Vampire-Fighting, Paleo Style

I recently re-read the Elizabeth Kostova’s book The Historian. I am freaked out by how much I LOVE THIS BOOK. It’s an old-fashioned, can’t-turn-the-pages-fast-enough swashbuckler told through letters, diary entries, postcards, and reminiscences. It combines history, romance, adventure, and an abiding love of books – and there are secrets among secrets among secrets. Deliciously mysterious! I’m not giving anything away by telling you that it centers around the legend of Vlad the Impaler and the Dracula myth (or is it?). Much of the action takes place in libraries and on trains… and the characters travel to mysterious locales – Turkey, Romania, Hungary – to determine if Vlad was really a vampire.

I started the book in Prague and gave myself the heeby-jeebies thinking about it while walking down shadowy cobblestone alleys. I finished it just in time for Halloween…

Did you know that a handful of our favorite paleo-friendly foods are effective weapons against vampires?! I’m just saying: this knowledge might come in handy as Halloween approaches.


Aside from being monstrously delicious, studies have shown that garlic can lower cholesterol, prevent blood clots, reduce blood pressure, prevent cancer, and protect against bacterial and fungal infections. It’s also your numero uno protection against Vlad. Just festoon your windows and doors with garlic ropes, drape a few cloves around your neck, and for bonus protection, rub some in your armpits (Um… ew.). You can also mix crushed garlic with water and use as a savory eau de toilette.


You know the advice: “Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar.”

I’ve been driven to distraction by the tempation of Sunbutter made from sunflower seeds… turns out, ol’ fang-face is distracted by seeds, too. According to European peasant superstition, you can keep a vampire from rising from his coffin if you fill it with seeds. When the moon is high in the sky and Dracula ia ready to start his hunt, he’ll be compelled to count and eat the seeds, one by one… which can take him all night. Any seeds will do – caraway, mustard, carrot – but poppy is a favorite because of their narcotic effect. For added protection, sprinkle your roof and sidewalk, too.


The world is made up of “sweets people” and “salty people.” I am firmly in the salty camp – it’s so hard to resist popcorn, tortilla chips, and other salty goodness. And now another reason to love salt: it’s a vampire GPS. Just deposit salt on the floor around your bed. If you’re attacked by a vampire, the salt will stick to his feet and your avenging heroes will be able to follow the salt trail from your bedchamber to Dracula’s coffin… presumably to drive a stake through his cold, cold heart.


Back in the day, Romanians slaughtered pigs on St. Ignatious Day, rendered their fat, and rubbed it all over “suspicious corpses” to keep them from rising and biting. I like to translate that into, “A little bacon goes a long way… toward fighting the undead.”

Now that you know the best bloodsucker repellents, here’s a recipe that uses all of the magic charms listed above, just in case you want to rally your vampire-fighting power in the form of dinner.


Vampire-Fighting Paleo Pork Stew

Serves 2-4 | Prep 20 minutes | Simmer 90 minutes | Whole30 compliant

  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil

  • 1 pound pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 3/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

  • 1 medium onion, diced

  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 2 cups chicken broth

  • 2 tablespoons grainy mustard

  • 1 tablespoon caraway seeds

  • 1 apple, cut into 1/2-inch dice


Preheat a large soup pot on medium-high for  2-3 minutes. Put coconut oil in pan, then add pork, sprinkle generously with salt and pepper, and cook until well-browned on all sides. Remove to a bowl.


In the same pan, cook the onions and garlic until soft and translucent. Don’t burn the garlic! When the onions are soft and beginning to brown, add the meat and any accumulated juices back to the pot.


In a small bowl, mix broth, mustard, and caraway seeds, then add to the pot and mix well. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook, covered, for 60 minutes.


Add diced apple to the pot and cook an additional 30 minutes, until meat and apples are tender.

To serve: Place a bed of sautéed cabbage, sauerkraut, or cooked spaghetti squash in a deep bowl and top with the pork stew. Bonus for busy cooks: This can also be made in a slow cooker.

Fun with Hilah Cooking

I teamed up with Hilah from Hilah Cooking to share this recipe on her show. Enjoy!

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  • Kelly says:

    As always, I find your posts entertaining (read laughing out loud), informative, and interesting (I'm also eating clean, CrossFitting). Thanks for another great one!! I wish I'd read it before taking my uber-garlicky "I can't believe it's not hummus" to a friends' last night. 🙂

  • The Lisa says:

    Thank you for combining so many good things in your seasonally-themed post! I love vampire stories, good reads in general, and cooking with spices. I have ordered the book and plan to make that recipe – I have not had pork in a while so this is perfect timing. Thank you again!

  • Anonymous says:

    I am so going to cook that. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Kelly –> I'm glad you liked it! Congrats on clean eating. What did you use to make your "I can't belive it's not hummus"?

    The Lisa –> I hope you like The Historian! Be sure to let me know what you think… and good luck with the stew recipe.

    Anony –> Enjoy!

  • Wild Runner says:

    Have you heard of Chicken with Forty Cloves? Vampire-fighting must, in my book. It's basically chicken parts cooked with garlic. Lots of garlic.

    Maybe I should make that tonight to ease my husband's mind — when I came home from a Halloween party in my Countess Bathory getup, he threw garlic cloves at me.

  • Melissa says:

    I always get hungry when I read vampire novels now…it's a little disturbing. But some of the vampires in novels eat animal blood and that's definitely tasty!

  • Elizabeth, blogging for SunButter says:

    I discovered your blog when you mentioned SunButter (including the prior post on sneaking a spoonful at midnight. been there. total empathy.), and I've kept following because of your fresh take on recipes and clever writing. As a SunButter blogger, I appreciate your approach to eating. Thanks for another great recipe–can't wait to try the pork–and fun-to-read post!

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Hi, Elizabeth! If you've been reading here, you know I'm a HUGE Sunbutter junkie. LOVE it! I'm trying to find Organic Sunbutter locally because I can't have the cane sugar during my 30-day cleanup. I'm missing my Sunbutter SO much.

    Glad you like the blog. Be sure to let me know what you think of the recipe!

  • Elizabeth, blogging for SunButter says:

    Hi Melissa,
    Organic SunButter (unsweetened) does have your name written all over it [yes, I've been reading your blog : )]! This little tool on the SunButter website should help you find a store nearby — or you can get that exact variety online. Here's the link:
    Let me know what you think of this variety. Can't wait to hear your review. Happy weekending!

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Thanks, Elizabeth! I'm going to the store locator right now.

  • Elizabeth, blogging for SunButter says:

    Hi, Melissa,
    Dare I ask, how did it work?

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    On the plus side, I can get it locally. On the minus side, I have to make a special trip to either Sun Harvest or a Target outside my neighborhood. But I'm undaunted!

  • Anonymous says:

    I got a smoked pork butt over the weekend & had lots of leftovers so I made this stew tonight. It was delicious & so easy to make! Thanks for sharing!

  • Melissa 'Melicious' Joulwan says:

    Anonymous –> You get to eat well AND stay safe… win!

  • …just made this recipe last night and loved it! Thank you!

  • Angela says:

    *sighs happily* Made for dinner tonight—’twas gorgeous! (I couldn’t find my caraway seeds, so I’ll just have to make it again 🙂 )

  • Beth says:

    Hi Melissa! Do you think this would work in the slow cooker on low for a full day (minus the apples)? I’m thinking of turning it on when I leave for work tomorrow to come home to delicious dino-chow, but I’ve sadly learned that not everything works well this way.

    PS LOVE the cook book and appreciate everything you do for the Paleo world!

    • Mel says:

      It should be just fine, but I agree — keeping the apples out until about an hour before you want to eat is the way to go… otherwise, they’ll just melt into mush. But the meat should great all day! Let me know how it turns out. And thanks for the sweet words about Well Fed.

  • Kim says:

    How long would you set the slow cooker for? Low for 6-8 hours? That seems pretty standard. This sounds delicious! And I may have to read that book too. I hope it’s available for the Kindle!

  • Natalie says:

    AMAZING!! I found your recipe and blog from Hilah Cooking. I made this stew for my boyfriend and I last night and it was a big hit. We are obsessed. The caraway seeds are a must and gave my whole apartment a great smell. We served it on top of mashed sweet potatoes. So easy to make. I will definitely be making this regularly during fall/winter 🙂

  • Justine says:

    I LOVED The Historian! So glad you read it and enjoyed it. Nothing like a Vlad Mystery 🙂

  • gogogadgetquads says:

    Hmf. Didn’t have very good luck with this recipe (compared to all your other lip smackers). Cooked it in the ol’ crock pot. Maybe it was the caraway seeds? I’ve also never had a pork stew – that’s what attracted me (that, and the word Vampire).

  • Marge Rowan says:

    One of my FAVORITE stories, as well! Cannot WAIT to start the stewing!

  • Marge Rowan says:

    I LOVED “The Historian!” Will have to re-read, next. And, so, why not, Loin in this recipe? It’s usually what I have on hand for pork. That, or sausage, which would probably be good, as well.

    • Mel says:

      Loin is so lean, I don’t recommend it for stews because it can get dry and tough. I’d recommend the sausage, instead, if you don’t want to get shoulder. If you decide to use the loin, quickly brown the meat and remove from the pan, then follow the rest of the instructions for the stew and let it simmer (onions, broth, etc.) for 30 minutes or so, then add the apples and browned pork loin, and let it simmer for another 30 minutes. It won’t taste as rich as the original, but it should work OK.

  • foodgirldc says:

    I just saw this post. I LOVE that book. I don’t even know how many times I’ve read it. I’m bookmarking this recipe for fall when the temps drop, too much for a 90 degree day in DC.

  • Catherine says:

    I’ve been meaning to make this for quite some time–really wishing I hadn’t waited so long because it really is tasty! I love the Czech meatballs from WF and this stew reminds me of it. I’ve always had success with your recipes so I just went for it and made a 3x recipe my first time out since I had a big shoulder roast to use–no regrets there! I use a whole head of garlic (!) and multiplied every thing else by 3 with great success. In addition, I added about a tablespoon of yellow mustard seeds. Why? I dunno…I had seen it added to a simple and tasty-looking lamb stew on a Scandinavian cooking show on PBS,it sounded good, and I had some in the cupboard so I went for it 🙂

    I can see adding parsnips or rutabaga to bulk it up in future versions. May even try boiled or mashed potatoes on those days I want more starch.

    I made it last night, had a mini teaser bowl of it and then packed it up once cool so we can have it for dinner tonight. Going to saute some cabbage to go with it. So. Excited. For. Dinner.

    • I’m so happy that you tried this one — and really glad you liked it. It is really versatile. I like to make big batches, then eat it over potatoes or cabbage. It tastes even better as time goes on, so your dinner is going to be AWESOME! Enjoy!

  • megan says:

    FIVE VAMPIRES UP! for this recipe. we loved it and it’s so easy. this will be in heavy rotation this winter. BIG BATCH QUESTION: If i want to 3x or 5x (!) this recipe, can i just 5x everything? then do you have to cook longer? or same amount of time? thanks so much. it’s going in the pot tomorrow….

    • Sweet! I’m glad it was a hit… and you’ll all be safe from blood-suckers. Phew!

      You can double, triple, 5X it — just multiply all the ingredients. And you shouldn’t need to cook it longer, although it might take a little longer to get to a simmer with all that volume. Enjoy!

  • Morten G says:

    I’m fuzzy and carraway is really, really not my thing (yet I mock the mutants that hate cilantro, go figure).
    Carraway seed substitution? Or just skip it?

    • I think just skip it! There’s no good substitute, and if you use good pork, the stew will have plenty of flavor without it. If you want to experiment with fall flavors, you could add a little sage and thyme.

  • Morten G says:

    Thanks Mel!

    Other vampire fighting strategies involve sticking a lemon in the vampire’s mouth, boiling their head in vinegar, or pouring boiling oil on them and driving a nail through their navel.

  • Shelly says:

    I am in the process of making this and have had several taste of the stew without the apple–it is already fantastic!!! I’m worried that the apple will change the flavor dramatically and then I won’t like it as much…opinions?

    • I’m not sure how to advise you. The apples add a very mild sweetness and a little texture, and apples+pork is a pretty classic combo. But, they’re not essential to the recipe. If you prefer it as is, no need to add them.

  • Catherine says:

    I loved that book! And I like exciting names for the menu (we keep it on a whiteboard so the kids know what’s up) so Vampire Fighting Stew is sure to be a win!