Peka: Fascinating Facts about Croatia’s National Dish

Last updated on October 6th, 2023 at 02:35 pm

Peka is a beloved dish in Croatia, often enjoyed during family gatherings and special occasions. It’s a culinary tradition that reflects the country’s rich history and diverse influences.

Our team at Remitly created this guide as part of our series that celebrates the traditional foods of our global customers.

The Origins of Peka

The roots of Peka can be traced back to ancient times. It was a favored method of cooking among the Illyrians, who inhabited the region now known as Croatia. This traditional way of preparing food has been passed down through generations, standing as a testament to the resilience and continuity of Croatian culture.

Peka is more than just a dish—it’s an integral part of Croatian heritage. Its preparation involves time-honored techniques that have been preserved over centuries. The name “Peka” refers not only to the meal itself but also to the bell-shaped lid used in its cooking process.

Peka Ingredients and Process

The ingredients used in Peka are simple yet flavorful. They typically include meat—often lamb or veal—and vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, and onions. These are seasoned with local herbs like rosemary and bay leaves for added aroma and taste.

Quality ingredients are key to a delicious Peka. Freshness is paramount—the meat should be tender, the vegetables ripe and firm. The use of locally sourced produce enhances the authenticity and flavor profile of this cherished dish.

Cooking Peka is an art form that requires patience and precision. The ingredients are placed into a large shallow pan, then covered with a bell-shaped lid called peka or sač. This ensemble is then buried under hot coals where it slow-cooks for several hours.

This method imparts a unique smoky flavor to the food while keeping it moist and tender inside. It’s this distinctive taste that sets Peka apart from other dishes—a testament to its enduring appeal among locals and tourists alike.

A Basic Recipe for Peka

Peka is a dish that’s as much about the process as it is about the ingredients. Here’s a basic recipe to help you get started on your culinary journey.


  • 1 kg of lamb or veal, cut into chunks
  • 500 g of potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 large onions, sliced
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • A handful of fresh rosemary sprigs
  • A few bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil


  1. Season the meat with salt, pepper, and minced garlic. Let it marinate for at least an hour.
  2. Arrange the potatoes, onions, and carrots in a large pan.
  3. Place the marinated meat on top of the vegetables.
  4. Sprinkle with rosemary sprigs and bay leaves.
  5. Drizzle generously with olive oil.
  6. Cover the pan with a peka lid or sač.
  7. Place the covered pan under hot coals and let it cook slowly for about three hours.
  8. Check occasionally to ensure even cooking—rotate the pan if necessary.
  9. Once cooked, remove from heat and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

Remember: patience is key when cooking Peka—it’s all about slow-cooking to perfection!


While lamb or veal Peka is the most traditional, there are numerous variations of this dish. Some prefer to use chicken or fish, while others opt for a vegetarian version with an assortment of vegetables.

Regardless of the main ingredient, the essence of Peka lies in its slow-cooking process. This allows the flavors to meld together beautifully, resulting in a dish that’s hearty and satisfying—much like Croatia itself.

Serving and Eating Etiquette

When it comes to serving Peka, it’s often a communal affair. The dish is typically placed at the center of the table for everyone to share. It’s not just about eating—it’s about coming together as a family or community.

Eating etiquette for Peka is straightforward: simply dig in and enjoy! Don’t be shy about going back for seconds—the generous portions are meant to be savored and shared among loved ones.

Popular Locations to Enjoy Peka in Croatia

Peka can be enjoyed throughout Croatia, but some regions are particularly well-known for this dish. Dalmatia, Istria, and Dubrovnik are popular spots where you can find authentic Peka prepared by skilled chefs who have mastered this age-old cooking technique.

Whether you’re dining at a local konoba (tavern) or enjoying a home-cooked meal with locals, experiencing Peka is an essential part of any visit to Croatia.

More about Croatian Food

Croatian cuisine is diverse and regionally distinct—reflecting its complex history and varied geography.

Coastal Cuisine

Along Croatia’s Adriatic coast, seafood reigns supreme—with dishes like crni rižot (black risotto) made from squid ink or buzara-style shellfish cooked in white wine sauce being popular choices among locals and tourists alike.

Olive oil is used extensively in coastal cuisine—adding richness to dishes while enhancing their natural flavors. Local wines and cheeses also play a significant role in the culinary landscape of this region.

Inland Cuisine

In contrast, the cuisine of inland Croatia is heavily influenced by its Central European neighbors. Here, you’ll find hearty stews, smoked meats, and sausages—often accompanied by potatoes or cabbage.

Paprika is a common spice used in many dishes—adding warmth and depth to the food. Desserts like strudels filled with apples or cherries are also popular in this region.

The Common Thread

Despite these regional differences, there are certain elements that unify Croatian cuisine as a whole. Freshness of ingredients is paramount—whether it’s seafood from the Adriatic Sea or vegetables from local farms.

Communal dining is another key aspect of Croatian food culture—highlighting the importance of family and community in everyday life. Whether it’s Peka or any other dish, meals are meant to be shared and enjoyed together—a testament to the warm hospitality that Croatia is known for.

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