On our travels in May and June, we ate this red pepper+eggplant condiment in almost every restaurant from Lubljana, Slovenia to Dubrovnik, Croatia. Each chef's...Read More
Ćevapčići, Take 2 (My Recipe)
As I mentioned in this post from back in May, I ate a lot (A LOT!) of the skinless Balkan sausages called ćevapčići while we journeyed through Slovenia, Croatia, and Bosnia-Herzegovina. The ćevapčići were a really tasty way to get a protein infusion to balance the wine, beer, and kremšnita (ahem) that I was enjoying in a regular basis.
Throughout our travels, I ate ćevapčići about 8 times, and each serving included 5-10 ćevapčići, which means I ate about 80 or so of these tasty little guys on our trip.
Here are all the places I tried them, just in case you find yourself in the Balkans and need some grilled meat:
Sidro (Rovinj, Croatia): served on top of grilled cheese called “kaymak” and ajvar
Restoran Degenija (Rakovica, Croatia): on a giant mixed grill platter that included french fries, grilled pork chop, chicken schnitzel cutlets, bacon, ajvar, onions, and white rice
Pansion Plitvice Hotel Etno (Lila-Senj, Croatia): on another giant mixed grill platter with chicken breast, pork chops, sausages, white rice, and potatoes roasted with carrots
Restoran Pećina (Ploče, Croatia): served with french fries, ajvar
Harambaša (Ljubljana, Slovenia): my favorite! served with fluffy grilled pita bread, raw onions, and kaymak that was so sweet, it was like butter. These were very meaty and flavorful and served as the model for the recipe below.
Šadrvan (Mostar, Bosnia-Herzegovnia): on the Nacionalna Plate for 2 which included cabbage rolls, dolmas, boiled potatoes, meat-stuffed onions, white rice, falafel, and ajvar
Luka Lu (Prague, Czech Republic): one of my fave restaurants in Prague; served with kaymak, ajvar, and very tender, yeasty bread
While all the ćevapčići we ate were similar, every chef put his own spin on the seasonings and proportions of meat (lamb, beef, pork) in the recipe. When I got back to my kitchen in Austin, I worked on developing my own version of ćevapčići and the ubiquitous Balkan condiment made from red peppers and eggplant known as ajvar.
Here’s my version of ćevapčići. Note that they’re not super spicy but instead, use just enough garlic and spice to bring out the meaty flavor of the beef and lamb. I like them more without pork, but feel free to change up the proportions of the meats and add pork if you’re feeling it. I’d also like to mention that in Bulgaria, cooks often include cumin (a.k.a., my favorite spice), but I showed restraint (for now) and kept my cumin jar in the cupboard.
Trust me: You’ll be super happy if you also make the ajvar to go along with these.
Serves 6-8 | Prep 15 minutes | Cook 10 minutes | Whole30 compliant
3 cloves garlic
1/2 medium onion
1/4 cup fresh parsley leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 cup hot water
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 pound ground grass-fed beef
1 pound ground grass-fed lamb
Place the garlic, onion, parsley, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, and paprika in the bowl of a food processor. In a small bowl, mix the hot water with the cream of tartar and baking soda until the powders are dissolved. Add the baking soda mixture to the food processor and purée everything. If you have large food processor that can handle it, add the meat and process the whole shebang until it’s smooth and all the ingredients are evenly incorporated. If you do not have a large food processor, place the beef and lamb in a large bowl, then add the purée and mix well with your hands.
Roll the meat into sausage shapes — they should be about 4 inches long and 3/4 inch in diameter. I’m not going to lie to you: this is a pain in the tuches, but it’s worth it because these little suckers are delicious. (For what it’s worth, I tried simply rolling this same meat mixture into meatballs and grilling them — not. the. same. Faster, but not as tasty. You make the call.) As you finish rolling, line up the sausages like little soldiers on a baking sheet. Cover the ćevapčići with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour or up to overnight.
Let’s cook ’em! Roast the ćevapčići either on a preheated gas grill or under the broiler. They take about 5 minutes per side to turn a luscious, dark brown on the outside and to cook through in the middle. (In a pinch, you can also pan fry them in a large, non-stick skillet.)
Serve with chopped white onions and ajvar. These would go really nicely with a side of green beans (steamed and tossed with olive oil and garlic) or cauliflower rice.
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Just a note from native Croatian: all čevapćići you eat out here are full of sugar which is inevitable ingredient in ajvar as well…:(
There was a Ćevapčići truck at Pitchfork in Chicago a few years ago and I fell in LOVE. Living hundreds of miles away, I thought I’d never tasted it again. If I didn’t already think you were the best, this might do it. Thank you!!!
Yay! I’m glad you’re excited about this recipe. It seems to evoke a lot of affection in people. I think they not only taste good, but they remind us of fun times!
Instead of rolling them in your hands, fill them into a pastry bag and squeeze them out. It’s how my grandma does it at home. You’ll probably have to cut the tip off to make the hole bigger. I can bust out 50+ cevapi in no time
OMG. That is GENIUS! My dad and I wracked our brains one day, trying to come up with a faster way to roll them… and we never thought of that solution. I love it! Thank you!
You could also just use a gallon size freezer bag and cut the tip as larger or small as you wanted.
I can’t wait to try this recipe! I haven’t really been anywhere but the United States and Canada, so I’m glad you are able to bring other cultures home to share with me 🙂
One of my favorite things about travel is learning about new foods. Glad I can share with you!
I’m drooling…making these this weekend!
My childhood Ukrainian next-door neighbor made something very similar to this. I’ll definitely try this out.
Bought the stuff earlier this week to make for tonight so it was fun to see all of the “fresh” comments today. I’ve never been a lamb fan, I guess because I never had it growing up, so I used half ground venison and half ground pork. I don’t have a pastry bag so I used a gallon ziplock freezer bag to squirt out my little cevis. Then just threw it away. In hind site I should have made the hole bigger because when my husband saw them he asked if I got them from the back yard. Nuff said. But they were super delicious! Of course he dipped them in ketchup, but sometimes guys do that. I found myself wanting a jar of red beet cabbage from my favorite Russian grocer to cover them with. Next time! Crazy good flavor from simple ingredients. Thank you so much!
YAY! Glad you made them… venison and pork sounds like a tasty combo! And yeah, they always kinda look like, um, poops.
I don’t know where are you located just discovered your blog but in Santa Clara is the best market to buy “cevapcici”and rest of great Balkan food. Place is called Euro market,great owner and food is fab.
Big smile when I suddenly recognized the plate in the picture! I am back in the States now but it was a happy reminder of Sicily. I have visited some of the countries you went to on this last trip and really enjoyed (most of) the food – I’m really looking forward to trying this recipe.
Steph! That plate is so beautiful, and I’m thrilled we were finally able to use it in a food photo. That’s been on my wish list for a while — we were just waiting for the right recipe.
How does it feel to be back in the US?
I’m glad to report that I still had some of the ajvar left when I made the ĆEVAPČIĆI tonight. I’m also glad for copy/paste so they don’t have to be relegated to being called meat cigar thingys forever, at least in print. They were so so good. I only had a bit of parsley so I added some fresh mint. Can’t wait to make these and the ajvar again.
WOOT! Glad you gave them a try and that they were a hit. I bet parsley was a good mod; I want to make the Bulgarian version with cumin next!
I made these with the eggplant/red pepper sauce and they were SO GOOD. I had some Aleppo pepper and used it in both. Yum and more yum!
I love all your recipes and your spice use and seasoning is always spot on.
I LOVE Aleppo pepper. Glad you liked this recipe — and thank you for the sweet compliment!
Couldn’t find lamb at the store so I made these with 1/2 pork and 1/2 ground beef. Holy moly they are delicious, so flavorful and (ok, sometimes I hate this word but . . . ) moist! I served mine with sauerkraut, it was just a canned version but I followed a suggestion I found online and simmered it for an hour with minced onion, a 1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce, 1 tsp of caraway and some bacon fat (if I’d had bacon that could have gone in there too).
That sauerkraut recipe sounds delicious.. thanks for sharing!
I love cevaps! I first had them in a Dalmation restaurant in Germany, and it was love at first bite! I have made them at home. I will try your recipe and make the red pepper sauce too.
Don’t you just love travel food memories?!
Happy to see that this simple dish from my part of the world made an impresion.
So good! Best souvenir 😉
I didn’t have lamb but I made these with beef and pork (from Polyface – special treat!) and they were bombdotcom! I also spent some time in Slovenia last summer eating these delicious treats and I swear your recipe is spot on to the local fare! I didn’t have enough peppers to make the ajvar so I just used some mayo that I always have on hand (your recipe + some paprika and tumeric). Delicious! I have been eating them for breakfast all week, they warm up so well. I also used the other reader’s tip about putting it in a ziploc bag a la pastry bag — super easy.
I can’t thank you enough for you recipes, stories, inspiration and humor, all of which have kept me sane in an insane life. Can’t wait for WF2!!!
I really enjoyed our time in Slovenia. Such a beautiful country… holy cow!
Thanks for the Well Fed 2 support. We’re really excited, and really read to be done with proofing 😉
I’m totally intrigued by the use of cream of tartar and baking soda in a meaty and non-baking recipe. What do they do here?
(Also: I’m totally going to try this. I’ve never actually made cevapcici at home because the sell them frozen around here and they’re usually a convenience cheat meal for us — but what with the lovely spices and all, we really should go for the real deal!)
The cream of tartar and baking soda help keep the meat tender, since it doesn’t include any breadcrumbs or dairy.
Some traditional recipes use sparkling water instead – and baking powder alone does the trick, but it’s not paleo… hence the cream of tartar (acidic) to help the baking soda make its bubbles and lighten up the whole affair.
Thanks Mel — I wouldn’t have guessed! Sounds like a brilliant hack to improve my meat balls, too. 🙂
ZOMG, brilliant! I made meatballs today (to put into a soup, really, but we ate a few on their own) and used cream of tartar and baking soda. I swear they turned out fluffier and tenderer than *any* ground meat dish I’ve ever made before.
Hooray! Glad you like this handy trick. WOOT!
Almost four years on, and I swear I’m still tickled whenever a comment for these babies arrives in my mailbox.
The baking soda to fluff up ground meat must be one of my top 5 kitchen hacks, ever. To this day, I add it to every hamburger, meat ball and cevapcici I make, and it never fails to turn out lovely.
Thank you so much, Melissa, for this wonderful trick!
Whole30 bosnian style, yes please!!!
Hi Mel! I hope you enjoyed your trip… Your recipe sounds delicious, who doesn’t love cevapi & ajvar??? I’m from Croatia myself and it’s definitely one of the most popular meals over here!
I might try to make my own for once!!
Thank you so much for posting this… see my grandmother was from Slovenia, but the only recipes I learned from her were for potica and krofa. Now my kids never got to meet her and they’re both allergic to wheat, but thanks to you I can make them something from their great grandmother’s heritage!
Thank you! Brings me back to my days in Bosnia. Thanks for bringing great international food back to us in a primal package 🙂
I just made these tonight and they are to die for! I did add cumin to the meat as it is one of my favorites as well. And I had some sort of long green pepper that I roasted and added to the sauce. My mouth will be burning for a month but well worth it. Thanks so much for sharing!
i just can’t believe it – i was searching for one of my favorite restaurants in crotia when i came across your website. i have also been to restoran pecina in ploce. love that place! i’ve forwarded your recipe for cevacici to my family and we are all ready to give it a go. thanks so much for posting.
HA! How fun is that?! Hope you enjoy the recipe. I wish I was a Restoran Pecina right now!
Had these while in Croatia this summer on vacation. I’ve never met anything from the sausage/meatball family that I didn’t like but these are great. One of my favorite memories is having them at the East/West Beach Club in Dubrovnik, eating them on the beach under an umbrella. They served theirs with both ajvar and mayo as well as onions and fries. Most delicious beach snack ever! I’m going to try your recipe, but will probably use 1/2 lamb and 1/2 pork. Thanks for celebrating this dish!
That sounds like a pretty kickass beach experience. LOVE the idea of ajvar and homemade mayo… OMG. Hope you enjoy this recipe!
Heyyyy, I guess I am your first Bulgarian reader, we call these Kebapche in our language and it is called Köfte in Turkey. I am definitely giving them a try 😉
Welcome, Bulgaria! I’m so excited you found me. Hope you like the recipe!
Yummy, incredibly delicious!!! Love your recipes. I live in Spain and I found you thanks to Eva Muerde La Manzana. Edurne is another amazing blogger. Looking forward new recipes. Kisses and hugs
XOXO back to you. So glad you found me!
Making these today! So glad I found this! I go to a Serbian Orthodox church and get these at our SerbFests! I cant wait for dinner!
Right on! Hope you enjoy them!
Made them again, this time paired with the baba ghanoush recipe Slim Palate just posted. This is such and easy and delicious dish. Would be a great dish to bring to a party, maybe making them a bit smaller so they’re “cocktail” sized. You continue to amaze and delight!
Hooray! Really glad you like them — and you’re right… these would be great for a party! On toothpicks!
I am just so excited to find these. I’m up late missing my time in Bosnia and decided to do a little searching. 🙂 What did you do for the kajmak? I feel like it won’t be the same without it.
Because I don’t eat dairy, I didn’t make kajmak. But this recipe looks pretty good: http://easteuropeanfood.about.com/od/cheeses/r/kajmak2.htm
My family is Croatian, from the former Yugoslavia and I enjoy the traditional food of Croatia and the Dalmatian Coast. I tried this recipe and it’s outstanding! Gold Star 🙂
Thank you so much! That means a lot coming from a real Croatian. Enjoy!
These are great. Thirty years ago I used to buy cevapcici at Steve’s in Fremantle. Yugoslav deli. They were the best these are better
Right on! Glad you like this recipe!
My parents are Macedonian and we just got back from visiting my grandparents in Macedonia a few months ago — we ate these almost every day. My parents could never figure out the right combination of spices, but this is GREAT and they tasted just as I remembered.
I served mine last night w/ a side of crushed red pepper, cayenne, cumin & paprika – dipping the little guys in the spices as we eat. It was phenomenal. I had a jar of ajvar left over from my grandmother, too. It was perfect.
I’m on day 16 of my Whole30, so this recipe came at a perfect time when food boredom was just about to set in – thank you, thank you! 🙂
We didn’t get to Macedonia on this most recent trip, but I’d really love to visit. I’m so glad you liked this recipe! And I’m TOTALLY stealing the idea of dipping spices at the table… love that so much!
Congratulations on Whole30-ing! These should make the month a little tastier 🙂
Looking forward to trying these! My husband’s family is Serbian, so we eat this a lot when visiting them. Quite tasty.14
We just got a grill and I can’t wait to make these. I spent some time in Sarajevo and while I’m not a huge meat eater, I couldn’t get enough. (That and the mix of desserts!)
Hope they remind you of your trip… enjoy!
Hi! This looks delish. I want to make tomorrow but could you clarify the oven method? Are ALL the veg in a big foil packet? Seperate ones? Please help
Are you asking about the ajvar recipe? http://meljoulwan.com/2013/08/14/ajvar-balkan-red-pepper-relish/
For the oven, the garlic is in a foil packet — the other veg are just on a baking sheet alongside the foil packet of garlic.
So excited to try these! My best friend is Bosnian and I have had the ones her dad made many times and authentic ones when I visited Bosnia with her 4 years ago. They are delicious!!
I hope you like them! My dad makes the best version of everything, so I bet your friend’s dad’s were awesome. Happy cooking!
I made these tonight along with ajvar and nom nom nom. So good! I spent 3 months in the Balkans, including a full month in Croatia and these were just as good as all the types I tried over there. So exciting. Yay for Balkan food!
Three months! How awesome! I’m glad you liked this recipe 🙂
Can you use non grass-fed beef, and what the % of fat in the meat?
Thank you very much for your help
Yes, you can use conventionally-grown beef, but then I recommend you get the leanest cut you can since the fat of non-grass-fed beef isn’t as good for you as grassfed. 90% lean, if you can find it. These will still taste great… enjoy!
Real Cevapi have a very simple and complex recipe.There is no need to use fresh garlic and onion.To make it right you need a special grill, similar to Gaucho style, in order to capture the fat and dip the lepinja in the dripping/beef stock mixture.Ingredients require about 18% ground beef,salt,pepper,powdered garlic and onion,baking soda and mineral water(carbonated).mixing well is very important, best done with a machine for 20 minutes. When shaping cevapi they need to be well compressed and not to small or they will dry out.
I discovered this dish in Canada of all places. Stumbled into a Balkan Bistro in Edmonton. They served it with a tziki(?) Kind of sauce. So good. Have made it with beef/pork and beef/lamb. Definitely prefer the lamb. Still need to try the ajvar.
You really need to try the ajvar! And oddly enough, I think the first time I had cevapcici was in the Czech Republic at a Balkan restaurant called Luka Lu in Prague.
This question is for Jamie the commenter speaking to the Macedonian tradition of dipping these in dry spices while eating. What proportions of dry spices did you use? I spent a summer in Skopje as a cultural exchange student and have been dreaming of the ground meat dipped in dry red spices that we regularly ate while out on the town. Been searching for recipe since 1990!
I am so relieved that I found you!! After my husband came back from a trip to Bosnia, he described cevapcici to me and I knew that I had to make it. I looked through many recipes, but chose yours, and was thrilled with the results. We’re having family dinner tonight, and I decided to make cevap…but couldn’t find Clothes Make the Girl, and was plunged into despair. Anyway, day saved…found Well Fed. You rock-cook on!
Hooray! I love a happy ending — especially where food is concerned! Cevapcici are one of my favorite foods EVERY from traveling — glad you guys like them, too!
Perfect recipe! I have slightly changed it an restraint from the cayenne pepper (my kids are still too small), but added a teaspoon of mustard and nice portion of dried marjoram. Looking forward to try more of your recipes! Greetings from Czech Republic
Would you please provide a phonetic pronunciation? I would love to tell others about this!
Here’s a youtube video with the pronunciation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7BVKo8yT8s
I make these all the time, in Romania we call them mititei. I want to let you in on a little secret to making these even better. In the region I’m from, instead of water we add beef one broth it the end (about 500ml for every 3 lbs) You have to add enough that the mixture looks way runny. You refrigerate it overnight, and boom magic, it gets thicker (because of the gelatin). It makes them extra juicy, never dry. And you get an extra health benefit from the broth.
That is a fantastic tip! Thank you!
Great recipe and educational ( using cream of tartar and baking soda ). Used a mix of pork and veal . Not enough parsley so added some finely chopped young celery leaves , and also added a tspn of curry powder. Cooked stove top in a shark tooth grill pan . Lovely light moist texture and a delightfully subtle tangy flavour. Will definitely be cooking again .
Your recipe sounds delicious, who doesn’t love cevapi & ajvar??? I’m from Croatia myself and it’s definitely one of the most popular meals over here!
I might try to make my own for once!!
Let me know how it turns out! I’m curious what a real Croatian thinks of my recipe.
This is so funny! When I first move to the Czech republic I was so surprised when I saw these ĆEVAPČIĆI in the grocery store. I’m from Bulgaria (one of the Balkan countries that they originate from) and we call them kebapche (кебапче). We use different spices , but the Czech version is delicious also. They sell here other Balkan foods which are almost as good
Bulgaria is definitely one of the places I want to visit while we’re living in the Czech Republic. I have a Bulgarian cookbook, and I love the food. Would really like to try the real thing.
Yes and thank you!! I just sent an email this morning looking for this recipe and here it is. Making ajvar ASAP.
Can’t wait to make this! I used to live about four blocks from a place that served cevapcici in Astoria, Queens, and like a dummy, I never tried it! Now that I’m living in southern Mississippi, it’s not something I can just pop down to the corner for, so thanks for this (and for the powers that be that allowed me to discover this recipe at 4 am, haha).
Sorry for my slow response on this! Did you try them yet?!