I’m so excited about this paella recipe! I hope you are, too. Paella is a beautiful rice dish hailing from the east coast of Spain, near the port city of Valencia. I tried it for the first time in Barcelona about ten years ago, and none of the American versions I’ve sampled since then have come close—until now.
Paella often includes seafood or meat, but I made this paella vegetarian by mixing chickpeas into the rice and adding extra vegetables. If you were to order this in a Spanish restaurant, it would be called paella de verduras (vegetables). My version is fresh, colorful, and hearty, thanks to brown rice and chickpeas.
This paella is a great party option if your guests are following special diets. It’s vegan/vegetarian/dairy free, gluten free, nut free, and soy free. Although, I’d say it’s a great party option in general! Just add a big green salad and Spanish wine (red or white would work).
If you’re a fan of my baked risotto recipes, you’re going to love this recipe. The method is similar—you cook some aromatics in a pot, then add the rice and bake the pot on the lower rack of the oven while roasting the vegetables on the upper rack. Layer the vegetables on top of the baked rice, and you’re basically done.
Before you get started, I have some notes for you. Artichokes aside, you might not find this red bell pepper and Kalamata olive combination in authentic Spanish paella. They are common Spanish ingredients, though, and they’re the most feasible vegetarian alternatives to shrimp and mussels that I could come up with. You could use any vegetables you’d like, really. Just roast them until they’re nice and tender.
Traditionally, paella is made with bomba rice, a Spanish variety of short-grain white rice. I don’t know where to buy bomba rice here in the States, and I personally can’t tolerate white rice (hypoglycemia) so I used short-grain brown rice instead. Check my recipe notes for other rice options, which may affect baking time.
If you love smoked paprika and/or peas, I believe you could safely double the amounts below. Saffron is standard in paella, but it’s the most expensive of spices and I couldn’t really taste it in the end product, so I made it optional.
The recipe might look long at first glance, but please don’t feel intimidated. The ingredients are basic, and the method is surprisingly simple. This is not a recipe to start when you’re starving, since it will require about 50 minutes in the oven. However, most of the cooking time is passive. If you’re making this for a party, you’ll have plenty of time to clean the kitchen before guests arrive.
For this recipe to work, you’ll need to use the proper equipment. Paella is typically made in a paella pan (called a paellera), but I did my best to find a more common pan option. For this recipe, you’re going to need a large Dutch oven or a large skillet with a snug-fitting lid (both of which must be oven-safe). Baking the rice is the best way to ensure the proper texture—paella rice should be nice and tender, but far from soggy.
You might be able to carefully pour the boiling rice mixture into a casserole dish, cover it tightly with foil, and bake as directed. I’m just not entirely sure it will work since I haven’t tried, and it sounds potentially dangerous.
Last but not least—to socarrat or not to socarrat? Socarrat is the irresistibly golden and crispy bottom you’ll find in awesome traditional paellas. It’s not easy to attain a perfect socarrat at home, since we’re using basic home equipment instead of a special paella pan over an open flame.
If you want to give the socarrat a shot, just remove the lid on the baked rice and heat the rice over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes. It’s hard to know when exactly to pull the pan off the heat, and you might end up with some semi-burnt rice on the bottom—which I actually enjoy.
If the socarrat leaves burnt bits on the bottom of your fancy Le Creuset, the easiest way to remove them is to scrub off what you can, then generously sprinkle baking soda and a splash of warm water on the pan. Let it soak for a while, then it should scrub right off.
As always, please let me know how this dish turns out for you in the comments! I hope you love it just as much as I do. I’m counting down the days until I get to eat paella again in Barcelona with my friends Ali and Barclay!
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 60 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings
- Category: Main Dish
- Method: Baked
- Cuisine: Spanish
The best vegetable paella recipe! It’s loaded with vegetables, chickpeas, and savory, smoky rice. This Spanish dish is perfect for serving at dinner parties, since it’s vegetarian, vegan and gluten free. Recipe yields 6 hearty servings.
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped fine
- 1 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt, divided
- 6 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes (preferably the fire-roasted variety), drained
- 2 cups short-grain brown rice*
- 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- ⅓ cup dry white wine** or vegetable broth
- ½ teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled (optional)
- 1 can (14 ounces) quartered artichokes or 1 jar (12 ounces) marinated artichoke, drained
- 2 red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and sliced into long, ½”-wide strips
- ½ cup Kalamata olives, pitted and halved
- Freshly ground black pepper
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley, plus about 1 tablespoon more for garnish
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus additional lemon wedges for garnish
- ½ cup frozen peas
- Arrange your oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, making sure that you have ample space between the two racks for your Dutch oven. You’re going to need a large Dutch oven (preferably 6 quarts/11-to-12” in diameter or bigger, although I got by with my 5.5-quart Le Creuset) or a large skillet with a snug-fitting lid (both must be oven-safe!).
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in your Dutch oven or skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until the onions are tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and paprika and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and cook until the mixture begins to darken and thicken slightly, about 2 minutes Stir in the rice and cook until the grains are well coated with tomato mixture, about 1 minute. Stir in the chickpeas, broth, wine, saffron (if using) and 1 teaspoon salt.
- Increase the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot and transfer it to the lower rack in the oven. Bake, undisturbed, until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, 50 to 55 minutes.
- Meanwhile, line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper for easy cleanup. On the baking sheet, combine the artichoke, peppers, chopped olives, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and about 10 twists of freshly ground black pepper. Toss to combine, then spread the contents evenly across the pan.
- Roast the vegetables on the upper rack until the artichokes and peppers are tender and browned around the edges, about 40 to 45 minutes. Remove from the oven and let the vegetables cool for a few minutes. Add ¼ cup parsley to the pan and the lemon juice, and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.
- For optional socarrat (crispy bottom—beware that you might have to scrub burnt bits from your pot later if you do this): Uncover the pot of baked rice, transfer it to the stovetop and cook over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, rotating the pot as needed, until the bottom layer of rice is well browned and crisp.
- Socarrat or not, sprinkle the peas and roasted vegetables over the baked rice, cover, and let the paella sit for 5 minutes. Garnish with a sprinkle of chopped parsley (about 1 tablespoon) and serve in individual bowls, with lemon wedges on the side.