This Easy Paella Recipe makes a vibrant one-pan dish that's perfect for weeknight dinners and special occasions! It requires only a few easy-to-find ingredients -- the ease and flavor of this tasty paella will make this gluten and dairy-free recipe a favorite in your home! For my vegan friends, I also included instructions to make this easy paella vegan.
I was really nervous to make paella for the first time because all the recipes online looked so complicated. It turns out that making a great paella can be really easy with the few simplifications in this recipe!
Why you’ll love this recipe:
- simple, easy-to-find ingredients
- tastes great with or without saffron
- bold flavor-packed mouth party
- 30 minutes of cooking time
- healthy and veggie-packed
- naturally gluten-free and dairy-free
- super easy protein substitution for vegan
- perfect for dinner parties!
What is typically in paella?
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.
This easy paella recipe is inspired by the Spanish dish and made with ingredients that are easy-to-find. I also made the original paella without saffron, and included instructions for those who want to add it back in.
If you're looking to up your paella game after trying this recipe, these fun Paella tips from Saveur can help.
What type of rice to use
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.
Do you pre-cook the rice?
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.
Tips before you start:
It's actually easy!
True story -- I procrastinated making this recipe for 3 days after buying the ingredients! Most 'easy' paella recipes online have so many ingredients and steps. This one is super-simplified -- after all, I made it in my camper van!
Make it Vegan... and even easier.
I used shrimp in this version, but you can add thawed frozen peas instead! Peas are an excellent addition to this dish if you make it with shrimp too.
So many variations!
Traditional paellas have lots of tasty variety! You can make it with chicken, sausage, peas, mussels, crayfish... just make sure to reconsider the cooking time since shrimp are pretty quick.
Try it with saffron if you like.
Some people might say it's not a 'true' paella recipe without saffron. While delicious, it's also expensive and can be hard to find.
This recipe has turmeric as the more affordable replacement. If you would like to use saffron, soak 2-3 strands in 2 tablespoons of warm water while you prep. Then add the saffron soaked in water in place of turmeric in this recipe. These instructions are also included in the notes section of the recipe card.
Let's make an Easy Paella Recipe
This recipe is so easy, you can make it while camping too. All of the photos you'll see here are from my camper van kitchen. Check out my Van Life Kitchen Essentials post to see what I use while traveling.
The 10 main ingredients you need for Paella: shrimp (or peas for vegan), olive oil, onion, red bell pepper, garlic, tomato puree, arborio rice, vegetable broth, a lemon, and Italian flat-leaf parsley.
Plus these spices: Paprika, Turmeric (or saffron), bay leaves, ground cumin, ground cayenne pepper.
Sear shrimp in a large frying pan on medium heat (1 minute per side). Remove shrimp from pan and set aside.
Sautee onion and bell pepper in oil until soft (about 5 minutes). Then add garlic and sautee for ~2 minutes until golden brown and fragrant.
Add tomato puree, rice, broth, parsley, and spices. Bring to a low boil for 15 minutes, stirring on occasion.
Bury shrimp in the mixture when the rice is mostly cooked. Cook for 5 minutes more, stirring as needed. For a vegan paella, replace shrimp with green peas: add pre-cooked or thawed frozen peas at this point.
Turn off 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. Chopped fresh parsley also makes an excellent garnish.
What to pair with a Healthy 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.
Other healthy One Pot recipes:
- Herby Vegan Alfredo Pasta
- Flashy Vegan Vodka Pasta from your pantry
- Creamy Sun-dried Tomato Pasta (vegan)
- Easy Roasted Chicken Fajita Bowl
- Best Easy Tuscan Chicken Salad
Congratulations! Now you can have a paella party any time.