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Eating My Words: Dracula’s Chicken Paprikash for Two

In our latest installment of Eating My Words, contributor Rebecca Peters-Golden gets the blood flowing with a passionate recipe—in fact, you could say it’s got some bite.

I think Valentine’s Day gets a bad rap: candy, hearts, flowers—I mean, it would turn anybody’s stomach.

More of a traditionalist, myself, I prefer to meditate on Saints Valentine of Terni and Valentine of Rome, martyred in the second century, or the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre, a mob murder in Prohibition-era Chicago. Good times.

And, of course, it’s a quick hop from martyrs and massacres to . . . you guessed it: Vlad the Impaler, or Dracula, when he’s at home. You want romance? That’s romance.

chicken paprikash over egg noodles
Photo: Casey Barber

And it all starts over a modest bowl of thick, velvety Chicken Paprikash, a traditional Hungarian stew.

In Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) hapless, well-intentioned solicitor Jonathan Harker is traveling to Transylvania for the first time at the behest of a new client.

A client whose table manners are perfect, even if he doesn’t seem to eat. Still, Jonathan is wined and dined—and almost dined on.

chicken paprikash over egg noodles
Photo: Casey Barber

Jonathan notes in his journal that eating so much paprika gives him “all sorts of queer dreams” one night, as a dog howls under his window (5).

Now, I don’t know about all that, but the lovely red color makes a pink sauce that is perfect for a romantic meal à deux.

Bonus for Valentine’s Day: it’s a great, strong flavor that isn’t garlic, so your breath will be safe for your date (especially if your date is a vampire).

I wish you the best of luck for a Valentine’s Day that is a little bit less candy hearts and a little bit more delicious dinner, with a date that may or may not inspire an undying passion that will last beyond the grave!

chicken paprikash over egg noodles
Photo: Casey Barber

From Jonathan’s journal:

“3 May. Bistritz–Left Munich at 8.35 p.m. on 1st May, arriving at Vienna early next morning. . . . Buda-Pesth seems a wonderful place, from the glimpse which I got of it from the train and the little I could walk through the streets. . . The impression I had was that we were leaving the West and entering the East. . . I had for dinner, or rather supper, a chicken done up some way with red pepper, which was very good but thirsty. (Mem., get recipe for Mina.) I asked the waiter, and he said it was called ‘paprika hendle,’ and that as it was a national dish, I should be able to get it anywhere along the Carpathians” (3).

Oh, Jonathan, if only this recipe were all you brought back to London with you. . .

Chicken Paprikash
Chicken Paprikash

Chicken Paprikash

Yield: 2 servings
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Chicken paprikash, the traditional Hungarian stew, is thick and velvety with the subtle flavors of paprika and sour cream. It's perfect over noodles or rice.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 pound chicken boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced into strips
  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced into strips
  • 4 tablespoons Hungarian or sweet paprika
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup (6 ounces) sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 ounces egg noodles, cooked (you could sub in rice, potatoes, späetzle, dumplings, or bread)


  1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or stockpot over medium-high heat. 
  2. Pat the chicken dry, then lightly salt and pepper it on both sides. 
  3. Brown the chicken, about 4 minutes per side. Set aside.
  4. Lower the heat to medium, then melt the butter in the Dutch oven.
  5. Stir in the sliced onion and pepper, along with a sprinkle each of salt and pepper. 
  6. Cook for 1 minute, then stir in the paprika.
  7. Cook for about 5-7 minutes more until softened, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat to medium. 
  8. Return the chicken to the pan and pour in the stock. 
  9. Cover and bring to a simmer, then continue to cook for 25-30 minutes until the chicken is very tender and can easily be pulled apart with a fork.
  10. Turn the heat down to low.
  11. Whisk the sour cream and flour together in a small bowl. 
  12. Stir about 1/2 cup of the pan sauce into the sour cream mixture so the sour cream won't curdle.
  13. Gently stir the sour cream mixture into the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes more.
  14. Serve the chicken paprikash on a bed of egg noodles (or rice, späetzle, dumplings, etc.; or just dunk thick slices of buttered bread).

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  1. Sounds good! My neighborhood (Sunnyside, Queens) is blessed with several Hungarian and Romanian restaurants, including one called “Transylvania–Dracula’s Place.” For some reason I always strike out by ordering the wrong thing…I think I’ll make this one at home, instead.

  2. Thanks, all!
    Jamieif it’s not a family secret, I’d love to know what your mom’s recipe does differently!
    Sarah KI will absolutely have to check out TransylvaniaDracula’s Place next time I’m in NYC!

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