An Amazing Vegetarian Paella
A much-loved vegetarian paella recipe. And, for this veg-centric, California-inspired take on the Spanish classic, you don't need a special pan.
Let's make paella! You can absolutely do it, and for this veg-centric, California-inspired take on the Spanish classic, you don't need a special pan. Many paellas feature various meats and seafoods, but vegetarian paella can be a revelation. This version is fully loaded with a rainbow of seasonal vegetables cooked into a saffron and paprika-scented rice based dream.
Once you have the technique down, the adaptations can be endless. Paella is a great way to use up random seasonal vegetables in your crisper, and leftovers are A-plus. And I'm going to tell you how it can be week-night friendly. Really!
You Don't Need a Special Paella Pan
If you have a traditional paella pan, great! Use it. That said, don't let the lack of a special pan foil your paella endeavors. I've successfully cooked paella in copper pans (a favorite), as well as stainless steel, and cast iron. Use what you have, the wider the better. I'm including instructions for two different sized pans in the recipe, please reference the head notes.
How to Make Paella Weeknight Friendly
Paella can be a great, realistic go-to weeknight recipe if you do one thing. Keep this sofrito on hand. Have some ready in the refrigerator, keep back up in the freezer. If you have a bit of saffron and paprika around, with some broth, rice, and seasonal vegetables, you're ready to make paella. And it's quite simple.
The Best Rice For Paella
Choosing the right rice for paella is key. Ideally, you want a short-grain, stubby paella rice, something like this, or this. Look for Bomba. Paella rices are celebrated for being able to absorb more water (or broth) than other rices, while maintaining structure. This translates to a paella with definition between grains - no mushy rice. I also love this article about choosing rice for paella with Russ Moore (of Camino in Oakland, CA). He uses a well-rinsed, local, Japanese short-grain varietal, and his paella is beautiful. If you do experiment with non-paella rice varietals, you'll need to play around a bit and adjust the liquids.
Can I Use Brown Rice?
I've tried. I've tested 100% brown rice paella, and blends. Here's the problem. Brown rice takes a lot longer to cook comparatively. So, the way paella comes together is the following. You get all your ingredients in the pan, stir once, and then leave it alone. This is half the battle when it comes to achieving a golden-crusted bottom (desirable!), see below. When you use brown rice, you end up with overcooked vegetables, because you need to cook it so long. My advice? Stick with tradition and use a short-grain paella rice.
The Trick to Achieving Socarrat Magic
Today's recipe focuses on paella made indoors, in a modern kitchen. That said, many paella are cooked grilled, over open flame. One of the things you hope to achieve in either scenario is socarrat - that golden crusted rice bottom. The skill, of course, coming from just the right amount of toastiness - not too little, not burned. If you're brave, give your paella a moment or so on a burner, after removing from the oven, to increase your likelihood of some good socarrat! Takes some practice.
How to Make Vegetarian Paella Awesome
Here's the deal, you need to load up on seasonal vegetables. Experiment! There are so many ingredients that are fair game here. I like ingredients with a bit of structure, that can handle some cooking time. Asparagus (thicker stem vs. skinny), baby artichokes, summer squash, fava beans, cherry tomatoes, peas, etc.
Paella Verde Variation
A green version of the vegetarian paella you see pictured here is fantastic. Simply stir in 1/4 pound of well chopped spinach or kale with the other vegetables.
This recent paella bender was inspired by a beautiful paella birthday dinner cooked by my friend Bonni Evensen. You can see pics in my Instagram feed.
An Amazing Vegetarian Paella
Important! Use a wide pan for this paella. Ideally, 11 1/2-inches wide. If you don’t have a pan this large, or if you don’t want leftovers, use a 9 1/2-inch pan, and cut the recipe in half - 1 cup rice x 2.5 vegetable stock, 1/2 cup sofrito, etc.
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 spring carrots, 1/4-inch dice
- 1 bunch of scallions or spring onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 cups short-grain paella rice
- 1 cup sofrito
- 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon saffron threads
- 3 cups of bite-sized mixed vegetables: asparagus, peas, cherry tomatoes, summer squash, baby artichokes (trimmed and quartered), baby radish
- 5 cups hot vegetable broth
- toppings: lemon slices / olives / toasted sliced almonds / chopped herbs
Preheat oven to 300°F. Heat the olive oil in a large (11 1/2-inch skillet) over medium heat- if you don't have a skillet that large, use a 9 1/2-inch skillet and cut the recipe in half. Sauce the carrots, scallions (or spring onions), until translucent. Stir in the garlic, and let it cook a little longer. Add the rice, stir well, and cook until the grains are also translucent, a few minutes - be mindful to not allow the rice to burn. Stir in the sofrito. Add the paprika. Crush the saffron with your fingers, and add that as well.
Stir in the vegetables, pour the hot broth over all of it, stir, and bring to a moderate simmer. No more stirring allowed. Simmer for exactly 17 minutes. Set a timer. Taste the broth and re-season if necessary.
Move the paella to the oven and bake for another 12 minutes. Remove, and if you want to try to get a bit more crust on the base of your paella, and you’re confident your paella won’t burn, return the paella to a burner for another minute or so. Remove from heat and allow it to rest for another few minutes. Top with anything else you like - olives, nuts, lemons, herbs, etc. Serve family style in the pan.
Recipe (especially the timing) inspired by the Arroz En Paella con Verduras de Primavera in Paella, by Alberto Herraiz (Phaidon 2011). Brindisa by Monika Linton (Fourth Estate, 2017) was also a good reference for this recipe related to the sofrito, etc.
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Do you add chopped kale or spinach at the end or when you add in the veggies? Thinking about this for Xmas - any ideas of veggies?
Excellent. I used Arborio rice as I had it. Thank you to those who mentioned cutting the broth by one cup when switching from Bomba to Arborio rice. I also upped the veggies because the garden begged me to! It was great! This is a remarkably easy paella that hits all the benchmarks for a great recipe. The foundation is so spot on that the flexibility is there. I did up the smoked paprika and saffron a bit to accommodate all the extra veggies. It was a huge amount of food and the leftovers were enjoyed. Thanks Heidi!
This looks divine! I've had success* making paella with brown rice by partly cooking the rice separately - add rice to cold water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes, then drain and add in as per the original recipe. *Qualified success - not much crust, but cooks up well and is very tasty!
Appreciate the tip Claire! That sounds super smart.
Absolutely love this recipe. Have made several times. I really like adding baby corn and sugar snap peas too. The leftover Sofrito is excellent cold lathered on Olive bread and I love it all times of the day.
In the directions it says "sauce" the carrots and onions. I'm assuming in means saute. ?
Yes - saute!
Just made this last night and served it family style with a huge arugula and end of summer tomato salad. Finished it with fresh sheep cheese, chopped marcona almonds, herbs and nasturtium leaves. Was a little scared about how much broth was added but it turned out completely ace. The best thing to make for a small gathering!
I bet the nasturtiums were beautiful Grace!
Hi! If you wanted to make a green version, could you swap tomatillos for cherry tomatoes?
Hi Lauren! I haven't tried, but it might be worth a try. -h
This was delicious. Making and simmering the Sofrito really makes a difference, but next time I’ll use fresh tomatoes instead of canned, as I think it would really benefit from fresh. Changes I made - I used arborio rice because that’s all I had. It was fine, but it needed less liquid than called for. I also upped the veg from three to four cups, and that was the perfect amount. I used a mix of zucchini, yellow squash, asparagus, cherry tomatoes, and bell pepper. I also dotted the top with butter before putting it in the oven and that cave the top a nice bit of crust. Changes I’ll make next time - cut the liquid down rib 4 cups, and se fresh tomatoes in the Sofrito, and season with a touch more salt. Despite being a little time consuming, this was actually quite easy to make, and it is definitely going in my regular rotation. It’s a truly delicious way to get in your veg.
The sofrito recipe talked about doubling it to end up with extra to freeze. I made it as-directed, and ended up with four times what I needed for this recipe (about 4 cups). It was, as promised, really delicious. Very happy with the paella recipe overall, too. Thanks!
Hi! I love everything about 101 Cookbooks and have been following you since the beginning. I was wondering if adding cod to this vegetarian paella dish would work. Should I start with a more seafood-based paella recipe or could it work to adapt your recipe? In general, I'm a really good improvisor and tend to adapt most recipes anyway because of particular food intolerances. What are your thoughts? Thanks, Donna
Hi Donna, I think you could certainly adapt this recipe :)
Being Spanish myself I find it very funny that in America many people actually bake paella! when you can totally make it in the stove top, and avoid heating the oven. I love paellas with actually anything you can imagina. Of course the real thing is made with fish and or chicken, but the veggie option is a winner too! Very simple to cook just by having good vegetable broth and makes a delicious dinner or weekend lunch! I encourage everybody to try it!
I was wondering if there was another rice you could substitute for the bomba rice, would calrose or arborio work?
Not the same but you can certainly give a try with Arborio.
Your recipes come from your heart and are healing. Thank you for the love.
made this tonight and it was so delicious! I only had Arborio rice on hand, so I cut the liquid down to 4ish cups and it came out perfectly. thank you!
My largest pan has a Teflon coat. Can I put it in the oven? If not what do you suggest? Thanks!
Hmm. Tricky question - I'm not sure about Teflon pans! Or their handles...Keep your eyes peeled for a big cast iron or stainless steel pan at yard sales. i find some gems!
Se as fotos são maravilhosas, imagine esta paella.
So excited to have found this site on FireFox news. Being Vegan for over a year and learning multiple topics about food. You come to a point when you start looking for more recipes that feature ingredients that do not go against your beliefs and that fit within the Non-GMO lifestyle most should be concerned about in my opinion. Thank you for the recipes and providing more tasty menu items for my family and I. Looking forward to more Vegan recipes to share with my family.
I had always thought paella had a seafood component, but this was a delicious surprise. Wish I had read the comments on types of rice before I made it, because you are right about substitutions, especially brown rice. I made the sofrita recipe and have a huge quantity left over, which I will freeze. What other recipes do you have that use this wonderful sauce?
Is the rice cook covered or uncovered? Thanks!
Hi Kamini - uncovered throughout. Enjoy!
Does the pan have to be covered before going into the oven?
No - you leave it uncovered. xx!