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Montenegro food is full of contrasts. This small country in Southeastern Europe offers an incredible range of flavors in the cuisine.
Montenegrin food falls broadly into three categories determined by the geographic, climatic and historical differences.
The three regions, mountainous, lake and coastal have their own unique food culture.
As we traveled through the country during our three month stay, we were continually surprised by the breadth of flavors.
Mountainous food from the northern part of the country is hearty and includes potatoes, cabbage, lamb, pork and beef.
Alongside, layered dishes with cheese and dairy products accompany the meats.
Montenegrin cuisine from the lake region, centered around Lake Skadar, features carp, an endemic freshwater fish, trout and more.
Coastal Montenegro food features delicacies like fresh fish and seafood as well as Mediterranean fruits and fresh vegetables.
This small country of Montenegro has a lot to offer and something for everyone.
Get to know the flavors, aromas and tastes of Montenegro.
This authentic Montenegro food guide will introduce you to tastes to remember.
Best Montenegro Food For Starters
Montenegro food is extremely varied and generally quite copious. Depending on the season and where you are in the country, how you start your meals will differ.
Fresh salads made with some of the most delicious tomatoes are plentiful. Burek, or phyllo pastry pies filled with cheese, meat or potatoes are popular snacks throughout the Balkans.
Prosciutto from Njegusi is one of the most famous foods of Montenegro. And, when eaten together with the local cheese including olives from Bar, you have the perfect appetizer charcuterie board.
Don’t miss these starters and the ones below on your Montenegro visit.
1 – Ajvar – Roasted Red Pepper Dip
Ajvar, a treasure of the Balkans, is a condiment made of bright and ripe red peppers. Pronounced i-var, it’s similar to a dip, sauce or relish, typically made in the fall and eaten in the winter months.
More than a simple spread, ajvar is an essential part of the cuisines of several Balkan countries. While the recipe varies slightly between the countries, the star of the dish are the specific fresh red peppers used.
Ajvar is made from a labor of love that requires meticulous grilling, peeling, and stewing of peppers with various herbs and spices.
When we first arrived in Montenegro, ajvar was one of the first traditional dishes we had to try. The bright red color was immediately appealing and the rich texture simply delightful.
What makes ajvar so popular is its versatility. It can be eaten by itself as a salad, spread on bread or as a tasty accompaniment to meat dishes.
Even though the history of ajvar is murky, it is often linked to the Turkish word “havyar,” which means caviar. Similarly, with its luxurious textures, ajvar is often referred to as pepper caviar.
Ajvar is a delicious local food that cannot be missed. If you would like to taste ajvar, you can have it delivered to your home from Amazon.
2 – Njegusi Ham and Cheese
One of the local Montenegrin foods we were most excited to try was the specialty, Njeguši prosciutto ham.
Njeguši village is famous for being the birthplace of the royal Petrović dynasty which ruled Montenegro from 1696 to 1918.
The prosciutto from Njegusi or njeguški pršut, is an outstanding prosciutto ham that can take almost one year to make.
It’s specific aromas come from the drying methods which use special wood and the mixture of mountain and sea air.
Cheese from Njeguši is another delicacy and part of national Montenegro foods. The cheese which includes full fat, semi-solid and hard cheeses are from sheep milk or a blend of sheep, goat and cow milk.
The cheese ages for at least three months under specific conditions releasing the exquisite flavors.
Prosciutto ham and Njegusi cheese make the perfect cheeseboard. This combination along with local olives and Montenegrin wines was our favorite starters.
Njeguski steak is another traditional dish you’ll find on restaurant menus. It’s a hearty meal that involves a long piece of veal stuffed with prosciutto ham and cheese, served with fries.
Montenegro foods from Njegusi are part of the national cuisine and are to be savored on your travels.
Best Vegetarian Montenegrin Foods
Montenegro is a heaven for fresh fruits and vegetables. The word “izvolite” or “may I help you”, will follow you as you peruse the “green markets” or local markets.
Find amazingly fresh and seasonal fruits, vegetables, yogurt, cheese, and much more.
Even though Montenegrin food and Balkan food in general is meat heavy, you can always find meat free options.
You’ll find soups, salads, bean dishes, delicious stuffed paprika peppers, grilled vegetables and a variety of other options.
As you relish the flavorful vegetable based dishes, do make room for some of the Montenegro national dishes listed below.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST RECIPE: Cretan Dakos: The Best Authentic Cretan Salad You Want To Make
3 – Kačamak or Kacamak – An Important Montenegro National Dish
From the mountain area in the northern part of Montenegro comes Kacamak, a national dish made with potatoes, flour and cheese.
While kacamak does not contain any meat, it is quite high in calories. The centuries old recipe calls for cooking potatoes with different types of flour.
The mixture is then beaten with a kachamar or special wooden spoon like a hammer.
Once there are no more lumps, cheese and kaymak, a local dairy product, are added.
Traditionally, kacamak was eaten to provide energy and satisfaction for physical work in the mountains.
On menus, you may also find Cicvara, another similar dish from the mountain region. The main difference is cicvara does not contain potatoes and is made with corn flour instead.
In Kolasin, where we had it, our server described it as a kind of polenta or thick porridge.
Both these traditional dishes are delicious but quite hearty. They are best enjoyed after strenuous physical activity like skiing or hiking.
4 – Rastan or Raštan – Wild Cabbage
Rastan is a very traditional Montenegro food that is made with wild cabbage, white potatoes and spices.
Smoked pork, sausages and bacon are usually added making it a hearty and complete meal.
Rastan has been eaten for generations with evidence tracing back to ancient Greece. This leafy wild cabbage which is dark green in color is rich in nutrients and also lowers the risk of cancer.
While rastan is traditionally eaten in the winter months, it grows year round. It is particularly popular in the center of the country and eaten as an accompaniment to many dishes.
Raštan was one of our favorite Montenegro traditional dishes that we ate as often as we could find it.
The wild cabbage have a slightly bitter taste and they are boiled until soft and tender. Together with pork and sausages the flavors are incredible.
The health benefits and simple flavors make this a traditional dish worth seeking out.
Apparently, in 2008, when Madonna performed in Montenegro, she is said to have liked raštan for its nutritional benefits and her controlled diet.
5 – Priganice or Crnogorske Priganice – Traditional Montenegrin Donuts
Priganice is an old Montenegrin famous food. They are similar to small airy donuts, made of flour, eggs, yeast, sugar, salt and oil.
These delightful local donuts are served either savory with cheese or sweet with honey or fruit jams.
Priganice are served as a welcome appetizer for guests, or can be eaten as a snack and even for breakfast.
Served piping hot, they are as delicious as they look. They are easy to eat and we savored fresh priganice with local Montenegro beer and tea.
Simply delightful, these little airy bites are one of the popular Montenegrin dishes not to miss.
Best Montenegro Foods with Meats
Meat features prominently in the mountain cuisine of Montenegro. Pork and lamb dominate while beef and goat are found to a lesser extent.
The animals in Montenegro roam freely yielding tender and flavorful meat dishes. The cooking techniques vary from dishes cooked slowly in their own juices to perfectly grilled sausages.
And, prosciutto ham from Njeguski, is the celebrated Montenegro food found on every table at every meal.
When you visit Montenegro, try several kinds of meat dishes. The following, including njeguski steak, are some of our favorite meat based traditional dishes.
6 – Cevapi, Ćevapi or Cevapici – Traditional Balkan Sausages
If you love sausages, you’ll adore this traditional dish found in Montenegro and across the Balkans.
Cevapi are grilled meat sausages made from a delicious mix of minced meat. They are made with a mix of pork, beef or lamb which come together with mouthwatering deliciousness.
One of the characteristics that makes these beloved sausages so distinctive is that they do not have any sausage casing.
As a result they are formed by hand and resemble finger-sized sausages. Traditionally, they are grilled over charcoal which adds wonderful grilled flavors.
Cevapi can be eaten as a sandwich or served as a full meal on a plate with vegetables.
However, you choose to savor these sausages, don’t miss this traditional local food in Montenegro.
7 – Podgorički Popeci or Podgorica Popeci – Montenegro’s Capital Specialty
Popeci or Podgorica fritters are a famous Montenegrin dish particularly in the capital city of Podgorica.
We didn’t know what to expect when we ordered it for the first time and were quite surprised.
This local dish consisted of veal wrapped with prosciutto, stuffed with local Montenegrin cheese and fried.
What surprised us the most was the thick heavy cheese sauce on top of three plump fritters. This traditional dish was served with french fries and a side of onions and cucumbers.
Even though it is a delicious local food, it is heavy and best enjoyed in moderation. As Podgorica’s traditional plate, it should not be missed. Share it with your group and enjoy this local cuisine.
It is said that popeci or Podgorica fritters were created in post-war Titograd, the former name of the city of Podgorica.
Apparently, two chefs working at Hotel Montenegro combined the products they had available and created this signature tasty dish.
8 – Ispod Sača – Lamb Cooked Under the Bell
Ispod sača or lamb roasted under the bell is a traditional food from the north of Montenegro. Lamb, reared in unspoiled pastures, is slow-cooked for several hours in its own juices.
The preparation is fairly simple. Lamb is cut up into large pieces with the bones and placed in a clay pot. Sliced potatoes and vegetables like onions, peppers, carrots are placed underneath the meat.
After adding some oil, salt and pepper, the pot is covered with a bell-shaped lid known as sač.
The sač is buried in hot embers and left to cook in its own juices for several hours. The result is succulent meat that melts in the mouth, flavorful soft potatoes and concentrated flavors.
When accompanied with a seasonal salad and Montenegrin wonderful wines, you have a feast for the senses.
Cooking in embers or live coal is popular not only in Montenegro, but also other Balkan countries.
Different meats like goat or veal can be cooked in this style and also homemade bread.
In Montenegro, lamb cooked under the bell is one of best traditional slow foods to be enjoyed over and over again.
9 – Telece Pecenje – Roasted Veal
Veal is another popular meat found in Montenegrin cuisine. This classic Montenegro food consists of veal, often the shoulder cut, cooked in the oven in a clay pot or roasting pan.
In Montenegro we had Telece Pecenje Sa Kro which is veal with roasted potatoes. The veal cooks for several hours making it very tender and moist.
The roasted potatoes, soft and well seasoned, are the perfect accompaniment to this food of Montenegro.
Besides Montenegro, roasted veal is also popular in the neighboring countries.
Roasted veal with baked potatoes quickly became one of our favorite Montenegro foods. It is one of the most delicious local food to be savored.
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Best Fish and Seafood in Montenegro
Fish and seafood in Montenegro comes primarily from lakes and rivers, and the sea. The most well-known lake in the country is Lake Skadar, responsible for trout, eel, carp and bleak.
From the Adriatic coastal area, sardines, mussels, monkfish, octopus and a variety of fish dishes reign supreme.
If you want the freshest fish and seafood dishes, always ask your server or host for the seasonal recommendations.
Having said that, here are three of our favorite fish and seafood traditional Montenegro foods not to miss.
10 – Riblja Čorba or Ribla Corba – Fish Soup
In the Bay of Kotor, fish and seafood dominate. High quality seafood is taken seriously and prepared with time honored recipes.
One of the remarkable soups is ribla corba or simply fish soup. The fish soup was created by fishermen as a way to use the small fish that nobody bought.
The fishermen would clean the fish and boil them in a pot to make soup, a tradition that’s been practiced for years.
You’ll find fish soup on many restaurant menus in Kotor. Some versions will have small fish while others will have pieces of fish like cod or grouper.
No matter how you find this dish prepared, it is absolutely delicious and flavorful.
The fish soup is a great way to start your exploration of Montenegro’s coastal cuisine.
11 – Crni Rižoto or Crmini Rizotto – Black Squid Risotto
One of our surprising and tantalizing traditional dishes from Kotor is the celebrated specialty, black risotto.
This fearsome looking risotto dish gets its name from the black ink color of cuttlefish. Even though it is quite a sight, this risotto is superb.
This fresh black risotto is served hot and best enjoyed when it is still creamy. In it are tender slices of squid allowing the seafood flavors to shine.
A real delicacy in Kotor, the flavors will delight fish lovers. Black risotto is a gastronomic experience not to be missed in Kotor.
Besides Montenegro, this seafood dish is popular along Croatia’s Adriatic coast including Istria, Dalmatia and Dubrovnik.
This squid ink risotto dish has Venetian roots, influenced by Italy’s rule over the area in the middle ages.
AUTHENTIC FOOD QUEST TIP: If you are visiting Dubrovnik, take a day trip into Montenegro and visit the picturesque Kotor Bay. This tour also stops in Perast, where you can visit the island of our Lady of the Rocks. On your day trip with a local guide, you’ll also visit the famous Budva town while learning the history and culture at each stop.
12 – Fresh Trout
From the Montenegrin rivers and lakes, whole fish dishes are particularly popular. As part of Montenegro’s lake cuisine, fish from Lake Skadar dominates.
Trout was one of our favorite dishes we enjoyed at least once a week during our Montenegro stay.
Generally, the fish is prepared in a variety of ways. We had it most often as whole grilled fish.
It is also prepared marinated in oil and lemon. Or, lightly fried with finely chopped garlic, parsley, salt and pepper.
Besides trout, other specialties from Lake Skadar are Carp or Krap, a native freshwater fish. Sardines and eel are also Montenegro food specialties.
Carp is typically prepared smoked or grilled and can be found at restaurants all over the capital. Whereas eel is typically grilled and sardines can be smoked, grilled or boiled on salads.
However you choose to enjoy fresh fish from the lakes, you’ll not be disappointed.
This is a delicious local food to savor on your Montenegro travels.
Best Montenegro Desserts
In Montenegro, local bakeries known as “Pekara” offer tempting traditional treats all day long.
The most famous Montenegro snack is priganice or dough balls, which are enjoyed with honey or homemade jam.
Cakes and tortes usually accompany coffee. And, baklava, which in Montenegro is made from walnuts and raisins soaked in honey, is a typical dessert.
Ice cream is also incredibly popular and a tasty refreshing treat on hot days.
Desserts are part of the best food experience in Montenegro and don’t miss them on your trip.
13 – Krempita From Kotor or Kotorska – Custard Pie With Flaky Pastry
Montenegro’s Bay of Kotor is breathtakingly beautiful with imposing cliffs that plummet into a narrow inlet of the Adriatic Sea.
Just one hour south of Dubrovnik, Kotor’s old town, a Unesco World Heritage Site is a captivating and unmissable destination.
If there is one dessert that defines Kotor, it is unequivocally the Krempita. It’s a custard pie with layers of flaky pastry filled with vanilla custard.
Although it may sound quite simple, the flavors are quite indescribable. What we liked most about it is that it is not too sweet, but rather subtle with delicious flavors.
Custard pies with layers of puff pastry can be found in other former Austro-Hungarian countries.
However, the krempita in Kotor is unique following a secret recipe that has been passed down for generations.
14 – Perast Cake – Montenegrin Almond Cake
The town of Perast, which is just beyond Kotor, is a beautiful baroque town and was home to many famous sailors.
Our Lady of the Rocks Church, which sits on a manmade island formed by sailors, is one of the most visited attractions in Perast.
Similar to Kotor, Perast has an iconic dessert called the Perast Cake. It is a special cake that was made for sailors going to sea.
Unlike Krempita, the Perast cake is a dry and compact cake made with almond flour, lemon zest and a little bit of brandy.
The cake can last for a long time. So, the women from Perast made it for their sailor husbands to make their sea days sweeter and easier.
When visiting Montenegro, a trip to the stunning Bay of Kotor should not be missed.
As you savor traditional fresh seafood dishes, be sure to leave room for these iconic desserts.
15 – Palačinke or Palacinke – Sweet or Savory Crepes
As lovers of French crepes, we could not have been more excited to try Montenegro’s version of thin pancakes.
These palačinke crepes are popular throughout and sold at small kiosks in busy areas.
Every time we saw a long line of students waiting for food, it was often for palacinke, especially after dinner.
Palacinke have been around for centuries, some dating them back to Greco-Roman origins.
In addition to Montenegro, these pancakes are found in several counties in central and southwestern Europe.
These pancakes can be either savory, stuffed with cheese or ham and cheese.
One of the most typical sweet toppings is Eurocrem, a hazelnut, cocoa and milk spread.
We enjoyed the sweet pancakes filled with local fresh jam, and apricot, in particular, which was in season at the time.
Palacinke pancakes are ubiquitous and they are a delicious local dessert worth indulging in.
Best Montenegro Drinks
One of the best ways to savor the food of Montenegro is to accompany it with the traditional drinks.
Autochthonous or native grape varietals like Vranac red wine and Krstač white wines are to be relished.
Niksicko beer, a pale lager, is the country’s most popular and commonly consumed beer. And, rakija, a famous grape brandy, is said to be Montenegro’s national drink.
Drinking non-alcoholic homemade juices is also part of the local culinary fabric. One we came across most often was homemade pomegranate juice.
Though, you’ll also find juices from cherries, blueberries and many other fruits.
16 – Montenegrin Wines – Vranac and Krstac
Montenegro, surprisingly, is home to the largest vineyard in Europe. And, the most important autochthonous grape variety is Vranac.
This red wine is named after a local Montenegrin word for black horse, in reference to the intense red grape.
For the white wine, Krstač is a local variety that grows exclusively in Montenegro and nowhere else in the world.
Wherever you go in Montenegro, you will quickly become familiar with Vranac red wine and Krstač white wine.
The largest producer is Plantaze winery and their easy to drink wines accompany most meals.
Montenegro’s history in winemaking dates back to the pre-Roman period. Over time, winemaking in Montenegro survived many turbulent years to re-emerge again as part of Montenegro’s national identity.
As you explore the local cuisine, make Montenegrin wines a part of your experience.
17 – Rakija – Traditional Grape Brandy
Locals say, the secret of longevity in Montenegro is rakija. Many drink a short glass of rakija in the morning which they claim gives them strength and energy.
Rakija is an alcoholic drink that is quite popular in the Balkans. It is made from a variety of fruits like plum, prunes, apricot, quince, pear, cherry and more.
The most famous rakija in Montenegro is made from the Montenegro Vranac grape variety. Grape based rakia is known as loza or lozavaca.
Most households make their own rakija or have a close family member who makes it. This homemade or domaca rakija has mythical and cultural status.
It is said to instantly kill stomach bacteria, relieve muscle pain, disinfect wounds and more.
One drinks rakija from small glasses which look like shot glasses. It is sipped rather than gulped down.
It can be consumed as an aperitif or digestif. In the winter it can be heated up to provide warmth.
There are different kinds of rakija. Some are soft while others are strong and in each case, the quality differs.
Explore rakija on your Montenegro visit and don’t miss the grape-based fruit brandy.
Have you had Montenegro food or drinks before? What is your favorite from reading this list?
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Curious by nature, Rosemary loves exploring new flavors and connecting with locals. She shares her insights and culinary finds from her travels to inspire people to connect local through food.