskavica (hamburger) with Kajmak (balkan cottage cheese).
I already told you that Bosnians love their meat. Janjetina is lamb that is slowly roasted on a spit for hours. It’s not something you will often see on a restaurant menu, because it is mostly for festive occasions. However, if you are on a Bosnian roadtrip you might come across some roadside restaurants with a spit outside. In that case, it is certainly worth trying.
Kljukuša is a traditional Bosnian dish that is similar to a potato casserole. It is made with layers of grated potatoes, onions, and sometimes cheese or sour cream. It is baked in the oven until golden and crispy on top.
Djulbastije is a dish I never saw in a restaurant in Bosnia. I had Djulbastije for the first time with my husbands Bosnian family. Djulbastija are ground beef patties covered in Bechamel sauce. The beef patties also have potato inside to keep them juicy as they are slowly simmered in the sauce in the oven. It is as delicious as it sounds.
Bosanski Lonac basically translates as Bosnian pot. It’s a stew with meat and vegetables that was traditionally cooked in a clay pot called a Lonac. Bosanski Lonac is one of the greatest national dishes of Bosnia, but no Bosanski Lonac is the same. Every family and every region has its own recipe and not only that, the recipes will change according to what is in season.
What characterizes Bosanski Lonac is that chunks of meat and a number of vegetables are slowly cooked for hours in their own juices to strengthen their flavors. The result is a juicy stew that is absolutely delicious.
Mućkalica is one of my favourite Balkan dishes. It’s a stew of mixed meat and vegetables, often made from leftover meat, peppers and tomatoes . It’s a bit similar to Bosanski Lonac, but Muckalica uses more spices and the meat and vegetables are simmered in a tomato based sauce with onions.
Dolma stands for filled vegetables and this dish is found all over south eastern europe and the middle east. One can use different vegetables and different fillings. I got to know dolma in Greece as stuffed grape leaves filled with minced meat and rice. These are actually not that common in Bosnia.
The vegetables used for stuffing in Bosnia are often tomatoes and bell peppers (punjene paprika). Sometimes they also use eggplants or zuchini. They are filled with minced meat, rice and some spices and then slowly simmered in a tomato based sauce. One unique Bosnian variety is sogan dolma, or stuffed onions.
In Bosnia they make less use of spices than in the middle east. But because the dolmas are slowly cooked in their own juices it is nevertheless very full of flavors.
What comes most close to the Greek Dolma of stuffed vine leaves in Bosnia is Japrak. Japrak means leaf and therefore it refers to a filled leaf recipe. Bosnian Japrak is an authentic dish consisting of a minced meat filling that is wrapped in blanched leaves of raštika, a local variety of leaf cabbage. As this is more difficult to find, sometimes they use the more common vine leaves.
Sarma is another Bosnian dish that falls into the category of filled leaf recipies. In this case they use cabbage leaves and therefore it reminds me of Ukrainian Golubtsi. Sarma comes from the turkish word wrapped. Sarma are thus cabbage leaves wrapped around a filling of minced meat, onions and rice. You can find varieties of Sarma all over the Balkans.
Almost every country has its own dumpling recipes. Bosnia has klepe, also known as kulaci. Traditionally they are filled with meat and served with generous amounts of pavlaka (sour cream). Nowadays there are also vegetarian versions with cheese or spinach.
The Klepe below are from a restaurant called Zara iz Duvara in Sarajevo that specializes in nettle. These klepe had a unique nettle pesto filling and were absolutely delicious.
Bosnian food for vegetarians
Sataras is one of the few vegetarian friendly Bosnian stews. It’s a surprisingly simple recipe of peppers, tomatoes and onions. There is little use of spice. Just a bit of pepper, salt and Vegeta. Still, the taste is quite wonderful and together with rice it’s a great vegetarian dinner.
Like Bosanski Lonac, Djuvec is a one pot dish. This rice dish is common in the Balkans and has lots of variations. It is often served as a side dish, but also as a meal on its own. Especially, when it includes a variety of vegetables such as tomatoes, onions and peppers.
Be aware that it is not strictly vegetarian. Sometimes they do add meat too so check this when you order it at a restaurant.
Bosnian food for dessert
Tufahije is Bosnia’s most delicious dessert and one I long for whenever I visit Bosnia. When you order Tufahije you will get a walnut stuffed apple that is poached in rosewater. Often there is cream on top too. It’s very sweet, but oh so delicious. What’s not to love
Another very sweet popular Bosnian delicacy is Hurmasice. These soft biscuits are drenched in a sugary syrup. They are always a treat and great to come along with a cup of tea or Bosnian coffee.
You can buy them in the supermarket as well and are a great souvenir. Make sure to pack them well in case the sugary syrup leaks out.
Baklava, one of the most popular sweets throughout the middle east. It is popular in Bosnia too. Delicate layers of phyllo dough and walnuts with sugar syrup. It’s so sweet that just a small piece will satisfy your sweet tooth for the rest of the day.
Bosnian Food Cookbooks
Unfortunately there aren’t many Bosnian food cookbooks out there. I am glad I have my Bosnian family inlaws that can teach me how to make some Bosnian recipies at home. Otherwise, the internet is a great resource as well. I like the recipies on the Balkan Lunch box.
If you want to know more about travel in Bosnia Herzegovina I can recommend my Bosnia travel guide
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