Sailing with Kids: A Guide to Authentic Croatian Sweets

While you are visiting the island of Hvar with your family, you may find yourself exploring the historical back streets of the city, away from the hustle and bustle of the central tourist districts. Along one of those cobbled streets, you may catch a delicious aroma on the air—the warm, sweet scent of pastries.

Before you know it, your kids are tugging impatiently at your sleeve, steering you down the street. You've found yourself at a special place called Nonica, a popular café located at Ulica Kroz Burak 23 in Hvar city.

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At Nonica, you and your family have a chance to try traditional Croatian sweets and desserts prepared according to traditional recipes. These are the recipes as they have been handed down through the generations. Here you can buy biscuits and cookies and other Dalmatian treats prepared with local honey, fruits, and herbs, as well as homemade jams and preserves.

If there is one thing which is true of just about any kid, it is that they love dessert. So a stop at Nonica is highly recommended if you are exploring Hvar with your family. Wondering what kinds of traditional sweets you might be able to try at Nonica and the other restaurants and coffee shops you visit on your trip along the Dalmatian coast?

Here is a brief guide to some of Croatia's tastiest sweets!

1. Honey

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Croatia is a major producer of honey. You can buy jars of it here to ship home, or you can order desserts which incorporate local honey into the recipe. Because it is a Croatian specialty, local producers like Sliško Honey manufacture a wide range of artisan products. Some of their varieties include Chestnut honey, Flower honey and Creamed honey. One variety that they say is particularly loved by children is "Locust honey," which has a very light color and delicate, sweet flavor.

2. Preserves

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Like honey, preserves are a Croatian specialty, used in many dessert recipes. Try fig jam, plum jam, or orange jam made with the region's prized bittersweet oranges. If you visit Nonica, you'll find these on the top shelf of the counter. Buy a few jars to ship home—they make great gifts! And if Nonica is not near you, you can buy just as delicious products from Dida Boža.

3. Fritule

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Traveling off season and enjoying all Croatia has to offer over the holidays? During Christmas, you'll find delicious little pastry balls known as "fritule" for sale all over Croatia. Shaped like little doughnut holes, they contain raisins and are flavored with a combination of citrus zest and rum. Coated with powdered sugar, they are a delicious holiday treat you can't find anywhere else.

4. Knedle

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These dumplings are made out of boiled potato-dough and contain a sugary plum filling. They are then either coated with sugar or fried breadcrumbs. They may be served with either sour cream or cinnamon, and may be either a dessert or a side dish. While they are popular in Croatia, they are also found throughout Central and Eastern Europe.

5. Poppy Seed Roll

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If there is one dessert which is synonymous with Croatian sweets and treats, it is undoubtedly the poppy seed roll, known as makovnjača. Like fritule, it is a popular treat around the holidays, including both Christmas and Easter, but you can find it throughout the year at shops like Nonica.

Poppy seed rolls are made out of sweet yeast bread and contain a dense, dark filling of poppy seed, butter, honey, sugar, and milk. There are sometimes raisins as well, and often flavoring of orange or lemon zest or coffee. The shape of the pastry itself is similar to a cinnamon roll, so the dark filling and the light pastry form a distinctive visual swirl of contrast which instantly catches the eye. They look amazing—and taste phenomenal!

6. Baklava

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This sweet will likely be familiar to you regardless of what part of the world your family hails from. These pastries consist of incredibly thin layers of unleavened dough alternating with layers of honey or syrup with chopped nuts. It is a popular Mediterranean sweet beloved by all around the globe.

7. Kremšnita

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This is an inland dessert, so you may have a harder time finding it along the coast. It is a cream cake with a pastry base and custard inside. A couple variants on this dessert are popular in Croatia: Zagrebačka kremšnita, from the capital city of Zagreb, and Samoborska kremšnita from the town of Samobor.

8. Krafne

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This is a round, light, fluffy kind of donut (not the dense cake variety) containing filling. Popular during winter Carnival, these donuts are also served on New Year's Day, and are associated with luck and prosperity. They may be filled with jam, marmalade, chocolate, or jelly. You may also encounter them with custard or nutella.

9. Palačinke

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This is a very thin pancake similar to a crepe which is found throughout Eastern and Central Europe, including Croatia. Recipes can vary quite a bit and may be sweet or savory, but these light, delicious pancakes are often filled with jam and served with confectioner's sugar. They make for a good sweet breakfast or a light dessert.

As you can see, Croatia is a dessert-lover's paradise, and for any kid that loves sweets and treats, it offers an amazing chance to indulge in the unique traditional flavors of Eastern Europe. So stop into Nonica with your family when you are in Hvar, and make sure to check the dessert section of your menu at the authentic restaurants you dine at on your Croatian family vacation!