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Every once in a while a food comes along that is so deeply connected to a destination it becomes somewhat iconic to that location. A type of pastry or pie called Burek is found in many countries in and around the Mediterranean region. We, however, will focus on the flakey, crispy-yet-tender version that’s become the adopted national street food of Croatia. And street food might be a misnomer as these tasty treats of flakey goodness can be found in Croatian supermarkets as well as outdoor markets and bakeries, town squares and, yes, along the bustling streets throughout Zagreb, Dubrovnik, Split and other cities and towns in Croatia.

But What is Burek and Where Did it Come From?

While Burek is so much a part of Croatian culture it is also part of a much broader culinary base that spreads throughout the Balkans. The luscious Burek is believed to have made its way to Croatia during the Ottoman Empire, first referenced around the 15th century, although it’s believed to predate that among the Turkish people. The Ottomans considered Burek a budget food and it was popular among the lower classes. While the Ottomans are no longer around, their pastry is and it’s truly an iconic and very popular street food throughout the country.

The name Burek is derived from the Turkish “börek” which means to twist. Burek refers to filled pastries made from layers of phyllo dough, brushed with melted butter and filled with cheese, meat, spinach or potatoes. Once filled, the pastry is baked to golden crispy perfection. Though the description may sound similar to the savory pastries served in Greece like Spanakopita, Croatian Burek is unique.

Types of Burek

Given its geographical location and proximity to so many different cultures it surely comes as no surprise that Croatia is considered a melting pot of different peoples. The food, much like the architecture, bears a heavy influence of Italian, Turkish,  Mediterranean and Hungarian cultures. In Croatia today there are a few different types of Burek.

  • Burek Sa Krumpirom/Potato Burek: Filled with smooth and spiced mashed potatoes.
  • Burek Sa Mesom/Meat Burek: Filled with seasoned ground beef or ground pork or a mixture of both.
  • Burek Sa Sirom/Cheese Burek: Filled with a combination of a Croatian cottage cheese and feta
  • Burek Sa špinatom i Sirom/Cheese and Spinach Burek: The filling consists of spinach and cheese similar to Greek spanakopita

There are also a few different shapes to be found. One is a spiral shape and the other is a flat pie shape that's cut into wedges. The latter is actually the more traditional version of Burek.

Burek is typically enjoyed hot or warm and can suffice as a tasty snack or even a meal, depending on the size of your portion.

Just like any street food in any city or town throughout the world, Burek in Croatia is a convenience food or, if you will, a “fast” food. It’s usually part of a breakfast or lunch and is a favorite of locals of all ages. There may be slight regional variations. Some parts of Croatia may offer a seafood filling or other local ingredients.

A Croatian Cultural Icon

Burek represents a rich cultural influence that’s been nurtured, refined and recreated until it became the iconic pastry of Croatia we know today. When you visit the beautiful country of Croatia please enjoy Burek at every opportunity.