Written by: Olivera Tolimir
Nestled between East and West, Serbia has always been a country of cultural fusion. The religious influences came from the Byzantine Empire, while much of the vocabulary came from the Ottomans. In literature and science, we looked up to Vienna.
Serbs often like to highlight their warm and hospitable Slavic soul. Aside from this Eastern heritage, Serbs are modern and open to innovations coming from the West.
With that many influences in architecture, language, and tradition, you can guess the situation with Serbia street food! Yes, it’s a perfect blend of tastes and spices. It doesn’t matter where you’re from – you’ll find something delicious in Serbia.
So, let’s dive into the list with the most specific Serbia street food!
This time, we won’t be saving the best for the last. No, hungry people don’t have time to hear about pancakes when there’s Her Majesty Pljeskavica.
Probably the most famous Serbian street food, pljeskavica is the queen of Serbian fast food. If you still don’t know what it is (although we don’t see how it could be possible), pljeskavica is a Serbian burger.
But don’t let the description mislead you. Pljeskavica fundamentally doesn’t have much to do with your average McDonald’s burger. Yes, it has two buns and meat between, but taste-wisely, that’s where the similarities end.
Pljeskavica is usually a mix of pork, lamb, and beef. Another thing that differentiates it from an American burger is that there aren’t special types of pljeskavica based on its side dishes (like a cheeseburger is a burger with cheese). Whenever you order a pljeskavica in Serbia, you choose your side dishes. The most common ones are:
- ajvar (a roasted red pepper relish)
- kajmak (a *delicious* creamy dairy food)
- urnebes (a spread made of white cheese, garlic, kajmak, bell peppers, eggs, and chili peppers)
- sour cream
The most famous Serbian pljeskavica is from the Serbian town of Leskovac. Leskovac pljeskavica (Leskovačka pljeskavica) has been a legally protected brand since 2008! So, if you’d like to open a restaurant and sell leskovačka pljeskavica, you need a license!
Ćevapi aren’t the first thing you think about when you hear street food in Serbia, simply because of their shape. But they’re very similar in taste and characteristic to Serbian cuisine, so we can’t skip them!
Like pljeskavica, they’re usually a mix of minced meat, such as lamb, pork, and beef. But they’re shaped differently. So, instead of a meat patty, they’re formed as five or ten small meat cylinders. They’re usually served in a restaurant with a lepinja (a soft flatbread) with similar side dishes as pljeskavica.
Burek is an unavoidable part of Serbian street food. It’s fatty, it’s delicious, and it’s perfect for everyone. Burek is equally chosen as a breakfast by a family and a dinner after a crazy night out.
Burek is a filled pie made of flaky dough. The traditional burek is filled with meat, cheese, or potato. But today, we fill it with zucchini, pizza stuffing, cherry, and even Nutella.
Also, don’t forget to buy a yogurt or two when ordering burek. You can’t eat burek without drinking yogurt!
Speaking of burek, here’s a funny story. Burek is a traditional meal in Serbia and Bosnia (among Turkey, and some other countries). But there’s an ever-lasting discrepancy between Bosnians and Serbians. Serbians will call every burek – burek. We say burek s mesom (burek with meat), burek sa sirom (burek with cheese), burek sa gljivama (burek with mushrooms), etc. But Bosnians insist on the fact that burek can only be filled with meat. And all the other types are pies with their distinctive names.
So, when you hear a Bosnian talk about burek, they’re talking about meat burek. If they want to address burek s krompirom (burek with potato), they’ll say krompiruša. Interesting, right? This disagreement can go so far that some Bosnians will feel insulted if they order a burek in Serbia and a salesperson asks them about the filling.
Also, a funny incident marked the 2022 football match between the Bosnian and Montenegrin representations. Namely, the Montenegrin fans chanted “Burek sa sirom” (burek with cheese), knowing how annoyed Bosnians become hearing it. It was so creative and charming that it went viral on social media, resulting in the capitals’ mayors jokingly commenting on how the event threatened to harm their countries’ good relations.
We take burek very seriously in the Balkans!
Mekika is a type of street food in Serbia we borrowed from Hungarians. It’s an absolutely unhealthy and fatty deep-fried bread. But it’s so delicious! We put various spreads on it, such as sour cream, ketchup, cheese, or some sweet spread (such as a Serbian spread Eurocrem – it’s a fantastic two-colored hazelnut and cocoa spread).
Palačinke represent Serbian pancakes. Or maybe not pancakes. They’re more similar to crepes. They’re made of eggs, flour, milk, and a bit of oil, sugar, and salt. Palačinke are easily made and usually are one of the first dishes children learn to prepare. Well, it was the first dish the author of this text learned to prepare (nope, it wasn’t fried eggs but pancakes).
They’re usually sweet. Serbian specialty are pancakes with jam or with jam and walnuts. But the most popular combo is Nutella + Plazma. Plazma is a Serbian soft biscuit brand. Fun fact: a few days ago, Plazma was voted the favorite Serbian sweet on one of the most popular Serbian Instagram pages.
Serbian crepes are thin and rolled into a cylinder when filled. They’re the perfect represent of a Serbian street food because they’re easy to eat while walking.
Palačinke can be salty, too. In that case, we usually fill them with salami, cheese, ketchup, and sour cream and then fry them. You can guess – it takes a lot of time!
Krofne are a Serbian take on doughnuts. They’re fluffy and sweet. They don’t have a hole in the middle but are sometimes concave. That shape is perfect for adding marmalade, Eurocrem, cinnamon, or other sweet filling.
Is All of Serbia Street Food Unhealthy?
As you can see, Serbs love fatty and strong food. None of the favorite street food in Serbia is healthy. But don’t worry, you can always find various salads to eat as you go! Bigger cities in Serbia offer a variety of meals for everyone’s taste, including vegans, vegetarians, and those into fitness, as well as Chinese food, Indian food, etc. Just take a pick!
If you’d like to be sure not to make a mistake when ordering some of the Serbia street food, book your first private Serbian lesson here!