“You’re gonna blow your mind when you see the difference between a McDonald’s double cheeseburger and a gurmanska pljeskavica. McDonald’s, you lose, baby!” This is how an American cheeseburger fan, who’s become a Serbian citizen, describes well-known Serbian street food. Intrigued enough? Have a look at this video.
If you want to grab a quick bite on the go, or as a Serbian expression says – pojesti nešto s nogu, consider yourself lucky. Serbian street food is the right choice if you want a hearty meal to warm your soul and boost your energy and happiness levels. Gaining a bit of weight is a possible side effect if you overindulge in it, but we won’t judge you if you do. It’s divine and we’ll prove it.
Where to start with Serbian fast food?
So you’ve moved to Serbia and decided which places you’ll pay a visit to. If you’re still wondering what to see first, here’s a list to help you choose.
The best way to settle in Serbia is to talk to Serbian people, practice the Serbian language and learn about our customs and culture. But that’s not all that it takes. If you want to experience our country to the fullest, you must try typical Serbian fast food.
Whether you enjoy juicy meat or healthy vegan meals, or you maybe have a sweet tooth, Serbia is your next street food heaven. Let us guide you through all the street food varieties that will awaken your senses. You really shouldn’t hike, go sightseeing, or shop around Serbia na prazan stomak (on an empty stomach).
Roštilj (Grilled meat)
When you pronounce the word roštilj, you can almost imagine a pljeskavica (burger) sizzling on the grill and the smokey aroma wafting through the air, can’t you? Well, roštilj is one of the most common and beloved street food throughout Serbia.
The southern part of the country boasts the best and spiciest roštilj you’ll ever taste. If you happen to be in Leskovac, don’t you dare eat anything but traditional charcoal grilled meat!
But you don’t need to go to the south to try Serbian roštilj on the go. You can do that in any town or city in Serbia. We recommend you ask the locals for suggestions. You should also look for places with the longest waiting lines. That’s an unmistakable sign of quality grilled meat.
Practice saying the following Serbian phrases:
Izvinite, gde su najbolji ćevapi u gradu? (Excuse me, where can I try the best ćevapi* in town?)
* grilled sausages made from a mixture of ground beef and pork
Dobar dan, ja ću jednu punjenu pljeskavicu za poneti. (Good afternoon, I’ll have a takeaway stuffed burger.)
Mogu li da dobijem pomfrit uz kobasicu? (Can I have some French fries on the side with the sausage?)
Od priloga ću kupus salatu i urnebes. (I’ll have cabbage salad and urnebes* salad as side dishes.)
* Serbs like it hot – this is a salad made from white cheese, kajmak, chili peppers, and spices
Warning: The number of side dishes and condiments available alongside roštilj can make your head spin. You’ll find something to your taste. But don’t take them all at once, mark our word. Your stomach will be thankful.
Bakeries - what’s all the fuss about?
Do you need an instant hangover cure after a wild night out at a prominent Belgrade kafana or an exclusive club? Are you out all day buzzing around and suddenly feeling ravenous? Do you feel like having a snack on your lunch break? Stand where you are. Look around. You’ll spot at least one pekara (bakery) that’ll save your day.
Bakeries in Serbia date back to the 19th century. First, they were places where bread was baked and sold, but a lot has changed since. They have become a sort of cultural phenomenon and many bakeries specialize in different pastries. Everybody buys their breakfast in bakeries, from business people to school children.
Now let’s peek into a pekara and see what you should try.
Burek and Pies
If you see a neverending queue of people waiting in front of a pekara waiting for their piece of Godly burek, don’t be flabbergasted. Burek is a pie (mostly round) made of thin phyllo dough layers filled with minced meat, cheese, or mushrooms. There’s even a notorious pizza version. You must drink jogurt (yogurt) when you eat burek or pies. Serbs swear your hangover will vanish after this meal.
One bakery in Pančevo took the burek business to a whole new level. You can enjoy non-traditional burek and pies with smoked ham hock, sauerkraut, bacon, or even a sweet version with eurokrem and plazma* in their bakery.
* The winning duo – Eurokrem is the favorite Serbian hazelnut and milk-flavored chocolate spread, while plazma is the most popular brand of soft biscuits (the ground version is used in cakes and as a filling)
Dobro jutro, komšija, može četvrt sa mesom?
Good morning, neighbor, can I get a quarter (of burek) with meat?
Serbian people relish a wide variety of pastries. Whatever combination of ingredients you imagine, it already exists in Serbian bakeries. Hot dogs rolled in puff pastry, the pastries with kulen (pepperoni), pršuta (ham), čvarci (cracklings), and slanina (bacon) are a must.
You can conclude that Serbs are meat lovers. But the popularity of gluten-free and vegan pastries has been on the rise in recent years. Belgrade offers gluten-free bakeries for you.
Don’t resist the call of a variety of kiflice (rolls) with savory and sweet fillings, perece (pretzels), slani štapići (salty breadsticks), chewy or crunchy đevreci (simit), pogačice (scones), and proja (cornbread). They will lure you from display cases.
If you end up starving in Užice or around Zlatibor, komplet lepinja is the fuel that’ll keep you going all day long. This is the most traditional Serbian fast food you’ll ever experience.
Take one lepinja (a flat bun), fill it with kajmak (homemade dairy cream), an egg, and pretop (leftover fat and sauce of roast meat). Top it with pršuta from Zlatibor, and enjoy this “cure for everything”, as locals say.
If there’s any space left in your dessert stomach, fill it with a palačinka. Palačinke is another Serbian fast food that you’ll run into at every corner. There are savory filling options, but Serbian people prefer sweet ones. You can guess – our favorite filling is a combo of eurokrem and plazma. But we can get creative with our Snickers and Raffaello versions.
But that’s not all. We cherish our traditional palačinke filled with apricot jam, and/or ground walnuts and sugar. You’ll find them in any Serbian restaurant or palačinkarnica (pancake house; crêperie).
You look starved now. What are you waiting for?
This guide is a way for you to start exploring Serbian culture through Serbian street food. Don’t hesitate to visit the nearest bakery and discover your favorite new guilty pleasure. Whether you prefer sweet or savory delicacies on the go, Serbia will satisfy your hunger.
Have you already fallen in love with Serbian fast food? Now you just wonder how can you order it? We’ve got you covered! In lesson 2 of our Beginner course you can learn ways to order food and drinks in a restaurant, bakery, or a café, while in lesson 8 of our Pre-intermediate course you can learn how to order food from home.
Treat yourself to a top-quality course and superb food!