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Simple Grilled Paella

Simple Grilled Paella

Paella is one of our most special meals. I instantly fell in love with this traditional Spanish dish while studying in Madrid several years ago. Inspired by an interest in Spanish cooking (fueled by both chef José Andrés and this show), we decided to give our own a try a few years ago, and were surprised to meet with great success!  Since then, we’ve made a point to have a paella on special occasions, especially in the summer. I get a little nostalgic thinking about the times I’ve shared them with friends and family!

Though we’ve mainly reserved paella for special occasions, we’ve recently realized the concept itself is actually very simple. Throw some veggies in a pan, add some rice and broth, and cook quickly until crispy and delicious!  It looks rather fancy and does require a few special ingredients. But if you have the means and interest, it’s totally worth it – and we’ve developed a method that is not overly labor intensive. (We actually made one in about 40 minutes the other night!)

And the flavor? Suffice it to say the earthy flavor of the saffron and pimentón (smoked Spanish paprika) is totally unique, and unlike anything I can describe.

For this paella, we sprang for a bit of seafood; we occasionally treat ourselves on special occasions, and a dinner with new blogger friends seemed like a good excuse.  (If you can, try to buy quality seafood from a vendor that you trust.) You also can skip the seafood altogether, or substitute with some chickpeas or other legume.

Paella is all about community and enjoying eating together. The method we’ve described here uses a grill; we’ve also tried over the open fire with good results (the concept is the same; just cook until the broth has evaporated). It’s a wonderful option for a summer evening around the grill!

And the ingredient possibilities are endless – try any veggies that are in season, or any type of seafood, chicken, or sausage (just make sure to sauté the meat a bit longer than the time listed for the seafood below). We also loved the shiitake mushrooms we included in this paella – they soaked up the flavor perfectly!

If you’re looking for a special way to celebrate summer with loved ones, give paella a try!  (We’re also working to develop an even simpler stovetop paella recipe for weeknight cooking, which we may try when more of our garden veggies are in season.)

Saffron is the world’s most expensive spice – it’s actually made from the stamens of the crocus flower!  The cost might prohibit you from trying it, so feel free to omit if necessary. However, it’s a great gift idea (ours is courtesy of a brilliant idea of Alex’s mom). Pimentón is key to the recipe; you can find it at most grocery stores.


Simple Grilled Paella

  • Author: a Couple Cooks
  • Yield: 4


  • 15-inch paella pan or any large, shallow, flameproof pan (stainless steel or aluminum preferable)
  • 12 mussels or clams
  • 12 high-quality deveined shrimp (or substitute cooked chickpeas for a vegetarian version)
  • 4 ounces shiitake mushrooms
  • 1 zucchini
  • 1/2 head cauliflower or any vegetables of your choice
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 5 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups Arborio (short grain) rice
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 2 tablespoons pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper


  1. Heat a grill to medium high heat.
  2. Prepare the ingredients: Scrub the mussels or clams; place them in a bowl with the shrimp. Slice the zucchini and mushrooms; chop the cauliflower into bite sized pieces. Add the vegetables to a bowl. Mince 4 cloves garlic, then add them to a small bowl with 3 tablespoons olive oil. In a medium bowl, place 1/2 cup tomato puree and 5 1/2 cups broth; mix to combine. In a another bowl, add 2 cups Arborio rice, 1 pinch saffron, 2 tablespoons pimentón, 1 teaspoon kosher salt, and a good amount of fresh ground pepper.
  3. Assemble the paella: Bring the bowls of ingredients and the paella pan to the grill. Prior to cooking, add about 15 briquettes to the fire to keep the temperature up. Place the pan on the grill and add the olive oil and garlic; cook for about 30 seconds. Add the vegetables; cook for about 2 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the seafood; cook for about 2 minutes, flipping the shrimp once. Pour in the rice and spices so that they cover the pan. Add the broth and puree mixture and stir to combine.
  4. Let the paella cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Cook uncovered on a charcoal grill or with the cover down on a gas grill. Make sure not to stir, since this when the magic happens (the crust on the bottom is the most important part of a traditional paella). Also be careful that is does not burn; it cooks fairly quickly.
  5. After removing from the heat, let sit for about 5 to 10 minutes to cool.

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  • Reply
    June 24, 2011 at 8:51 am

    I need someone to hold me accountable for trying this before summer ends. Looks amazing!

  • Reply
    Lindsay @ Pinch of Yum
    June 24, 2011 at 10:30 am

    It. was. delicious! Thanks again you two! We had a great time meeting/eating with you! :)

    • Reply
      June 24, 2011 at 9:53 pm

      The pleasure was all ours! We had such a wonderful time with the two of you, and are looking forward to more dining experiences / collaborations to come! :)

  • Reply
    June 24, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    This is beautiful and looks so delicious!! What a great way to bond and I love the addition of seafood in here.

  • Reply
    June 24, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    This looks great and I want to give it a try. I have not been too sucessful with paella in the past and am still looking for the perfect recipe. Did adding the shrimp before the rice overcook the shrimp and make them tough? Usually shrimp only needs a few minutes to cook.

    • Reply
      June 24, 2011 at 9:26 pm

      Good question! Some recipes do add the shrimp on top towards the end of the cooking. Ours didn’t turn out too tough and I feel like they added a nice flavor to the entire dish. We may try adding them later the next time we make it…

  • Reply
    June 24, 2011 at 8:52 pm

    Your paella looks & sound delicious. We love paella and recently posted making it on the grill with our supper club. I’ve added us as followers of your blog. Your photos are amazing…I have so much to learn. It’s great to see other couples that love to cook together.

  • Reply
    June 25, 2011 at 1:10 am

    What a fun time with a great dish to go on the grill! Those photos are mouthwatering too. Love love spanish food.

  • Reply
    Parsley Sage
    June 25, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Great dish! And at 40 minutes, perfect for a snazzy and not-so-time consuming speciality dinner :) Buzzed!

  • Reply
    June 26, 2011 at 7:09 pm

    Your paella is absolutely beautiful! I love that you have included so many veggies and it has lots of delicious seafood but no meat. I would love a huge plate of this!

  • Reply
    June 29, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    I am salivating over this recipe. I am looking to make dinner for 6 in the next few days and, since I have no grill, am wondering if you think I can do this stove top?

  • Reply
    July 2, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    Now, I wish I’d bought that paella pan from Jungle Jim’s…

  • Reply
    July 2, 2011 at 3:42 pm

    This paella does look like a special treat indeed! Who could resist a great paella and fresh off the grill – mouthwatering.

  • Reply
    Paulo Fickel
    January 30, 2012 at 10:29 am

    Sou chef de cozinha no Brazil, onde cozinho somente com frutos do mar, de modo especial paella. A paella de vocês é maravilhosa. Parabéns!

  • Reply
    October 11, 2012 at 1:46 pm

    I made this the last night using a 16inch electric skillet since I don’t have a grill and I must say, it was fantastic!! Took about 30min for all of the broth to evaporate but that may have been because I used yellow squash as the extra vegetable and used scallops and spicy sausage instead of muscles and clams!

    • Reply
      October 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm

      Awesome! Glad you enjoyed it.

  • Reply
    June 4, 2013 at 8:10 pm

    Thank you so much for this technique! I adapted your recipe to use more traditional Spanish paella vegetables and added chorizo, but your directions were wonderful. It also took me 30 mins on the grill, like someone else mentioned. I cannot tell you how grateful I am for a simple way to make paella. It took me back to my study abroad year. Thank you!

    • Reply
      June 4, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      So glad that you enjoyed it! Thanks for the feedback on the timing too. :)

    • Reply
      June 4, 2013 at 10:36 pm

      You are so welcome — I’m glad it worked out for you! Where did you study abroad? I studied in Madrid and it has a huge place in my heart…as do most of the cities in Spain :)

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