Croatian Tradition: Happy New Year With a Winning Sarma Recipe

Katarina Anđelković


January 1, 2024 – Food is an important part of Croatian tradition, and the first day of a new year is not an exception. The traditional meal, you guessed it – her majesty, sarma. And for a good start to 2024, the Croatian national sarma champion revealed his recipe. The secret: “You treat her like a woman.”

As SiB writes, winter is unimaginable without it, it is a traditional holiday dish, and it’s known as the queen of the New Year’s table. The national champion in cooking traditional Croatian meals such as čobanac and fish stew, chef Željko Turalija revealed his sarma recipe.

He makes it with homemade sour cabbage and minced meat of 80 percent pork and 20 percent beef. He adds about 10 percent of the meat’s weight of rice. Other ingredients include bacon, egg, garlic, onion, sweet and hot paprika, parsley and other spices.

Saute the bacon and onion a little and add it to the mixture so that when you eat sarma, you can smell the smokiness,” says Željko.

Mix everything thoroughly so that it is well connected, and then wrap the mixture in sour cabbage leaves.

“I put one side over, roll the other one up and just push the ends inside,” instructs Željko.

It is best if the individual sarmas aren’t too big or small and all similar in size. The chef then places them in a pot with sliced smoked bacon between them.

“So that the soup also tastes of the meat and the smell of smoke and the tasty fat seeps through,” explains the expert.

It is all covered with water, with a plate on top so that it does not rise during cooking. Another crucial point is staying patient while it cooks. “It is very important that the sarma is cooked on a light setting. It must simmer gently, for about two and a half to three hours,” says Željko.

Sarma takes a long time to cook, but it also takes a long time to eat, and it is one of those meals that seem to get better every time they are reheated. If your family does not have it’s own tried and trusted recipe, do use the champion’s expert tips for success.


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