12 Traditional Serbian Dishes To Try When In Serbia

From flakey pies to grilled meats, don’t miss out on Serbia’s mouthwatering traditional dishes.

Serbian cuisine is influenced by Byzantine-Greek and Mediterranean fare since most dishes focus on being fresh with high-quality ingredients. Tasting the wide variety available produce is the best way to discover this country’s culture, customs, and traditions. A notable mention is Serbia’s sweet fruits, like raspberries, cherries, and plums – the country’s national fruit. Here are some of the most iconic traditional Serbian dishes you should try.

Gibanica

Gibanica traditional Serbian dishes
Photo by Gibanica Instagram

Gibanica is a staple in Serbian cuisine and is frequently eaten during most meals, from special occasions to casual dining. Both sweet and savory versions can be devoured across its 17 varieties. Phyllo dough, fresh cheese, and eggs are layered before being baked to perfection. Sources trace Gibanica back to 1828, when a priest, Jožef Kosič, compiled a text about how special the dish is.

Sarma

Sarma traditional Serbian dishes
Photo by Sarma Instagram

A favorite dish among locals is Sarma, which is believed to have arrived in the Balkans during the Ottoman Empire. Sarma derives from the Turkish language and means to twist or wrap. It’s prepared with pickled cabbage, minced meat, and rice, but can also be made with vine leaves or minced fish meat.

Ajvar

Ajvar Instagram
Photo by Ajvar Instagram

Ajvar is a condiment or dip that dates back over a thousand years and is made from red paprika, eggplants, and garlic. It’s frequently used as a topping or spread with everything, from bread as an appetizer to being eaten alongside other Serbian dishes. The Ajvar name derives from the Turkish word havyar, which means “salted roe, caviar.”

Kajmak

Kajmak traditional Serbian dishes
Photo by Kajmak Instagram and @mljekara_perfetto_plus

Kajmak is a creamy spread, similar to clotted cream, made by mildly fermenting skimmed heavy cream of water buffalo, cows, sheep, or goats. Frequently matured in animal skins, it’s often served with grilled meats, on toast, or other savory dishes. For fresh Kajmak, head to one of its local markets. It’s typically served as an appetizer or for breakfast. SEE MORE: 14 Best Splavovi (Splav) Floating Boat Clubs In Belgrade.

Ćevapi

Ćevapi traditional Serbian dishes
Photo by Ćevapi Instagram

Ćevapi sausages are all over Serbia and are adored by locals. Around 1500, Ćevapi arrived in the Balkans from Turkey as a variant of the classic Turkish kebab. It’s typically served with lepinja bread and topped with ajvar sauce. Nearly every street corner sells this delectable, smokey sausage.

Burek

Burek traditional Serbian dishes
Photo by Burek Instagram

Burek is very similar to Gibanica, but the difference is that it’s stuffed with meat, cheese, potatoes, and spinach. This is a breakfast favorite and a local cure for hangovers. It can have plain or sweet variations, and similarly to Gibanica, Serbians love to drink an aryan – a runny yogurt beverage – alongside the dish.

Karađorđeva šnicla

Karađorđeva šnicla traditional Serbian dishes
Photo by Karađorđeva šnicla Instagram

Karađorđeva šnicla is a breaded cutlet rolled with veal or pork steak, which is stuffed with kajmak before being breaded and fried. It’s typically served with roasted potatoes and tartar sauce. The dish is named after Karađorđe, who was a prominent leader in the Serbian struggle for independence against the Ottoman Empire and played a big role in how modern-day Serbia was formed.

Knedle

Knedle traditional Serbian dishes
Photo by Knedle Instagram

Knedles are plum-filled mashed potato dumplings, but they can have different fillings, such as raspberry or nutella. It can be enjoyed as a sweet treat, a main dish, or as a side. It’s believed to have originated during the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which lasted from 1867 to 1918. This dessert is perfect for plum lovers. Check out 11 Restaurants In Belgrade Serving Traditional Serbian Food.

Urnebes

Urnebes Instagram
Photo by Urnebes Instagram

Urnebes roughly translates to “disorder” or “mess,” which perfectly encapsulates what this dish is all about. The spread-like consistency is made up of salty cheese, sour cream, and chili peppers. Usually, it is served as a side dish with grilled meats. It’s often enjoyed in Niš, Serbia’s third-largest city, although other parts of the country have their own twist on this iconic delicacy.

Uštipci

Ustipci Instagram
Photo by Uštipci Instagram

Uštipci are fluffy, airy fried doughnuts, loved across all Balkan countries. Consisting of only flour, egg, milk, yeast, and oil, this simple sweet treat is best served with a sprinkle of powdered sugar or jam. Uštipci comes from the verb uštinuti, which is translated to “nip, tweak, or pinch.” This dessert can be eaten at any time of day and for any occasion.

Vanilice

Vanilice Instagram
Photo by Vanilice Instagram

One of Serbia’s most famous cookies is Vanilice, a bite-size walnut cookie sandwich filled with raspberry or apricot jam and topped with powdered sugar. Although it is typically eaten during the holidays, it can be enjoyed at any time of year. The walnut and vanilla dough is prepared with lard, sugar, flour, egg, and lemon before being baked. It’s typically stored for two days in the fridge for its rich flavors to develop prior to being served.

Tulumba

Tulumba Instagram
Photo by Tulumba Instagram

Tulumba is another fan-favorite in Serbia for its fluffy interior and crispy exterior. This fried pastry is soaked in syrup. Made with only flour, butter, salt, water, syrup, and vanilla extract, it’s easy to see why travelers adore this sweet treat. The Ottoman Empire was a big influential factor in the origins of this dessert. It’s also often compared to baklava and churros, for good reason.

Natalia Guerra

Contributing Editor

Natalia Guerra was born in Miami and comes from a Cuban background. Aside from her passion for travel writing and culinary arts, she also loves to step out of her comfort zone to live life to the fullest. Her lifestyle is being a digital nomad, working remotely as she travels the world one city at a time. Her favorite country has been Spain for its beautiful architecture and food, which reminds her of her Cuban culture.

Jetset Times in your inbox

Sign-up for our newsletter

By signing up, you agree to our Privacy Policy and European users agree to the data transfer policy.