A guide on how to make paella
While growing up with your cooking, there was always one thing that accompanied every meal.
This staple ingredient in our childhood definitely had an impact on my adult life and I find myself craving it with everything I eat.
Rice. Rice has been the staple food that I’ve developed an unhealthy addiction to.
In my journey of trying different rices, and rice dishes from around the world, I’ve come across one of my new favorites.
I can’t say there is much more that I like than a good paella.
The level of complexity in the myriad of taste, aroma, and texture leaves me weak in the knees – with my favorite being seafood paella.
What Is Paella? Does Paella Always Have Seafood?
Mom, if you’re adventurous enough to add some Spanish soul and flavor to your meals, then consider preparing Seafood Paella.
Paella is a very famous rice dish that originates from the southeastern Spanish coastline. Being as such, seafood paella has become an absolute sensation world-wide.
The rice dish has Moorish roots, although the true flavor of the dish has been developed and perfected in the Valencia region of Spain.
The name Paella refers to the short, shallow pan used to cook the delicious rice. It is cooked over an open flame, or fried on the top of your stove.
Traditional Paella, or Paella Valencia is historically prepared with round grain rice, a variety of green beans, rabbit, chicken, either lima or butter beans, and optionally snails for an extra delicate taste.
Other variations of this dish include Paella de Marisco and Paella Mixta.
In Paella de Marisco, you would simply substitute the meats with seafood and take out the beans and green beans entirely.
Paella Mixta used both meat from livestock and seafood, as well as vegetables and other seasonal items as well.
Paella is definitely one of the most well known dishes of the globe. Sought after by natives and travelers alike. It has lasted the test of time, only evolving for the better.
It all began in Valencia. Valencia is located in Eastern Spain. In its era, it was known as one of the largest ports in the Mediterranean Sea. This brought in many seafaring cultures, such as the Moors.
The Moors starting cultivating what eventually became a staple grain at some point in the 10th century. Rice spread throughout Spain and by the 15th century, it made its way into nearly everyone’s diet.
Originally cooked over fire by laborers, paella was a common form of lunchtime sustenance. By using whatever was around the area, they were able to add tomatoes, wild game (such as rabbit), and saffron (thanks to the moors).
During that time, it was eaten right out of the pan by a gathering of starving laborers. As cultures grow, so do staple dishes. They evolve into (often) hundreds of different variations. Paella is no exception.
*Fun Fact* Nearly 75% of the world’s saffron production comes from the Castilla-La Mancha region of Spain.
Paella In Spain: Authentic Types Of Paella
There are several variations and recipes for paella, however there are three maintypes.
- Paella Valencia – Traditional Paella, or Paella Valencia is historically prepared with round grain rice, saffron, a variety of green beans, rabbit, chicken, either lima or butter beans, and optionally snails for an extra delicate taste.
- Paella de Marisco – Paella de Marisco, or paella with seafood, is a summer favorite celebrating the beautiful bounty of the Mediterranean Coast. It is made with a mix of seafood, shellfish, seafood broth, paprika, vegetables, saffron, and served with aioli.
- Paella Mixta – Paella Mixta uses both livestock and seafood, as well as vegetables and other seasonal items. Commonly, you will see chicken, shrimp, mussels, sausage, saffron, peppers, and chicken broth.
Traditional Paella Seasoning
If you have ever had paella, you know that there are defining flavor characteristics unique to paella. A delicious paella will have smokiness from the wood fire it is cooked over.
It will also have a heavy bouquet of aromatics from the garlic, saffron, paprika, pepper, and clove.
Last but certainly not least, the important flavor that helps season this iconic dish is the over toasting of the crisping rice at the bottom of the pan. This brings not only a nice bitterness to the dish, but a lovely chew-able crunch as well.
Paella Pans For Seafood, Mixed, Or Traditional Uses
What Do I Cook Seafood Paella In?
As stated previously, The name of the dish comes from the pan it is cooked in. It can be made out of several different materials. Lets take a look at the different compositions:
- Stainless Steel – Stainless steel pans can be both good and bad. They are affordable, but the cheaper pans are terrible for heat transfer and even distribution of heat. This is not the best when making paella because you really need that even heat transfer to make the socorrat (see below). These pans do not rust.
- Carbon Steel – Carbon steel is great for use on a fire, grill, or oven. This will rust. This is easily fixed by drying completely after cleaning and rubbing oil into it after each use. This type of pan transfers heat the best and that is why its traditionally used for paella in Spain. This will produce a lovely crust of rice for you on the bottom (called socorrat). Since there is the addition of carbon to harden the steel, it can take a beating and a pan you can count on for years.
- Enameled Steel – Enameled steel is an all around solid and affordable option. It is light weight, easy to clean, and heats up really fast. It typically has a carbon steel or stainless steel core with enamel. It is commonly used because it does not rust.
- Copper – Copper is heavier, however the heat distribution and transfer is excellent since it is a great conductor of heat. Although breathtakingly gorgeous, copper pans do not stand up to the reliability of a carbon steel pan. They are also highly reactive to alkaline or acidic foods.
- Aluminum – Aluminum paella pans are great for thermal conductivity and are very affordable. However, it is a very soft metal. This will cause warping over high heat. Similarly to copper, aluminum is highly reactive to alkaline or acidic foods.
- Cast Iron – Cast iron pans have some of the longest life span. They are affordable and hold heat super well due to their thickness. They are also nonstick. These pans are great to have when roasting or searing steaks, however, there are better options to master the perfect paella recipe.
Paella Pan Sizes
The size of the pan is purely dependent on how many mouths you want to feed with this seductive Spanish dish to.
Are you throwing a dinner party? Is this just for your personal dinner? Do you have a family of four looking to take a trip to Spain in the comfort of your own home?
The size of the pan will vary, however, the depth of the pan does not vary much. Typical pans range from 1 3/4″ to 3″ on average.
Shallow pans are intentionally used because the rice tastes better when cooked in a thin layer. This is called ‘socorrat’.
The Soccorrat is a layer of rice that is at the bottom of the pan. It becomes well toasted and crunchy, and is regarded as the best aspect of the dish to paella fans.
It is personally my favorite part of the dish when I mix it with a little bit of seafood and aioli!
Common Seafood Used For Paella
Although all styles of paella are delicious, the recipe in this article will cover a heavy seafood paella with Chorizo de Bilbao or Spanish Chorizo. Here are some of the most common fish and shellfish used in seafood or mixed paellas:
- Shrimp / Prawns
The truth is, you could use any seafood! It all goes very well with this dish. My only (fun) suggestion is to use local fish and shellfish to pay homage to the spirit of this dish.
Types Of Rice To Use With Paella
Paella can be made with many different types of rice, however, short grained rice is highly preferred.
This type of rice is known as Arroz Redondo (round rice) and the main varieties of rice used for paella recipes are Senia and Bomba.
An acceptable and closely related cousin is the Italian Balilla rice. With that being said, you cannot use just any type of rice and yield the same results.
Choosing a rice such as Arborio or Carnaroli rice will not be the same consistency as the rices used in paella. These rices are used in risotto because they release their starches super quickly through cooking and moving.
This will not give you the consistency you want for your paella recipe.
- Senia – Senia is a medium grain rice used in Paella and other dishes throughout the Mediterranean. It is a slightly sweet and dry rice. It is notable for its characteristic of being able to absorb liquids through the cooking process without being sticky.
- Bomba – Bomba rice is regarded as the most authentic rice you can use for a traditional paella recipe. Part of the popularity comes from its ability to absorb three times its own volume in liquid. This causes a challenge to overcook the rice. It is important for large batches of paella to have consistency throughout the long cooking process. With that being said, bomba rice is always up for the task.
- Balilla – Balilla rice, while not typically found in the US, is an Italian pearl rice. The grains are short and round. It is similar to its Spanish Paella cousins in the starchiness and cooking procedure. This makes an excellent substitution for Spanish rices.
Paella Culture: The Ultimate Party Food
Your new favorite Spanish dish is arguably the most sociable dish from any culture. From humble beginnings of eating it out of the large paella pan with your peers, to eating it out of an ever bigger paella pan with your peers, it promotes one thing that many of us have lost sight of: Conviviality.
This concept is centered around being in good company, keeping good conversation, and consuming delicious food and drinks. Epicurus advocated for conviviality and liberating our minds, being present, and having conversations with the people with us.
*Fun Fact* Although women are credited for making most of the food in Spanish culture, men traditionally cook the paella.
Paella Side Dishes
Side dishes while eating paella are all a part of the event of eating this dish. Paella is often made for larger gatherings.
Today, it is commonly served with a plethora of side dishes. The idea is to keep everything surrounding the paella mild in flavor, and simple to make. Some of which include the following:
- Marinated Olives
- Sliced Bread and Aioli
- Sliced Serrano Ham
- Spanish Cheeses (Manchego)
- Roasted Marcona Almonds
- Simple Salads with Fresh Vegetables
- Boquerones (Marinated White Anchovies)
- Tortilla de Patata
Paella Competitions and Festivals
There is no bigger place to serve a meal that is meant to be eaten by the masses than a competition or a festival.
The rising world popularity of this dish has paella competition and festivals popping up all over the globe.
Here are some different areas in the US you can find these paella events at and excerpts from their respective websites:
Paella Lovers United Annual Cookoff
“Paella Lovers United Annual Cook-off is an outdoor, open wood-fire paella (Austin event only) cook-off between competing teams.
Join around 1000 other foodies at one of Austin’s most beloved event venues, picking the perfect spot for your blanket and chairs under shady Texas oak trees or lazily watching the buzz of the festival from one of the many stone tables at the heart of the grounds.
With your entry ticket you will have:
- Access throughout the afternoon to a choice of beverages.
- Stunning community paellas cooked by organizers, local chefs, and friends.
- Treats and bites from our incredible Sponsors.
- Live music, DJ, and Flamenco dancers to entertain throughout the day.
Paella Lovers United annual Cookoff in Austin is a BYOB event.
All attendees are invited to watch the cook-off competition up close and are encouraged to wander among the live-fires and sizzling pans for three competing heats of paellas, either keeping flavors traditional or what we lightheartedly call ‘Keep Austin Weird.’
After judging of each of the heats, we open all of the cook-off paellas to the public for tasting.
By nature of the size of the festival, not every attendee will have the opportunity to taste competition paellas, but watching the judging and waiting with much anticipation to try the results of the competition is a favorite draw for many.”
Maimi | Washington D.C. | New Jersey | Houston
“Paella Fest is an international festival designed to promote, educate and raise awareness about the famous international dish of Valencian paella and spread its advantages along with other typical Spanish culinary customs and identities. Like tapas, ham, sangria and many others.
Our goal is to encourage associations, groups of friends, restaurants and chefs, to participate locally and facilitate the dissemination of our renowned gastronomic traditions of millenary origin.
All attendees to Paellafest may taste the paella contest, prepared the day of the event by our Chefs contestants.
The Chefs winners in the semi-finals, will go invited to the 60 edition of the Final in Sueca, Valencia, Spain from 10 to 13 September 2020, with all expenses paid for two people.
The winners of Previous Contests will come to the city where we are celebrating the semifinal, with expenses paid also for two people.
The selected contestants will have the opportunity to attend a master class of Valencian paella taught by our jury.
Beer & Wine
The best selection of wines and beers in the region, not forgetting the famous sangria resulting from the combination of other typical drinks.
Music & Dance
We will have the participation of different traditional musical and dance groups in Spain, such as flamenco and the Tuna universitaria.
In Paellafest you will find the best of Spanish cuisine, paella, tapas, Spanish ham omelet and much more. Taste the best traditional Spanish food prepared by local chefs and restaurants.
Sponsors and businesses, both local and global, will have the opportunity to offer their products and / or services to our attendees. “
Paso Pinot & Paella Festival
” Your Sunday Main Event ticket includes a souvenir burgundy-style fine wineglass, unlimted tastes of 20 different Pinot Noirs and a dozen unique Paellas, live music and dancing if you like.
All occurs at the Templeton Park under the shade of the giant oak trees. Blankets and/or lawn chairs are welcome. “
Needles to say, there are tons of events that travel from city to city to showcase this amazing dish. Check out your local area to see any future paella events coming up!
Some Of The World’s Largest Seafood Paellas
The Do’s And Don’ts Of Making Paella
Making authentic Paella is a delicious and fun experience, but there are certain things you should and shouldn’t do when preparing Paella.
- Use a variety of meats, which include chicken and rabbit. If you don’t have access to rabbit meat, you can use pork meat, and make a tasty meat paella. In Paella Mixta, you can have both seafood and meats as well.
- Turn up the heat towards the end of the cooking time to get the ‘socorrat’. The soccorrat is a layer of rice that is at the bottom of the pan. It becomes well toasted and crunchy, and is regarded as the best aspect of the dish to paella fans.
- Add in Saffron and Paprika for an authentic Spanish flavor. These spices will give the dish the authentic flavor and appealing yellow look that has made it so appealing.
- Consider making Paella your lunch time delicacy. Paella is perfect for mid-day meals, days off, and family and friend gatherings.
- Use a short, fat rice, or medium grain rice for your Paella. Bomba rice is regarded as the best choice for making Paella.
- Don’t stir the Paella after adding in the rice. You don’t want to disrupt the bottom of the pan, where the rice is cooking to the bottom. This is called Socorrat. It is a tasty surprise to an already delicious dish.
- Don’t add chilies or hot sauce. Traditional Spanish food is not spicy, unlike it’s Mexican culture counterparts.
- Don’t eat Paella at night. Paella is a heavy meal for late nights, and is often more-so a day-time meal.
- Don’t use long grain rice for your Paella. If you want to get the distinctive dry texture and profile that is associated with Paella, then shorter grains are the way to go.
Health Benefits And Diets
Although there are no diets centered around only eating paella to get that slim summer bod, there are a few things to note about paella.
Paella is a great source of fats, carbohydrates (if you’re into that sort of thing) and proteins. Great as in delicious. Everyone has their own dietary needs and here is the breakdown of Paella’s Large Macro-nutrients:
On average, it is nearly 25% Fats, 25% Proteins , and 50% Carbohydrates.
In seafood paella, the shellfish provide omega 3 fatty acids, iron, vitamin A, and zinc. These all help our bodily function and overall wellness.
Calories In Paella With Seafood
Calories in paella range from the ingredients. On average, you will see 150 calories per 100 grams of paella. Equally, about 3.5 ounces.
No one in their right mind would eat only 100 grams of paella.
So here is a more appropriate value:
450 calories per 300 grams of paella, or 10.5 oz.
or in my case:
1500 calories per 1 kilogram of paella, or 2.18 pounds.
God Bless America.
Is Paella Gluten Free?
Traditionally, yes. Unless you are adding heaps of bread in side of it. Which is definitely not recommended, especially if you have a gluten free diet.
Seafood Paella Has Shellfish. What About Allergens And Other Diets?
Paella can be made without any animal products. This would make the entire dish vegan. Check out a recipe here.
There are not any nuts, soy, dairy, or eggs! You can even choose to make this shellfish free! (Although I cannot think of one reason why you would want to do that).
Seafood Paella Recipe
Here comes the fun part. I absolutely love this recipe. This recipe shows you how to easily make seafood paella without overcooking the seafood! The results are perfectly cooked rice and tender seafood. Please use the videos below the recipe for reference and a step by step guide to make this seafood paella recipe!
Seafood Paella With Venus Clams, Shrimp, Diver Scallops, Spanish Chorizo, And Fennel Sofrito
- 8-10" Saute Pan (preferably carbon steel)
Tomato and Fennel Sofrito
- 1/4 Cup Baby Heirloom Tomatoes Or any fresh tomatoes. Cut in half
- 1/4 Cup Fennel Sliced thin
- 4 Each Garlic Cloves Chopped
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Paprika Smoked or Sweet
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Each Spanish Chorizo Casing removed. Then chopped
- 2 Pinches Saffron
- 1/2 Cup Tomato Fennel Sofrito All of it
- 1/2 Cup Bomba Rice
- 1 1/2 Cups Clam Juice Add more if needed
- 3 Each Diver Scallops
- 1/2 Pound Venus Clams Any clam will do
- 6 Each Tiger Shrimp, Peeled Head on is great, but completely peeled is also fine
- 1 Bunch Parsley Chopped
- 1 Bunch Chives
- 1 Cup Canola Oil Vegetable, grapeseed, safflower oils are fine too
- 2 Each Garlic Cloves Chopped
- 1 Each Egg Yolk
- 1 Each Chipotle Pepper Finely Chopped
- 1 Splash Lemon Juice
- 1 Cup Canola Oil Vegetable, grapeseed, safflower oils are fine too
- To Taste As needed Salt
- To Taste As Needed Water
Tomato and Fennel Sofrito
- 1. Slice your baby tomatoes in half, then thinly slice your fennel and garlic.
- 2. In a saute pan, heat up your oil. Add the tomatoes, fennel, garlic, and paprika and turn down the heat.
- 3. Cook this until there is a rich color and aroma coming from the pan. Stir frequently. This should take around 10 minutes.
- 4. Remove from the pan and set aside.
- 1. Combine the finely chopped garlic and chipotle peppers together in a bowl.
- 2. Add the egg yolks, lemon juice, salt, and a splash of water. Mix this together. You want it to be somewhat thin, but not watery.
- 3. Beat with a whisk while slowly pouring in the canola oil. This will thicken the more oil you add. Continue to add the oil until it is all gone and emulsified into the aioli. This should create a thick, mayonnaise-like sauce.
- 4. If you like the taste, set aside and reserve. If it seems a bit "off", continue to add oil, lemon juice, water, or salt to adjust the consistency and taste. A little goes a long way with each of these ingredients, so be careful!
- 1. In a blender, combine the chives and oil.
- 2. Blend on high until the sides of the blender container get warm.
- 3. Turn off the blender and cool down the chive oil.
- **Chef's Tip**
- You can take this oil and make it into a chive aioli by substituting the canola oil in the recipe above! You will want to omit the chipotle so you can create a beautifully vibrant green aioli.
- 1. Salt the diver scallops and set aside.
- 2. Add the oil to your saute pan and bring it to a smoke. Remove the pan from the heat and gently add your scallops. Sear until it is golden brown on one side. Flip the scallops and remove from the pan. Set these aside on a plate.
- 3. In the same oil and pan, throw in your Spanish chorizo. Cook this until it is getting nice color, then turn the heat down.
- 4. Add the saffron and sofrito. Cook and stir this mixture so the saffron blooms into the oil. Be careful not to burn.
- 5. Next, dump your rice in and coat it well with the oil. Cook this until the rice kernels turn from solid white to opaque. This is called parching. Smooth out the top of the rice so it is an even layer across the pan.
- 6. Add the clam juice slowly and gently so you do not disrupt the rice. Place a piece of foil over the top and seal it tight. Keep this on medium low heat and check back every 5 minutes.
- 7. When you check the rice and it looks about 75% cooked (you can tell by picking a rice grain up and squishing it. If it is soft almost all the way through, you are ready for this step), Add the clams (mouth side up), shrimp, and scallops (from earlier, seared side up).
- 8. Place the foil lid back on and seal well. When the clams have opened up, you are ready for the final step.
- 9. Remove the foil, and turn the heat on high. There should be a little liquid left pooling in the bottom of the rice. If there is not, add a splash more of the clam juice or water for this part. You will be cooking this on high heat until the residual water evaporates and the bottom of the rice starts to get crisp and toasted. This is key for the socarrat (the delicacy of paella).
- 10. Turn off the heat when the rice begins to toast and set the entire saute pan on dry kitchen towel. You will be eating this out of the pan.
- 1. Spoon mounds of aioli around the paella and on the seafood.
- 2. Generously drizzle the chive oil across the entire paella.
- 3. Sprinkle your chopped parsley and enjoy!
Paella is a wonderful dish, enjoyed by people all over the world. It will add great flavor and depth to any event or gathering. It is arguably the most sociable meals out of any culture.
It can be friendly to any diet or lifestyle choice and promotes conviviality. If you take one thing away from this seafood paella recipe, please take away the importance of conviviality.
Conviviality was once so prominent in our global culture and as we have advanced, it seems to be less of the case.
It is something that you instilled in our little family through all of our sit down dinners each night. Thank you for that.
Check out our article on Brussels Sprouts here!