How to Cook Spanish Paella – Traditional Recipe and Tasty Variations

Written by Kremena Ruseva

When we say Spain we think of paella, tortillas or gazpacho. You can hardly imagine a Spanish-inspired dinner without the famous paella. Originally from Spain, this dish has become popular all over the world and for a good reason. Spanish paella is an irresistible mix of flavors and textures and the endless variations are as diverse and contrasting as the many regions of the country.

Discover the traditional Spanish paella recipe

spanish paella with mussels and shrimps

The traditional Spanish paella recipe is undoubtedly the queen of all tables in Spain. In fact, the dish was born in Valencia but it can be tasted today everywhere on the peninsula and in very different versions. It is curious to know that even in Spain, each family has its own more or less successful interpretation of the famous dish whose aroma attracts the whole household to dinner.

Spanish paella traditional recipe and tasty variations

Have you always thought that paella is difficult to prepare? Think again – this Spanish classic is prepared in a few easy steps and devoured even faster! Find below the traditional Spanish paella recipe and offer your family a true masterpiece of Iberian gastronomy.

Which of the many paella variations is right for you?

Spanish paella recipes

As we already mentioned, this traditional Spanish paella recipe is just one of the many variations that exist. Indeed, real paella is the basis for all more or less successful inventions. To prepare the version that suits you best, all you need to do is get the essential ingredients: real saffron, good rice and a large frying pan with two handles. Paella traditionally mixes meat and fish but you can opt for chicken and chorizo, chicken and fish, chicken and pork or rabbit meat, lobster and shrimps or even a vegan version.

Traditional paella recipe

traditional spanish paella recipe


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small red bell pepper, diced into small pieces
  • 4 large boneless skinless chicken thigh fillets cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 4 large tomatoes chopped
  • ½ cup dry white wine, optional
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 10-12 mussels
  • 8 ounces (250 g) calamari rings
  • 3 ¾ cups chicken broth or fish stock
  • 2 cups medium grain or jasmine rice
  • ½ cup frozen peas
  • 1 teaspoon saffron powder or saffron threads
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon each garlic and onion powders
  • 21 ounces (600 g) shrimp
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf chopped parsley
  • Fire roasted bell peppers, cut into strips


Heat oil in a paella pan over medium heat. Cook onion, garlic and red bell pepper together until onion is transparent.

Sauté chicken until golden on all sides. Add in the chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 5 minutes until they release liquid and the tomatoes begin to create a sauce.

Add the wine, mussels and calamari rings. Allow to cook for a further 5 minutes. Allow the wine to evaporate to half the quantity, then pour in the stock (or broth), rice, peas and saffron. Mix all ingredients until well combined.

Bring to a boil; reduce the heat and cover. Cook until the rice is almost cooked through.

Add in the shrimps, mixing them through the rice, and cover again to allow the shrimp and rice to cook completely.

Once cooked, sprinkle with the parsley. Place bell pepper strips over the top of the paella. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil over the top before serving.

Chicken and chorizo paella recipe

Chicken and chorizo paella recipe


  • ¼ teaspoon saffron strands, crushed gently with your fingers
  • ¼ cup boiling water
  • 1 ½ pounds/675g skinless boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 ½-inch/1,5cm pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
 to taste
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 ounces/110g dry-cured Spanish chorizo, sliced into ¼-inch/0,6cm thick coins
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 large tomatoes, grated or 1 28 ounce/800g can of whole tomatoes, crushed with your hands
  • 2 teaspoons smoked, sweet or hot Spanish paprika
  • 2 ½ cups rice
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 7 cups homemade chicken stock, warmed to a simmer
  • 1 large rosemary sprig
  • ¼ pound/110g green beans, cut into 2-inch/5cm lengths
  • 1 jar roasted red bell pepper, sliced into strips, divided
  • 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
  • ¼ cup chopped parsley
  • lemon wedges to serve


In a small bowl, mix the saffron with the boiling water, set aside to cool.

Season chicken generously with salt and pepper.

In a paella pan, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil over high heat. Add half the chicken and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned but not cooked through. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining chicken.

Add chorizo and cook until it is golden and oil is released, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a small plate and set aside.

To make the sofrito, over medium-low heat add 2 tablespoons olive oil to the pan. Add onions and cook until translucent and soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Stir in the tomatoes and a few pinches of salt. Simmer gently, over very low heat, stirring occasionally for about 20-30 minutes. Add the paprika and reserved saffron with water, stir and cook for 1-2 more minutes. Add the rice and stir.

Raise the heat to medium-high and add 5 cups of hot stock and a few more pinches of salt and pepper. Stir gently to make sure the rice is evenly distributed. Nestle in the chicken pieces and place rosemary sprig on top. From this point on, do not stir the paella again. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 5-7 minutes, without disturbing.

Slowly add the remaining 2 cups of broth. Without stirring, scatter the beans and half the sliced peppers evenly over the paella and cover.

After 10-12 minutes, add the peas and nestle in the chorizo and cook for 3-5 minutes more. Cook until liquid is absorbed.

Allow paella to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Garnish with remaining sliced red peppers and chopped parsley.

Serve with lemon wedges, if desired.

Vegan Paella Recipe

vegan paella recipe


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 teaspoon saffron powder or saffron threads
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into strips
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large tomato, diced or ½ cup canned tomatoes
  • 1 ½ cups Bomba rice or Arborio rice
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon sweet paprika
  • salt and black pepper to taste
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • ¾ cup frozen peas, thawed
  • Lemon wedges and freshly cut parsley to garnish


Add vegetable broth in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Break up the saffron and add it to the broth. When it begins to simmer, give it 1 minute, and then lower the heat just to keep it warm.

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a paella pan over medium heat. Once heated, and the onions and peppers. Sauté until softened, about 3-5 minutes.

Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute.

Add the tomatoes, smoked paprika, and sweet paprika. Sauté for 1-2 minutes.

Add the rice and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan. Stir to coat well. Cook for 1 minute to lightly toast the rice and incorporate flavors.

Add the fresh thyme and slowly pour in broth. Add salt and pepper. Do not stir after this point. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring the broth to a heavy simmer for 1-2 minutes.

Now turn the heat to medium-low and let simmer for 15-20 minutes until rice is al dente.

Once the broth is nearly absorbed, you will need to pay close attention to the rice crust forming on the bottom of the pan. Stick a fork or spoon straight to the bottom to test if it’s forming.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add the peas to the top of the rice. Cover the pan and let the paella rest for 5-8 minutes.

Top with fresh-cut parsley, cracked pepper and side with lemon wedges to serve.

Paella Valenciana Recipe

paella valenciana recipe


  • 400 grams rice
  • 500 g chopped chicken thighs
  • 500 g rabbit meat
  • 200 grams of flat white beans
  • 200 grams of flat green beans
  • 1 large ripe tomato
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron strands
  • A twig of rosemary.
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil.
  • Water (a ratio of 4-5 parts is usually used for each part of rice)
  • Salt to taste


Heat the olive oil in the paella pan.

First brown the chicken and add the rabbit, cook until browned.

Add the flat green beans, the garlic, then the tomato to fry and finally the ground paprika. Cook for just under a minute.

Add the water and after it boils, add the saffron.

When the water has boiled for fifteen minutes, add the rice so that it is distributed throughout the paella.

Cook the rice over high heat for ten minutes. Then lower it to medium, lowering it to low heat for the last five minutes.

Add the rosemary and leave it for the last few minutes to leave the flavor.

Reduce the heat progressively until, with the residual heat, the “socarrat” (bottom crust) is formed.

Rest the paella for five minutes before serving.



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