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Food, Dining, & Drinks in Bosnia & Herzegovina

Culinary Influences

Historic foods from the Bosnian region were simply boiled in water and many of their more authentic dishes are still cooked in this method. The traditional ingredients in these dishes were primarily strong flavored vegetables like garlic, peppers, carrots, mushrooms, etc. Today, many of these dishes use these leftover cooking liquids as a base for a sauce.

However, today's Bosnian food is a direct result of the Turks who ruled over the region for many years. First, many of the Bosnians converted to Islam, immediately altering what foods can be used, for example, eliminating pork from the diet. More than this though, Bosnian food essentially became Turkish food, with slight alterations based on what ingredients were more readily available in Bosnia & Herzegovina.

Since the time of Turkish rule, the Austria-Hungarians took over the region and spread some Austrian influence. Some Austrian dishes and spices were introduced or became more popular under their rule, but these influences didn't alter the cuisine nearly as much as the Turks did.

Staple Foods

Bosnia & Herzegovina's closest staple is either meat or vegetables since these two ingredients are found in most dishes. However, neither is truly a staple food, nor is either found in every dish.

Regional Variations & Specialties

Bosanki Lonac: slow-roasted meat and vegetables
Burek: pastry filled with meat, cheese (sirnica), or a number of other toppings
Janjetinu: lamb roasted over a fire, only prepared and served for holidays and other special occasions
Kebab: a common sight throughout the Balkans, lamb, beef, or chicken served in a pita with a number of vegetables and/or sauces
Mostar: known for their trout dishes

Dining Etiquette

Bosnian Food - Pastry

Bosnia & Herzegovina identifies with Turkey in many ways and one of Turkey's most significant contributions on Bosnia is in the realm of Turkish Food. Although the Bosnians aren't as outgoing or social as the Turks, dining in Bosnia & Herzegovina is still a social event, which can, on occasion, take hours to finish. It is also important to note what religion your hosts identify with as the Bosniaks are Muslim, but both Croats and Serbs are Christian and this will effect dining and food served. The below information will only cover eating with the Muslim Bosniaks, but be sure to read up on Serbian Dining and Croatian Dining if dining with ethnic Serbs or Croats.

If you're invited into a local's home, arrive on time with some sweets like baklava or have a gift for the family's children if they have any. Dining isn't extraordinarily formal after sitting down; most people, especially in business settings, eat with the knife in the right hand and fork in the left, however some foods are eaten with your hands and pork isn't typically served since few Bosniaks consume pork products. If in doubt on the proper way to eat a particular food, watch those around you. Before the main course is served you'll most likely be given a number of meats, cheeses, and other small appetizers; these are simple and tasty, but don't overeat, they are just the starter.

If the meal is being accompanied by a beverage, never fill your own glass. Your neighbor will fill your glass and you are expected to return the favor. As you finish all your food, feel free to ask for more, this is a compliment to the host. If you're completely done eating (save some room for dessert though), finish all the food on your plate. Often times dessert will be served and many times coffee or tea is offered and expected to be accepted.

If dining out, as the bill comes, the host or inviter should pay for the whole meal. If dining without any locals, summon the waiter or waitress by making eye contact; waving or calling a server over can be considered rude. In regards to tipping at sit down restaurants with a waiter or waitress, round up or tip about 10% of the bill. Small tips to bar tenders are also appreciated, but not necessary.


Bosnia & Herzegovina's most popular drinks are essentially Turkish in origin. Turkish coffee is a common wake-up for Bosnians, but is drunk throughout the day. Tea, soft drinks, juices, and milk are also widely available.

Despite being a primarily Muslim country, most Bosnians do drink alcohol or at least accept the fact that people around them drink. Two of the more common local drinks are rakija and sljivovica, which are flavored alcoholic drinks similar to brandy; often times made from plums and grapes. Despite this local specialty, beer is still the most common alcoholic drink, but all popular international beverages are available, including imported beers, wines, and hard liquors.

Generally speaking, the tap water is safe to drink in Bosnia & Herzegovina, but check with locals for any particular regional differences as the Balkan Wars may have contaminated some areas. Also, many people may have troubles adjusting to the local tap water, as it will most certainly be different from what your system is used to.

This page was last updated: March, 2013