Being one of the Balkan countries in the Mediterranean, the food in Montenegro features a unique mix of several different cuisines. It is said that the first influence of Montenegrin cuisine is from the Levant and Turkey, which mostly came from neighbouring Serbia. Then there are also hints of Eastern European influences and, of course, the Mediterranean as well. Naturally, as Montenegro is a country of mountains and sea, seafood is more popular in the coastal cities, meanwhile, meats are more heavily featured in the mountainous regions.
Many said that Montenegrin cuisine also has influences from the Italians. Unfortunately, during our trip, we haven’t been impressed with the pasta or gelato. The pizzas were okay but nothing special either. Perhaps fancy restaurants on the northern coast may do them better. But putting that aside, we have enjoyed the food in Montenegro and can’t wait to share with you all the dishes we tried in this article!
Is there halal food in Montenegro?
The short answer is yes. But it would depend on which part of Montenegro you’re at. For instance, halal meats are not common in places like Kotor and Perast. However, if you go down the southern coast to Bar and beyond, there will be more halal restaurants. Ulcinj, in particular, is actually a Muslim-majority city and all the restaurants in that area use the same halal meat supplier. The catch is that these southern cities don’t have much to offer in terms of tourism, hence not a popular or recommended pick.
If you want to be near the main sights & activities, i.e. near the northern coast, but still have halal food options, we’ve heard that Budva has a few Turkish kebab places that are halal. Budva is the most popular beach holiday destination in Montenegro so there should be at least some options to cater for a halal diet.
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What food to eat in Montenegro
One thing you might notice is that there is no McDonald’s, KFC, or other international fast food chains in Montenegro. We mentioned that and a local replied, “who needs McDonald’s when there is Pjlekavica!”
Montenegrins will tell you that Pjlekavica is their go-to fast food. It is a giant grilled meat patty that’s typically served with fries and salad. Its origin is actually from Serbia and is considered a national dish there, but it is equally popular in other Balkan countries including Montenegro. Sometimes, you might find them stuffed with cheese too! We have tried both (one just meat and one with cheese) and thoroughly enjoyed them. Though we definitely couldn’t be eating that every day as it can get quite heavy. Anyhow, if you fancy a big meaty treat, Pjlekavica is your answer and a must-try food while in Montenegro.
When in the Mediterranean, seafood is a must. But I must say I had some of the best and freshest seafood in Montenegro! All the coastal cities offer an abundance of fresh quality seafood and you can enjoy anything from fish, prawns, squids, mussels, octopuses, etc. If you’re driving from Perast from Kotor, there are several oyster farms en route which you can stop by to have a taste too.
The quality of seafood is simply superb and they typically serve them with a garlic and olive oil dip which I adored. My favourites during our stay in Ulcinj include the amazing grilled squid from Dulcinea and grilled fish at Teuta where the Branzino was especially outstanding.
Qebapa / Cevapi
You might be more familiar with this fast-food dish as it highly resembles meat koftas, especially Turkish koftas. Cevapi (also known as Qebapa) can be found everywhere in Montenegro. Again, it has a Serbian origin and is common among other Balkan cities. A lot of the time, the meat recipe for making Cevapi is very similar to that of making Pjlekavica but just in a different shape. Some would describe them as skinless sausages but I personally think kofta is a much more appropriate description. Anyhow, they are absolutely delicious and really juicy to taste. Usually, you get to pick whether to have them in pieces of 5 or 10 per plate and they come with salad, minced onions, and fries.
Trilece Sponge Cake
From where we stayed in Montenegro, the most popular dessert ought to be Trilece Sponge Cake. It is essentially what we more commonly know as Caramel Milk Cake and tasted more or less just like the Turkish ones. Personally, I find the caramel glaze a little lighter than its Turkish counterparts and prefer it this way. It’s not too sweet or heavy and is perfect to pair with a cup of coffee.
When in the Mediterranean, you just know the salads are going to be good. A Montenegrin speciality is the Shopska Salad, which my other half orders it almost every meal. It is made of three main ingredients – tomatoes, cucumbers, and cheese. Sometimes, they will also mix in some onions, olives, and/or roasted peppers. With a drizzle of fresh olive oil and vinegar, it’s certainly one of the most refreshing salad dishes! This salad is not only popular in Montenegro but is also a Bulgarian staple too.
Burek & Other Pastries
Montenegrin Burek is basically the exact same thing as Turkish Borek. You can find them at local bakeries and are typically either filled with meat or cheese. Although sometimes you may find vegetable filling or even sweet ones such as hazelnut & Nutella at some shops! The Burek comes in different shapes including wedges, spirals, or tube-like (i.e. cigar). A lot of the time, locals would pair their savoury Burek with a yoghurt dip for breakfast.
Continuing with the theme of Turkish influences, Baklava is also a popular dessert in Montenegro. The Montenegrins have their own twist on the Turkish classic and would add raisins and finely chopped walnuts as filling. Personally, I’m not a big fan of raisins so never got to try this particular flavour but have enjoyed all the other classic flavours.
Krempita is a custard pie dessert that’s considered a staple of Kotor. It is made with puff pastry and filled with layers of rich vanilla custard. We didn’t manage to try it but everyone who visits Kotor comes to this dessert shop named Forza for a slice of this famous Krempita. This dessert is also popular in Croatia and Serbia, though they may have slight variations for each region.
- Priganice – Montenegrin fried dough balls or doughnuts. They can be either savoury or sweet and are common as both breakfast and snacks.
- Brav u mlijeku – a northern Montenegrin speciality dish that features lamb cooked in milk.
- Goulash – Hungarian-originated beef stew with spices. We’ve seen many local families make them and serve them with polenta.
- Kacamak – we didn’t really see this in the coastal cities but it’s known as a popular dish in the mountain areas of Montenegro. It is essentially cornmeal, potatoes, and cheese cooked together into a porridge-like texture.
- Mixed Cheese – Montenegro makes several different types of cheese including Prljo (hard & crumbly with salty flavour), Pljevaljski sir (white cheese), Njeguški sir (semi-hard, full-fat sheep’s milk cheese), and Lisnati (light leafy cheese), etc.
- Rolled Pancakes – whilst this is hardly a Montenegrin invention, it’s recognised as a common street dessert. Typically filled with either Nutella or homemade Montenegrin jams.