Gluten-Free Croatia: Where to Eat When Exploring Southeast Europe

Croatia’s idyllic seaside towns, towering waterfalls, and rich history are only some of the reasons I fell in love with this beautiful country. The other reason is the strong presence of gluten-free products in every town! While celiac disease is not as prominent here as it is in neighboring Italy, Croatia is well aware of the condition. There are ample resources and products available for those who follow a gluten-free diet, and a growing number of gluten-free options in restaurants.

The Croatian Society for Coeliac Disease has a letter to visitors on their website, informing gluten-free eaters about what to expect when visiting Croatia. Croatian citizens are able to obtain gluten-free flour through their health insurance for free, so many choose to bake their own breads and pastas at home. The numerous gluten-free items you’ll find at the grocery stores are largely imported from other countries.

Croatia’s natural beauty has made it an increasingly popular tourist destination. (photo: Jennifer Fitzpatrick)

Gluten-free breads are readily available in most grocery stores, which are the perfect component for a gluten-free picnic. You can find salami, cheese, fresh fruit, and wine for fairly cheap. Be sure to look for “Bez Glutena” on the packaging, which is Croatian for “gluten-free”. Find a public park, a bench by the Adriatic Sea, and enjoy gluten-free dining al fresco for a few kunas.

Croatia’s coastline has become widely popular in recent years. Famous for stunning beaches, and pristine towns like Dubrovnik, Split, and Zadar, the culture thrives on freshly caught fish from the nearby Adriatic. If you are choosing to dine in restaurants, stick to dishes that are usually safe, but be sure to communicate your needs.  Seafood dishes and risotto are usually gluten-free, but always ask. A gluten-free dining card translated into Croatian will be extremely handy.

In Dubrovnik, be sure to stroll the maze-like streets of the old town, climb the city walls seen in Game of Thrones, and hike Mount Srd for a look at this town’s historic importance. Try Mex Cantina, an Italian/Mexican spot in the grid of the old town, with outdoor tables in the sun and the shade. Many of the restaurants in the old town are geared specifically for tourists, which will make life easier.  Servers are more likely to speak English, understand your dietary needs, and be aware of food allergies.

In Split, visit Toto’s Burger Bar for a veggie loaded burger with a gluten-free bun. Views from your table overlook the promenade, Roman ruins, and the sea. The Spar grocery stores have plenty of gluten-free products, including cereal, breads, cakes, cookies, pastas, and snacks. If you are staying in an AirBnB or guesthouse with a kitchen, you will have more than enough to make meals on your own time.  For a tasty gelato with gluten-free cones, go to Don Dino.

Gluten-free Croatia
There are plenty of gluten-free aware options in Croatia, you just have to know where to look

In Zadar, 2Ribara restaurant has excellent choices, gluten-free options listed clearly on the menu, and scrumptious food. The vegetable risotto medley was perfect and gluten-free! Pizzeria Pizzara offers gluten-free pizzas in extremely large sizes, so come hungry. Proto Food & More has eclectic dishes and fresh offerings, which they are able to customize for you gluten-free.

Even in smaller, family run establishments, I was well taken care of. For my birthday, my husband and I visited B&B Millenium House in Jezerce, just outside Plitvice Lakes. The host went out of his way to make sure everything was safe for me to eat. He specifically ordered gluten-free bread, cereal, and pasta to include in their daily breakfast and dinner menus, and was diligent about preparation in his kitchen.

Pizza from Pizzeria Pizzara. (photo: Jennifer Fitzpatrick)

Upon learning it was my birthday, the host even tried to contact a baker to inquire about a gluten-free cake! The kindness and generosity of B&B Millenium House, as well as the careful attention to my dietary restrictions went above and beyond anything I anticipated. Rather than a cake, the staff sang me “happy birthday” with a plate of fruit, and presented me with a bottle of local white wine after a gluten-free dinner. What a treat!

Zagreb, the capital city of Croatia, speaks strongly to its history as part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire. The architecture, gardens, and numerous outdoor public spaces make this city come to life! Try Le Mika, a French Creperie that makes buckwheat galettes and gluten-free options. Make sure to visit Vis à Vis by Vincek, a gluten-free facility with cakes that will knock your socks off! Try the chocolate or carrot cake, and enjoy a slice with a cup of tea or coffee. 50 A Burger & Champagne bar is another safe choice for quality burgers with a highly-aware staff.  

Gluten-free ice cream in Croatia
Gluten-free ice cream in Croatia. (photo: Jennifer Fitzpatrick)

Some of the best gluten-free products I encountered in Croatia were GoFree gluten-free corn flakes, Stark Lisac hard cider, and Moje Malo Zlato gluten-free bread!  This bakery is one of the few gluten-free products actually produced in Croatia. They make gluten-free and lactose-free bread which can be found in grocery stores all over the country.

You’ll also find Schar to be one of the most popular imported products for gluten-free snacks. Be sure to look closely as the Schar products in Europe have more variety than in the United States. Having plenty of snacks on hand will make traveling through Croatia a more pleasant experience for any gluten-free visitors. The grocery stores became a safe haven for me during our time in Croatia, providing a small comfort while navigating new towns and places. I stocked up in each destination to be well prepared for whatever our next adventure would be.

gluten-free Croatia
Gluten-free risotto in Croatia. (photo: Jennifer Fitzpatrick)

Croatia has become one of the most visited places in Europe, and it’s easy to see why. For those traveling with a gluten-free diet, it can be one of your next destinations too. You can explore the beauty of Croatia with the knowledge that eating gluten-free won’t be an impossible task. There’s a wide range of gluten-free choices calling your name in this wonderful place!

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