A little while ago, I lived in Belgrade for a few months. And like everyone else in Belgrade, I spent most of those months piling loads of Serbian food into my hungrily-gurning face.
Most people don’t know what Serbian food is, what you get, how tasty it is, and why you need to cram loads of into your big fat mouth.
So in this guide, I’ve brought you a lip-smacking intro to some of the best (and most famous) Serbian foods.
This isn’t a comprehensive guide, but it’s a speedy tour of the most common things you’ll eat (and want to eat over and over again), even on a short trip.
Get your bib on, unbuckle your belt, and strap yourself in for some meaty meals and morsels.
Best Meaty Serbian Food: Cevapi
Little finger-sized sausages, seasoned, grilled, and usually served with bread and raw white onion. This stuff is incredible. It’s simple, but it’s perfectly executed, and it’s my favorite Serbian food.
Like most local foods around the world, you get the best stuff from holes in the wall places, small canteens, and innocuous eateries (rather than touristy restaurants). For the best cevapi, you should go to To Je To (where I was in the picture below).
Best on-the-go Serbian Food: Burek
If you only eat one thing in Belgrade, make it this. A flaky pastry stuffed with cheese (well, usually, but you can get other things in it too), this is unbelievable.
It’s gooey, fatty, stodgy, salty, and absolutely incredible.
Most locals have their burek with drinking yoghurt (combined, the two usually cost less than a dollar). You can get it all over the city (and all over the Balkans), but I reckon the best burek is from Trpkovic Pekara, pretty close to St. Sava Temple.
Serbia’s version of a hamburger.
Actually, it’s not even a version of a hamburger. It just is a hamburger. You don’t need a photo to picture that, so I haven’t bothered adding one.
You can get fast food ones from street food stalls, or nicer ones in restaurants. Big, fat, juicy and meaty, they’re tastier than I’m probably making them sound.
Pickled cabbage (or at least it tastes that way), all rolled up and stuffed with meat, onions and other stuff.
Weirdly sour, I love sarma, but it’s a bit of an acquired taste. You won’t find it in loads of restaurants, but you’ll always find it in kafanas (they’re traditional old-school eateries, where you feel like you’re eating a meal in 1982).
(Important kafana note: what is and what isn’t a kafana is a grey area. But if it has a red and white checked tablecloth, it’s probably a kafana.)
Not the Hungarian style, as Serbians will tell you over and over and over again.
I reckon Serbian Gulaš is nicer than Hungarian Goulash (sorry Hungarians). It’s beef, in a beefy sauce, usually served with mashed potatoes. Simple but nice.
Mashed up peppers and aubergine, all made into a paste, and usually eaten on bread. The stuff in supermarkets is nothing special, but the ajvar you get in restaurants is ridiculously tasty.
In the next photo, it’s the red stuff in the bottom of the picture.
Most Indulgent Serbian Food: Kajmak
Imagine cheese mixed with clotted cream mixed with salt. But then even tastier. That’s kajmak, and you’ll want to eat it until you spew up. The little white circle in the picture below; that’s kajmak.
Sometimes with sausages, sometimes just beans, sometimes beans with other stuff in it.
It’s like a tinned of Heinz Beans but much, much tastier. And a lot more salty. See the stuff in the top part of the picture above? That’s Serbian-style beans.
Greasiest Serbian Food: Komplet Lepinja
The greasiest thing I’ve featured so far (somehow), komplet lepinja is mainly found in central-western Serbia (and I didn’t find any at all when I was living in Belgrade for months – though I admittedly didn’t look for it). But if you’re that part of Serbia, which I was a few years ago, you’ll find it everywhere.
This is how Serbians make komplet lepinja: they take fresh bread, cut it in half, spread animal fat on it, throw an egg on top, put it in the oven and add loads of kajmak (and sometimes cured meat). It’s ridiculously tasty, and it’s a popular hangover cure (though you’ll probably feel worse after eating it).
Lots of them, which might surprise you, given all the stuff I’ve listed so far.
My favorite is Sopska Salad, which is tomatoes, cucumber and sometimes onions, all chopped up and topped with a really tasty white cheese. Other popular choices are Greek Salad, Srpska Salad (that’s Serbian salad) and cabbage salad.
In restaurants and canteens, Serbians usually order some sort of salad on the side of their meal, because most meals don’t really come with any sides. So my advice is: do the same thing.
Not all moussaka is Greek. I reckon the Greek version is better (sorry Serbians), but Serbian moussaka is also really tasty.
Anyway, Serbian moussaka is mostly made of all the same good stuff – beef, potatoes, eggs, yoghurt and lots of salt and pepper (no eggplant though, which is the major difference).
Here’s a little truthbomb for you – I’ve never actually had a krofne. But you see quite a lot of them, and they’re popular. And if they’re popular, they’re probably tasty.
Best Sweet Serbian Food: Apple Pie
Another sweet treat. In Serbia, you’ll find apple pies and apple tarts everywhere. Get a fresh one from a bakery, or a good one from a good cafe.
The Serbian national drink, it’s strong, it’s sipped from shot glasses, and everyone loves it.
It sort of tastes like clear brandy, but not really.
Anyway, Serbians drink rakija all the time. They drink it if they’re celebrating. They drink it if they’re commiserating. They drink it when they’ve just woken up. They drink it if someone’s just died. They drink it whenever.
Serbia is known for great wine, but the best and most popular stuff comes from Fruška Gora.
A hilly region just south of Novi Sad (Serbia’s second-biggest city), the area has loads of monasteries and wineries. You can go to a local winery and get a liter of stuff for a couple of dollars (if you buy uncasked wine in a plastic bottle like I did like some sort of tramp). For a bottle of casked, finished, glass-bottled wine from a winery, it’s closer to $5-$10.
In general, alcohol is pretty cheap in Serbia. A beer from a bar is around $2. A glass of wine is similar. A glass of prosecco is around $3.50. A shot of rakija is about a dollar.
(For much more detail, read my guide to Serbia’s cost of living).
Final Thoughts on Serbian Food
There you are – the 15 Serbian foods you need to try.
And if I’ve missed off your favorite Serbian food, or if you’re a local person with top insider knowledge, drop a comment in the box to tell me how wrong I am. See you next time boys and girls!