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How to Make Paella

Learn how to make paella at home! The key to this recipe is preparation. Gather your family and friends and let everyone help make this popular Spanish dish.

Course brunch, Dinner, lunch
Cuisine spanish
Keyword fried rice, meat, one pan, paella, vegetables
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 20 minutes
rest time 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 6


Meat and Marinade:

  • 2 1/2 lbs chicken thighs*, seafood (large shrimp, uncooked, small clams, mussels, cut up fish) or a combination of meat and seafood washed and cut up
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil (more needed while cooking meat)
  • 2 cloves garlic chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dry oregano leaves
  • 1 tablespoon Pimenton (Spanish smoked paprika) Spanish pimiento dulce see FAQ section
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (about 4 teaspoons) chopped
  • 2-3 tomatoes, about 2 cups chopped tomatoes OR one 14-16 oz can peeled tomatoes whole or chopped, drained before using
  • 1 1/2 cups sweet onion (such as Vidalia, Walla Walla)or white onion, chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons sea salt, or to taste

Vegetables and (optional) toasted nuts and garnish:

  • 3 cups chopped vegetables such as: red pepper, fresh green beans, artichokes, mushrooms, small red onion, peas
  • ½ cup green onion chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped and divided
  • 2 tablespoons almonds or hazelnuts toasted and ground until consistency of flour (a few small chunks are ok) optional
  • 1-2 fresh lemons, cut up

Saffron, Liquid and Rice:

  • 3-5 threads saffron for 6 person paella about ¼ teaspoon of threads loosely packed
  • 5-6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 cups Spanish Bomba rice see substitutions on post under FAQ


Prepare the meat/seafood:

  1. Up to one day before making paella, mix 3 tablespoons of olive oil, minced garlic, oregano, pimenton and salt together in a bowl. Place the meat or shrimp into a gallon size ziplock bag or in a glass dish and mix well so all surfaces of the meat are covered with spice mixture. Refrigerate until ready to cook. See notes if using frozen seafood.

Prepare the sofrito:

  1. Place pan on stove, turn heat to medium. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil and garlic and let cook for about one minute. Add chopped tomatoes, onion and 1 teaspoon sea salt. Cook on medium low heat until the mixture is completely softened, about 30-45 minutes. Taste to see if more salt is needed. Let cool. Using an immersion blender, blend until smooth or leave chunky.

Prepare the nuts (optional but highly recommended):

  1. Place the almonds or hazlenuts on a baking sheet and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Bake for about 5-8 minutes or just unil the nuts start to change color and darken. Remove and let cool for a few minutes. Crush the nuts until they are the consistency of flour (it is ok if there are a few small pieces) using a mortar and pestle or a food processor. Place the crushed nuts in a bag or other air tight container.

Prepare the vegetables:

  1. Wash and chop the vegetables, set aside or refrigerate overnight. If using canned artichoke hearts, drain well and squeeze one fresh lemon over the canned artichoke hearts in a bowl, set aside until ready to cook (if using fresh see recipe notes). Wash and cut lemons into wedges for serving. Set aside.

Prepare the stock and saffron:

  1. Place the saffron threads on a small plate and microwave for 10 seconds. Remove from microwave. Heat 6 cups of chicken and/or a combination of chicken and clam juice to a pan and bring to a boil. Turn off and remove from heat. Crush the toasted saffron threads into the stock and add 2 tablespoons of soy sauce to the stock as well. Set aside until ready to make paella.

Begin cooking paella (finally!)

  1. Place a 16 inch paella or two 10-12 inch skillets over medium high heat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to pan. Add the meat and/or shrimp to the pan. Cook chicken for about 6 minutes per side or until almost done. If cooking shrimp, cook for about 2 -3 mintues per side. Remove to a plate, cover and set aside.

  2. Add artichokes that have been drained. If fresh artichokes, cook for about 6-8 minutes, turning once every few minutes. Salt the artichokes generously. If using canned, cook for about 3-5 minutes total. If you would like to decorate the top of the paella with red pepper strips, add those to the pan with the artichokes and cook just until the red pepper barely begins to soften. Remove the red pepper strips and set aside on a plate. Leave the cooked artichokes in the pan. Add any additional vegetables- chopped red pepper, zucchini, fresh green beans, slices of red onion, mushrooms, etc. to the pan and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Add salt to the vegetables, cook until softened and browned just a bit. You may need to add an additional tablespoon or two of olive oil to the pan while vegetables are cooking.

  3. Add the prepared sofrito (about 1 cup) to the pan over medium high heat and cook for about 1-2 minutes until bubbly. Add 2 cups Bomba rice, 1/4 cup parsley, chopped green onion and mix with the sofrito and vegetables in the pan. Use a spatula to loosen some bits on bottom of pan and mix into rice.

  4. Add the stock mixed with saffron and soy sauce to the pan. Sprinkle the prepared toasted and crushed nuts onto the paella evenly.

  5. Add meat (if using chicken) back to the pan at this time. If using shrimp, wait until later to avoid overcooking.

  6. Gently spread out the meat and vegetables evenly with the rice and broth. Do not stir. The mixture should look very soupy at this time and have an even boil all over the pan. Do not ever cover the paella while cooking!

  7. Cook for about 5 minutes on high heat. Turn heat to medium high after 5 minutes.

    At the 10-12 minute mark, the rice should be visible, and much (about 3/4) of the liquid should be absorbed. If you are cooking on a stovetop and the pan is too large for the burner, turn the pan occasionally or straddle over two to three burners. Alternately, you may heat your oven to 375-400 degrees and carefully place the paella inside of the oven with the door cracked. Make sure your pan has oven proof handles if using this method.

  8. The paella is about 5-10 minutes from being done. At this point, turn the heat to medium. The liquid should still be boiling. Add the shrimp and seafood to the paella now, placing the shrimp on top of the rice and nestle clams into the rice gently. The clams should open when heated through. Any unopened clams should be discarded.

    Continue to cook until the liquid is absorbed. If the rice is not cooked enough and the liquid is all absorbed, drizzle some additional liquid (water or more stock) over the paella and continue to cook for a few minutes. Sprinkle with additional 1/4 cup chopped parsley or peas.

  9. Remove from heat when rice is done. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let paella rest for 5-10 minutes. Garnish with lemon slices, a bit of parsley and cooked red pepper slices.

    Serve paella on the table with lemon slices, sliced baguette and a green salad.

Recipe Notes

  • Bomba Rice is my #1 choice. If you can't find it in the US, I have used Cal Rose (Japanese) rice with success in this recipe. 
  • I highly recommend using in-bone chicken thighs in this recipe instead of white breast meat. Thighs may be cooked with skin on or removed. If the thighs are large(bigger than your fist), use a sharp knife and cut in half. 
  • Notes for Sofrito: Store in refrigerator for up to one week, or in freezer for up to 6 months. Yields about 1 cup of prepared sofrito. This recipe uses about 1 cup of sofrito. I highly recommend making a double batch and freezing or refrigerating the rest for use in other recipes, or to top eggs, eat on toast etc.
  • Frozen or fresh shrimp may be used, as well as small clams or mussels. If using frozen seafood, remove from freezer and let thaw in refrigerator for 12-24 hours before cooking, drain and then let sit in spice marinade for 2 hours. If using fresh seafood, wash, pat dry and place in marinade overnight. It is not absolutely necessary to marinate the meat/seafood in the spice mixture overnight, you can also toss with the marinade ingredients and let sit while prepping other ingredients for paella just before cooking. Make sure to scrub the shells under cold running water to remove sand. I do this at least twice before using in paella. Once I forgot (just rinsed quickly) and ended up with sandy, inedible paella! 
  • If using artichokes, you may use canned or fresh artichoke hearts. If using fresh, trim the top 1/2 and bottom off of artichoke. Cut the artichoke in half and scoop out the hairy "choke" in center and discard. Cut artichoke into quarters and then again into half. You should have 8 pieces. The artichoke will begin to turn brown quickly, which is fine it will not harm the flavor of the paella. Place the trimmed artichoke into a bowl with about 3-4 cups water and juice from one lemon and the squeezed lemon halves. Set aside until ready to use. This can be done the night before and refrigerated, covered or about 1-4 hours before serving and left sitting on countertop. Before using fresh artichokes, squeeze the lemon water out of the artichoke leaves over the sink.
  • Vegetarian paella may be made by using vegetable stock instead of chicken stock and chickpeas or additional vegetables in place of the meat and seafood. 
  • When making paella using shrimp, I usually do not add the red pepper strips on top. Marga told me the red pepper strips were called "poor man's paella" for those who could not afford to buy seafood long ago, which gave red color to the finished paella!
  • The crushed nuts may also be stored in freezer for several months until ready to use.
  • Do not ever cover the rice while cooking! It is fine to cover the dish with a clean kitchen towel after cooked to rest, or loosely with a piece of foil. 
  • I love to serve paella with fresh lemon slices on top of the paella as well as a bowl of cut lemon on the side to squeeze over each serving. 
  • If you don't want to cook the slices of red pepper, it is fine to just slice and place on top of the paella, but most Spaniards cook the red pepper before using as a garnish!