This Easy Paella Recipe makes a healthy one-pan dish that's perfect for weeknight dinners and special occasions! It requires only 10 main ingredients, 30 minutes, and one pan. This simple and flavor-packed paella is a naturally gluten and dairy-free recipe, and we included instructions to make this easy paella vegan.
It turns out that making a great paella can be really easy with the few simplifications in this recipe! This recipe can be made with or without saffron, and we included instructions for both.
Paella can be enjoyed year round. It's also a great camping recipe for outdoors or camper vans. Check out my Vanlife Kitchen Essentials if you're making this recipe on-the-go.
This simple paella makes a great all-in-one dish. If you're looking for additional recipes to pair it with, we like to serve it with a crusty gluten free baguette and an appetizer of black bean hummus with sun-dried tomatoes and basil.
What makes this paella easier?
While paella is a simple dish, there are lots of things that can make a paella more complicated than it needs to be. Here are some of the ways we simplified this paella recipe to make it travel and weeknight dinner friendly:
- Try using turmeric and make this paella without saffron. While the recipe includes instructions with or without saffron, using turmeric as a saffron substitution eliminates a step to make this recipe even easier.
- Use whatever rice you have on hand. We have notes on the different types of rice varieties you can use to make a more authentic paella recipe, but choosing any short grain white rice, or even whatever white rice you have on hand, is an excellent way to make paella easier!
- Use tomato puree. If you start with a puree, there is no need to wait for the tomatoes to cook down. This is a key easy paella hack!
- Pick a quick-cooking protein. Shrimp cook ultra fast and cured chorizo is ready to eat as-is (make sure to check the label as some chorizos do require cooking). Our vegan option using frozen peas also requires no extra steps!
You can make this recipe with just 10 main ingredients, and with or without saffron.
Onion - You can use yellow or white onions for this gluten-free paella. I do not recommend using red onion.
Rice - A short grain white rice is best for paella. Arborio rice is a great easy-to-find option and what I used in this recipe. Bomba rice is the most traditional, and Calasparra rice is also an excellent choice.
Meat and Fish - You can make this recipe with a variety of proteins. I chose to make a shrimp paella because they cook quickly. Check the variations section or recipe notes for more details on using sausage, chicken, or other seafood.
Turmeric or Saffron - Turmeric is a good saffron substitute, and you can make this recipe with either. Check the recipe notes for how to use saffron in place of turmeric in this recipe.
See the recipe card for complete details on ingredients and quantities.
- Vegan - Add thawed frozen peas in place of shrimp (see recipe notes for instructions). Peas are an excellent addition to this dish if you make it with shrimp too.
- Try another meat or seafood - You can make this recipe with chicken, sausage, mussels, crayfish... just make sure to reconsider the cooking time since shrimp cook quickly. Always sear and partially cook your meat or seafood first, and then add it back into the paella at the end to cook it through completely.
Check the FDA guidelines for safe internal cooking temperatures and keep a thermometer on hand.
- With Saffron - Soak 2-3 strands of saffron in 2 tablespoons of warm water while you prep the rest of the recipe. Then add the saffron and water in place of turmeric in this recipe.
Making a healthy paella is easy with our simple step-by-step instructions!
Step 1. Sear the shrimp: In a large frying pan on medium heat, sear the shrimp -- cook for about 2 minutes total, flipping mid-way. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside.
Step 2. Saute the vegetables: Add oil, onion, and bell pepper to the pan. Cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften, stirring on occasion to prevent burning or sticking. Lower the heat to medium and add garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes or until garlic is fragrant and golden brown.
Step 3. Make the Sauce: Add tomato puree, rice, broth, parsley, and spices. Bring to a low boil for 15 minutes or until rice is mostly cooked, stirring on occasion.
Step 4. Combine: Add shrimp and bury them in the paella. Cook for 5 minutes more, stirring as needed. For a vegan paella, replace shrimp with pre-cooked or thawed frozen green peas.
Step 5. Finish: Turn off the heat. If rice is still too firm, cover with a lid and towel (still no heat) until liquid is absorbed and rice is al dente. Add lemon juice or serve with lemon wedges and enjoy!
- Crust - A really good paella has a crispy crust along the bottom known as socarrat. To get this crust, you want to resist over stirring (or even stirring at all, as long as your paella is not burning) once you add the rice. You may also need to turn up the heat to get a good crust, but take care not to burn the dish. It's better to have less crust than a burnt paella.
- Don't cover the pan. You don't want extra moisture in a paella. Your rice should be al dente (firm bite, not mushy) and the liquid should be absorbed.
Can't find the answer to your question here? Leave it in the comments and we'll get back to you within 2 business days.
The main ingredients in every paella recipe are rice, vegetables, meat or seafood, and spices. From there, traditional Spanish paellas can vary significantly by region. Short grain rice and saffron are key for an authentic paella.
If you're looking to up your paella game after trying this recipe, these fun Paella tips from Saveur can help.
Short grain white rice is the best rice to use for paella recipes. Traditional Spanish Paellas use Bomba rice. Arborio rice (used for risotto) and sushi rice make good substitutes.
I used Arborio rice in this simplified recipe.
You do not pre-cook rice for paella. Paella is a one-pan dish. By adding uncooked rice and boiling it in the pan with the other ingredients, the rice is better able to absorb the flavors of the paella.
Paella is often served as a stand-alone main dish because it includes so many healthy food groups in one pan. We often serve it with our Foolproof Gluten Free French Baguettes.
Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
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Easy Paella Recipe
- 16 uncooked shrimp , tails removed and deveined (see notes for vegan*)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 2 red bell peppers sliced thinly and halved
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 cup tomato puree
- 1 ½ cups uncooked arborio rice
- 2 ¼ cups vegetable broth
- 1 lemon juiced (1 lemon provides about 2 tablespoons of juice)
- ¼ cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric or saffron -- see notes**
- 2 medium Bay leaves
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- Sear the shrimp: In a large frying pan on medium heat, sear the shrimp -- cook for about 2 minutes total, flipping mid-way. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside.
- Saute the vegetables: Add oil, onion, and bell pepper to the pan. Cook on medium-high heat for 5 minutes or until the vegetables begin to soften, stirring on occasion to prevent burning or sticking. Lower the heat to medium and add garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 minutes or until garlic is fragrant and golden brown.
- Make the Sauce: Add tomato puree, rice, broth, parsley, and spices. Bring to a low boil for 15 minutes or until rice is mostly cooked, stirring on occasion.
- Combine: Add shrimp and bury them in the paella. Cook for 5 minutes more, stirring as needed. For a vegan paella, replace shrimp with pre-cooked or thawed frozen green peas.
- Finish: Turn off the heat. If rice is still too firm, cover with a lid and towel (still no heat) until liquid is absorbed and rice is al dente. Add lemon juice or serve with lemon wedges and enjoy!